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Reflections from the Ramadan dinner at the Parliament

 On the night of 22 August 2011, Danish Parliament hosted a Ramadan fast-breaking dinner at Christiansborg. Christiansborg is the only building in the world that houses all three of a country’s branches of government, namely the executive, legislative and judicial powers. Therefore, Christiansborg is of paramount importance for Danish citizens.

The reception organized by Zaman Scandinavia, a weekly Turkish newspaper, and by Hüseyin Araç, who is an interpreter and a politician from the Social Democrats. Araç gave an opening speech for the reception. Later, all the participants stood silent for a minute of grief and commemorated the people who lost their lives in terrorist attack in Norway. After the moment of grief, Chief Editor of Zaman Scandinavia, Kamil Subasi conveyed a speech titled as ‘The Role of press in integration’. Following him, Mustafa Gezen, the president of Dialog Forum, delivered his speech on the role of Ramadan and dialogue.

President of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, was the guest of honor at the reception and delivered a presentation about “Zaman Scandinavia’s contribution to the multicultural life.”After his speech, it was time to enjoy the various and delicious food served a la carte and it was also time for the Muslims break their fasts. Altogether all select guests had their dinner from the same dishes regardless of their origin, race or religion.

Before the start of the dinner, Merete Lundemo, the minister of Norwegian Embassy to Denmark, took the floor to express that the fondness and care shown by the organizers and speakers demonstrated a true example of brotherhood and that it was really appreciated by them.
It was then clear to the guests, including me, that acceptance of the people living in Denmark with different cultural and religious background is necessary if we are to maintain Denmark as an open and democratic country. That is precisely the dialogue and not religious dogmatism, which is at the center, is probably also the reason why Muslim Danish politicians choose to invite non-Muslims for Ramadan dinner at Christiansborg.
All in all, traditions are different. And this reception was a symbol of marking the end of Ramadan. It is not only held as a respect for the Muslim minority in the different countries, but also because it offered an opportunity to create conversation and context – even across faith. Just like Christmas and Easter, which each year provides the framework for a lot of dialogue between people of different religious persuasions. Therefore, it was an opportunity for Muslims to convey their ideas about the recent events such as the terrorist attack which claimed a lot of young souls. Also it created a context where all people from different origin, race and religion to see the shared human values, like sympathy of condolence, feeling to help one another as in the case of north east Africa, which is suffering from the hunger.
As a last thing to do, I would love to share some remarks from the speakers.

Kamil Subasi, Chief Editor of Zaman Scandinavia, on the role of Media in integration:
• The media can help the communities be integrated into society by carrying the socially prized role models on newspaper pages or television screens.
• With his positive rhetoric and by reflecting different walks of society and by including poly-vocal people through the pages, the media can play an important role in the establishment of cross-cultural bridges.
• Via publications that will increase democratic participation, media may play an important role in integration.

Mustafa Gezen, the President of Dialog Forum:
“The critic of multiculturalism was a critic of multiculturalism as an ideology, which terminates mutual culture and values. It is very important to have mutual values, such as freedom of speech, religious freedom and other democratic rights. The kind of “multi-culture” I am addressing is the kind of multi-culture which respects diversity in a society and enables to include different cultures but at the same time shares fundamental values which the society in general has agreed on. The agreed values must reflect Danish and internationally respected values. If we are capable of clarifying that the majority of Muslims are interested in preserving the Danish values and not changing them and that the majority of Danes are not interested in assimilating Muslims the inevitable will happen – slowly but firmly the mutual concerns, doubts, and fears will fade away.”

by Ramazan Dicle, for Dialog Forum. Copenhagen 24-08-2011
photos by Ahmed Krausen

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