Police ban planned Quran burning protest in Norway

Oslo police Inspector Martin Strand says demonstration in Norwegian capital ‘can’t go ahead due to security concerns’.

Protesters hold copies of the Koran and shout slogans as they demonstrate in front of the Consulate General of Sweden
Muslims have been angered by demonstrations in which the Quran has been burned [File: Umit Bektas/Reuters]

Police in Norway have banned a planned protest including the burning of a copy of the Islamic holy book, the Quran, hours 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 incident follows a 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.

Turkey denounced Sweden for the Quran burning, as well as for a separate demonstration by Kurdish activists supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group that has waged an uprising against the Turkish state since 1984 and that Turkey, the European Union and the United States have designated a “terrorist” group.

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

Sweden and Finland had made progress towards an agreement with Turkey on the Nordic countries’ admission to the military alliance, but disagreements have cast doubt over the process.

Stockholm on Thursday said it would tighten laws covering membership of “terrorist” organisations months after an agreement with Turkey on fighting “terrorism”, which was aimed at overcoming its objections to Swedish NATO membership.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Ankara’s position on Finland was “positive”, but it was “not positive” on Sweden.

Swedish foreign minister Tobias Billstrom responded by saying that his country would not compromise on freedom of expression, which was not part of the stipulated pact.

The Nordic countries submitted applications to join NATO on May 18, overturning their decades-long policies of non-alignment.

Norway is a founding member of the NATO alliance, which has 30 members and was created in 1949. In order for a country to join the NATO alliance, unanimous approval of all members is required.

Separately on Thursday, Turkey summoned the ambassadors and top envoys of nine countries to condemn the closures of several European consulates in Istanbul due to security concerns.

The United States and several European powers have advised citizens not to attend mass events and avoid tourist hotspots in central Istanbul because of a heightened terror threat.

At least seven European countries have closed their Istanbul consulates to the general public as a precaution. The US consulate, which is not located in the city centre, remains open.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies