Controversy Arises Over Muslim Cultural Centre - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Controversy Arises Over Muslim Cultural Centre

Published November 19, 2010

The foreign minister is in talks with Norwegian authorities over an Islamic group who recently purchased a building Reykjavík which they intend to turn into a Muslim cultural centre, as they also attempted to build a mosque in northern Norway. The group behind the project deny any ties to Saudi Arabian authorities and emphasized that they intend to work with the Icelandic government first and foremost.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Össur Skarphéðinsson is meeting with this Norwegian counterpart, Jonas Gahr Störe, to discuss the matter. Specifically, the group behind the Muslim cultural centre at Ýmishúsið in Reykjavík had tried to build a mosque in the Norwegian town of Tromsø – a town of about 67,000 people in the far north of the country.
Saudi Arabia has strict laws when it comes to investors in their country putting money into the building of mosques in other countries. For one, the governments of those countries need to confirm with Saudi Arabia that the mosques will be built and operate in accordance with Saudi Arabian regulations on mosques. According to Fréttablaðið, Norwegian authorities could not confirm that the proposed Tromsø mosque would do so, and so foreign investors in the project withdrew financial support and the project was never completed.
The Islamic Endowment Center in Iceland, which is helping fund the Muslim cultural centre in Iceland, was the same team behind the Tromsø mosque project. Karim Askari, a spokesman for the Muslim cultural centre in Iceland, told Fréttablaðið “We do not accept money from Saudi Arabia. The money comes from an endowment fund used to assist the poor, one purpose of which is to build mosques and schools.” He added furthermore that the cultural centre and the Islamic Endowment Center in Iceland would be working with the Icelandic government first and foremost.

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