Iceland: MP leaves Progressive Party over handling of mosque issue

Þorsteinn MagnússonÞorsteinn Magnússon resigned yesterday as Alternate MP for the Progressive Party citing the party’s handling of the mosque issue. Þorsteinn said in an interview with that the reaction of the party’s leadership implies that there was nothing wrong in the party’s handling of the matter.

“The chair and most other key people in the leadership of the Progressive Party failed to publicly comment on the conduct of the party in Reykjavík during the election campaign period. Then the recent words of the chair of the party, in my view, imply the complete denial that anything was wrong … The party has in my opinion not handled the case in an acceptable way,” he commented.

Þorsteinn went on to say, “There must be a requirement that representatives of the party, whether at the national or municipal level, conduct their pleadings in accordance with it [the key policy of the Progressive Party] and reject viewpoints that are likely to encourage discrimination.”

As reported earlier, the party’s leader in Reykjavík, Sveinbjörg Birna Sveinbjörnsdóttir, stated during the municipal election campaign that she wanted city authorities to go back on their promise to the Muslim Association of Iceland on a free lot to build a mosque in Reykjavík.

During the campaign, the debate, such as on the Progressive Party’s Facebook page, quickly turned into general opposition towards Muslims and a mosque in Reykjavík, resulting in support for the party surging and achieving two seats on the city council. Prior to Sveinbjörg’s statements, polls had suggested that the party would not gain any seats in Reykjavík.

The party’s chair, Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, refused to comment on the issue at first but later criticized the reactions of others.

Some people, including Jón Sigurðsson, former chair of the Progressive Party and minister of industry and commerce, have suggested that Sveinbjörg’s comments were part of a strategy to win votes.

Iceland Review, 18 July 2014

See also “Progressive alternate MP quits party over mosque issue”, Reykjavík Grapevine, 17 July 2014

And “Varaþingmaður Framsóknar segir sig úr flokknum”, Viðskiptablaðið, 17 July 2014

Update:  See “More Progressives leave party over mosque issue”, Iceland Review, 21 July 2014