Norway: No Saudi mosques, as long as there's no freedom of religion in Saudi-Arabia

Norway: No Saudi mosques, as long as there's no freedom of religion in Saudi-Arabia

The Saudi Arabian government and wealthy Saudi individuals want to build mosques in Norway for tens of millions. They are legally entitled to do so, according to Norwegian law for financially supporting religious communities, but the large sum means that the government will have to approve the financial support.

The foreign office is not only refusing to approve the funding. In a response to the Tawfiiq Islamic Center, the ministry wrote that it would be 'a paradox and unnatural to approve funding from sources in a country which is not open to religious freedom."

The Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre told VG: "We could have just said no, in principal the ministry doesn't approve such things. But when we were first asked, we used the opportunity to add that an approval would be paradoxical as long as it's a crime to establish a Christian community in Saudi Arabia."

State Secretary Espen Barth Eide is visiting Saudi-Arabia today and will take up the issue.

"I see that many of my European colleagues have the same problem, and Norway will take up the issue in the Council of Europe," says Støre.

Q: Might this mean a restriction on the option of funding a faith community?

A: That is a debate which the parliament and government will eventually take up.

The response from the ministry is to the Tawfiiq Islamic Center, but Støre says that the Alnor faith society, which also wants to build a mosque in Tromsø with funding from a Saudi Arabian businessman, will get a similar answer.

In the past week the Nordlys newspaper wrote a series of articles on Alnor, with headlines as "Muslim leader in Tromsø linked to terror network" and "Islamic fundamentalists in Saudi Arabia sponsor mosque in Tromsø".

Q: Is it the Saudi-Arabia denomination of Islam, Wahabbism, which is too controversial in Norway?

Støre answers that he will not judge which schools or denominations of Islam will be established i Norway. "We have freedom of religion. This is about what laws there are in the country where the money comes from."

Source: VG (Norwegian)

Update: The Tromsø mosque project was hailed as the world's northernmost mosque.