Sunday, February 19, 2006

Not full equality of religion in Denmark

The lutheran state church is the dominant religious community in Denmark. It is mentioned in the constitution, and the Queen is an obligatory member of this church.

Otherwise church and state are kept separate in Denmark. About 85 per cent of the Danes are members of the Lutheran state church, and they pay a special church tax, about 1 per cent of declared income. The income from this tax goes to the Lutheran church.

The other recognized religious communities (included muslims) can finance their activities through a right to deduct the money their members pay to their religion from the declared tax income.There are about 200.000 muslims in Denmark. Most of them are immigrants and descendants of immigrants from Turkey, the Middle East and other muslim areas. A lot of efforts are done to integrate them in the Danish society in such a way that their distinctive culture and religion is respected. Still the Danes could do a lot more.

Especially in the religious area more can be done for integration.The Danish state church should not be a church for only Christian Lutheran protestants. Perhaps it should not be called a “church”. It should either be a comprehensive umbrella for all officially recognised religions, including islam, or else the Christian church should be cut loose from the state, so all religious communities will be truly equal. Births and deaths are registered by the state church. That means that it has been difficult for muslims in thinly populated areas to find burial places. Some have chosen to be buried in their original home lands.

Omar Marzauk, a Danish comedian of immigrant background, has jokingly said that he should have been born a poodle, not a Muslim: “Dogs in this nation have their own burial grounds, and Muslims don't," he has said in one of his shows. "So I either have to be sent out of this country in a box or change my name to “Fluffy”". Like most satire, there is some truth also in this satire: Denmark's Muslims have found it hard to find land for Islamic cemeteries.Denmark is a secular country. Science and rational thought dominate.

Even though most Danes are members of the state church, a lot are not very religious. They do not attend church regularly; it is mostly for baptizing, weddings, burials, and as a family event around christmas, that they go to the church. Religion has become an empty ritual for most people. They do not listen to the priest's words. They don't mean anything to them.Power shopping for smart clothes, furniture, expensive houses and fast cars is actually the dominant "religion" to many people in Denmark


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