After months of warnings, four of Norway’s largest muslim organizations have withdrawn as members of the national Islamic Council (Islamsk Råd Norge, IRN). They’ve been unhappy with the council’s leader, Mehtab Afsar, who also has provoked the government minister providing much of the council’s funding.
IRN confirmed that three mosques including the Bosnians’ and the Islamic Information Association had left IRN. They collectively represented around 20,000 members in what has been the umbrella organization for Muslims in Norway.
The council has been under pressure after lots of internal disagreement over its management, its finances and, most publicly, Mehtab Afsar’s decision to hire an internal communications worker who wears a niqab that completely covers her face. That also brought protests from Culture Minister Linda Hofstad Helleland, who decided to withhold state funding for the second half of the year.
Council officials claimed the departing members, who make up about a fourth of the council’s total membership, had made an ultimatum they couldn’t accept. Newspaper Aftenposten editorialized on Monday that the split was necessary: “Those sitting in the most important positions on the council lack the confidence of their central members. Even though the crisis can be clarified by personal conflicts and strategy disagreements, the idea of functioning as representative for Norwegian muslims in general was extremely demanding. Perhaps the idea of an Islamic Council in Norway was too ambitious,” Aftenposten wrote, because “Norwegian muslims” have become so different themselves.