Norway leader blasted for Islam attack

Anti-Muslim remarks by a far-right Norwegian political leader have sparked an unprecedented furore in Norway and a sharp reproof from envoys from Muslim countries.

    Muslims say Islam does not promote 'terrorism'

    Diplomats from Indonesia, Egypt, Pakistan, Morocco and

    Tunisia said in a joint letter to the daily Aftenposten on Monday that

    opposition Progress Party leader Carl Hagen had

    insulted 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide.

    Hagen, addressing a Christian congregation in Bergen,

    western Norway, earlier this month, used words widely taken

    to refer to the use of "

    suicide" bombers.

    "We Christians are very concerned about the children.

    'Let the children come to me,' Jesus said.

    "I cannot understand that Muhammad said the same. In

    that case, it had to have been: 'Let the children come to

    me so that I can abuse them in my fight for Islamisation of

    the world.'"

    'Harsh langauge'

    Hagen added that Israel should be defended

    to help prevent the spread of "terrorism".

    But in the letter published in Aftenposten, the diplomats

    said Hagen

    had "violated the principles of tolerance,

    understanding and cultural freedom that form the bedrock of

    Norwegian society".

    "My message is that Muslim fundamentalists are behind

    most of the terrorism in the world"

    Carl Hagen,
    Norweigan politician

    They wrote that they found it difficult to find any justification for his harsh language, and labelled his remarks as "inappropriate

    for a politician in his position."

    Islamic scholars have often rejected accusations that Islam promotes

    terrorism, although many argue that human bombings in Israel are justified as a last resort against overwhelming miltary odds.

    Following the letter's publication, populist Hagen, who has in the past rejected

    comparisons to European far-right hardliners

    , was

    unrepentant, saying he had been speaking about Muslim "

    fundamentalists" and "terrorists" - not about Muslims in

    general.

    Public debate

    "My message is that Muslim fundamentalists are behind

    most of the terrorism in the world," Hagen said on Monday,

    adding he was "surprised and partly shocked" by the

    reaction from the envoys.

    "(The diplomats) are making themselves speakers on

    behalf of a religion... that is not their

    job," Hagen said.

    "Ambassadors represent states,

    not a religion."

    "[Hagen has] violated the principles of tolerance,

    understanding and cultural freedom that form the bedrock of

    Norwegian society"

    Letter from Muslim diplomats in Norway

    Hagen's speech has sparked wide public debate in Norway

    over freedom of speech versus cultural and religious

    tolerance in a country that is still largely homogeneous

    after only a few decades of immigration.

    "The debate has moved to morals," said Aftenposten in

    an editorial on Monday. "That is a highly legitimate issue,

    which needs to be discussed also in Norway."

    Diplomats in Lutheran Norway seldom get involved in

    domestic affairs, and even more rarely do they jointly

    speak their views.

    The anti-immigration Progress Party is the third

    biggest party in Norway's parliament and often tops

    political opinion polls.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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