Following criticism from the Turkish Foreign Ministry over Quran-burning in Oslo this past weekend, the right-libertarian Progress Party’s long-time leader Siv Jensen said Norway won’t tolerate “totalitarian” forces or other states attempting to restrict the freedom of expression enshrined in her country’s constitution.
Turkey’s condemnation of the Quran’s desecration by the organisation Stop Islamisation of Norway (SIAN) has stirred a strong reaction from the Norwegian Progress Party.
The Turkish Embassy said on its Facebook page that it expects the Norwegian authorities to take the necessary measures and precautions to ensure that this type of action does not happen again.
Siv Jensen retorted by stressing that the freedom of expression is enshrined in the Norwegian constitution and that the she expects the government to pass the message to the Turkish authorities.
“We will not allow totalitarian forces or other states to restrict the constitutional freedom of expression we have in Norway. Let me state that it is perfectly legal to burn the Quran in Norway. It should still be,” Jensen told the newspaper Dagsavisen. “I distance myself from burning the Quran, in the same way I distance myself from burning the Norwegian flag or the Bible. It is still something we must endure in our society, because it is part of freedom of expression,” the Progress Party leader added, stressing that her party is also distancing from SIAN.
On Saturday, SIAN’s Fanny Bråten, who has previously been charged and acquitted of hate speech, announced during a public gathering that she is about to “desecrate” the Quran. She then proceeded to tear a Quran to pieces, spit on its pages and call the Prophet Muhammad a “paedophile and a warmonger”, sparking Muslim riots. Following the debacle, the police arrested 29 people, several of whom were minors. The Norwegian protest trailed a similar incident in the Swedish city of Malmö, where riots broke out after members of the Danish anti-Islamic Hard Line party burned a copy of the Quran.
At an anti-Islam protest in Oslo, Norway, a protester tears pages out of the Quran and spits on them pic.twitter.com/hlRPbso2fG
— TRT World (@trtworld) August 30, 2020
SIAN’s demonstration was condemned by Culture Minister Abid Raja, a practising Muslim, who called for a boycott of the organisation, stressing that counter-demonstrations empower it even more.
Stop Islamisation of Norway (SIAN) dates back to the early 2000s. As an organisation, it works to counter the proliferation of Islam, which it views as a totalitarian political ideology that violates the Norwegian constitution as well as the country’s democratic and humanitarian values. Its actions often feature protests, awareness-raising campaigns and not least, Quran-burnings, which it sees as a celebration of free speech, very much like the Danish party Hard Line.
Flere vandaliserer nå politibiler, mens andre motdemonstranter forsøker å stoppe dem. pic.twitter.com/KyNpLfmKWY
— Filter Nyheter (@FilterNyheter) August 29, 2020
The Progress Party is a right-libertarian political party, whose values are centred around civil liberties, individualism and limited government. It ranks among Norway’s largest parties and used to be a partner of the right-of-the-centre “blue bloc” government coalition between 2013 to 2020, when it withdrew, citing “irreconcilable differences”.