The mayoral candidate for the Progressive Party and Airport Friends says she would reverse a decision made last year by Reykjavík City Council to grant a plot of land for the building of a mosque.
Vísir reports that Sveinbjörg Birna Sveinbjörnsdóttir, who leads the list of candidates for the Progressive Party and Airport Friends, pre-emptively dismisses charges of prejudice.
“As long as we have a national church, we should not grant plots of land for buildings such as mosques or for Greek Orthodox churches,” she told reporters. “I lived in Saudi Arabia for about a year. My opinion is not based on prejudice, but on experience.”
For the record, there is no Greek Orthodox church in Iceland. There is, however, a Russian Orthodox church, which has also been trying to get a plot of land for building a house of worship.
Sveinbjörg also said her opinion was based in part on the fact that abiding the customs of countries one moves to is natural, saying, “I have, for example, just returned from one of the biggest mosques in the world, in Abu Dhabi. There are no churches there. I respect the values of other countries, and think this is a given.”
As DV points out, however, there are at least six churches in Abu Dhabi.
As reported, the Planning Committee of Reykjavík City Council approved a plot of land for the building of a mosque in January 2013. The plot will be located on Sogamýri, between Miklubraut and Suðurlandsbraut.
Salmann Tamimi, the Vice Chairperson of the Muslim Society of Iceland, was one of the original founders of the idea, having first submitted an application for a plot on which to build a mosque in 1999. Many city council ruling majorities have come and gone since then, without the plot application making much progress.
Things changed in 2010, when Mayor Jón Gnarr learned of the delay and told the Grapevine he supported the building of a mosque.
“I don’t see the Muslims of Reykjavík building a mosque as being any sort of problem,” he said. “They should have their mosque—we should enjoy total freedom of religion, and everyone should be free to worship according to their beliefs. I am not familiar with why they’ve had to wait for so long, but they hopefully won’t have to wait any longer. At least not if I have any authority on the matter.”
A Fréttablaðið poll taken shortly thereafter showed that most Icelanders favoured the building of a mosque, or at least had no problem with it.
According to Statistics Iceland, there are about 700 Muslims living in Iceland.