A friend sent me a picture of a smiling soldier with text saying: “If your religion is worth killing for, then please start with yourself.” Naive as it seems, this does speak to many among the Danish population. Religion plays a minor role for Danes on a day-to-day basis, but it is important to bear in mind its massive influence in other parts of the world.
In Iraq, for example, where the Islamic State is proving its unlimited brutality in the service of the Prophet. And across the Arab world, where Sunnis and Shias, Muslims living side-by-side, continue to hate and mistrust each other because of a 1,500-year-old fight between the Alis and Caliphs.
How many Danes knew about these warring factions ten years ago? And what about Syria? Nobody seems to be able to single out why, who or what. Danish warships have helped remove chemical substances that have proved to be deadly efficient, but what have they left behind?
Danes become more uneasy the more they learn. They become mildly shocked when they are told that up to 30 Danish citizens of Middle eastern origin have died taking part in the civil war in Syria. But nobody seems to know which side they should be on.
A Conservative City Council member, Rasmus Jarlov, recently arranged a demonstration in Nørrebro to support Jews, advocating they should be able to wear religious symbols. At the same time, Pia Kjærsgaard from Dansk Folkeparti is calling for a general ban on headscarves in public buildings (i.e public schools).
Are you confused? The Danes are. They commemorate the 43 Danish soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan, support fighter planes bombing Libya to tumble Gaddafi, and now they reluctantly support logistical and humanitarian aid to the people of Mosul (currently under the knives of the IS warriors) asking why and for how long.
This coincides with a debate about investment in a new fighter plane generation to replace the 40-year-old F16s where many ask: “What shall we use them for?” It’s not like they need to patrol Baltic airspace given that Russia is long gone as a possible threat to security …
Next to religion, nationalism continues to create tensions and encourage the suppression of minorities. The world might one day become a peaceful place. But until then, we sadly have to be on the alert and study the minds and hearts of believers and fascist nationalists, so we can welcome them when they come to their senses, and not be taken by surprise in the meantime.