Norway’s Ministry of Culture has followed through on warnings it would hold back NOK 650,000 in funding for the country’s Islamic Council (Islamsk Råd). The move comes after the council used state funds intended for “bridge-building and enhanced communication” to hire an office administrator who uses a niqab that covers everything but her eyes.
Culture Minister Linda Hofstad Helleland reacted swiftly to the niqab conflict last spring, complaining to council leader Mehtab Afsar that she did not think his group was fulfilling the state’s intentions for its financial support. “The ministry is responsible for seeing that state support … is used in line with the goals that Parliament has set,” Helleland stated when withholding the funds. She said there was “doubt” within the ministry that the council’s operations and role were being carried out in accordance with funding goals.
“the Islamic Council receives operating funds to be a bridge-builder, an umbrella organization (for all Muslim groups) and a dialogue partner,” Helleland stated. “I have the impression it’s not.” Helleland reacted negatively that the council is using around a half-million krone to hire an employee wearing a niqab, which Helleland believes hinders communications. The council has claimed a niqab does not hinder communication, and that it could have been guilty of discrimination if it had not hired the woman based on what kind of clothing she wears.
The council, which receives around NOK 1.3 million in annual support, had no immediate comment on its funding cut. It’s not the first time it’s lost state support. Conflicts within the council also led to its loss of Norway’s largest Muslim organization, The Islamic Fellowship of Bosnia-Hercegovina, as a member last spring.