A recent Q&A on Danish newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad's religion portal led to a storm of opinions.
Salaam alakayium, I'm a boy of 18 who wants to ask a question: I've been to the army's [recruiting] day in Slagelse, and I was born and raised in Denmark. When I'm thinking about it now, my parents are from Pakistan and I'm from Denmark.
So my question is: is military service permitted by Islam, and what now, if I'm considering being a soldier for Denmark or doing some form of training in defense of the country where I will live my whole life?
This article was prepared by the Islam in Europe blog - islamineurope.blogspot.com
Is it permitted to be a soldier and fight for a Christian country which has so many Muslims? And if it's not allowed, in which way, and if it's allowed, in which way? I'm really confused on this issue.
Wa aleikum al salam,
It's allowed to do military training in a non-Muslim country, if during the training you can still practice Islam and at the same time, it's not required that you carry out acts which are not permitted in Islam, including serving as a silent and obedient slave-soldier for oppressive governments, which unfortunately wage wars for their own interest above the people's welfare.
For example, I can't see who a Muslim can be stationed in Afghanistan, without at the same time helping to support oppression, which unfortunately is taking place.
I can see possibilities elsewhere though. Some of the military training can be done while at the same time keeping away from the wars, our government has gotten involved in. You're not forced to be stationed abroad. You can easily serve as a soldier at home. This depends though on the training you're taking.
With my limited knowledge in this area, I think that combat troops are forced to be stationed abroad when you're finished training, while people in the Royal Guard have the option of serving in Denmark and not getting involved in the government's foreign affairs.
I therefore advise to explore your options and choose those that suit you best.
I myself have great interest in the military and strongly considered after finishing high-school (HF) to start military training, but dropped the idea and put other priorities ahead of it. If you are passionate about it, I again advise you to explore your options.
You can inquires by the army and explain to them your situation or go through their website: forsvaret.dk.
Shia Muslim and student
Mohammad Al-Jizani is the editor of the Shia debate forum www.shiaonline.dk.
This led to quite a few opinion pieces in response.
Theologist Bo Grünberger:
".. a democratic government's attempt to defeat a barbaric regime, which publicly beheads people, bans music and forces women and men into a fanciful hell of a prophet's dream, can't be called oppressive, unless there is something very wrong with one's perception of reality," wrote Bo Grünberger, who also criticized Kristeligt Dagblad for using Mohammad Al-Jizani as a responder.
As did Johan Aa, who thinks Mohammad Al-Jizani's answer is an expression of a different form of oppression.
"Is this the image that Al-Jizani himself - in a distorted understanding of religion - wants to serve as a silent and obedient slave-solder for an oppressive Islam?"
Other Muslims also joined in the debate, including Safia Aoude, a jurist and teacher at a Muslim school.
"Muslims are obligated to defend their homes, both by the Koran and the Prophet's example, and therefore also the country where you and your family live in. Therefore it's not only permitted, but also laudable and benefits the community, if you get military training, for example, the Danish army," says Safia Aoude, who stresses that the Danish army allows you to opt out of participating directly in war.
"If you don't want to fight for Denmark, for example, in other parts of the world, the Danish military system leaves you plenty of opportunities to do civil service. In recent years the military in Denmark did a lot to give a place to the religious needs of Muslim soldiers during training and service, although it hasn't yet introduced a hijab uniform, but I'm certain that will also come sooner or later," wrote Safia Aoude.
Aminah Tønnsen, a Muslim lecturer and author of several books about Islam, criticized the war in Afghanistan.
"In my view there's nothing to prevent a Muslim from training for the Danish army. However, it's problematic if he's then stationed in war-like conditions, as the Koran only permits defensive war," wrote Aminah Tønnsen, who generally rejects the belief that war is a solution.
"I don't think that you can establish people, freedom and democracy by force of arms, death and destruction," writes Aminah Tønnsen.
The fierce debate led Mohammad Al-Jizani to respond:
"Overall, I'm very much aware how oppressive and barbaric is the Taliban. I myself am a strong opponent of theirs. Therefore I think that such tyrants should be removed from power. I don't support, though, anybody who wants them removed. A superpower like the USA have their own interests in the country, and I don't think that moral people should support them," wrote Mohammad Al-Jizani and added that his answer shouldn't be seen as a criticism of Danish soldiers.
"I have a lot of respect for our soldiers and veterans, and I'm convinced that they do it in good faith and really want to help the Afghans and make a difference down there, which is a noble idea. Additionally, I have friends who've been stationed in Afghanistan and I've talked a lot with them about the war. This doesn't mean though that I exclude other opinions and don't look at the war objectively. The war is unjustified and I prefer that people don't get involved in it, but instead serve in Denmark. It's much more noble to defend and serve one's country than to wage war against others," wrote Mohammad Al-Jizani.
Source: Kristeligt Dagblad (Danish)