Last week, a young Muslim counter-protester tackled Lars Thorsen, the head of the Stop Islamization of Norway (SIAN), after he set a copy of the Koran on fire at an anti-Muslim rally in the city of Kristiansand. The video of the incident caused a strong reaction in Pakistan, where the man reportedly named Ilyas Umer was hailed as hero on social media for trying to “save” the most-revered book in Islam.
The nation’s Foreign Ministry even summoned the Norwegian Ambassador over the weekend to tell him that Thorsen’s actions “hurt the sentiments of 1.3 billion Muslims around the world, including those in Pakistan.”
The Ministry said that Koran-burning “could not be justified in the name of freedom of expression,” and urged Oslo to “prevent” such incidents from happening in the future.
An online petition was launched, calling on the police to release the man, dubbed “Ilyas the Koran Defender.”
The army’s spokesperson Asif Ghafoor also took to his personal Twitter account praise him for trying to stop Thorsen. “Salute to brave #Ilyas for displaying courage to stop an absolutely deplorable action,” he wrote.
Salute to brave #Ilyas for displaying courage to stop an absolutely deplorable action. Such Islamophobia based provocations only promote hatred & extremism. All religions are and must stay respectable. Islamophbia is threat to global peace and harmony.#TheGloriousQuran#Norway pic.twitter.com/CRahq5mazf
— Asif Ghafoor (@peaceforchange) November 22, 2019
Meanwhile, protesters burnt Norwegian and US flags in Karachi, denouncing what they said was the desecration of the Koran.
Anti-Muslim actions overseas have in the past sparked demonstrations in Pakistan. In 2010, rallies were held in Pakistani cities after controversial Florida-based pastor Terry Jones announced plans to burn the Koran. Two years later, a massive protest was staged in front of the US embassy in Karachi against the American film ‘Innocence of Muslims’, which was deemed blasphemous by the local Muslim community.