Islam in Iceland

Muslim culture Centre of Iceland is located at second floor in a house called Ýmishúsið in Reykjavík.

The Nordic country of Iceland has 875 people registered with the official Muslim organisations in the country (as of 2015). This corresponds to 0.27% of the population of Iceland.


The earliest mention of Iceland in Muslim sources originates in the works of Muhammad al-Idrisi (1099–1165/66) in his famous Tabula Rogeriana, which mentions Iceland's location in the North Sea.

The long-distance trading and raiding networks of the Vikings will have meant that various Icelanders, like the Norwegians Rögnvald Kali Kolsson or Harald Hardrada, came into direct contact with the Muslim world during the Middle Ages;[1] indirect connections are best attested by finds of Arabic coins in Iceland, as also widely in the Viking world.[2]

Following Iceland's conversion to Christianity around 1000, some Icelanders encountered the Islamic world through pilgrimage, for example to Jerusalem, of the kind described by Abbot Nikulás Bergsson in his Leiðarvísir og borgarskipan.

From around the late thirteenth century, a fantastical version of the Islamic world is prominent in medieval Icelandic romance, partly inspired by Continental narratives influenced by the Crusades. Although this image generally characterises the Islamic world as 'heathen', and repeats the misconceptions of Islam widespread in the medieval West,[3] it also varies substantially from text to text, sometimes, for example, associating the Islamic world with great wealth, wisdom, or chivalry.[4]

Perhaps the earliest known example of Muslims coming to Iceland occurred in 1627, when the Dutch Muslim Jan Janszoon and his Barbary pirates raided portions of Iceland, including the southwest coast, Vestmannaeyjar, and the eastern fjords.[5] This event is known in Icelandic history as the Tyrkjaránið (the "Turkish Abductions"). An estimated 400-800 Icelanders were sold into slavery.

Islam started to gain presence in Icelandic culture around the 1970s, partly through immigration from the Islamic world (for example Salmann Tamimi) and partly through Icelanders' exposure to Islamic culture while travelling (for example Ibrahim Sverrir Agnarsson). Some of the immigrants simply came of their own accord; others came as refugees, including groups from Kosovo.[6] The Koran was first translated into Icelandic in 1993, with a corrected edition in 2003.[7]


Members of Muslim Associations in Iceland as a function of time

Salmann Tamimi estimates that when he came to Iceland in 1971 there were perhaps seven Muslims living there.[8] As of 2013, however,

The first generation of Muslims born in Iceland probably began with people like Salmann's own children, such as Yousef Ingi Tamimi (b. 1988).[10] Iceland's Muslim population is of diverse origins, including people born in the Arab world, Albania, Africa, and Iceland.[11]

Muslim Association of Iceland

The Muslim Association of Iceland (Félag múslima á Íslandi) was founded in 1997 by Salmann Tamimi, a Palestinian immigrant; it was officially recognised on February 25th.[12] Since 2010 the chair has been Ibrahim Sverrir Agnarsson.[13] As of 2014, the association has 465 members. More than half were born in Iceland; perhaps 40-50 were born to non-Muslim parents.[13]

The Muslim Association of Iceland currently runs the Reykjavík Mosque, a Sunni mosque on the third floor of an office building in Ármúli 38, Reykjavík.[9] It has two imams and offers daily and nightly prayers attended by a mix of local Icelanders and visiting Muslims. It also offers weekly Friday prayers for Jumu'ah. In 2000 the Muslim Association applied to purpose-build a mosque in Reykjavík; after a long process, permission for building was granted on July 6, 2013.[14]

Prayers are said in Arabic, but English and Icelandic are also widely used due to the diverse nature of the congregation. The Association regularly runs courses in both Arabic and Icelandic.[15]

Islamic Cultural Centre of Iceland

The Islamic Culture Centre of Iceland (Menningarsetur múslima á Íslandi) was founded in 2008 by Karim Askari, originally from Morocco, and as of 2014 has 305 members.[13] The Centre hired Ahmad Seddeeq, originally from Egypt, as Imam in 2011.[16]

The Islamic Cultural Centre of Iceland runs a mosque in Ýmishúsið on Skógarhlíð in Reykjavík.[17]

Attitudes to Islam in Iceland

One of the main researchers on Icelandic attitudes to race, Kristín Loftsdóttir, has found that many Icelanders exhibit anti-immigrant discourses linked with Islamophobia in ways parallel those in other European countries, despite Iceland having an often completely different history of contact with Islamic cultures.[18] Many public expressions of Islamophobia have in the second decade of the twenty-first century been focused on opposition to the creation of a purpose-built Reykjavík mosque. Opposition to Islam is often presented in terms of support for gender equality, a discourse which in Kristín's assessment is 'used as a way to dwell on the criticism of Muslims in general, and to the glory of European societies'.[19] Óttar M. Norðfjörð's 2010 novel Örvitinn eða; Hugsjónamaðurinn satirises Islamophobic attitudes.[20]

Many Icelandic Muslims prefer not to join a formal organisation, considering their relationship with God a personal one.[8]

Outside interest

In 2011 the Muslims of Iceland attracted the interest of Al Jazeera, which planned a documentary dealing with Muslims in Iceland and New Zealand. Al Jazeera was interested in how Ramadan is honored in the higher latitudes where the night can be of unusual length when compared to the majority-Muslim lands.[21]

Religious organisation affiliation

Muslim Association of Iceland (1 January)[22]
Year Population Muslim Association % ±
1998 272,381 78 0.03 0.00 Steady
1999 275,712 89 0.03 0.00 Steady
2000 279,049 134 0.05 0.02 Increase
2001 283,361 165 0.06 0.01 Increase
2002 286,575 179 0.06 0.00 Steady
2003 288,471 229 0.08 0.02 Increase
2004 290,570 292 0.10 0.02 Increase
2005 293,577 318 0.11 0.01 Increase
2006 299,891 340 0.11 0.00 Steady
2007 307,672 352 0.11 0.00 Steady
2008 315,459 373 0.12 0.01 Increase
2009 319,368 404 0.13 0.01 Increase
2010 317,630 373 0.12 0.01 Decrease
2011 318,452 370 0.12 0.00 Steady
2012 319,575 419 0.13 0.01 Increase
2013 321,857 465 0.14 0.01 Increase
2014 325,671 481 0.15 0.01 Increase
2015 329,100 486 0.15 0.00 Steady

Muslim Cultural Centre in Iceland (1 January)[23]
Year Population Muslim Cultural Centre % ±
2010 317,630 218 0.07 0.00 Steady
2011 318,452 274 0.09 0.02 Increase
2012 319,575 275 0.09 0.00 Steady
2013 321,857 305 0.09 0.00 Steady
2014 325,671 360 0.11 0.02 Increase
2015 329,100 389 0.12 0.01 Increase

See also


  1. Neil Price, 'The Vikings in Spain, North Africa and the Mediterranean', in The Viking World, ed. by Stefan Brink and Neil Price (Abingdon: Routledge, 2008), pp. 462--69.
  2. E.g. the hoard found at the farm Keta in Skefilsstaðhreppur: Fedir Androshchuk and Ragnheiður Traustadóttir, 'A Viking Age Spearhead from Kolkuós', Hólarannsóknin Framvinduskýrsla 6 (2004),
  3. Martin, John Stanley, 'Attitudes to Islam from the Chansons de geste to the Riddarasögur', Parergon, n. s. 8.2 (1990), 81-95. DOI: 10.1353/pgn.1990.0001
  4. Sverrir Jakobsson, Við og veröldin: Heimsmynd Íslendinga 1100-1400 (Reykjavík: Háskólaútgáfan, 2005), pp. 130-60. Cf. Sheryl Elizabeth McDonald Werronen, 'Transforming Popular Romance on the Edge of the World: Nítíða saga in Late Medieval and Early Modern Iceland' (unpublished PhD thesis, University of Leeds, 2013), pp. 150--56; Bjørn Bandlien, 'Muslims in Karlamagnúss saga and Elíss saga ok Rósamundar ' and Geraldine Barnes, 'Byzantium in the riddarasögur ', in Á austrvega: Saga and East Scandinavia. Preprint Papers of the 14th International Saga Conference, Uppsala, 9th–15th August 2009. Eds. Agneta Ney, Henrik Williams, and Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist. Institutionen för humaniora och samhällsvetenskaps skriftserie 14. Gävle: Gävle UP, 2009. 1.85–91 and 1.92–98,
  5. Jørgen Nielsen; Samim Akgönül; Ahmet Alibaši?; Brigitte Maréchal; Christian Moe (11 November 2010). Yearbook of Muslims in Europe. BRILL. pp. 251–. ISBN 978-90-04-18475-6. Retrieved 9 September 2012.
  6. Heimir Björnsson, 'Hvaða átt til Mekka? Stofnun trúfélags múslima á Íslandi, þróun þess og starf á Íslandi og barátta gegn fordómum' (unpublished BA thesis, University of Iceland), pp. 8-9.; International Religious Freedom Report 2006
  7. Kóran, trans. by Helgi Hálfdánarson, second edn, Reykjvík, 2003.
  8. 1 2 Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir, 'To a Mosque on a Magic Carpet', Iceland Review, 52.1 (2014), 64--68 (p. 66).
  9. 1 2 Mannfjöldi eftir trúfélögum 1998-2012 . (Icelandic)
  10. Viðar Þorsteinsson and Yousef Ingi Tamimi, 'Maður verður að hafa húmor fyrir sjálfum sér: Viđar Þorsteinsson og Yousef Ingi Tamimi ræða saman', in Íslam með afslætti, ed. by Auður Jónsdóttir and Óttar Martin Norðfjörð, Afbók, 4 ([Reykjavík]: Nýhil, 2008), pp. 142-51 (p. 143).
  11. Heimir Björnsson, 'Hvaða átt til Mekka? Stofnun trúfélags múslima á Íslandi, þróun þess og starf á Íslandi og barátta gegn fordómum' (unpublished BA thesis, University of Iceland), p. 13.
  12. Heimir Björnsson, 'Hvaða átt til Mekka? Stofnun trúfélags múslima á Íslandi, þróun þess og starf á Íslandi og barátta gegn fordómum' (unpublished BA thesis, University of Iceland), p. 6.
  13. 1 2 3 Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir, 'To a Mosque on a Magic Carpet', Iceland Review, 52.1 (2014), 64--68 (p. 65).
  14. Kári Tulinius, 'So What Is This Reykjavík Mosque I Keep Hearing About?', The Reykjavík Grapevine, 8.8.2013,
  15. Heimir Björnsson, 'Hvaða átt til Mekka? Stofnun trúfélags múslima á Íslandi, þróun þess og starf á Íslandi og barátta gegn fordómum' (unpublished BA thesis, University of Iceland), p. 13.
  16. Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir, 'To a Mosque on a Magic Carpet', Iceland Review, 52.1 (2014), 64--68 (p. 67).
  17. Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir, 'To a Mosque on a Magic Carpet', Iceland Review, 52.1 (2014), 64--68 (pp. 65-66).
  18. Kristín Loftsdóttir. 2012b. 'Belonging and the Icelandic Others: Situating Icelandic Identity in a Postcolonial Context', in Whiteness and Postcolonialism in the Nordic Region: Exceptionalism, Migrant Others and National Identities, ed. by Kristín Loftsdóttir and Lars Jensen (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012), pp. 56-72 (p. 63).
  19. Kristín Loftsdóttir. 2012a. Whiteness is from Another World: Gender, Icelandic International Development and Multiculturalism. European Journal of Women’s Studies, 19(1), 41–54 (p. 47). See also Þorgerður H. Þorvaldsdóttir, 'The Gender-Equal North: Icelandic Images of Femininity and Masculinity', in Iceland and Images of the North, ed. by Sumarliði R. Ísleifsson (Québec: Presses de l'Université du Québec, 2011), pp. 405-34 (pp. 410-11).
  20. 'Fávitinn, Ofvitinn, Örvitinn og Óttar M. Norðfjörð: Strákur Karlsson heldur út í heim', Morgunblaðið, 3 March 2010,
  21. "Al Jazeera Shoots Documentary on Icelandic Muslims". Iceland Review. 17 Aug 2011.
  22. "Populations by religious organizations 1998–2015". Reykjavík, Iceland: Statistics Iceland.
  23. "Populations by religious organizations 1998–2015". Reykjavík, Iceland: Statistics Iceland.

External links

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