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National

Minister cancels appearance at anti-radicalism conference

Integration minister says she will not share stage with a controversial Muslim scholar that helped create Pakistan's anti-blasphemy laws




September 6, 2012
13:37

by Peter Stanners


The minister for integration and social affairs, Karen Hækkerup (Socialdemokraterne), has pulled out of a conference on religious radicalism next week after she discovered that one of the speakers helped fashion Pakistan’s highly controversial anti-blasphemy laws.

The conference’s organisers, the Danish Ethnic Youth Council, had invited the scholar Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, leader of the Muslim organisation Minhaj-ul-Quran, to speak on tackling religious radicalisation. The head of the domestic intelligence agency PET, Jakob Scharf, was also invited.

While ul-Qadri is best known for declaring a fatwa, or religious ruling, against terrorism, he also worked as a legal adviser to the Pakistani government in the shaping of anti-blasphemy laws that were recently used to arrest a mentally-challenged girl for allegedly burning the Koran.

This morning, Hækkerup announced that had she would not have agreed to speak at the Conference for Political and Religious Radicalism, which is being held at Copenhagen Business School on September 11, if she had known that ul-Qadri was also planning on attending.

“I am very angry at being connected with something that is so contrary to my views,” Hækkerup told Ritzau. “Politically, I see no reason to take part in the debate. I think it is deplorable that he is coming.”

On the conference's event page, the Danish Ethnic Youth Council confirmed that Hækkerup had cancelled.

Jaleh Tavakoli, a blogger for Jyllands-Posten newspaper and member of City Council, wrote on Sunday that the only reason that ul-Qadri would be a partner in the fight against religious radicalism, is his 2010 fatwa against terrorism.

“The leader of Minhaj-ul-Quran, who is expected to speak at the conference in Copenhagen, is a proponent of, and has actively participated in, the process of Islamisation that lead to the type of legislation that the girl is being charged under,” Tavakoli wrote. “Simply put, he has been a legal adviser in connection with [Pakistan's] establishing of Sharia law and blasphemy laws which could mean death for many Christians, atheists and Muslims.”

Ul-Qadri is on a six-day tour of Denmark that includes speaking at the European Peace Conference at Tivoli Congress Center on Sunday. He was nominated for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize and has taken a prominent stance against the use of the Koran to justify terrorism.