Norway bans Quran burning protest after official Turkish complaint

The Holy Quran

Police in Norway have banned a planned Quran burning protest after the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the Norwegian ambassador to complain.

A group of protesters planned to burn a copy of the Quran outside the Turkish embassy in Oslo on Friday, police said.

“The police emphasise that burning the Quran is a legal political statement in Norway, but this event can’t go ahead due to security concerns,” Oslo police Inspector Martin Strand said in a statement on Thursday.

The move came after Turkey’s foreign ministry summoned Norway’s Ambassador Erling Skjonsberg over the planned protest.

“Upon learning that there will be an attack against our holy book, the Quran, in Norway tomorrow, the Norwegian ambassador to Turkiye [Turkey] has just been summoned to our ministry,” a Turkish diplomatic source told Anadolu Agency earlier on Thursday.

“[Norway’s] approach not to prevent the planned provocative act, which is clearly a hate crime … is unacceptable and we expect this act not to be allowed,” the source added.

The follows a Quran burning protest in Sweden’s capital last month near the Turkish embassy, where far-right Danish-Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan burned a copy of the Quran. A similar Quran burning took place in Denmark shortly afterwards.

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Following the protests, Turkey cancelled a visit by Sweden’s defence minister aimed at overcoming Ankara’s objections to its NATO membership.

In 2020 former Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg defended the right of people to desecrate the Quran in the name of freedom of speech.

Solberg was speaking after an anti-Islam rally took place near parliament in Oslo where pages were torn out of the Quran.

She distanced herself from any anti-Islam views but said others had the right to express them.

The rally was staged by the group Stop Islamisation of Norway. A female member of the group was seen ripping out pages from the Quran and spitting on them.

Solberg told news agency NTB that she was “very worried that freedom of speech, which we strongly defend in Norway, may be experienced differently in other countries, or that it may be perceived that we do not care about the views that SIAN has, because we do.”

“I strongly dissociate myself from everything they (SIAN) stand for,” she said. “I think it’s hurtful to hear how they talk about people living in this country, talk about the faith of people living in this country.”

Free expression is a widely accepted and popular idea in Norway and has been since censorship was abolished in 1770. Norway always ranks near the top of the charts regarding freedom of expression according to the World Press Freedom Index.

Islam is the second largest religion in Norway after Christianity. As of 2019, Statistics Norway records that 175,507 Muslims were living in Norway or 3.29% of total population.

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