09:05 GMT15 April 2021
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    A Norwegian school has ignited a controversy with its intention to insert verses from the Quran into its traditional Christmas recital. By its own admission, the school made this move to emphasize the fact that Jesus is also featured in the Muslim holy book.

    While Christmas recitals have traditionally had Christian content, Stigeråsen school in Skien, Norway, decided to digress from the established practice by citing two verses from the Quran. By using quotations from the centerpiece of Islam, the school admittedly wants to promote respect and understanding between different religious groups, the website Dokument.no revealed.

    Even though Muslims do not celebrate Christmas, verses chosen by the school (Quran 3:45 and 3:47) illustrate Jesus' appearance in the Muslim holy book.

    "Jesus is a central figure in Christianity and the Christmas celebration. But he is also an important figure in Islam as well," Kim Aas told the Telemarkavisa daily. "It should not be problematic for the students to learn that there are different perspectives, not just one," School principal Kim Aas said.

    He emphasized that the school still has respect for Christianity's role in Norwegian cultural heritage and celebrates traditional holidays, such as Easter.

    "We have students with different backgrounds, and a large proportion of them are Muslims. All our events are about creating an inclusive practice. For example, when we hold a Christmas recital, it must be for all of our students," the principal said, agreeing that it was a very "sensitive" topic.

    Grete Gjelten of Skien municipality confirmed that quotations from the Quran will be recited by six-graders at Stigeråsen school, where 40 percent of the pupils have minority backgrounds. According to Gjelten, the parents were not given the opportunity to prevent their children from participating.

    "Of course, it could have been dealt with in another way, but that's not how the school has chosen to do it. The school does not require approval, and the teachers have not done anything illegal," Grete Gjelten said, as quoted by the Verdens Gang daily, putting the emphasis on inclusion efforts to promote diversity. "I hope that both myself and many other politicians will have an opportunity of seeing the play," she added.

    The recital triggered strong reactions in Norwegian social media, with users suggesting it was a sign of the country's "Islamization" that it created contempt for the Norwegian church.

    "We will have a future generation of children who believe that Allah and the Quran have something to do with Christmas. And all this is promoted by our teaching institutions," blogger Hanne Tolg wrote.

    The number of practicing Muslims in Norway, a nation of 5.2 million, is estimated at around 4 percent. By contrast, 75 percent of the population is officially registered as Christians.


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