August 12, 2010
Several Norwegian banks are considering introducing interest-free loans, to circumvent the prohibition of interest for Muslims. In this way they want to reach out to a new and growing customer group.
Big banks such as DnB NOR, Nordea and Sparebank 1 confirm that they plan to offer such loans. “In a few years we can have Sharia loans in Norway,” says Thomas Midteide from DnB Nor. And head of Nordea Thomas Sevang says “we have not focused on these loans before due to lack of a customer base, but it may well be that Sharia loans come up on the agenda.”
Shoaib Sultan, Secretary General of the Islamic Council of Norway, comments that many Muslims may suffer from the lack of possibilities of such loans in Norway. “We expect that when the need becomes great enough, then private companies come in to fill the need,” says Sultan.
Earlier this week a debate broke out after representatives of as well the Norwegian Islamic Council as the Norwegian court of law said they might be open for a national sharia council, judging in family matters. A number of politicians, as well as Muslim representatives, has spoken against such an institution. Foreign minister Jonas Gahr Störe says everyone is to apply to the same laws in Norway, and that a separate family law for Muslims would have a negative effect on integration.
The faculty of Theology at Oslo University have applied for funding to create an Imam education program.
Four years ago Oslo University delivered the same suggestion, and the Norwegian government was positive to such suggestions. Even so, the university did not follow through with their application.
Islamic Council and Norway’s Muslim Student Organization are encouraging of such an education in a Norwegian University.
The German Islam Conference, a much-valued institution that brings together Islamic associations, the Interior Ministry and representatives from politics and public life, is currently at stake. It will take place – probably on May 17 – but the list of participants has not been finalized, after a controversy between Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière and the Islamrat (Islamic council). The Turkish organization Milli Görüş is largely represented in the Islamrat, and currently faces investigation on tax evasion, founding a criminal organization and money laundering by some of its leaders. For the time being, the Islamrat will not participate in the Conference.
Novelist and Islam expert Navid Kermani criticizes Interior Minister de Maizière for the exclusion. Mistakes have been made on the part of Milli Görüş, whose leaders should have stepped down, but excluding the whole Islamrat is more detrimental. The organization is extremely conservative and he does not agree with most of their views, says Kermani, but they do represent a reality in Germany and it is therefore imperative to engage with them.
Consequently, the other major Muslim organizations are considering boycotting the Conference. So far, they have not reached a unanimous demand to put forward. Today however, the chairman of the Central Council of Muslims, Ayyub Axel Köhler, has hinted that the organizations will probably decide in favor of remaining at the Conference.
Muhammad Abdulhamid, Linda Noor and Basim Ghozlan, editors of islam.no repudiate Trond Ali Linstad’s “Muslim Manifest” of January 25.
They ask Linstad who has given him the authority to speak for Muslims in Norway, and say he represents no one but himself. The manifest, they continue, is a patchwork of incoherent statements, and most readers must understand this is meant as a provocation.
Islam is, they continue, fully consistent with democracy, and it is worth noting that the Norwegian Islamic Council (IRN) strongly has urged Muslims to participate in parliamentary elections and that this call was actively supported by a number of key mosques and Muslim organizations in Norway. This they holds as proof of a great support for democracy among Muslims in Norway and that Linstad’s condescending attitude is not representative.
They find Linstad most unclear in his account of the relationship between the Norwegian government and God’s rights. Also in this matter they second the opinion of the Islamic Council, that Muslims should relate to both God and government, and that there is no conflict between them.
Finally, as a response both to Linstad and the last couple of weeks debate on moral and social control in the neighbourhood of Grönland in Oslo they present their own, short manifest, which states that good Muslims should:
-Focus on their own religious commitments.
-Respect people with different beliefs and ways of life.
-Fulfill all their obligations to their fellow beings.
-Be reliable and an example to follow.
-Not accept injustice done against others.
-Contribute actively to community building.
The Liberal Muslim network LIM (Equality, Integration, Diversity) supports the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and challenges the Norwegian Islamic Council (Islamisk Råd) and the Muslim Student Organization (Muslimsk Studentersamfunn) to join them in a manifestation against religious violence and in support of the freedom of speech.
LIM representatives say conservative Muslims and organizations, such as the Islamic Council and MSO dominates Norwegian media and help create an image of Islam in Norway as traditionalist and lacking respect for democratic values.
Shakil Rehman from LIM is also critical of the Vice President of the Norwegian Parliament, Akhtar Choudhry, for calling the publication of Westergaards cartoons wrong. It’s not wrong, Rehman says, it’s just a manifestation of an opinion. Muslim leaders opposing the publications live in another time and age, he continues, Muhammad opposed portraits of him because he didn’t want his followers to idolize him, but to paint his portrait to depict his humanity is in compliance with his teachings.
Hanif Escudero, responsible for the Department of Youth and Sports of the Islamic Council, congratulated Luis Aragon_s and the Spanish Soccer Team for their victory and for having united the nation around the same objective. Escudero also mentioned the importance of soccer for the inter-religious encounter among young people.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission has dismissed a complaint against Maclean’s weekly news magazine over a controversial article on the future of Islam. The Canadian Islamic Council launched a dual complaint of Islamophobia to the Canadian Commission as well as the provincial British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal over a article, The Future Belongs to Islam, written by Mark Steyn, appearing in October 2006. The decision by the B.C. Human Rights commission is not expected for several months.
A growing number of ethnic Dutch youth in Limburg are converting to Islam. According to different Muslim organizations, over the past three years, on hundred men and women had converted in the province of Limburg alone. According to the Limburg Islamic Council, mostly seek very orthodox Islamic movements. These range from youth studying, and alter converting to Islam, girls marrying Muslim men and then convert, and highly educated professionals. The president of the Limburg Islamic Council said that he is aware of the _trend’ of conversion among ethnic Dutch youth, but does not want to speak of a _large movement’ – yet confirms that the number of converts has risen in the last few years.
Elections in the Islamic Commission of Spain (CIE) will hold elections concerning the consideration of five Muslim federations to join the CIE. The CIE is the highest organ of communication and representation of Muslims in the Spanish government. Currently, they include only two federations – the Union of Islamic Communities in Spain (UCIDE) and the Spanish Federation of Islamic Organizations (FEERI). However, not all Muslims in Spain feel represented by these two entities, hence the consideration of including five more federations (The Federation of Muslim Spain, Islamic Council of Catalonia, the Islamic Federation of Murcia, the Belearic Federation, and the Higher Islamic Council of the Community of Valencia).