HRS International

“A mosque in the ‘Paris of the North’ will be a propaganda victory”

The Tromsø, Norway, newspaper Nordlys (Northern Lights) is paying close attention to plans to build a grand mosque in that city with Saudi financing. The main story in the newspaper’s October 13 issue is an interview with Hege Storhaug of Human Rights Service, who warns against the advance of Islamism at the expense of (among other things) women’s freedom. Such a mosque, Storhaug believes, will represent an open assault on democracy.

Hege Storhaug, HRSToday’s Nordlys includes a four-page feature which is also its lead story. It concerns the Muslim congregation Alnor’s connection to Saudi Arabia and its plans to build a grand mosque with Wahhabi funding to the tune of 50 to 100 million kroner (USD 8.5 to 17 million). What is probably most sensational here is that the newspaper allowed me to speak out freely and harshly criticize both the project and Islam itself.I can’t easily imagine such an interview appearing in the Oslo press – which is still, in general, blind and deaf to Islam’s growing influence in Norway. Will the awakening to the dark forces of our time take place in the provinces?

New mosque in Tromsø will be a major propaganda victory

“A new mosque in Tromsø, funded by Saudi Arabia, will lead to more political Islamism and more hijabs and other head coverings on Muslim women,” Hege Storhaug tells Nordlys. She is Norway’s severest critic of the oppression of women in Islam.

Nordlys meets Storhaug at the offices of Human Rights Service, a political think tank in downtown Oslo. There is no sign in the townhouse’s entryway or on the door of HRS’s offices to inform you that the think tank is located here. Storhaug herself has moved out of Oslo for security reasons.

She is both admired and controversial for her tough criticism of the oppression of women, especially in organized Islam.

“I have no special knowledge about the Muslim community in Tromsø or the people who run the mosques there. But your information that somebody is going to finance the construction of a new mosque using Saudi Arabian petrodollars speaks loudly and clearly,” says Storhaug.


Like several other sources, she points out that all Saudi Arabian funding of mosques and Islamic cultural centers in Europe has a single objective: to spread the Saudi variety of Islam – Wahhabism.

”The Wahhabis practice the oppression of women in every way,” claims Storhaug, “including polygamy, forced marriage, and the act of rendering women invisible.”

She considers it essential to draw attention to the Saudi strategy of spreading its fundamentalist variety of Islam.

”If a new grand mosque is build with Saudi funding as far north as Tromsø,” she says, “it will be, for these forces, a feather in their cap and a massive ideological propaganda victory.”

Demand for control

Hege Storhaug isn’t alone in this view. Several sources claim that “generous Saudi businessmen who want to be anonymous,” who are spreading around millions for the building and operation of mosques and Islamic culture centers and Muslim organizations all over the Western world, are only front men for the Saudi regime, which is investing billions in the export of Wahhabism in hopes of making this school of thought dominant in Europe and elsewhere.

“The question is: which school of law will prevail in the new mosque in Tromsø when the construction is finished?” says Storhaug. “In every case where you find Saudi funding, you’ll also find that the people who have apparently been so generous demand to run it, to install imams, and to decide which brand of Islam will prevail.”

More head coverings

She points out that this pattern is being repeated everywhere.

“There’s power in a mosque. You’ll see that there will be more radical Islam, more hijabs, and more Muslim women in head coverings in Tromsø,” says Storhaug.

Like several other sources that Nordlys has consulted (see our interview with Roy Brown, the British human-rights activist and UN observer), Storhaug cites the Balkans as a very clear example of this development.

”Very liberal Bosnian Muslims who have accepted Saudi funding have afterwards had to accept developments that are the exact opposite of what they themselves stand for,” Storhaug says.

Enemies within

”But what about the fact that Alnor in Tromsø, which is planning the construction of this new mosque, is led by a woman, Sandra Maryam Moe?”

”In a recent article,” says Storhaug, “the well-known writer Ibn Warraq, author of the book Why I Am Not a Muslim, offers the hypothesis that radical European Islamists have adopted a new tactic which allows them to represent themselves as liberal and democratic: they pick women as leaders in order to conceal their real and long-term agenda. I agree. This is occurring in more and more places in Europe.

”It’s also the case that those who convert to Islam often become the most literal-minded believers. A Pakistani Muslim has an Islamic culture which can be mixed with, for example, Hinduism and other cultural influences. A Norwegian convert has only the Koran as the foundation for his or her religious belief, and thus becomes a more literal-minded believer.”

How much can we take?

She thinks Norwegian authorities and politicians are choosing to close their eyes to what’s happening.

­”These forces are out to work against all the democratic and humanistic ideas that our society is built on. It’s unsettling, then, that our politicians are apparently deaf and blind to what’s going on.”

Storhaug believes that it’s only a question of time before these changes threaten the entire structure of democratic society.

”How many mosques like this can our democracy tolerate?” she asks. “These are enemies within, enemies of democracy and human rights. The government is even helping to finance them with our tax money.”

She also believes that the Norwegian press and media are cowardly and weak when it comes to this topic.

“They’re not doing their job, which is to take a sharp critical look at a tremendously dangerous and anti-democratic development.”

”Why is the press cowardly about this stuff?”

“They’re obviously scared of being called racists and Islam-haters,” says Storhaug.

Totalitarian ideology

Storhaug thinks that the changes we are now witnessing in Europe have less to do with religion than with politics and law.

“The religion has actually moved into the background,” she says, “while radical political Islam is advancing, and, to a larger and larger degree, building its own isolated communities in which the prevailing law will be sharia.

”We can observe this development especially in institutions of higher education, which are now becoming hotbeds of radicalization of Muslim youth.”

”Do you oppose all forms of Islam?”

“I have nothing against Islam when it’s practiced in a private home. But since Islam is organized into communities of believers, it’s often a threat to human rights and democracy.”

”But this involves a huge democratic paradox. Should we prohibit Muslims from organizing?”

”We can’t deny anybody the right to organize. But there’s a big difference between doing that and paying an ideological movement to cast a shadow over our democracy.”

According to Storhaug, Islam cannot be equated with Christianity.

“Remember that Islam is a monotheistic religion of laws that demands total submission to Allah,” she says. “The prophet Muhammed was a jurist, political leader, and general. It’s the political and legal aspects of Islam that make it something totally different from other religions, such as Christianity. Islam is a total and totalitarian ideology more than it is a religion.”

“You can’t let this happen!”

Hege Storhaug herself lived in Pakistan for two years and has several Muslim friends. She talks about one of them.

”I have a Muslim friend who has lived her whole life in Pakistan but who has visited me several times in Oslo. Last year she was here again, twelve years after her last visit. She was absolutely appalled to see so many Muslim women with head coverings in the streets of Oslo. With tears in her eyes she asked: ‘What’s going on? How can you allow this! You can’t let this happen!’”

Translated from the Norwegian by Bruce Bawer