In the wake of recent remarks from a mayoral candidate that she would revoke a plot of land the city of Reykjavík granted for building a mosque, numerous mayoral candidates have expressed their disagreement with this sentiment.
Vísir spoke with other candidates running for mayor, to get their reactions to recent remarks made by Progressive Party mayoral candidate Sveinbjörg Birna Sveinbjörnsdóttir, who said last week that if elected mayor, she would reverse a city council decision made in January 2013 to grant Iceland’s Muslim population a plot of land on which to build a mosque.
“This is a desperate way to get votes during the last days before elections,” said Social Democrat mayoral candidate Dagur B. Eggertsson. “You don’t run a city by discriminating against people based on their religious beliefs.”
Left-Green mayoral candidate Sóley Tómasdóttir was of the same opinion, saying, “It is very strange position to have in a 21st century society, where freedom of religion and human rights must be respected.” This opinion was also shared by Independence Party mayoral candidate Halldór Halldórsson.
Halldór Auðar Svansson, the mayoral candidate for the Pirate Party, said that it is important to protect equality between different religious groups. Bright Future mayoral candidate S. Björn Blöndal, like Halldór Auðar, are also both of the opinion that no religious group should be granted plots of land for free, but ought to pay for them themselves.
As reported, Sveinbjörg told reporters last week that “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.”
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.”
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 theoriginal 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.