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Sunday, 19 December 2010

Preaching the Koran in Scandinavia

It's not Muslims doing the preaching, however - in Norway it is a vicar, and in Sweden it is a teacher.

The first example is from Ellingsrud, Oslo:
The Oslo district Elllingsrud has faced a commotion after minister Clara Vogl of Ellingsrud's church announced that she intends to read from the Koran to school children for julgudstjänst [a traditional Scandinavian Christmas service]. Initially, the priest thought that the children themselves would read the Koran, but the reactions have been so strong that she opted instead to read from it herself.

The move has brought strong reactions from parents. They say that they will not allow this and are upset that no information was given to parents in advance, either at school or church. Elisabeth Sjølie, who has children in school, says:

I do not mind that my children may learn about Islam, but I do not accept that she must preach the Koran, without my knowing it. Would you have forced Muslim children to read from the Bible during a major Islamic festival? I think this unlikely.

She adds that she and her children will be seeking to be relieved from the Norwegian Church as she no longer feels any confidence in this institution.

I must say, I find that reaction very pleasing. Elisabeth Sjolie perfectly sums up the double standards at play here; it is always the Norwegians who must adapt and be tolerant, never the Muslims.

There is a clear difference between learning objectively about other religions and having their holy tracts preached without qualification - for I imagine Clara Vogl sits very firmly in the "Islam is a religion of peace" camp, despite all evidence to the contrary.

The second example is from Sweden:

IN Torskolans nursery group, the children heard passages from the Koran.

- And that's why Jesus' mother and father had to go to Bethlehem.

- And now let's hear what the Quran says, Helen Sandberg Heed says to the play group from Tor school that meets in the library, whilst standing over the nativity scene.

With the help of small dolls Sandberg Heed tells the kids about the similarities and differences in the stories of Jesus in the Bible and the Koran.

- We are doing this because we have Muslim children in our communities. This story illustrates our common heritage, "says Helen Sandberg Heed.

- Today it's more important to highlight the joint where everyone is only talking about contradictions.

That's one way of looking at it. Another is that these people want to deconstruct traditional Swedish culture for their own ends.

Whilst some are so enthusiastic about what the Koran says, it seems fewer and fewer Swedish teachers have much time for what the Bible says - or even the cultural traditions reserved for Christmas time:
There will be no traditional julavslutning for Furubergs school children in Träslöv church - the priest wanted to say a prayer for the students, something that the school deemed "not appropriate".

"The reason is that the priest said he wants to say a prayer and a blessing over the children. We are satisfied that this is not okay," said Dan Randelid, one of the Furubergs School's two principals.

According to Randelid, the rules are clear - the school may not participate in anything with a "confessional element," and several judgments of the Schools Inspectorate confirms this. This was also the reason that the school contacted the church and the priest, Ola Bjervås, and asked if holding julavslutning in the church but without religious elements would be possible.

After Ola Bjervås declined, the school moved the entire thing to an auditorium. Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the whole affair is the reaction of Bjervås, the vicar:

- We are very sad, not least because of the children. I can understand it, we live in a multicultural society, but it is a pity, for the reason we celebrate Christmas is based of course on Christian traditions. And it does not do children any harm.

This, I will remind you, comes from a vicar. If that half-hearted concession constitutes defending tradition, then I really don't hold out much hope for Sweden.

Hat tip: Politiskt Inkorrekt.

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