A controversial statement made by a Progressive mayoral candidate about the possibility of a mosque in Iceland has prompted a slew of responses of disagreement, amongst them from the Bishop of Iceland and the Foreign Minister themselves.
“It is a given that people have a place to come and praise their god,” Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir told DV. “Personally, as the Bishop of Iceland, I feel that Christianity should be the dominant religion that we build up, but that doesn’t rule out that a mosque can be raised here.”
Here the Bishop is referring to recent remarks made by Progressive mayoral candidate Sveinbjörg Birna Sveinbjörnsdóttir, who told reporters last week, “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. I lived in Saudi Arabia for about a year. My opinion is not based on prejudice, but on experience.”
While Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, who is also the chairperson of the Progressive Party, has refused to comment on the matter, Minister of Foreign Affairs Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson at least has commented, saying on Facebook that he agrees with Progressive MP Sigrún Magnúsdóttir that Sveinbjörg’s position is not in keeping with the Progressive Party platform.
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.
The application for the plot was first submitted in 1999, but was not approved until mayor Jón Gnarr advocated for giving Iceland’s Muslim community the green light for them to build their own 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.