This article originally appeared on VICE.
Last year, the Reykjavík City Council granted a plot for Iceland’s first mosque in the city center, and the Muslim Association of Iceland said they’re about to break ground next week. Ibrahim Sverrir Agnarsson, the chairman of the association told Visir that they are in their final stretch of preparations.
The holy ground will represent the two Islamic groups of Iceland — the Muslim Association of Iceland and the Islamic Cultural Center of Iceland — a total of 1,200 Muslims, or less than half a percent of the Icelandic population.
As you'd expect, everyone is pissed. Part of Iceland is Islamphobic, with one Facebook group called Stop the Islamization of Iceland. The administrator of another anti-mosque fanpage said in a message, “We are against the mosque, the location and the ideology.”
Critics say foreign Middle Eastern donors are financing and they want to control Iceland's growing Muslim community. The former mayor of Reykjavik has been vocal about its being on taxpayers' land when the whole thing is financed from afar. He has also asked why feminists are so tolerant of a religion that, he says, degrades women. Meanwhile, a number of Icelanders who have been converting to Islam are women.
Last fall, three pigs heads and the bloodied pages of the Koran were dumped on the plot of where the mosque is to be built. The crude display was thrown out by police before it could be used as evidence, which could have actually put the hate-crime protesters in jail for up to two years.
One Icelandic Progressive Party member, Sveinbjörg Birna Sveinbjörsdóttir, vowed to revoke the decision. While Icelandic law guarantees freedom of religion and free plots of land for buildings of worship, she would rather “open a discussion and a vote on the building of the mosque.”
Salmann Tamimi, the founder of the Muslim Association and leader of the Iceland-Palestine Association, does not see it that way. He told me, “As there is no referendum on churches, we don't accept referendum on other praying buildings." He contiuned, “No referendum on human rights."
The campaign to build the mosque has been ongoing since 1999. The 8,600-square-foot mosque will include a prayer hall, community center, a library, and a 30-foot-high minaret that, together, have been estimated to cost $3.3 million.
All Images Courtesy of the Muslim Association of Iceland
Follow Nadja Sayej on Twitter: @nadjasayej