Norwegian Culture Minister Linda Hofsted Helleland called the move "extremely ill-advised," while numerous Norwegian MPs, columnists and sociologists have expressed their concern about the appointment.
The most piquant detail, however, is that Islamic Council Norway recently received an almost 500,000 NOK grant ($59,000) from the Culture Ministry itself to improve the dialogue between the country's Muslim community and the rest of society. This means, in effect, that the niqab-promotion is being bankrolled by Norwegian tax-payers themselves, Norwegian daily Klassekampen reported.
Islamsk Råd gjør det virkelig ikke lett for norske muslimer.https://t.co/mMeEzDPsHx— Didrik Søderlind (@DidrikSoderlind) 28 марта 2017 г.
Culture Minister Linda Hofsted Helleland suggested in a Facebook post that the appointment would "create more alienation and less understanding." Helleland wrote that it was important to "make a stand," despite the fact that Norway had freedom of religion and cherished no plans of abandoning it, and threatened to withdraw state funding.
Remarkably, though, some of the bitterest criticism of the move came from Norway's Muslim community. Norwegian newspaper Nettavisen blogger Aesel Manouchehri pointed out that the niqab was neither representative of Islam nor Muslim women, while Liberal Party Muslim politician Abid Raja expressed his deep disappointment with Hasic's appointment.
"It is an all-advised move that undermines the relationship of trust between Muslims and the rest of Norwegian society, which the Muslims themselves need to build" Abid Raja told Norwegian national broadcaster NRK, later tweeting that the Islamic Council made Norwegian Muslims laugh.
"As the situation deteriorated over the past year, we worry that the Islamic Council no longer plays the role it is supposed to play," their joint statement said, suggesting that the Council neglected their social responsibilities in an era when dialogue was "more important than ever."
Senaid Kobilica, chief imam of the Islamic Community Bosnia Hercegovina, which purports to be the largest Muslim congregation in Norway, went so far as to pull his organization out of the Council in protest, the Norwegian tabloid daily Verdens Gang reported. Kobilica was himself the head of the Council until 2013. Basim Ghozlan, the leader of the Islamic Association Rabita, said he shared Kobilica's feelings and was intending to do likewise.
According to the job description, Leyla Hasic, who outspokenly promotes the use of the niqab in the social media and became the first woman to appear on Norwegian TV wearing a niqab, will be primarily involved in "communication, application writing and IT maintenance."
Last year, however, Norway's government indirectly condemned the public use of the niqab, as the majority of both left-wing and right-wing parties joined forces to support a ban of face-covering garments in schools, which is likely to come into force later this year.
By its own admission, Islamic Council Norway currently represents 42 different Muslim communities throughout the country with a combined membership of over 82,000. The exact percentage of Muslims in Norway remains a matter for debate, yet it has been established to be rising steadily since the late 1960s. Today, it is expected to hover at around 3.8 percent of the Norwegian population of 5.2 million. In some communities, though, like Oslo County, the percentage is creeping closer to 10 percent.
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