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ISLAM

Norwegian blogger posts Muhammad cartoon

A Norwegian writer and commentator of Syrian origin has published a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad on her blog in what she said was a show of support for freedom of speech.

Norwegian blogger posts Muhammad cartoon
Sara Azmeh Rasmussen receives a free speech award from the Fritt Ord Foundation earlier this year (Photo: Fredrik Varfjell/NTB Scanpix).

The drawing posted by Sara Mats Azmeh Rasmussen shows a bearded man standing next to three people, including two women who are almost entirely veiled, with the caption: "If you do not like to be drawn, cover yourself, Prophet."

The writer, who describes herself as "an author and human rights activist with a Muslim background", said on her blog that she wanted to show her solidarity with satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo, which last month stoked controversy by publishing cartoons showing the prophet naked.

The French newspaper's cartoon added to anger in the Muslim world, where often violent protests erupted last month over a crudely-made American anti-Islam film "The Innocence of Muslims".

"It is not only necessary to explain and defend freedom of speech and expression, but there is definitely a need for even more cartoons of the Islamic Prophet drawn by Muslims, so the point becomes clearer: it is not a conflict between East and West or Muslims and Christians," Rasmussen wrote.

"It is rather a conflict between dogma and democratic spirit and culture. This conflict exists inside the Islamic world."

A staunch supporter of gay rights, Rasmussen previously hit the headlines in 2009 when she burnt a hijab in public on International Women's Day.

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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.