An Islamic missionary group, ironically holding its meetings at a college housed in a former Oslo brewery, is raising concerns for the college’s administrators. Student-led organizations are generally supported, but this one’s radical messages are even worrying local Muslim politicians and religious leaders.
Newspaper VG reported on Thursday that Islam Net flies in controversial imams to speak at the college, Høyskolen i Oslo, on subjects including why they think men should be able to beat their wives and on their support of the death penalty. Both are illegal in Norway.
The group also does active recruiting, encourages conversion to Islam and claims, according to VG, more than 1,000 paying members. VG reported, however, that the 22-year-old Norwegian-born engineering student listed as leader of both the national Islam Net group and Islam Net Student in Oslo, Fahad Qureshi, refused to be interviewed.
Sissel Østberg, dean of the college, said the group’s activities are “problematic,” and that missionary work at the school will not be allowed. The group is also reportedly under surveillance by Norway’s police intelligence agency PST.
Abid Q Raja, a local politician for the Liberal Party (Venstre), told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that Islam Net can take Norway “into a dangerous direction, which is extreme and can radicalize young attitudes. They want to assume ownership of how Muslims should think and act.”
Akhtar Chaudhry of the Socialist Left party is also critical, saying that “speakers who deliver extreme interpretatinos of Islam don’t lead to anything good. Young Muslims should interpret our religion in line with the democratic and humane values ofNorwegian society.”
Islam Net reportedly conducts conversion courses at the Islamic Cultural Center in Oslo, but center officials claim they’re “only renting space” and that they have no formal cooperation. “Their missionary work is controversial, so neither we nor the established mosques want to work with them,” said Arsland Mohammed of the ICC.
Views and News staff