Political backlash after anti-radicalism conference

Political opponents claim the social and integration minister lied when she claimed she didn’t know she would be sharing a platform with a controversial Muslim scholar

Immigration minister Karen Hækkerup cancelled her appearance at a recent conference about radicalism after she was made aware that one of the other speakers was a controversial Muslim scholar.

Opposition party Venstre does not buy her story, however, and is accusing the minister of knowing all along that she would be sharing a platform with Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, founder of the Islamic organisation Minhaj-ul-Quran.

“It’s a lie,” Venstre’s immigration spokesperson, Inger Støjberg, told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “As a minister she has to take responsibility for details in the procedure. We should not put up with a minister that lies.”

Ul-Qadri is a controversial figure who, on the one hand, received international recognition for denouncing the use of terrorism by Muslims, but who is also thought to have played a central role in writing Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws.

The laws were used to frame a 13-year-old mentally challenged girl, who was eventually cleared after weeks of being held in jail for her own protection. While no one accused under the laws has suffered capital punishment, there are reports that several accused have later been murdered.

Hækkerup denies knowing that she was supposed to share the stage with ul-Qadri at the conference, which was organised by the Danish Ethnic Youth Council.

According to Jyllands-Posten, she accepted the invitation in May to speak alongside a “religious scholar”. It was not until July 25 that the social and immigration ministry was sent a full program for the conference that included ul-Qadri.

Hækkerup maintains, however, that she was unaware that ul-Qadri was a speaker until Jyllands-Posten approached her on September 5 for a comment about sharing a platform with him.

Ul-Qadri showed on her ministry’s radar in early August when his visa application revealed that the Danish Ethnic Youth Council had used the ministry’s logo in their invitation without permission.

And on September 3, a civil servant wrote to the council saying that, while Hækkerup wouldn’t be able to participate in the panel debate, a quote could be provided for the press release announcing the conference. Hækkerup’s quote was never provided, however.

According to Støjberg, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that Hækkerup lied.

“Firstly, she agreed to contribute to the press release and you wouldn’t do that unless you knew what you were contributing to. Secondly, there is the program and lastly there is evidence that the ministry handled his visa application.”

But according to the social and immigration ministry, the issue arose as a result of a processing error within the ministry.

“The program was never presented to the minister after it was received by the ministry,” a ministry spokesperson told Jyllands-Posten, adding that it was an error that the ministry did not properly investigate Ul-Qadri or Minhaj-ul-Quran.

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