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ISLAM

Jail Krekar for five years: Norway prosecutor

A Norwegian prosecutor called Tuesday for Mullah Krekar, the founder of radical Iraqi Kurdish Islamist group Ansar al-Islam, to be sentenced to five years in prison for issuing death threats against a former government minister, media reported.

Jail Krekar for five years: Norway prosecutor
Photo: Berit Roald/Scanpix

The 55-year-old mullah, whose real name is Najmeddine Faraj Ahmad and who has lived in Norway since 1991, has pleaded not guilty to threatening the life of Erna Solberg, an ex-minister who signed his expulsion order in 2003 because he was considered a threat to national security.

Krekar's name is on terrorist lists drawn up by the United Nations and the United States.

His deportation process began in 2003 but has yet to be carried out since Norwegian law prevents him from being deported to Iraq until his safety can be guaranteed and as long as he risks the death penalty.

"Norway will pay a heavy price for my death," he said during a meeting with international media in June 2010.

"If for example Erna Solberg deports me and I die as a result, she will suffer the same fate," he said in Arabic, adding: "I don't know who will kill her: Al-Qaeda, Ansar al-Islam, my family, my children. I don't know… But she will pay the price."

According to prosecutor Marit Bakkevig, the comments were an attempt to get Norwegian authorities to reverse the expulsion order.

Krekar is also accused of threatening other Kurds living in Norway who had burned pages of the Koran, as well as calling for attacks on US soldiers in Iraq on several occasions.

The mullah has admitted to making the statements but has claimed his words merely referred to Islamic principles.

His lawyer Brynjar Meling said he would call for his client's acquittal in court on Wednesday.

"He considers that what he said falls entirely within the laws of freedomof expression and religion," Meling told TV2 news channel.

A date for the verdict has yet to be announced.

While Krekar acknowledges having co-founded Ansar al-Islam, which also figures on international lists of terrorist groups, in 2001, he insists he has not led the group since 2002.

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ISLAM

Norwegian bank tests ‘Islamic loan’ concept

Norwegian bank Storebrand is offering new ‘halal loans’ based on Islamic principles.

Norwegian bank tests 'Islamic loan' concept
Storbrand's headquarters in Lysaker. Photo: Lise Åserud / NTB scanpix
The bank recently created a website promoting ‘ethical loans’ for home financing without interest. 
 
The bank writes that it is testing the idea of interest-free loans in part to appeal to Muslim home buyers who may not want to accept a traditional loan because of their faith. Islam prohibits charging interest or fees on financial loans. 
 
“We wanted to find out if there could be another way to enter a housing market with rising prices. The product could appeal to young people, new graduates or people who can not accept normal housing loans because of religious concerns,” the bank writes on a website that was set up to gauge interest in the idea. 
 
Within a week, around 300 people contacted the bank to express interest in the loans. 
 
“Storebrand is now currently evaluating the market potential for such a loan and considering what the product might look like. We have also been approached by financial advisers in the UK and Malaysia who want to help us to put together this type of loan,” the bank’s communication manager, Bjorn Erik Sættem, told Vårt Land. 
 
Although the bank says it is still merely testing the idea, its website states that instead of paying interest on a home loan the home buyers would pay rent on the property until they’ve paid in enough to achieve ownership. 
 
Sættem said that the bank has received “a handful” of negative reactions to what has been dubbed the ‘halal loan’, including some customers who have cut their ties with the bank.