"They bet on the wrong horse."
Progressive city councilperson Sveinbjörg Birna Sveinbjörnsdóttir says she will not fight against a mosque in Reykjavík, and that Islamophobes who voted for her “bet on the wrong horse”.
“I find this really distressing,” Sveinbjörg told Rás 2 listeners yesterday morning, DV reports. “[The Progressives] were not trying to buy votes. [Opposition to a mosque] was not a campaign issue of the Progressive Party in Reykjavík, nor the Progressive Party as a whole. This is not in the Progressive Party platform. This was just something I said in half-carelessness. I’m not excusing myself, I’m just explaining how it was,” adding that she was only meaning to question whether Reykjavík had the authority to give religious groups free plots of land.
For the record, Sveinbjörg’s actual remarks on the matter, made one week before municipal elections, were the following:
“As long as we have a national church, we should not grant plots of land for buildings such as mosques or for Greek Orthodox1 churches. … I lived in Saudi Arabia for about a year. My opinion is not based on prejudice, but on experience. I have, for example, just returned from one of the biggest mosques in the world, in Abu Dhabi. There are no churches there2. I respect the values of other countries, and think this is a given.”
Sveinbjörg also told reporters that she shut down her Facebook page – the day after elections, in fact – on account of “uncomfortable shows of support” she was receiving from groups such as “We protest against a mosque in Iceland”, who posted Islamophobic comments on her page.
“I have always had my Facebook set up so I have to approve who posts what,” she explained. “But before the elections, I received a lot of pressure to take that filter off and accept all these friend requests. That was a mistake I made, and I have learned from it.”
When asked about the support she received from Islamophobes, Sveinbjörg disavowed their support entirely, saying, “They bet on the wrong horse. I even said in an interview that these were not the votes I was seeking.”
It should be noted, however, that she did not reverse her opposition on a mosque being built in Reykjavík until now. She was also not asked if her remarks, made the night before elections, that an influx of Muslims will lead to forced marriages becoming a problem in Iceland was also said in carelessness, nor whether she has changed her mind where that is concerned.
1 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.
2 There are at least six churches in Abu Dhabi.