The Dean of Oslo Cathedral has described controversial Islamic scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi as “an important person” who Norwegians “should be open to” coming to the country.
A Turkish newspaper reported on Thursday that al-Qaradawi, who has been accused of Holocaust denial, discrimination against women and homosexuals, and support for terrorism, would be coming to Norway as part of a project to help Muslims in the far north of the country develop a method for calculating prayer times during seasons of all-day sun and all-day darkness. Those inviting him, the Norwegian Islamic Foundation, claimed that al-Qaradawi would instead come for a seminar or conference, but could not give further details.
‘Important that he experiences free speech’
Oslo Cathedral’s Dean, Olav Dag Hauge, met al-Qaradawi in 2006 in Qatar as part of a meeting during the Muhammed cartoon scandal. While stating that he himself would not have invited the cleric to Norway, Hauge told Vårt Land that al-Qaradawi “is an important person for groups in the Islamic world, and also for some in Norway.” He suggested that “as a free country, we should be open to his coming here if he comes here in a lawful way and does not break the rules that we have set.”
The church leader added that it would be “important that he experience” the freedom of speech and freedom of the press seen in Norway, which had helped “Muslims in the Norway develop their own religion.” He also promised to “meet al-Qaradawi with clear speech” if he “comes forward with any of his awful viewpoints on Israel or the holocaust.”
The news of al-Qaradawi’s invitation was met with criticism by many politicians. Hans Olav Syversen, a parliamentarian representing the Christian Democratic Party, told newspaper Dagsavisen that it was “regrettable” that the scholar would be invited to Norway, and that the organizations involved should “think again.” He nonetheless promised to “confront” al-Qaradawi on his views if he did indeed travel to Norway. His party had previously described al-Qaradawi as the “sheikh of death.”
The Progress Party’s deputy leader, Per Sandberg, suggested to Dagsavisen that his entry to Norway should be barred, adding that the Norwegian Islamic Council should have its state funding cut if the organization, of which the Islamic Foundation is a member, did not condemn the invitation. “He could be a risk to the country’s security,” Sandberg commented.
A Norwegian-Iraqi author, Walid al-Kubaisi, once wrote in an article for newspaper Aftenposten that al-Qaradawi was “more dangerous than Osama bin Laden” for Norway.