Icelandic Right Wingers Invite Islamophobe To Speak At Harpa - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Icelandic Right Wingers Invite Islamophobe To Speak At Harpa

Published May 22, 2019

Andie Fontaine
Photos by
Art Bicnick

Douglas Murray is slated to give a talk at Harpa Concert Hall, drawing considerable criticism and calls for Harpa to cancel the event.

Murray is an author whose most recent book, The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam, has garnered considerable criticism for its central thesis: that Europe is being taken over and may be destroyed by immigrants, Muslims in particular. Arguments taken directly from this book include that European towns “resembled Pakistan in every way except for their location…filled with people dressed for the foothills of Pakistan or the sandstorms of Arabia”; that this brings with it increased crime, amongst other unsupported contentions, lamenting that “only 44.9 percent of London residents now identified themselves as ‘white British.’”

This author has been invited to speak at Harpa by a group calling itself Tjáningarfrelsið (“freedom of expression” in Icelandic). As Stundin points out, this group is comprised of Icelanders known for their far-right politics, and their belief that Islam is a threat to Icelandic society. The group are best known for having in 2016 donated a thousand copies of The National Plague of Islam by Hege Storhaug to university students. Another group, Vakur, has been diligently advertising the event on Facebook, and Vakur themselves received considerable criticism for bringing another noted Islamophobe, Robert Spencer, to Iceland in 2017.

All this combined has prompted considerable pushback from many Icelanders, to which Harpa has responded that it is not in their practice to “censor” the content of speakers booked at the concert hall. Regardless, amongst the critics of the event is managing director of the labour union Efling Viðar Þorsteinsson, who penned an open letter to Svanhildur Konráðsdóttir, Harpa’s director.

“I believe it is our duty to stand up against these forces,” he writes in part. “Their final goal, very clearly, is violence and the violation of human rights against immigrants. I sincerely hope that you, on behalf of Harpa, cancel this event in the name of human rights and the safety of minorities.”

Sema Erla Serdar, a prominent refugees rights activist, took much the same tone in a lengthy post of her own.

“I urge the director of Harpa to reconsider their decision and de-platform Icelandic extremists and their hateful message,” she writes. “It is unacceptable to not take a stand against extremism and hate. It is unacceptable that ‘the centre of culture and life’, which is owned by the City of Reykjavík, would take part in boosting extremism and hate in Icelandic society by providing a platform for such. This is a simple and fair demand and should not be difficult to support. The owners of Harpa must shoulder their social responsibilities.”

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