It’s election time again. This time it’s the local municipal elections. Each municipality is preparing to vote and the important issues are unique to each one.
It seems the political parties in government are not faring as well in all regions as the results from the last national election might indicate.
One of the more heated issues is the desire of the mayoral candidate for the Progressive Party to withdraw a promise made by Reykjavík City Council to the Association of Muslims in Iceland. The association was given land on which to build a mosque, a place to practice their religion in peace, just as Christian congregations have done for centuries.
Some people in opposition of these plans preach that a state religion is prevalent and no other religion can be supported en par with Christianity. In other words, it’s a cultural thing.
I wholeheartedly disagree. In my mind, there is more than enough room for all of us to practice the religion of our choosing or not practice a religion at all. The choice is ours. It’s only fair and has nothing to do with culture. The very nature of multicultural nations is great diversity and that’s something we need to celebrate in the 21st century.
I have been to some of the most devoted Islamic states where I still came across a Christian church. One that was as appropriate as the beautiful mosques I visited during my travels. Never did I feel that I had nothing in common with the local people who were devoted Muslims.
So yes, I disagree wholeheartedly with the candidates who feel other religions shouldn’t be practiced in an official religious building that is a mosque.
When it comes to other issues, voters hear plenty about children and children’s welfare and that’s an important issue to a large majority of voters in a family-oriented society like Iceland. But other issues suffer and one issue in particular is completely disregarded:animal welfare. As a pet owner, I have not been satisfied with the city’s disregard for the needs of our pets. At present, we have no idea to what the annual fees go and it is disappointing seeing that the departing mayor, Jón Gnarr, is a dog owner himself.
I belong to a group of dog owners in Reykjavík. Last year we sent a letter to the city petitioning a fenced play area for our dogs to meet socially and play freely. In our mind, such an area benefits both dog owners and those city dwellers that prefer to keep away from animals in general.
We got two positive responses but the final committee to review our petition declined the request, but never bothered to contact us to inform us of their decision.
So, for me as a voter, I want to know how the parties running view pet ownership in urban communities, how they’d spend the pet license fees, and if we can expect a more open communication with the authorities.
The final issue for me is transportation and how to reduce traffic at peak hour. As always, we have opposition from both sides. One side argues in favor of the private vehicle and the other of public transport. For the former, the privately owned car is necessary to travel effectively in the capital area. For the latter, it’s either all about bicycles and making use of the many pathways in the capital area or improving the bus system. Another related issue is the location of the domestic airport, whether it should stay or go.
But it’s not only the city that is in the midst of election frenzy.
For the rural areas, the issues include employment development to attract young people to either return or start a new life in Iceland’s smaller communities.
The lack of a wider range of professional opportunities threatens the survival of small communities. A small community must be able to spread the risk in case a company decides to close its operations, as is happening in Djúpivogur, East Iceland.The results of this election will reflect not only the public content or discontent of the departing leaders, but the mood in this society of ours.
We’ll know soon enough.
Júlíana Björnsdóttir – [email protected]