Islamsk Råd Norge faces controversy

Norwegian Muslims plan replacement Islamic council

Photo: NRK
Leyla Hasic is seen as a controversial choice for an employee at a time when the government is considering banning the niqab in schools.

The Local

Some 30,000 Norwegian Muslims could change membership to a new umbrella organization set up to replace the controversy-hit Islamsk Råd Norge (Islamic Council Norway, IRN). The purpose of the breakaway organization would be near-identical to that of IRN.

“I see no other option,” Basim Ghozlan, trustee at the Rabita Mosque in Oslo, told Klassekampen.

IRN’s employment of niqab-wearing Leyla Hasic as an administrative consultant has sparked extensive debate on the council’s role in promoting dialogue between Muslim communities and the rest of Norwegian society.

The appointment of 32-year-old Leyla Hasic as an administrative consultant by Islamic Council Norway comes soon after the Ministry of Culture (Kulturdepartementet) granted almost half a million kroner ($59,000) to help the organization with initiatives aimed at improving dialogue between Muslim communities and the rest of society, reports news media Klassekampen.

But Minister of Culture Linda Hofsted Helleland wrote in a Facebook post that the appointment by the council would “create distance and less understanding.”

Muslim politician Abid Raja of the centrist Liberal (Venstre) party was also critical of IRN, reports broadcaster NRK. “I am deeply disappointed with IRN’s conduct. It is all-advised and undermines the relationship of trust that Muslims themselves are in need of building between themselves and the rest of Norwegian society,” wrote Raja.

“What somebody has under their skin is more important than what they have on their skin,” IRN’s general secretary Mehtab Afsar told Klassekampen.

Both the Bosnian and Albanian mosques in the capital have already announced that they would leave the umbrella of Muslim organizations represented by the council. The combined membership of the two mosques is 14,000.

Three other mosques—Islamic Cultural Centre and Central Jamaat-e Ahl-e Sunnat, along with the Rabita Mosque—have also begun to withdraw their memberships. The three represent some of Norway’s largest and oldest mosques, according to Klassekampen.

Ghozlan said that he had decided to start an alternative organization because he felt that IRN in its current form was not fulfilling its mandate.

“On one hand we want to have an ongoing dialogue with general society, fight misunderstandings, and prevent distrust. On the other hand we want to strengthen collaboration between Muslim organizations,” he told Klassekampen.

Ghozlan pointed out that he began the process of setting up a new organization prior to IRN’s hiring of Hasic.

Afsar told broadcaster NRK that membership of the organization was voluntary. “We cannot force members to stay. If one or two leave, we will still be an umbrella organization,” he said.

This article was originally published on The Local.

It also appeared in the April 7, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Norwegian American Logo

The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.