I, Jinan

While far-right ideologies in Europe are on the rise, an ongoing debate about identity is taking place in Denmark. Determined and proud of her religion, Jinan represents the diversity of what it means to be Danish.

Jinan's story was published in HEIMAT, a magazine created by the international Photo 1 students of the Danish School of Media and Journalism (DMJX) in April 2017. View the publication here: issuu.com/dmjx/docs/heimat_...

Jinan is 21 years old and lives in Aarhus, the second-biggest city of Denmark. Her parents are Palestinian and arrived in Denmark in the 1980s.

It’s 5:40 in the morning. Jinan is taking the first bus going to the train station of Aarhus. It takes her more than two hours every morning to reach the university of Aalborg, where she studies sociology.

The train to Aalborg is very quiet when it departs the central station of Aarhus. Jinan starts reading a text for her upcoming class but quickly falls asleep. She says she has felt the pressure from her community to get married since she turned 18. She already turned down more than ten marriage proposals.

Jinan grew up in Gellerup, a suburb of Aarhus where 85% of the inhabitants are of foreign ethnic origin. Gellerup is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Denmark and has been labelled as an “especially vulnerable residential area” by the Danish government.

Jinan never had a Danish friend growing up. There were very few Danes in her class. Until she went to university and realized she was one of the only Muslim in the auditorium. The only woman wearing a hijab, too. That’s when she discovered that people outside of her community had many preconceived ideas about her religion. “Muslim women are usually portrayed as dumb and oppressed. I’m pretty sure a lot of people who see me in the street think that my father beats me, that I’m not allowed to study and that I’m married to my cousin. They don’t understand that a woman can choose to wear a hijab, because she wants to practice her religion and believes in something bigger.”

It is one of the first days of spring. Jinan and her friend decide to go wander along the shore at the harbor after class. “We’re a bunch of Muslim girls out there who feel like we are just like everyone else, living a normal life. We study, we are active in our community and we do our best to interact with people and to be a part of the society.”