LAHORE: Activists of Islami Jamiat-i-Talba on Saturday protest outside the press club against the desecration of the Holy Quran in Norway.—Online
LAHORE: Activists of Islami Jamiat-i-Talba on Saturday protest outside the press club against the desecration of the Holy Quran in Norway.—Online

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has lodged a protest with Nor­way over desecration of the Holy Quran in the Nor­wegian city of Kristiansand.

Norwegian Ambassador Kjell-Gunnar Eriksen was summoned to the Foreign Office and conveyed “deep concern of the government and people of Pakistan” over the incident.

Lars Thorsen, a leader of an anti-Islam group, set fire to a copy of the Quran the other day, while another leader of the far-right group Arne Tumyr desecrated two other copies of the holy book by throwing them into a trash bin during a demonstration organised by their organisation.

The rally had been approved by local authorities with the condition that the holy book would not be desecrated as announced by its organisers.

The police, however, intervened after a Muslim young man forcibly tried to stop Thorsen.

The FO said in a statement on Saturday that the Norwegian envoy was told that “such actions hurt the sentiments of 1.3 billion Muslims around the world, including those in Pakistan”. It was underscored that incidents like the one that happened in Kristiansand could not be justified in the name of freedom of expression.

It said the Norwegian government was urged to bring those responsible to justice and take measures to prevent the recurrence of any such incident in the future.

Ambassador Eriksen, meanwhile, tweeted that Norwegian government “disapproves” the act of the Quran burning in the right-wing demonstration. He said that the police stopped the demonstration “for security reasons”.

He insisted that in Norway “everyone has the right to free speech and to practice their religion without being harassed”.

Pakistan’s ambassador in Oslo Zaheer Parvez Khan has been directed to lodge Pakistan’s protest with the Norwegian foreign ministry.

Minister for Religious Af­fairs and Interfaith Harmony Noorul Haq Qadri, meanwhile, in a separate statement criticised the incident and said that allowing such acts in the name of freedom of expression is condemnable.

Military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor also took to Twitter to condemn the incident. In a tweet posted on his private account, he said, such “provocations only promote hatred & extremism”.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2019