Norway: Christians, Muslims defend right to convert

OSLO, Norway — Two important Christian and Muslim groups signed a joint declaration Wednesday supporting the right to convert between religions without fear of harassment as a basic religious freedom.

The Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relation and the Islamic Council of Norway, which have met regularly since 1993, said they believe this is the world’s first such joint declaration by national religious organizations.

“As far as we know, this is the first time that a church and representative national Muslim organization have jointly acknowledged the right to convert,” said Olav Fykse Tveit, secretary general of church council. “By issuing this declaration we hope to contribute to the international process on this important matter.”

About 85 percent of Norway’s 4.7 million people are members of the state Lutheran Church of Norway. There are about 72,000 registered Muslims.

“We reject and want to work against violence, discrimination and harassment due to a person wanting to convert or having converted from one religion to another,” said the declaration, signed by Tveit and Shoaib M. Sutlan, secretary general of the Islamic Council.

Sultan said conversion between Islam and Christianity was uncommon in Norway, “but it is still important to establish this important principle.”

Under many interpretations of Sharia, or strict Islamic law, conversion from Islam is forbidden, and can have serious consequences.

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This post was last updated: Friday, August 24, 2007 at 2:26 AM, Central European Time (CET)