Mohamed Farah Arale (32) was born in Somalia and misses a mosque in his new hometown, Elverum (Norway). He says it will be good for everybody, also for people who aren't acquainted with Islam.
Arale, who fled Mogadishu when he was 16 says he has no family, just God. He's been living in Elverum for 5 years.
"It will be good to come together with others and pray. A mosque is also a place to meet. It's social. People who go to church certainly understand what I mean. I miss a mosque." He's been to the Elverum church, just to feel the atmosphere. It was a good experience, he says. "I like to hear the church service. And there is only one God," he smiles.
A mosque in Elverum can also be a place where non-Muslims can come and see, listen and learn about Islam. It's about openness and respect for each other's faith and culture, he thinks. "We can help each other and support each other".
How many Muslims will use a mosque in Elverum?
"I don't know, maybe 300. It's both young and old, men and women. We need a little place, but it doesn't have to be so big or expensive." He says it doesn't have to be a new building. All types of places can function as a mosque. "But it can't be for other religion, or a place that sells alcohol."
He says he knows little about the Norwegian political system and doesn't know who in the municipality can help him, or if the idea for a mosque should be directed at the government or parliament.
"I can't do this along, there must be a committee. So I hope somebody will help me."
Arale stresses Elverum is a good place to live. At the same time he misses his father and relatives in Somalia, after having lived half his life in Europe. He says he's thought of living here, but it's hard to be alone.
Nuur Mohamed Hersi (60), Ap (labor) politician and Somali Muslim is glad Arale was interviewed. He's also glad the head of the Elverum labor party, Bjørn Jarle Røberg-Larsen, understands the need for a mosque in the city.
"We need a place to pray , but also a place where we can show people our culture." He wants a mosque and an Islamic center in Elverum. "It's a very important issue, also for integration", says Nuur Mohamed Hersi. He sees a mosque as a place for different activities and for people of all nationalities. "People will see that Islam isn't dangerous," thinks Hersi.
In Hamar, Lillehammer and Gjøvik there are Muslim communities with mosques. "But the mosque in Hamar is small and usually occupied. Several times we rented places in Elverom, as for Ramadan, when we have many religious obligations. But it's not always so easy."
To meet together for Friday prayers is not simple when it's several dozen kilometers to the nearest mosque, he points out.
Another issue is related to burial. "If somebody dies we must go to Oslo. It's difficult for many," he says. He estimates that about 400-500 Muslims in the district will benefit from a mosque in Elverum.
As a member of the municipal council and member of the community multicultural council and immigration council Nuur Mohamed Hersi has several contacts in the system. He also has good contacts with the Elverum church. He says he'll continue to speak about it but currently he doesn't know who can help them.
Can't the Muslim community build its own mosque?
- Integration is an important issue for everybody in Elverum and not just for Muslims. We feel a bit discriminated, because the Christians have many places where they meet. I hope people will respect us, says Nuur Mohamed Hersi.
Source: Ostlendingen 1, 2 (Norwegian)