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+ Overview

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.


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+ 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.

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posted jan. 25, 2005

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