World Bulletin / News Desk
A decision to bar Oslo oldest mosques from helping refugees has sparked ire among Norway Muslims, after government immigration authority ruled that only neutral organizations were allowed to provide assistance.
"We have enough volunteers and sanitation is in place. If we can help, we are ready," Arshad Jamil of Islamic Cultural Centre, Norway's oldest mosque, told Norway's state broadcaster NRK Wednesday.
The Muslim offer followed news that at least 700 new refugees, mainly Syrians, were expected to arrive in Norway this week.
With the increasing number of refugees, the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) has been coordinating with charities and other organisation who can provide temporary accommodation for those arriving.
Having needed facilities to shelter refugees, the mosque offered to shelter some of the new arriving refugees.
The offer was turned down after UDI said that the directorate could not use religious organisations.
"Those behind an offer of reception may well have basic values, even if they are religious or political," Frode Forfang, the UDI's director, said, adding that in the ICC's case, the building itself was religious and therefore not suitable.
"We could have used the Salvation Army, or the Church City Mission for that matter. But the actual offer needs to be neutral," he noted.
To fill up its shortage of beds, the government's calls to offer help were answered by the Norwegian Red Cross, which has offered 60 beds for for overnight visitors, and the Norwegian Armed Forces, who have pledged to make available disused military barracks.
The names of the accepted organizations were criticized by Muslims who said the ICC's facilities were in any way different from those of the Church City Mission.
"This building is a cultural centre. The Mosque is just a small part of that," Jamil said.
The Muslim population, which has been growing steadily, is 150,000 to 200,000 out of Norway’s 5.2 million population.
Debates over immigration in the country came to the forefront in 2011 when Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people and accused the government and the then-ruling Labour party of facilitating Muslim immigration and adulterating pure Norwegian blood.
Support for immigration has been rising steadily since those attacks, however, and an opinion poll late last year found that 77 percent of people thought immigrants made an important contribution to Norwegian society.Last Mod: 10 Eylül 2015, 12:40