Norway protest
Screengrab of a video showing a young man kicking a person who tries to burn the Holy Quran during an anti-Islam rally in Norway Image Credit: Social media

Dubai: Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry says it has summoned Norway’s ambassador to convey the deep concern of the government and Pakistani people over the recent attempt to burn the Quran by a Norwegian man caught on video.

The Norwegian ambassador was summoned on Saturday after a man desecrated the Holy Quran in the Norwegian city of Kristiansand during an anti-Islam rally.

The Foreign Minister’s statement says: “Pakistan’s condemnation of this action was reiterated. It was underscored that such actions hurt the sentiments of 1.3 billion Muslims around the world, including those in Pakistan. Furthermore, such actions could not be justified in the name of freedom of expression.”

The statement demanded action against the person in the city of Kristiansand who desecrated the Quran at an anti-Islam rally last week.

Pakistan’s reaction comes after a video surfaced on social media showing a man tried to burn the holy book.

Muslim hero

In the video, a Muslim youth is seen jumping over a fence and kicking the person who attempted to burn the Quran. The incident drew nationwide condemnation, with many Pakistanis praising the youth as a hero for defending the Quran.

Pakistan also called on the Norwegian authorities to prevent the recurrence of any such incident in the future.

“The Ambassador of Pakistan in Oslo has also been instructed to convey Pakistan’s protest and deep concern to the Norwegian authorities,” according to the statement.

Who wanted to burn the Quran

A scuffle broke out after the leader of the "Stop Islamisation of Norway (SIAN)" rally, Lars Thorsen, tried to burn a copy of the Quran in the city of Kristiansand despite warnings from local police officials.

In a video on social media, a young man who is now called "the Muslim hero" could be seen jumping into the barricaded circle to save the holy book from being desecrated.

The rally then turned violent, after which police took Thorsen and his attackers into custody.

The man who stopped Thorsen from burning the Holy Quran was identified as Ilyas on social media, but his exact identity could not be ascertained, according to Geo News.

Netizens took to social media to praise Ilyas and also raise alarm over the rise of Islamophobia in Europe and around the world.

Tweet by Pakistan military spokesperson

Pakistan’s military spokesperson also took to twitter and hailed the man for his courage in a bid to stop burning of the Quran.

“Salute to brave Ilyas for displaying courage to stop an absolutely deplorable action. Such Islamophobia-based provocations only promote hatred and extremism. All religions are and must stay respectable. Islamophbia is threat to global peace and harmony,” tweeted Major General Asif Ghafoor, Director General of Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR).

Ministers condemn the incident

Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Noorul Haq Qadri said Pakistan would lodge its protest with the Norwegian government on the matter. The minister stressed that Western countries should take steps towards checking such shameful acts, Dawn news reported.

Renowned religious scholar Mufti Taqi Usmani urged the Muslim nations to raise the issue at international level and called for the release of Ilyas.

Mufti Usmani, in a Twitter post, said the West that lectured the Muslim fraternity on tolerance had reached the lowest level of cowardice by holding rallies to desecrate the Holy Book of 1.3 billion Muslims.

Call to release ‘Muslim hero’

The cleric said it was a duty of Muslim states to raise the issue globally and work to ensure that Ilyas was released.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had eloquently raised the issue of growing Islamophobia in his speech at the 74th session UN General Assembly.

“Islamophobia since 9/11 has grown at a pace which is alarming,” he said and blamed certain Western leaders for it.

Why it happens in Norway

The extreme right-wing group ‘Stop the Islamisation of Norway’ (SION), attempted to burn the Quran during a protest in Norway’s Kristiansand last week.

This action sparked anger among Muslims and raised questions about rising far-right sentiments in Norway.

The Scandinavian nation is well known for its prosperity, beautiful nature and generally moderate politics. There are more than 150,000 Muslims living in Norway out of a population of five million. Norway has been accused of remaining silent and inactive against rising anti-Muslim sentiment in the country.

In August, a gunman attacked a mosque ‘inspired’ by the New Zealand and El Paso anti-Muslim attacks. Two bystanders stopped the would-be gunman opening fire on worshippers in the city of Baerum.

The populist Right Wing Party (Fremskrittspartiet, FrP) entered parliament in alliance with the Conservative Party for the first time in 2013. The FrP was established in 1987 on an anti-Muslim and anti-immigration platform.

What Norwegian Prime Minister says

In August this year, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg had moved forward with plans to tackle expressions of hatred against Muslims in Norway.

Four of her government ministers launched the plan, just weeks after a young Norwegian man attacked a mosque and murdered his adopted Chinese sister after becoming a white supremacist.

“We already have a string of surveys that show there’s hostility towards Muslims in Norway, and that there’s a need for a plan to address that,” said Culture Minister Trine Skei Grande of the Liberal Party when unveiling the new plan in August this year. Ministers from all four government parties, including the anti-immigration Progress Party, took part in the formal presentation of the anti-hate plan.

The Norwegian government already has plans for tackling racism and discrimination in general, along with anti-Semitism. Grande will now be in charge of the new plan that mostly aims to make Muslims feel safe and accepted in Norway. Several other ministries will also be involved, including those in charge of justice, education and foreign aid.

Survey shows anti-Muslim sentiments

A report from Oslo’s Holocaust Centre in 2017 showed that negative stereotypes about Muslims are alarmingly widespread in Norway. Some 39 per cent of those questioned said they believed Muslims pose a threat to Norwegian culture.

Another 31 per cent agreed with a statement that Muslims “want to take over Europe,” while 48 per cent supported the claims that “Muslims have much of the blame themselves for the rising hatred towards them.”

- With inputs by agencies