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Mosque Funding Affair Continues

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Mosque Funding Affair Continues

Reykjavík mosque

From the Islamic Cultural Center. Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

The Islamic Cultural Center, one of two Muslim organizations in Iceland, rents its 1,200 square meter (12,196-sq. ft) building on Skógarhlíð in Reykjavík from the Islam Foundation of Iceland for ISK10,000 (USD 75, EUR 70) a month, according to DV. A renter’s agreement states the rent will remain the same through 2023.

Taoufik Elmassoudi, board member and one of the founders of the Islamic Cultural Center, says the rent is symbolic, because the property was purchased with donations from the Muslim community. In a written statement to DV, Taoufik explains, “We requested a long-term rental agreement to ensure stability, independence of the religious organization, and that it could operate without pressure or conditions.”

In a phone interview with DV, Ahmad Seddeeq, imam for the Islamic Cultural Center confirmed that the Islam Foundation of Iceland received the controversial USD 1 million from authorities in Saudi Arabia, “This mosque was purchased by the Islam Foundation of Iceland with donations from the Muslim world, among them Saudi Arabia. The building is in its name, but the Foundation is not a religious organization.” The receiver of the funds had previously been unclear and much debated in Iceland.

Taoufik claims in his written response to DV that chairman of the board of the Islam Foundation of Iceland Hussein Al Daoudi launched the fundraising for the purchase of the building: “Then he abandoned what he had said before and created a non-profit organization, once he had been promised donations. Once the money needed had been collected, it was deposited to the account of the Islam Foundation of Iceland, and the property was purchased at the end of 2012. We want the property to be registered in the name of Muslims in Iceland and donations for the building to be in the hands of a registered religious organization.”

The rental agreement went into effect at the beginning of 2013. The Islam Foundation bought the building in Skógarhlíð in October of 2012, but its property value is estimated at ISK 230 million and the assessed value for fire insurance purposes is about ISK 329 million.

Hussein, who lives in Sweden, signed the rental agreement on behalf of the foundation. In March of this year, Ahmad told RÚV the Islam Foundation had received the USD 1 million from Saudi Arabia for constructing a mosque, but that he didn’t know for what the foundation intended to use the money.

The Islamic Cultural Center was founded after a division within the Muslim community in Iceland. The other Muslim organization in the country is the Muslim Association of Iceland, represented by Salman Tamimi. He has repeatedly stated that the Muslim Association did not receive the donation from Saudi Arabia, first reported in March. The website stated that Ibrahim S.I. Alibrahim, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Iceland based in Sweden, had, at a meeting with the Icelandic president, announced Saudi Arabia’s intention to donate USD 1 million for the construction of a mosque in Iceland.

At that point, the rental agreement of the building in Skógarhlíð was already in place, according to Ahmad.

Spokespeople for the Muslim Association of Iceland have asserted that the Islamic Cultural Center is supported by the Swedish religious organization Ar-Risalah. Ibrahim Sverrir Agnarsson, former head of the Muslim Association of Iceland, told RÚV in October of 2012 that Ar-Risalah was, in his opinion, an extremist organization.
Taoufik’s written statement includes the opinion that there is no ground for assertions on the website of Ar-Risalah regarding their operation here in Iceland, such as operating a school for Muslims in Skógarhlíð.

“Hussein Al Daoudi has lately used certain people here in Iceland for the purpose of undermining the Cultural Center, which has a disagreement with him. He does this to influence who becomes a board member in the religious organization. Authorities in Iceland have been informed of that,” Taoufik states.

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