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The recent Quran burning by anti-Islam activists sparked a debate on the line between religious hatred and free speech and sent shockwaves through Norway’s growing Islamic community.
Following the uproar created by the recent attempt to set fire to Islam’s central scripture, three Muslim organisations will distribute free copies of the Quran to Norwegians in an attempt to prevent future instances of Quran burning.
The Norwegian Muslim Arts and Culture Association, the Islamic Literature Association and the Minhaj-ul-Quran Mosque in Oslo intend to distribute a total of 10,000 copies of the Quran at several stands in the Norwegian capital and possibly Bergen, Norway’s second-largest city, sometimes seen as the nation’s cultural capital, the newspaper Vårt Land reported.
The Quran distribution will be funded by the three organisations, as well as donations by private individuals. The action is intended as a response to the burning of the Quran by the organisation Stop Islamisation of Norway (SIAN) during a demonstration in Kristiansand over two weeks ago.
“I believe many people are curious about what the Quran contains and what Muslims stand for. We hope this project can help demystify the Quran’s content,” Hamza Ansari, board member of the Norwegian-Pakistani Minhaj-ul-Quran mosque in Oslo, told Vårt land.
According to the Islamic Literature Association, the Quran teaches how to “show love and spread knowledge”, which is why is it seen as an effective vehicle against “hate and racism”.
Incidentally, a similar idea was set forth by former Labour Culture Minister Hadia Tajik, the first Muslim to serve in the Norwegian government. In 2014, at the height of Daesh’s so-called “caliphate”, she proposed giving Muslim youth the Quran before the extremists got to them.
The Quran burning in Kristiansand, which resulted in violent clashes and arrests, sparked a heated debate in Norway concerning the border between free speech and religious hatred.
While some argued that such actions were destructive, drawing historic parallels with the 1938 Kristallnacht, when Nazis carried out massive pogroms against Jews, others, including Justice Minister Jøran Kallmyr, insisted that Quran burning was indeed covered by the freedom of speech and suggested that police overstepped their powers as it interfered to stop the fire.
Meanwhile, the Quran burning has sent ripples across the Muslim world, with Turkey, Pakistan and Iran issuing their formal condemnations. Additionally, the Norwegian flag was torched during a demonstration in Karachi, while calls to boycott and ostracise Norway were made on social media.
SIAN, an organisation set up in the early 2000s to stop the spread of Islam, pledged reruns of the Quran burning, which stressing that they would have preferred a debate.
Muslims currently make up about 5.7 percent of Norway’s population due to mass immigration of the recent decades.
In 2013, Norway’s first complete Quran translation was accomplished. According to Aqil Qadir of the Norwegian-Muslim Arts and Culture Association, it contains explanations based on the modern world in a “unique interpretive style”.