Thursday 28 April 2022

Islam in Iceland

In our series of posts on "Islam and Life of Muslims in Non Muslim Countries" we today talk of Islam in Iceland. Iceland is a small Nordic island country in the North Atlantic Ocean and the most sparsely populated country in Europe. Reykjavík, Iceland's capital,  is home to over 65% of the population. It has a population of about 372,000.

Islam in Iceland is a minority religion. The Pew Research Center estimated that the number of Muslims in Iceland was below its 10,000 minimum threshold, and official statistics put the figure at under 1,300, or approximately 0.4% of the total population. Some take the figure to around 2.500. This small Muslim population never attracted the attention of mainstream Muslim countries or social media. It was only in 2011 when Al Jazzera TV did a documentary on how Muslims of Iceland celebrate the most scared Muslim month: The month of Ramadan.

In early 1970s, Salmann (Suleiman) Tamimi (1 March 1955 – 2 December 2020) [who later became the founding member of the Association Iceland-Palestine (Icelandic: Félagið Ísland-Palestína) and the Association of Muslims in Iceland (Icelandic: Félag múslima á Íslandi)] when came to Icleand noted that  there were perhaps seven Muslims living there.

The life of Muslims, as in any other European country is similar with a reserved approach towards them by the locals, One of the main researchers on Icelandic attitudes to racial and religious groups, Kristín Loftsdóttir, has found that many Icelanders exhibit anti-immigrant discourses linked with Islamophobia. Opposition to Islam is often presented in terms of support for gender equality, a discourse which in Kristín's assessment is 'used as a way to dwell on the criticism of Muslims in general, and to the glory of European societies'. 

The Reykjavík Mosque (Icelandic: Moskan í Reykjavík), located in the Ármúli district, is main gathering area for Muslims in Iceland. The masjid provides a central point for  holding not only the five regular prayers daily, but also the Friday congregation. On Sundays the Qur'an classes are held for children. The masjid is also a venue for community meetings. Although the masjid was opened in 2009, it was in November 22, 2019 a minaret was installed for the mosque, which, despite its simplicity, is the first minaret of its kind in the history of Islam in Iceland.
Muslim countries also focus on the education of Muslims in Iceland in 2021 and their wellbeing. A scientific and academic delegation from the Holy Quran Academy (HQA) in Sharjah, the United Arab Emirates visited the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, as part of the Academy’s efforts to spread and teach the Noble Quran and its sciences across the world.
Generally it is assumed that Muslim community is made up entirely of expatriates having moved to Iceland from elsewhere. It may indeed be the case that such individuals may make up the bulk of Iceland’s current Muslim community, but cases of native Icelanders converting to Islam are not unheard-of.

However in 2015, a YouTube channel ‘NewMan2015’ posted a video containing interviews with four Icelanders (including Agnes Ósk, Jóhannes Ari and Ibra­him Sverr­ir Agn­ars­son, who is now Director of the Ice­landic Mus­lim As­so­ci­a­tion) on their conversion to Islam and how it changed their lives. "Agnes Ósk reveals that she had been an atheist all her life, but that discovering Islam was a “relief, like coming home”."

Ex-drug addict Jóhannes Ari describes how Islam took him away from his former misery and brought him to a place in life where he could “think about how to make the best of each day”. Sverr­ir, the charismatic Director of the Ice­landic Mus­lim As­so­ci­a­tion, best describes his conversion as being “kidnapped by Allah”. 

Ramadan is celebrated wholeheartedly by the Muslims of Iceland. Though, the sun sets at midnight, only to come back in about two hours. That means the fasting time is as long as 22 hours, allowing for only one meal a day. Abdul-Aziz Ulvani, the imam at the Islamic Foundation of Iceland notes:
"Although the hours are long, the Muslims here do not feel it because they come together here, we are like family. They come in at early hours. We recite the Quran, have iftar and observe Tarawih prayers together. The first three days are most difficult. Then everything turns back to normal."

Hijab for women is looked upon as in parallel to any other non Muslim countries. However, for passport, a Muslim woman has to provide a proof of her faith duly acknowledged by the two main Muslim groups of the country. 

Watch herein under a documentary about the Reykjavík Mosque:

Disclaimer: The data for this post has been collected from the references as given below. If any one differs with the material contained in this post, one may consult the references and their authors.  If someone has more material about the subject, he/she is most welcome to share in the comments box to make the post all encompassing.

To know more about life of Muslims in other non Muslim countries, please visit our page: Islam and Life of Muslims in Non Muslim CountriesYou may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Quran.
Photo  | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 |
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