Pledged half a million kroner ($90 000 US) to the Islamic counsil.

Minister of Culture and Church affairs, Trond Giske (Labour Party), met with representatives from the Islamic Counsil today. The two parties came together, so that the MP could learn more about the work of the counsil and establish a better dialog between the two. The Islamic counsil left the governmental building with the promise of a 500 000 kr increase in their yearly budget.

- The Islamic counsil have up until now had a yearly budget of 60 000 kr. It was therefore decided that from 2007 the counsil should receive 500 000 kr on a yearly basis from the government, said Giske to Dagbladet after the meeting.

The leader of the Islamic counsil, Mohammad Hamdan, was all smiles after spending an hour with Giske.

- We are pretty content with the outcome of the meeting. For us it’s important to improve the dialog with the government in order for us get to know each other better.

From now on the two parties will meet on a regular basis.

The meeting touched upon several topics, and one of them was how muslims in Norway can adapt to Norwegian society.

- I’ve said on previous occasions that we need a reformation of Islam, but it’s important not to generalize. We need to keep in mind that no muslim are alike, just like no christians are alike, said Giske.

Hamdan agreed with him.

- We need to remember that muslims in Norway hail from 30 different ethnic groups. The Islamic Counsil support a modern interpretation of Islam, and it is our view that muslims in Norway needs to respect Norwegian law.

Both parties were reluctant to comment on the Mozart opera in Germany, that was canceled due to fear of violent reactions from muslim communities.

- I’m a supporter of freedom of speech, including statements that challenges, but this freedom also brings with it responsibilities, said Giske.

- What are your personal thoughts about the cancellation of the Mozart opera?

- I haven’t got the propper knowledge to comment on this specific incident, but on a general basis I can say that I believe freedom of speech is very important, and especially in art. It is uncomfortable when a theater feels the need to cancel a play due to fears, said Giske to Dagbladet.

Hamdan is also very cautious in his comments.

- I don’t wish to comment on this specific incident, but we’re not supporters of limitations on freedom of speech, but I agree with Giske that one needs to be responsible and respectful.-

So you are a defender of freedom of speech Hamdan? That wasn’t the impression the Norwegian people got when Norwegian embassies were attacked and Norwegian flags were burnt in the middle east at the height of the cartoon “crisis”. If you are, what you say you are, a defender of freedom of speech, then why do you refuse to comment on the Mozart “crisis”? Maybe because deep down you’re not a defender of freedom of speech after all?

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