Denmark: Religion and politics must be separate

Constitution Day is marked every year by politicians speaking about democracy and this year was no different. In his address, the prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen chose to underscore that religion and politics are two separate issues. Tuesday in Toreby, on the island of Lolland, Rasmussen said religion and politics must be kept separate and that politicians should not get involved in citizen's personal beliefs. 'All Danish citizens have rights and duties, regardless of their religious views,' said the prime minister. 'But on the other hand, the state should not concern itself with things like religious clothing or meal traditions. That is a personal matter - even when it crosses over into the public sphere.' The issue of Muslim women's headscarves has been a prevalent topic in the media in the past couple of months. Rasmussen addressed the controversy, saying freedom in Denmark means the right to dress as one wishes. 'It would contribute greatly to religious tolerance in the public domain if we were less preoccupied with religious symbols. It's shocking to see how tempers can flare up over seeing a Muslim woman wear a headscarf. Leave them be.' But the prime minister reiterated his position that religious customs must in no way interfere with or transgress the laws of the land. 'No one should, for example, refuse to make themselves available to the job market, defending their position through religious motives or living customs. And it should be self-evident that an employer may establish reasonable rules for dress at the workplace.' Rasmussen concluded by urging citizens to be more open-minded. 'Being open-minded means that a single standpoint in one's own attitudes can acknowledge another's right to believe something else. Freedom of expression and open-mindedness - that is the essence of democracy.'

Source: Copenhagen Post (English)

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