The trouble started after Arfan Qadir Bhatti, a suspected terrorist, approached Dagbladet, after discovering a link to the offending cartoon on the PST’s (Police Security Service) Facebook group. PST removed comments by the most aggressive debaters, including Bhatti’s.

When the paper broke the story on 03 February, Bhatti – an active participant in the debate in the group – claims he was censored, whilst profane comments directed against several groups were allowed to stay.

Dagbladet chose to print the drawing on its front page to illustrate its grossness. Lars Helle, the paper’s acting Editor in Chief, refused to apologise, despite the upset it caused.

Yesterday, Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, the Centre Party’s (Sp) Parliamentary leader, told NTB he believes Dagbladet has allowed itself to be used by individuals who just want to stir up trouble. Helle denies this.


Eight newspaper editors NRK asked criticised Dagbladet’s decision to reproduce the cartoon.

“When we see how some Muslims react to this type of drawing, one should at least think twice before plastering this all over the front page,” says Tom Hetland, Editor in Chief of Stavanger Aftenblad.

Aftenbladet has previously published Kurt Westergaard’s Prophet Mohammed caricatures.

Arne Strand, Dagsavisen’s acting Editor in Chief, defends Dagbladet, however.

“An editor can’t think about whether it’s wise or not; he/she should always consider what’s right, journalistically. In this case, it was.”


Though no details have been given about today’s protest, police and demonstrators are holding their cards close to their chest. Muslim organisations and the police are concerned things could turn ugly.

“I’m worried about which direction it could take. Even though people say it will be peaceful, I’m anxious about the risk it will go wrong,” Shaoaib Sultan, secretary general of Islamisk Råd (IRN) told Aftenposten.

Calls to attend have also been published on Bhatti’s Facebook group. This has made Johan Fredriksen, chief of staff for the Oslo police, anxious. According to VG, Bhatti hasn’t taken responsibility for the arrangement, but has appointed himself as administrator for the arrangement.

Calls for peace

But Bhatti says he only wants a peaceful march.

“I’m not behind the demonstration. As a Muslim, I’m also extremely upset by the caricatures; they mock Islam and Muslims. I’m duty-bound to defend our dear Prophet Mohammed’s honour. But Muslims will only benefit by a peaceful demonstration, and we’re going to prove it,” he tells VG.

IRN, an umbrella organisation for the Islamic religious community and organisations in Norway, has recommended Muslims to stay away from today’s demonstration, for fears that it may become violent.

“It is our opinion that the current demonstrations can be easily exploited by unruly forces for their own purposes, and thus will not be beneficial for either Muslims or society at large,” it writes in a press release.

The organisation encourages Norway’s Muslims to show their support for the Prophet Mohammed by being good ambassadors for Islam, and protesting using other, peaceful means.

"Up to Allah"

Meanwhile, Mohyeldeen Mohammed, spokesman for a group of young Muslims called “The Volunteers”, says peace is up to Allah.

“The crusade is about the war on Islam, Norwegian soldiers in Afghanistan, and the mockery of our prophet. It’s also a demonstration against Dagbladet, all those who have printed and supported printing the caricatures.

“It’s also a protest against the authorities who allow it to happen. I can try my best, but it’s up to Allah to decide if it will be peaceful,” he tells NRK.

Dagbladet’s Internet site was brought down by Turkish hackers in a targeted Denial of Service (DDOS) attack on Wednesday evening, and says it will be asking the police to prosecute those responsible.

"We carried out the attack because Dagbladet didn't respect our values, history, or the Prophet Mohammed," they told the Turkish newspaper Beyazgazete News.