December 25, 2012 By Bruce Bawer
Front Page Mag
Here’s a cozy little seasonal story for you. You may want to play some yuletide music in the background as you read it. Or maybe not.
Two years ago, as Christmas approached, it was reported that Klara Vogl, the vicar of the Church of Norway parish in Ellingsrud, an outlying and heavily Muslim neighborhood of Oslo, Norway, planned to have schoolchildren read various passages aloud from scripture at a pre-Christmas service that was designed especially for pupils from the Ellingsrud school. One of the excerpts she’d earmarked for the service was the following, about what happened to Mary when she was about to give birth to Jesus: “Then the birth pains came to her, by the trunk of a palm tree. She said: ‘I wish I had died before this, and became totally forgotten!’ But then he called to her from beneath her: ‘Do not be sad, your Lord has made below you a stream.’”
If you don’t recognize those lines from any of the gospels, there’s a good reason for it. They’re not from the Bible. They’re from the Koran (19:23-24).
Curiously, Vogl didn’t bother informing the parents of any of the kids who would be attending the ceremony – including the parents of the kids she’d picked out to read aloud from the Islamic holy book – that she was preparing to venture so far afield from the usual order of service. But word got around (not until the other day did I find out exactly how). I am pleased to note that parents rebelled instantly at the idea, put together an impromptu campaign, and contacted the media. “I don’t have anything against my daughter learning about Islam,” Elisabeth Sjølie, whose daughter was one of those who had been selected to read aloud, told Norwegian state broadcasting (NRK), “but I have something against her preaching from the Koran without my knowing about it. Would they have dared to ask Muslim children to read from the Bible during the celebration of Eid? I don’t think so.”
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