It did not take us very long to reach several conclusions on the city of Tallinn; that it’s beautiful, that its inhabitants are warm-hearted and that they are crazy about potatoes with pork on the side (no, not the other way around). Yet, after having enjoyed our second visit to an Estonian gymnasium today, the perhaps most obvious conclusion to reach was this: that Estonians are serious about their education.
School newspapers with a circulation of almost 1000, student councils resembling the governmental system, and the option to choose subjects ranging from economy to physics to Estonian culture and even national defense. Although we might have visited schools whose students seem to be somewhat exemplary, I am left with the impression that education in Estonia is not a matter to be taken lightly. I think I speak for the entire academy when I say that we have been very impressed by how far this country has gotten, when it comes to education. And we’re not even speaking about the universities!
We spent our entire Tuesday at Nũmme Gymnasium, located in the boroughs of the city. After an introduction about the school presented by several students (I don’t think any school on earth has ever fostered such an immense amount of musicians with weird names), we went up to the classroom which was going to be our base location for the rest of the day. There, we began working with that which I believe many of us have been waiting for since our arrival in this city of cobblestone and beautiful women: the academy’s “main” project. We divided into seven different groups according to what we wanted to work with, and without revealing further details; I can ensure everyone who’s interested that you have seven different reasons to be exited. It felt good to know that we were underway, and we all felt ready to do some serious work.
Lucky for us, our dear academy arrangers had planned something quite serious for us to do next: a political roleplaying game involving a highly debated mosque, Ola the Swede portraying a very bitter and unsatisfied woman, a political party that had actually themselves chosen to be called “The Populists”, and last but not least, a Latvian-Italian coalition from hell, constantly throwing the word “terrorist” into the circle – when not exposing us for pictures of armed men with long beards. And all we wanted to do was to build a mosque. Life can be harsh sometimes…
After a long day of discussions, creativity, acting and enjoying the piano sonata school bell, we were all ready for a round of serious Estonian culture. A pupil at the school invited us to enjoy four beautiful live songs, and we had the great pleasure to dig some real, old school Estonian dance moves. We were munching confectionery chocolate and feeling good. It was a good day – and we all agree that Tallinn is a good place to be.
You may also enjoy the articles of our three “journalists” of the simulation game.
By Kätliin Lember for the local newspaper:
Yesterday, at the beginning peaceful city council meeting which as it continued sparked up more and more and took quite a few interesting turns took place in the City Hall. It concerned the recently arisen question regarding the erection of a mosque in our beloved town of Sleepyville.
There were four different parties: the Traditionalist, the Humanist, the Diversity and of course the Populist Party, present at the meeting. In addition to the representatives of the previously mentioned parties there were several members of different civil organizations at the site.
The Muslim Association started the meeting with a quote from European Convention on Human Rights and expressed its remorse about the need for such a meeting even occurring. Their speech consisted in a big part of them trying to explain the role and thoughts of the Muslim community admitting that they would like nothing more than to be acceptable members of the society.
The Traditionalist Party called the Muslims terrorists and expressed a strong opinion against directing the resources of the city into building the mosque when they could be used so much more wisely e.g. in health. They were confident that the “terrorists” have not yet gained enough power in the city council and that their party and the opposition is able to make them surrender.
The Humanist Party supported establishing simple human rights regarding the whole nation and therefore stood behind the Muslim association.
The Populists were all about taking the opportunity to make this site with a currently bad reputation into a homely place for at least a part of us and supported the existing solution to a current problem as there aren’t any alternatives out there.
The Human Rights Sleepy organization made an elegant speech about this erection being an excellent opportunity to better integrate with a great part of our population which at the moment is partly neglected. The construction would show respect and dignity towards the Muslims and create a much needed dialogue between the two parts that our population has been segmented into. The biggest challenge in their opinion to the peaceful coexisting of the citizens and the Muslims is the lack of information on behalf of the common citizens and this could be improved by approving the motion.
The Women Sleepy Organization felt that this production works against complete integration and means that female Muslims will never be equal to the rest of the citizens. This claim was rebutted by the representative of the Muslim movement Sjur who even pointed out that they are very liberal when it comes to the rights of women and that they even allowed a woman representative to take part in the discussion which is unheard of in other such communities. He cannot see a reasonable explanation for the argument of the Women Sleepy Organization.
Past and Present Association stood for the picturesque setting of our dear town and therefore strongly opposed the motion under discussion, while stressing that they have nothing against the Muslim community but feel that the construction is practically bad and therefore should be stopped.
The Diversity Party were for building the church and solving problems that exist instead of creating new ones.
The citizens are divided between two opposites: half believe that building the mosque would proposedly solve the vandalism problem and as it has no negative connotations it is acceptable. The other half were concerned about the practical reasons such as it shouldn’t be the city funding this project and if it were Muslims themselves they would have nothing against it. Therefore a great part of the society would gain a lot from the continuing construction and would also have the support of the people.
During the 5-minute recession between the speeches and the debate, an ongoing lively discussion could be heard all around the room.
During the debate the Traditionalist Party fiercely accused the Muslims by calling them terrorists again and the Muslims were also challenged by the rest of their opposition but they defended themselves with a quote from the representative of the Humanist Party, who strongly agreed to having junkies instead of peaceful Muslims in the center of the city. In opposition to the claims of the Women Sleepy Organization the Diversity Party very well brought out that the rights of the women will stay the same either way and in no way depend on this decision whether to build them a mosque or not, therefore their argument was found invalid.
In the middle of the debate a sudden change took place: the Populist Party proposed building a candy shop and were against the mosque as they claimed that they had done some research and found out that the people actually were not happy with the construction of the mosque.
The important fact that they brought out and that may not stay ignored no more is the will of the citizens- after all they are the people regarding whom decisions must be made. So while making the decision it should not be the ideologies but rather the actual needs of the people that are taken into account.
In the end the vote resulted in having a majority of votes against building the mosque and the will of the people ruled. The score of the anonymous vote was 10 against 6 in favor of the opposition. The most important is that we went through a democratic process and reached the decision fairly.
And now we have time to plan lots of new CANDY SHOPS to make our city a better place and the people here happy.
By Sander Udam for the Christian magazine:
After weeks of heated public debate, fear-mongering and demagogy, the city council gathered to form their final decision in relation to Sleepyville’s muslims’ agenda to have their mosque in our beautiful town. Coming here, I, as a true christian, believed in the right to choose a religion and believe what one desires. However, the right to believe what you want, doesn’t nessecarily mean you can erect a temple in the downtown and scream all over the town five times a day. Also, in a modern, democratic and otherwise secular country, it’s wrong to have the government funding religious groups and their projects. The conflicting groups in the Council meeting were able to change my mind. The first part of the debate was quick and civil and all the sides brought out their statements, although not strongly supporting them, probably due to lack of time. Arguments, that could be heard the loudest in support of the mosque were the freedom of religion and the large population of muslims. While the strongest arguments against the building of mosque were fears about the radicalization of the muslim population, the opression of women and that the appearance of the town will be ruined. Having talked to most of the parties, all of the concerns were diminshed. The muslim association left a very strong impression. They are equally represented by men and women and are fairly liberal. They reassured, that the businessmen are supporting the building to get rid of the crime-ridden piece of land in the downtown, currently scaring away possible customers from their shopping centers. They also promised that there will be no calls for prayer and our sweet sleep will not be disturbed. My scares about losing the picturesque landscape of Sleepyville were made obsolete when the MA told us about having hired a famous architect to design the mosque to fit perfectly into the landscape. The mayor also claimed, that the city will support every organisation, that has serious plans and good projects, including which many churches. I don’t think that it’s perfect, but at least muslims are not getting special treatment. The second part of debate started with heavy accusations by the Traditionalist party towards Muslim Association about their relations with terrorism. Which quickly turned the council meeting into a punch of screaming children. No side brought up any new arguments and the Muslim Association elegantly and swiftly defended their position. By this moment it seemed obvious that the MA gets their wish and the mosque will be built. I, for one, hope that my God loving brothers and sisters get their mosque, as this is clearly the right thing to do. The voting however turned out differently. By a clear difference – 10-6 – the “Nay” won and the mosque will not be built today and not at this place. It’s a shame for me, a believer in God from Sleepyville, that 15% of our city’s population are denied their right to express their beliefs. The city has proven it cares none about human rights. It’s of no surprise that with such backwards Council members like these, the young are leaving the town, leaving the traditional dying out with their own traditions. The decision that came out today, will in no way going to end the fuzz around religious topics, as the disagreements among the population remains and will probably cause the radicalization of the growing muslim population.
By Flore de Vylder as an independet blogger:
Today was one of the most important days in a long time for the inhabitants of our city of Sleepville. The mosque-problem has been an issue for quite some time now, and it gets more complicated every day. As you know from my previous blog posts, I think the muslim community in our city deserves a place to pray. Every human being desrves freedom of religion. Muslim, Christian, atheist, Jewish or another religion, everyone should have the chance to express their thoughts as they want. Not only the moslims have their rights in this city, the rights of the other people living here are also important. But I´m not a fan of the way this project is going to be realized, especially with the involvement of the rich businessman. I think politicians should find a compromise between the needs of these two groups.
After some research in my own environment, by talking to family, friends and people in the street, I concluded that most people are concerned about the location of the mosque. The plan is to build the mosque in the middle of the city, close to the main shopping street. It´s a crowded area where most of the inhabitants of Sleepyville walk by every day. Personally, I think that the problem is that a lot of people don´t know anything about the muslim community in their city. The Muslim communion in Sleepyville has already existed for two generations, but still they function as a minority group. Most of the citizens are too afraid and they always try to keep a certain distance. Maybe if they would be open to talking with each other, the two groups would be able to understand each other’s opinions and needs.
So today I went to the city council meeting with two important questions in my head:
– Every human being deserves freedom of religion. How can they learn to live together and respect eachother?
– What is the biggest problem? The fact that they want to build a mosque or the place where they want to build it? Could the problem be solved by finding another place to build the mosque?
After every party gave their argumentation, I got the chance to talk to the populist party, who defends the rights of both Moslims and other people. Bianca gave me an answer on both my questions. She told me that the main problem was that the two groups in this town don´t communicate with eachother. Which is exact the same thing as I mentioned before in this blog. On my second question she answered that this problem indeed could be solved by finding another place to build the mosque.
I also talked to Martin from the Human rights sleepy organisation. Together with his collegue Ania, he strives for equality for every citizen. During this city council their goal was to defend the needs of both groups.
During the open debate, the past and present organisation, defended the possibility to find another place to build the mosque. Unfortunately not every party was as enthousiastic about this idea as me. The muslim party for example said that it wouldn´t make a difference.
After the debate, I had one last question for the mayor: Don`t you think that there should be a better communication between these two groups of people living in your village? She gave me the answer I was hoping for: YES!
Unfortunately the voters didn´t share my meaning, because they voted no. In my opinion this could have been a first step in the right direction.