Norway: Foreign minister visits Muslim community

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre visited a mosque in Norway for the first time on Friday, and praised the local Muslim community for their willingness to cooperate after last winter's cartoon controversy.

Støre said it was "meaningful" to be invited "into one of your home arenas," noting that he felt rather like a foreigner in his own city. "I don't know your rituals, the languages, the codes," he said in a speech at the mosque in Åkebergveien.

His main message was that when he uses the term "we" in Norway, he means "all of us who live in Norway and are part of our community with its duties and responsibilities."

"And when we talk about 'us' it has to apply to all of us, also those who don't have blond hair and blue eyes, also those who are born in Morocco or Vietnam, also those who have Arabic as their first language," Støre said.

He noted that during the cartoon conflict last year, which unleashed Muslim fury around the world after a small Christian magazine published cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, "dialogue helped us move forward." He said that the local Islamic Council and the Norwegian church played important roles.

"When meeting with others, we have to look for similarities before we let us be held captive by our differences," he said.

Source: Aftenposten (English)

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