Norway's total population of 4.5 million includes 75,761 Muslims, 76 percent of whom live in the Oslo metropolitan area. Fifteen to 30 percent of Norwegian Muslims are citizens, and they hail from Pakistan, Bosnia, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Somalia. Some immigrated in the 1960s to work in mills and ship factories; Norway saw another immigration surge in the 1990s from asylum seekers from Bosnia and Kosovo.
A 1995 law requires a course on religion and tolerance to be taught in Norwegian schools. The Muslim community has challenged this requirement, which tends to be largely Christian-based in practice, but it is difficult for students to gain an exemption. However, Muslim students can be excused from participating in religious ceremonies. There have been isolated proposals for a headscarf ban that have not gained much momentum in Norway's generally progressive society.
At times it has not been easy for some Muslim communities to gain the rights to build mosques. In 2003, the town of Drammen finally approved an application for mosque construction after denying it for 29 years. There is a general sentiment among Norwegians that Muslims do not easily integrate into their society and a growing concern after post-9/11 terrorist investigations revealed Al Qaeda ties to Norway. But the Muslim community and other religions are working towards cooperation: Muslims are included on the Cooperation Council for Faith and Secular Society and have participated in talks with the Jewish community and Norway's state church to foster rights for minorities.
+ Major Terrorist Threats
+ Norway has not suffered a major terrorist incident but has been threatened twice in tapes released by senior Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Norway, which opposed the war in Iraq, was puzzled by the threats, but two possible reasons behind Zawahiri's remarks are thought to be the country's participation in the war in Afghanistan and its investigation of Mullah Krekar, the founder of Ansar al-Islam.
+ Norway: A Multi-Ethnic Country
This article, by a Norwegian professor of social anthropology, examines the integration of non-European immigrants, including Muslims, into the country's social fabric.
+ International Religious Freedom Report 2004: Norway
Muslims make up less than 2 percent of Norway's population, most of which belongs to the state church. The U.S. State Department reports on the challenges Muslims face as well as efforts among religious communities to promote good relations.
+ Shabana Rehman: Making Fun of the Mullahs
In this profile of the controversial Pakistani-born Norwegian comedian, Sarah Coleman describes Rehman's outspokenness about both the limitations of Islam in the face of a modern lifestyle, as well as Norway's overly cautious political correctness. (World Press Review Sept. 2003)
+ Immigrants to the World's Most Perfect Society
Charlotte Abney examines how immigrants face the daunting task of finding their way in Norwegian society, where a premium is placed on knowing the language, and how the government has been slow to act in response to growing racial tensions. (EuroViews 2002)