Muslims in Norway

By Abed Nakhleh
Thu. Nov. 8, 2007

Despite the fact that Islam is not new in Norway, the
historic roots of Islam in this country have almost
been forgotten over time. They have been lately
discovered by archaeologists in the southern parts of
Norway. In their trades with the Abbasid Caliph in
Baghdad, the Vikings used to carry, upon returning
home, Islamic coins that bear the Shahadah (Arabic
for: testimony of Islamic Faith). 

Furthermore, some rumors were going a round about the
huge number of Vikings who died and disappeared
because of the ongoing Christian missionary movements
all over Norway and in other Scandinavian countries.

What is really surprising is that Henrik Wergeland
(one of the great Norwegian figures in modern history
and one of the fathers of the Norwegian constitution)
was a Muslim in secret. Lately, a bunch of letters
that Wergeland had sent to his mother were discovered,
where he confessed adherence to Islam. He was
referring to Islam as the religion of the Turks
(meaning the Ottoman Empire).

First Norwegian Muslims

As far as Norway is concerned, Muslims did not find it
an attractive country because of its cold climate and
its impoverished economy before the 1960s.

Lately, after the discovery of oil in Norway, the need
for labor arose. At that time, the Turks and Pakistani
were available and welcome into the society. Yet, the
Norwegian society was quite sensational toward
immigrants at that time because the country was almost
100-percent ethnically and religiously homogonous.

As immigrants, Muslims encountered a society that was
totally different from theirs. They were required to
overcome the new challenges that they faced in the
Norwegian society.

Muslims in Norway had been a very small minority until
the 1970s when more and more Muslims started to
immigrate from war-torn countries and the African
continent as a whole, especially the northern region.

After 1985, the numbers of Muslims started to increase
because of immigrants and students. Also, some
Norwegians started to convert to Islam. Regardless of
the real reason behind this huge number of converts
(whether it is due to Islam itself as a religion or
intermarriages), no one can deny the fact that
nowadays Islam has become the second biggest and
fastest growing religion in Norway.

The Muslim population in Norway is not exactly known,
but it is approximately 300,000 out of 4,500,000

Norwegian Muslims' Identity

The ongoing role of media in defaming Islam has
clearly raised the number of Norwegians who converted
to Islam. More Muslims got in touch with their
religious identity and clinched to it. Naturally, the
question of identity became an essential issue,
especially for the second generation of Norwegian
Muslims. The religious identity became a very
important issue. It surpassed the ethnic identity in
many cases.

Of course the need of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence)
arose in light of the cultural background of this
country. The Muslims have been generally successful in
establishing their institutions and organizations, and
this process is developing ever since. Great efforts
are being done by all concerned Muslims in this

The population of Muslims in Norway is ethnically
diverse and has different directions. The Pakistanis
constitute the largest Muslim community, then come the
Turks and eventually the Arabs. In Addition, Norway
has some Muslims from all over the Muslim World. Many
of those Muslims are workers and many of them are
school and university students.

It is reasonable to say that the Muslim community in
Norway is integrated into the society far better than
the integration of Muslim communities in many other
countries. This is due to the Norwegian government's
support for those who have some difficulties in coping
with the Norwegian society.

Norwegian Muslim Politicians

There are active Muslims in all political parties,
except the far right. As a result, Muslims can be seen
in the General Parliament and the communal
parliaments, too. Such an integration should not be
regarded as friction-free. Just like in other Western
countries, the anti-Islamic propaganda has reached
Norway through some media that played the game of

Although the anti-Islamic propaganda in Norway is
never as terrible as those in some European countries,
Norwegian Muslims still have a great task of
integration. They are working regularly on
representing Islam in the right way that it deserves.

Basically, representing Islam depends on learning
Islamic studies, which is available to all Norwegian
Muslims, free of charge, even in universities. Also it
depends on fiqh (Arabic for: Islamic jurisprudence),
which deals with daily matters that Muslims here
encounter and solves some of the urgent issues that
needs to be solved. One of these problems is bank
loans for private housing.

Norwegian Muslims also lack the Islamic education
based mainly on Islamic instructions. They do need a
system of education that works as a complement to
state-driven schools. They need a more in-depth
Islamic education, and this of course requires
qualified persons who have the capacity of bridging
the gap between the two worlds.

There have been a lot of extended consultations among
the religious leaders of the Muslim community. Muslims
are not exotic or strange elements in the society,
especially in the major cities in Norway where the
majority of the Muslim community resides.

By the time of the third generation of Norwegian
Muslims, it would not be unreasonable to assume that
Norway will have a Muslim prime minister. The
Norwegian governments have been successful in the
efforts exerted to integrate Muslims in the society as
active members.

What do you think about the integration of Norwegian
Muslims into their society? Do you believe that
Norwegian Muslims will be "taking over the country"?

* This article is a contribution by Abed Nakhleh. 

European Muslims at invites you to
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related to European Muslims issues. Each contribution
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Abed Nakhlehis a Palestinian-born Norwegian citizen.
He is a freelance writer who has been working as a
school teacher for many years. He is a postgraduate of
the Faculty of International Law, Kiev, Ukraine. He
may be reached at  


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