‘Touching’: Norway Mulls Giving Away ‘Extra’ Christian Holidays to Muslims
AFP 2018 / DANIEL SANNUM LAUTENEurope12:35 17.05.2018Get short URL
Following complaints from Norwegian priests who have argued that there are too many Christian holidays, the Christian Student Union has proposed “donating” holidays deemed superfluous to Muslims. While representatives of the Muslim community have found this idea “touching,” the Christian People’s Party is against a change in Norwegian calendar.
In an unorthodox proposal, the Norwegian Christian Student Union has suggested giving away “secondary” holidays, such Saint Stephen’s day (in Scandinavia known as the second day of Christmas), Easter Monday and the second day of Pentecost, currently public holidays, the Klassekampen daily reported.
According to Norwegian Christian Student Union leader Ingvild Yrke, Muslims, the environmental movement and the feminist movement are the likely beneficiaries, with the end of the Islamic month of fasting Ramadan possibly being elevated to a national holiday.
“International Women’s Day March 8, World Environment Day and Eid al-Fitr or Eid al-Adha are good alternative public holidays,” Yrke explained to Klassekampen.
The debate was started by priests Einar Gelius and Per Anders Nordengen, who argued earlier this year that there were “too many” Christian holidays. Yrke concurred that “secondary” holidays are a remnant from the era when people needed an extra day off to attend church. Also, it would be a charitable action to give Muslims a day off of their own, she argued.
“We Christians are called to fight for the cause of the weak. We who are the majority must give them this day,” Yrke said.
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Basim Ghozlan, chairman of the Rabita Mosque and the Muslim Dialogue Network, found the idea “touching,” but ventured that it would be difficult to put into practice. Ghozlan drew parallels with his native country Jordan, which is 95 percent Muslim, yet celebrates Christmas Day as a national holiday. According to Ghozlan, the difference between Norway and Jordan is that Muslims and Christians have been living side by side for thousands of years in Jordan, as opposed to only the past 50 years in the Scandinavian country, hence the proposal being “premature.”
The proposal to change the “red days” of the calendar was also slammed by the Christian People’s Party (KrF).
“Thinking of switching holidays would constitute misunderstood tolerance,” KrF leader Knut Arild Harede said, as quoted by the Aftenposten daily, suggesting that this was a result of the individualization of society.
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Priest Sturla Stålsett, a professor at the Norwegian School of Theology, called the idea of rebranding holidays “far-fetched,” arguing that there was no point in this action, the Vårt Land news outlet reported.
Leader of the right-wing Progress Party Oslo department Mazyar Keshvari was shocked by the proposal.
“It is safe to ask whether the so-called priests and self-admitted Christians who consciously work to dismantle Christianity and diminish its relevance by introducing Islamic influence and dominance, are true Christians serving the Lord or other powers,” Keshvari inquired.
Norway’s Islamic community has been growing exponentially since the 1960s. At present, Muslims are estimated to constitute 5.7 percent of Norway’s population of 5.2 million.