Islam in Norway

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Islam is the second largest religion in Norway after various forms of Christianity. In 2016, government statistics from the CIA registered 121.095 members of Islamic congregations in Norway, roughly 2.3% of the population, according to a July 2016 source[1]. The majority of Muslims in Norway are Sunni, with a significant Shia minority. 55% lived in the counties of Oslo and Akershus. Scholarly estimates regarding the number of people of Islamic background in Norway vary between 120,000 (2005) and 163,000 (2009).[2] The vast majority have an immigrant background, with Norwegians of Pakistani descent being the most visible and well-known group.[citation needed]


Icelandic annals relate the arrival of embassies from the Muslim sultan of Tunis in Norway in the 1260s, after King Håkon Håkonsson had sent embassies to the Sultan with rich gifts. The population of Muslims in the country has not been noticeable until the latter half of the 20th century, however. Immigration from Muslim countries to Norway began late compared to other western-European countries, and didn't gather pace until the late 1960s. In 1975, labor immigration to Norway was halted, but rules for family reunification were relatively relaxed for several more years.

The number of Muslims in Norway was first registered in official statistics in 1980, when it was given as 1006. These statistics are based on membership of a registered congregation, and it is most likely that the low number is due to the fact that few Muslims were members of a mosque. Historian of religion Kari Vogt estimates that 10% of Norwegian Muslims were members of a mosque in 1980, a proportion which had increased to 70% by 1998. Being a member of a mosque was an alien concept to many immigrants from Muslim countries. In Norway, it is necessary for the mosques to register their members, because government grants to religious congregations outside the state church are based on the number of registered members. The number of registered members of mosques increased to 80,838 in 2004, but have since dropped to 72,023 in 2006. Part of the reason for the drop could be a new methodology in the compilation of statistics.[3]

In the end of the 1990s, Islam passed the Roman Catholic Church and Pentecostalism to become the largest minority religion in Norway, provided Islam is seen as one group. However, as of 2013, the Roman Catholic Church regained its position as the largest minority religion in Norway due to increasing immigration from European countries and less immigration from Muslim-majority countries.[4] In 2004, the registered Muslims were members of 92 different congregations. 40 of these were based in Oslo or Akershus counties.

In 2010 a Muslim from Örebro in Sweden wanted to build a mosque in Tromsø with money from Saudi Arabia but the Norwegian government declined to give permission on the grounds that Saudi Arabia has no freedom of religion.[5]


Muslims in Norway are a very fragmented group, coming from many different backgrounds. Kari Vogt estimated in 2000 that there were about 500 Norwegian converts to Islam.[6] The rest are mostly first or second generation immigrants from a number of countries. The largest immigrant communities from Muslim countries in Norway are from Pakistan, Iraq and Somalia:

Country of origin Number (2008)[7]
Pakistan 30,134
Somalia 27,881
Iraq 21,795
Bosnia and Herzegovina 15,649
Iran 15,134
Turkey 15,003
Converts 900 - 1,000[8]

An unknown, but presumably high, proportion of these immigrant populations is Muslim. In other words, the largest group of Norwegian Muslims originate in Pakistan, but no single nationality constitute as much as a quarter of the total population.[citation needed]

The Turkish, Pakistani and Iranian communities are quite established in Norway. 55% of Iranians have lived in Norway more than 10 years. The Iraqis are a more recent group, with 80% of the Iraqi community having arrived in the past 10 years.[citation needed]

In the 1990s there was a wave of asylum seekers from the Balkans, mostly Bosniaks. In recent years most immigrants arrive as part of family reunification.[citation needed]

By county[edit]

County Total population Muslim population (2013) Percent Muslim
Oslo 623,966 52,688 8.4%
Akershus 566,399 13,827 2.4%
Østfold 282,000 9,330 3.3%
Buskerud 269,003 8,994 3.3%
Rogaland 452,159 7,772 1.7%
Hordaland 498,135 4,470 0.9%
Vestfold 238,748 3,956 1.7%
Sør-Trøndelag 302,755 3,417 1.1%
Telemark 170,902 2,885 1.7%
Vest-Agder 176,353 2,679 1.5%
Hedmark 193,719 1,995 1.0%
Oppland 187,254 1,756 0.9%
Nordland 239,611 1,741 0.7%
Møre og Romsdal 259,404 1,263 0.5%
Nord-Trøndelag 134,443 1,035 0.8%
Troms 160,418 981 0.6%
Aust-Agder 112,772 938 0.8%
Sogn og Fjordane 108,700 518 0.5%
Finnmark 74,534 449 0.6%
Norway 5,051,275 120,882 2.4%

By region[edit]

County Total population Muslim population (2013) Percent Muslim
Eastern Norway 2,531,991 95,431 3.8%
Western Norway 1,318,398 14,023 1.1%
Trøndelag 437,198 4,452 1.0%
Southern Norway 289,125 3,617 1.3%
Northern Norway 474,563 3,171 0.7%
Year Muslims Percent
1980[citation needed] 1,006 0.02%
1990[9] 54,000 1.3%
2000[citation needed] 56,458 1.3%
2010[9] 144,000 3.0%
2030[9] 359,000 6.3%


The mosque of The Islamic Association of Bergen (Det Islamske Forbundet i Bergen), like most Norwegian mosques situated in a regular town house.

Mosques have been important, not just as places of prayer, but also as a meeting place for members of minority groupings. Several mosques also do different forms of social work, e.g. importantly, organising the transport of deceased members back to their countries of origin for burial. The mosques are mostly situated in regular city blocks, and are not easily visible features of the cities.


The first mosque in Norway was the Islamic Cultural Centre (named in English),[10] which opened in Oslo in 1974. The initiative for the mosque came from Pakistanis who were helped by the Islamic Cultural Centre which had already opened in Copenhagen in Denmark. The new mosque adhered to the deobandi branch of Sunni Islam.

Adherents of the Sufi inspired Barelwi movement, who constituted the majority of Pakistanis in Norway, soon felt the need for a mosque of their own, and opened the Central Jamaat-e Ahl-e Sunnat in 1976. This is today the second largest mosque in Norway, with over 6,000 members.

By 2005, only one purpose-built mosque existed in Norway, built by the Sufi-inspired[11] Sunni Muslim World Islamic Mission in Oslo in 1995. Minhaj-ul-Quran International established its mosque and centre in 1987.[12] In 2000, this was the first Norwegian mosque to start performing the adhan - the call to prayer. Initially, the mosque received permission from Gamle Oslo borough to perform the adhan once a week. This was appealed to county authorities by the Progress Party. The ruling of the fylkesmann (county governor) of Oslo and Akershus stated that no permission was required for performing the adhan, leaving the mosque free to perform it at their own discretion.[13] The mosque decided to limit themselves to performing the adhan once a week.


As the Muslim population grew, the number of mosques also multiplied quickly. As long as the total number of Muslims was low, it was natural for many different groupings to congregate in a single mosque. But as different immigrant groupings increased in number, the wish for separate mosques for people of different nationalities, languages and sects increased. The first Shia mosque, Anjuman-e hussaini, was founded in 1975, and in the early 1980s, separated Moroccan and Turkish mosques were established.


The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community established itself here in 1957. Various Ahmadi mosques include Noor Mosque, opened in Oslo August 1, 1980 and Baitun Nasr mosque in Furuset, Oslo.

Muslim organisations[edit]

Nor mosque at Frogner in Oslo, the mosque of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Oslo.

The most significant Muslim organisation in Norway is the Islamic Council Norway, an umbrella organisation for Muslim congregations and organisations. Other inter-congregational organisations also exist. Minhaj-ul-Quran mosque and community centre was established in Oslo in 1987.[14] In 1991, the Islamic Women's Group Norway (Islamsk Kvinnegruppe Norge) was founded, after an initiative by the Norwegian convert Nina Torgersen[when?][citation needed]. In 1995, a Muslim Students' Society (Muslimsk Studentsamfunn) was established at the University of Oslo, with some of its officers, such as Mohammad Usman Rana, becoming important voices in the Norwegian public sphere. Founded in 2008, Islam Net is the fastest-growing Muslim organisation in Norway.

The Islamic foundation Urtehagen was established in 1991 by the Norwegian convert Trond Ali Linstad, at first running a kindergarten and youth club. In 1993, Linstad applied for the first time to establish a Muslim private school. The Labour Party government of Gro Harlem Brundtland rejected the application in 1995, stating that it would be "detrimental to the integration of the children". After the Labour government was replaced by the government of Kjell Magne Bondevik of the Christian People's Party in 1997, Linstad applied again, and his application was approved in 1999. In August 2001, Urtehagen School (Urtehagen friskole) opened with 75 pupils. However, internal conflicts at the school led to its closure in the spring of 2004.[15] Plans to open a similar school in Drammen in 2006 were blocked after the new left-wing government stopped all new private schools after coming to power in 2005.[16] As of today, no Muslim schools exist in Norway.

Hijab in schools and universities[edit]

Norway is to plan rules banning female students from wearing full-face veils. Education Minister Torbjorn Roe Isaksen said that in their perspective, full-face veils like the hijab don’t have a place in educational circumstances since they counteract correspondence. The administration is subsequently examining the likelihood of controlling the utilization of such pieces of clothing in childcare focuses, schools and colleges.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ (in Norwegian) Islam i Norge
  3. ^ (in Norwegian) Trus- og livssynssamfunn utanfor Den norske kyrkja, 2006
  4. ^ Daugstad, Gunnlaug; Østby, Lars (2009). "Et mangfold av tro og livssyn" [A variety of beliefs and denominations]. Det flerkulturelle Norge (in Norwegian). Statistics Norway. Retrieved July 18, 2012. 
  5. ^ "sv: Norska regeringen säger nej tack till saudiska pengar (Norwegian government says no to Saudi money)". Uppdrag granskning. Sveriges Television. 2011-02-02. Retrieved 26 July 2015. 
  6. ^ Cited by Jorgen Nielsen (ed.), "Islam in Denmark: The Challenge of Diversity," Lexington Books (December 21, 2011), pg. 53. ISBN 978-0739150924.
  7. ^ Source: Statistics Norway Archived January 12, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ (in Norwegian) Guro Sollien Eriksrud, "Flere nordmenn blir muslimer", Dagsavisen (17 juni 2006). Retrieved 24-11-2013.
  9. ^ a b c The Future of the Global Muslim Population Archived 2011-02-09 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ Islamic Cultural Centre Norway
  11. ^ "Norway Muslims question focus on Breivik's sanity". Fox News. AP. April 28, 2012. Retrieved April 29, 2012. 
  12. ^ Minhaj-ul-Quran mosque Norway
  13. ^ (in Norwegian) Lov med bønnerop, Aftenposten, November 1, 2000
  14. ^ Website of Minhaj-ul-Quran Norway
  15. ^ (in Norwegian) Full krise i Urtehagen skole i Oslo
  16. ^ (in Norwegian) Full stopp for muslimskole
  17. ^ Norway to ban full-face veil in nurseries, schools and universities

External links[edit]