LONDON – Qatar has taken control of the Grand Mosque in the Danish capital of Copenhagen, sparking outrage from the Scandinavian country’s left, according to Berlingske.
At a board meeting, the board of the fund behind the mosque was replaced, giving five people from Qatar an absolute majority on the board, reported Berlingske.
Qatar’s move sparked a political outrage in Denmark as left-wing politicians demanded the government put an end to foreign interference in Danish mosques.
One of the new board members is Shaheen al-Ghanim, who has been director of the Ministry of Endowments (Awqaf) and Islamic Affairs.
The Grand Mosque has already had a close connection to Qatar.
Organisations affiliated with Qatar have donated at least $34 million to the Copenhagen Big Fund (Københavns Store Fond), which runs the mosque in Rovsingsgade.
Last February, the multi-million-dollar donation raised eyebrows in the Danish parliament because two of the previous three board members affiliated with Qatar were non-Danish residents.
“If you sit on the board of a mosque in Denmark but live in Qatar, it is clear what interests you are trying to protect. And it is not Denmark,” The Danish People's Party's foreign spokesman Pia Kjærsgaard then told Kristeligt Dagblad.
Kjærsgaard said that her arms shivered when she heard about Qatar's donation to the Grand Mosque.
Qatar Charity’s donation to a school in Aarhus was also criticised by Danish politicians as a move to undermine their country’s fundamental freedoms.
“The government considers it very serious if forces with a medieval view of democracy, freedom and equality through financial donations try to gain influence in Denmark,” Minister for Immigration and Integration Mattias Tesfaye said when asked by DF Education and Municipal Mayor Jens Henrik Thulesen about the case.
On June 10, American victims of terrorist attacks in Israel filed a lawsuit against Qatari banks, Masraf al Rayan and Qatar National Bank, in conspiracy with Qatar Charity, secretly laundered money through the US financial system to both of the Palestinian Islamist movement of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to carry out terrorist attacks in the Jewish state.
The lawsuit specifically targets Qatar Charity, which is known for funding Islamist and terror groups in the MENA region.
Qatar Charity allegedly worked with Masraf Al Rayan bank and Qatar National Bank to forward Hamas and Islamic Jihad (PIJ) millions of dollars, according to the lawsuit.
The Danish government announced that it would propose a bill aimed at scrutinising donations.
Three years ago, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of financing terrorism, supporting Islamist groups, and undermining efforts to isolate Iran.
Berlingske said that Qatar’s new influence in the Grand Mosque was the result of a power struggle within the board of Copenhagen Big Fund.
Three board members, who had been critical of the mosque’s Chairman Abdelhamid Hamdi, are now out of the board, giving Qatar more control of decision making.
The mosque’s Imam Abu Bilal Ismail is not immune to controversy for his extremist preaching.
In February 2016, Ismail was caught in a hidden camera at the mosque, teaching a class about stoning to death as the “appropriate punishment for adultery.”
“If a married or divorced women engages in fornication, and she is not a virgin, she should be stoned to death,” Ismail said in the video clip.
In July 2014, the extremist Imam called for the death of Jews at the Al Nusra mosque in Berlin.
“Oh Allah, destroy the Zionist Jews. They are no challenge for you. Count them and kill them to the very last one. Don’t spare a single one of them,” he prayed.