Arctic mosque plan on ice over Saudi funding
8 November 2010,
OSLO — A plan to build the world’s northmost mosque has been halted after Norway refused to accept funding from an Arab donor, with the government on Monday citing a lack of religious freedom in his Saudi homeland.
“It would be paradoxical and unnatural to approve financing coming from a country where religious freedom does not exist,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Ragnhild Imerslund.
The mosque in Tromsoe, a city in the Arctic Circle, is being funded in part by a donation from Saudi businessman Hamad al-Gamas, who has pledged 20 million kronor (2.5 million euros) to the project, according to reports in Norwegian media.
“The donor set out as a condition that the Norwegian authorities would provide written approval,” a spokeswoman for the organisation building the mosque told broadcaster NRK.
“In the absence of such approval, it is natural to suspend the project,” she said.
Earlier this year the government refused to approve a mosque in capital Oslo for the same reason.
Norway informed Saudi Arabia of the decision last month, Imerslund said.