“I have received emails from people asking how they can register to the Association. I was a bit surprised but very pleased by these enquiries,” says Salman Tamimi, the leader of the Muslim Association of Iceland, asked whether he had noticed an increase in the number of new registrations in the wake of the Reykjavík mosque debate.
Gunnar Smári Egilsson, the former editor of Fréttablaðið, made headlines over the weekend with his Facebook post saying that one does not need to actually become a Muslim in order to register with the Muslim Association of Iceland. He says he is therefore carefully considering joining the Association as an act of protest.
A fee is given on behalf of every taxpayer in Iceland from the national treasury to his/her registered religious association each year – while the money for those with no registered religion instead goes to the parliamentary budgetary committee. Gunnar Smári is not currently registered to any religious association.
He claims that the Progressive Party’s Vigdís Hauksdóttir is the architect of her party’s xenophobic lurch – and she is also chairman of the budgetary committee. “I doubt Vigdís will notice my ISK 9,000 a year, but I am still thinking of registering with the Muslim Association of Iceland so that its members can use these few thousand krónur to protect themselves from the attacks and lies of the Progressive Party and their supporters,” he writes.
There has been widespread debate about Islam in Iceland since the leader of the Progressive Party’s local Reykjavík chapter, Sveinbjörg Birna Sveinbjörnsdóttir, called for the land recently granted by the city for the building of a mosque to be taken back again. The debate has become heated and Salman Tamimi took a complaint to the police last week, following a spate of hate speech on the public comments section of Vísir.is. The comments included death threats, Vísir reports.
According to the rules of the Muslim Association of Iceland, anyone who is in agreement with the Association’s goals can become a member. Members do not need to be Muslims, but they must support the right of Muslims to practice their religion freely and to support a positive view of Islam and Muslims in Icelandic society.
Salman Tamimi says he welcomes the support, but adds that it would be better for people to leave the Progressive Party than to leave the National Church of Iceland (as it is only possible to be a member of one religious association). “It is not necessary to be a Muslim to be a member and everyone is naturally welcome. But I think it is best for people to stick to their own religions and what they truly believe in. There is room in Christianity to fight for the human rights of others.”