Icelanders supporting the establishment of a mosque in Reykjavik have been joining the country’s Muslim Association to protest right-wing opposition to the religious building.
Opponents to the mosque claim they are defending the church in Iceland, and that constructing the Muslim building would be misusing public land, although critics argue that this attitude is one of bigotry.
There are 770 Muslims registered in Iceland at present, and they currently worship in a specially designated room in an office block. They had been campaigning to have a mosque built for 14 years before the city council finally granted them permission last year.
Icelandic journalist Gunnar Smari Egilsson admitted that he was considering signing up to the Muslim Association so, in alignment with Icelandic law, a small percentage of his taxes would go to the group. He explained on Facebook that he wanted to help protect association members from the “xenophobic” Progressive Party and its “attacks and lies”.
However, Iceland’s prime minister and leader of the Progressive Party, Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, insisted that being in opposition to the mosque was not racist and rather simply engaging in an “open debate”.
Icelandic law states that each individual can only be a member of one religious association at any given time, and the association’s founder Salmann Tamimi said that, although happy with people wanting to join, he would not want them to turn their backs on the national church just to support the mosque.