Diversity in Iceland

After a week in Iceland, we are settling in very nicely.  With the recent purchase of blackout eye-masks and some towels stuffed in the gaps between curtains, we are finally getting some sleep during Iceland’s perpetual summer daylight.  As for our research, we are making headway with planning and organizing some meetings with people we hope to interview.

After getting to know the city better and getting a feel for how small the Reykjavik community really is, we are planning to broaden our research scope a bit to include questions surrounding the integration of immigrants in addition to refugees.  While our project will still aim to answer the questions we initially posed about Iceland’s refugee resettlement program, including issues of immigration will provide us with a larger population to study that faces many of the same issues that refugees in Iceland face.

One of our main reasons for studying Icelandic national identity stems from our interest in the country’s homogenous population and isolated location.  Because of Iceland’s remote location, boats of hopeful migrants do not set sail for the shores of Reykjavik as often happens across the Mediterranean, such as the recent incident surrounding a boat of migrants headed for Italy.

However, having a smaller number of immigrants and refugees does not mean that Iceland does not struggle with the same identity issues that other European countries currently face.  Icelanders have a strong sense of Icelandic culture, history, and national identity, which can cause dispute when diversity grows on the island. So, we are curious as to how those that do not identify as white, Christian, or an Icelandic native are treated in a country that prides itself on preserving tradition and culture.

With these questions in mind, we decided to first look at how different religions are represented and practiced within Iceland. One does not have to delve into the figures and numbers to understand that Iceland is a proud to be a Christian country. The focal point and largest building in Reykajvik is a Lutheran Church, Hallgrímskirkja, which you can see from virtually every corner of the city. Thus it is not surprising that a vast majority of Icelanders consider themselves Christian with roughly 75% of them following the Lutheran denomination. However, Icelanders will be quick to point out that they do not practice the faith diligently. Rather, it stands as a mere icon of heritage. But, we wonder, what about those in Iceland that do not believe in Christianity? Where are they?

A friend of ours, Tyler Smith, recently sent us this fascinating article titled Iceland is About to Get Its First Mosque. The article explains that only just recently the City Council approved Iceland’s first mosque however a few Islanders have been less than supportive of the idea. As indicated by hateful Facebook posts and an incident in which someone placed three pig heads and bloodied pages of the Quran at the site where the mosque is about to built, not all of Iceland is onboard with religious diversity. While it is important to keep in mind that these incidents only reflect the viewpoints of a few individuals and by no means reflect the views of the general population, it still something to take into consideration with regards to our research. Hopefully we can uncover more information about this event with those we speak to in the future.

Thus, to get a better grasp of what it is like to live in Iceland as non-Christians we are reaching out to members of religious organizations such as the Muslim Association of Iceland, the Russian Orthodox community, the Jewish community, and the Buddhist community, to see if representatives would be willing to speak to us about religious diversity within Iceland.

That being said, we have been repeatedly humbled by how many people are willing to help us with this project. On numerous occasions we have had people go out of their way to send us articles, get us into contact with people who many be able to talk to us, and pose interesting questions for us to ponder. We could not be any more grateful for all the help and support we have received just within the last week. And if you think you might have an article, contact, or question that pertains to our research we would love to hear from you! You can comment on our blog or send either one of us an email (found on our about page).

Until next time!

Image

       The local Icelandic Lutheran church in our neighborhood.

 

 

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