Cultural dilemma – Country vs Religion

One would think it would be easy to describe or define a country. But its definition in Wikipedia leaves room for interpretation that attempts to describe it as ‘…a distinct part of the world, such as a state, nation, or other political entity…’. Notably, the definition of a country does not include ‘a group of people with a certain religion‘ or even ‘a group of people‘. On the other hand, the Wikipedia article does mention religion in any way but for the use of religious symbols, eg. in flags.

Some of the countries in this world use religion as the primary source of legislation and apply religious laws rigorously. Other countries may for historical reasons be based on religious principles, but no longer apply any religious elements in their laws or politics. Some countries were founded without any reference to religion. Then there are countries that are based on religion but apply a more democratic than religious view on the way to rule their citizens.

Examples of countries based on religion are Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and a few more. Examples of non-religious or secular states are Canada, Spain, France, Germany, The Netherlands, all of Scandinavia, etc. Basically all of Europe. Countries with religious views that are flexible toward other religions are Indonesia, India, and a few more.

Note that some would like to see the United States of America added to the list of secular states. However, recent developments have made it abundantly clear that there’s an ongoing political shift with a religious motive. The 1st amendment of the US Constitution clearly states ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…‘.


Ideally, every citizen of any state should be allowed to exercise the universal right of freedom of religion. Unfortunately, many states based on religious idealogy do not allow this. A few of them were already highlighted above. In the most extreme states, any activity tied to another than the nationally accepted religion is forbidden or even punishable. Typically, this sort of regime does not allow its citizens to freely move abroad to places more accepting of their religion.

To give an example, during the last few centuries, people of the Jewish faith were not accepted in many European countries. A few countries were more secular and accepted groups of other faiths than the Christian varieties. During a long period, Jews could freely live in The Netherlands, while they were persecuted in Spain, and Portugal but also in the eastern parts of Europe such as russia and Poland.


In the last few decades, Europe has accepted many refugees and asylum seekers from areas such as the Middle East and Africa. A majority of these new citizens have the Islamic faith.

Amongst these refugees was a fair number of Palestinians that could no longer live in the small strips of land assigned to them by Israël, or could not make a living in the other countries in the area where they had been expelled to as a result of the forming of the state Israël. Obviously, these people have a grudge against Israël.

More recently, many refugees from Iraq, and then from Syria, found their way to Europe, fleeing from the senseless violence in their home countries. In these cases, the violence was not from the state of Israël but from fellow Muslims, albeit either of a different branch of the faith or far more radical in their beliefs. As in most countries in the area, most of these people grew up believing that Israël was their enemy.

Once settled in Europe, the former refugees have been able to exercise their faith in their new home countries – whatever faith they happened to have. I presume many did as the number of mosques has grown rapidly. And rightly so.


Let’s get to the point now.

Whenever the state of Israël does something against eg. Palestinians or Gaza, by allowing new settlements to be built, or tighten border restrictions – you get my drift – then the former refugees from the area stand up in protest. Rightfully so in my opinion, because it cannot be denied that Israël does a lot of bad things. My main problem with these protests is that they are directed against Jewish people living in the country that accepted the refugees.

As a result of Iraël doing something bad, Jewish people in the Western world cannot be safe because of violence from a large part of the Islamic population.

Why is that? you may ask yourself.

The simple answer is that the Western world has not been able to educate new refugees about the way things work.

Jewish people in Sweden or France or Belgium or Holland do NOT represent the state of Israël!
In the same way that:
IS does NOT represent the Muslim world. 



At the beginning of the ongoing Israël-Gaza war, protests broke out everywhere. Whilst many inhabitants of Middle Eastern countries cheered seeing the violence inflicted by the Hamas, Western citizens protested against this violence. One of the first things that had to be considered was the safety of Jewish communities in Europe. France was first, other countries quickly followed suit.

I ask you why? If you’ve lived through the nightmare of a violent and oppressive regime, if you’ve finally made the decision to leave your home and the land your family has lived on for generations, if you had to leave behind parts of your family and all of your friends, if you have to give up most of your possessions in order to travel to a far and distant country that you only have heard of and trust it will finally give you and your family peace and a place to live and work.

Why would you be angry at the Jewish inhabitants of the country that welcomed you? They are not Israël, they are not even Israëlis, they did not oppress you. Instead, they are part of the people who welcomed you to your new home country after you fled your old country. You don’t have to shake the hand of each and every citizen, but you could at least not hold them responsible for whatever Israël does or has done.

As already stated above, most of this is due to a lack of education and information from the authorities to our new citizens. But, to my knowledge, no initiatives are addressing this in an adequate manner. The channels to do so are easily defined, schools – of course!, but also mosques and community centers, information to new citizens, and mandatory courses in integration.

Ideally, no country would have religion to guide its politics, and every citizen in any country should be free to worship whatever religion they prefer. Or, of course, be free to not have a religion at all. Countries should not be connected to a religion. We still have a long way to go.



Reader’s comment:

Paul writes “Ideally, every citizen of any state should be allowed to exercise the universal right of freedom of religion”.

The problem with religions is that they often tend towards coercion. Followers expect the group/community/country/rest of the world/everyone, to bend to the rules and laws as prescribed by their specific religion.

The fact is that most of these rules and insights were defined in about the Stone Ages.

  • Muslims consider women, gays, unbelievers (infidels red.) as inferior beings, inferior to religious men that is.
  • Rules of Orthodox Jews: Men stay out of the delivery room. Men do not shake hands with women. Jews have to follow the laws of the Torah and only eat Kosher foods. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
  • The Pope recently admitted that Galileo might have a point with his statement that Earth is not the center of the universe.

And the most fanatical and extreme followers of a certain religion believe that any means may be used to achieve the absolute domination of their God and his laws.

So what do we know about the extremely difficult circumstances under which Israelis have to survive? Literally from day to day.

The immense threat that comes from the surrounding Arab countries, whose population openly shouts that they want to destroy the state of Israel and exterminate all Jews.

One of the insane rules from this Stone Age religion dictates that land that once belonged to Allah’s worshippers, never can be taken by non-believers.

Not exactly an indulgent guy, this Allah.

Israel wants nothing more than to live on good terms with their Arab neighbors and they came already a long way in this regard through improved relations with Saudi Arabia, among others.

But Iran has destroyed these favorable developments through its terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah.

The sad reality is as Benjamin Netanyahu remarks:

If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more ‎war. If the Jews put ‎down their weapons ‎today, there would be no  ‎more Israel’

In our Dutch country we can see huge demonstrations and protest marches against Israel’s disproportional violence. IS-flags are being waved shamelessly.

Our major cities decided not to raise an Israeli flag of solidarity for reasons of de-escalation.

In no other European country were Jews in such large numbers pushed in the trains to Auschwitz and Dachau as in the Netherlands.

These Jews thought it would be a labor camp, and in photos you can see them waiting obediently in line with their suitcases, but it was a transit camp to the extermination in Auschwitz and Sobibor.

One would think that with such a past, humility and shame for these actions would be appropriate.

That certainly counts for Germany these days and the population realises this.

But the Dutch government prefers to apologize on behalf of the current population, which – also in terms of descent – has nothing to do with the distant history of slavery.

And what’s worse, the entire political left, has openly taken position against Israel and the Hamas pogrom is designated as something that Israelis in fact deserve.

There are countless examples of poor performance by Dutch media companies, newspapers, and broadcasters, when it comes to accurate fact checking. All integrity seems to be thrown overboard, briefings and reports are strongly biased to the statements of Hamas spokespersons, whereas statements and even rigorous evidence of the Israelis is questioned and doubted. The news channels keep talking about Hamas fighters instead of Hamas terrorists

Besides, what about the universities with their open aversion of Israel and strangely enough therefore with all Jews worldwide?

This new wave of country wide antisemitism in The Netherlands did not arise out of the blue; the recent events were a justification to allow to show the latent hatred of Jews.

At demonstrations The Dutch protesters act extremely outraged, as if they are very concerned with the Palestinians, but in reality they use the occasion to demonstrate their loathing of Jews under the cover of a so-called concern for the oppressed.

The real compassion is clearly on display in London:

Eef november 2023

The comments on the ‘London Houses of Parliament’ might as well have any Middle Eastern national monument as a background, with the same comment.

The (mainly Muslim) countries in the Middle East seem to have no problem slaughtering each other at a large scale, even in the name of Allah, as long as no other religions are involved in the act.