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Hijaab Experiment

In the Name of Allâh, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

"Day of hell for two young Danes dressed as Muslim women"

COPENHAGEN, March 22 (AFP) -

Two young Danish women who spent a day out and about dressed as Iranian Muslims were shocked by their compatriots' reactions of hatred and contempt, the Politiken newspaper reported Wednesday.

The two women told the paper that they suffered a day of "hell" and "the intolerable prejudice of the Danes" when they donned the Iranian chador, a traditional black head-to-toe wrap, to go about their day in the capital and its suburbs.

Dorte Magnussen and Lene Iwerse, both 26, undertook the experiment as part of their studies on pedagogy and minorities at Copenhagen University.

"I was shocked at the numerous disgraceful comments and the huge wall of hostility we were confronted by when we were walking on the street. People went beyond all the norms of respect and good behaviour," said Magnussen.

"Our only crime was to be very different," she added.

The degree of tolerance, or rather the lack of it, and the hateful looks of passers-by were overwhelming, the women said.

"It was shocking to see people behaving in such a shameful way. It was worse than I had imagined. I wanted to go straight home and change. Confronting so much hatred was unbearable." said Iwersen.

The most venomous and degrading comments came from elderly people, the two women found.

Magnussen said she had been terrified by the fact that adults could react so violently.

"Our theory is that they are frightened by things which are unknown to them. Surveys show that 80 percent of Danes have had no personal contact with ethnic minorities," she said.

The only highpoint of their day as Iranians was on a bus in the Copenhagen suburbs, when a group of children called their friends to come and have a look at the "two Ninjas" after the popular cartoon characters.

The children looked at them but returned to their seats without reacting.

"The experience on the bus shows that hostility and the creation of enemies are things which learned, not something people are born with," the two women said.

Hostility towards immigrants, and especially towards those from Muslim countries who make up nearly half of Denmark's immigrant population, is actively encouraged by extreme rightwing organisations such as the Danish People's Party and the Progress Party.

In their campaigns, they have accused Muslims of invading the country and threatening its culture and religion.

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