Malmö mega mosque defends Qatari funding

5:13 min

Malmö's Sydsvenskan newspaper on Monday warned in its main leader editorial that a new giant mosque risked spreading extremist ideology. Radio Sweden went to Friday prayers to find out.

It's just before one o'clock, and a steady stream of worshippers is arriving at the Umm al-Muminin Khadijah mosque.

There's a broad spectrum of nationalities: Somalis, Iraqis, Palestinians, Syrians, Bosnians, and more.

Some have beards and are dressed in white gowns, others are clean shaven and in suits. A few are even wearing their work clothes, still spattered with paint and dust. 

The only thing they have in common is that they are all men and all Muslims. 

This prayer room started being used in January and the mosque was officially inaugurated with a visit from Qatar's minister for religious affairs in April.

But it was only last week, due to a flurry of critical articles about its funding, SEK 30 million of which came from the government of Qatar, that it has been the subject of controversy.

A member of the board, who wants to stay anonymous because the mosque does not yet have an official spokesman, says that he does not understand the criticism. 

"The comical thing with the media, is that they said, 'we don't know what's going on in there'. And just days before we welcomed them and said, 'you're welcome to come and see what's going on here', but they didn't come. The said 'no'." 

The mosque claims its board, which consists largely of businessmen and professionals from Malmö, is independent of Qatar.

"That's a guarantee from us," the board member stresses, pointing to a recording of the most recent board meeting as evidence. 

The mosque also posts recordings and Swedish translations of its Egyptian imam's Friday sermons, so that no one can accuse it of spreading militant ideology.

"We have no secrets here. Everything is transparent," the man claims. "If you as a journalist want to see if we are doing as we say, you can listen to the speeches."

Those at the mosque are unsure if it really is, as was claimed last week, the largest in Scandinavia, with some pointing out that there are several other mosques in the region which have larger prayer halls. 

Rather than worsening segregation, the board member argues the mosque will help new arrivals in Sweden find their feet, giving them an instant network they can use to find jobs.

"Because our board members are successful people who know society here in Sweden, we think we have a good way to the future, to a nice mix between Islam and the Swedish community. We think we have the recipe," he says.

He says there is no contradiction between being a Muslim and being part of Swedish society. 

"If you ask my Swedish friends, they will say 'he is very integrated'. If you ask my Muslim friends, he will say 'he is a good Muslim'. Very many Swedish principles are like Muslim principles."