Norway: Journalism conference complied with alcohol ban, claims Muslim org

Norway: Journalism conference complied with alcohol ban, claims Muslim org

So.. are they Islamophobes? 

Bhatti recently made headlines when he organized a 'Muhammad cartoon' protest.  He was arrested during Obama's visit to Oslo, and it was only recently revealed that the Norwegian security service feared he would use the opportunity to commit a terror attack.

Related stories:
* Tilburg: imam denies allegations
* Norway: First terrorism trial ends with acquittal


A Muslim organization claims they dictated an alcohol ban when Arfan Bhatti was supposed to talk about Islam to several hundred journalists.

In March Arfan Bhatti appeared in the journalists' SKUP (foundation for investigative journalism) conference , where he got to explain what he think of the media coverage about it.

There was a wide-ranging and strict security plan tied to Bhatti's participation in the conference, where about 500 journalists had the opportunity to watch the ''Late Night Show' led by NRK Anne Lindmo.

Bhatti's participation was kept secret until he came in the back door and appeared on the scene in Tønsberg.

Those who wanted to hear the former terrorist suspect Bhatti were told that the entrance inspections had been tightened and that therefore it wasn't possible to bring alcohol into the hall.

The panel included Arfan Bhatti, Dagbladet's John Olav Egeland and Qamar Ali from al-Hidayah.

"We had close cooperation with both the hotel management and the police and took the security measures we think were necessary.  Therefore this year's Late Night Show is a little different than it was before," Eirik Veum, responsible for the Late Night show in SKUP, wrote on the foundation's own website during the conference.

But one of the people who participated in the panel debate as spokesperson for the Muslim organization al-Hidayah, claims that it weren't security reasons that led to the alcohol ban in the hall.

"NRK went out of their way to ensure that we participated, to the extent that they ensured extra security, secrecy of the panel, and the presence of non-journalists in a closed seminar.  They went so far that they closed the bar in the hall, and nobody was allowed there with any type of drink, which was a result of a demand from our side, when it was said that we refused to talk about Islam to intoxicated people.  They went along with this, but never said this to the participants, the rest were only told that all drinks in the hall were banned due to 'security reasons'," Qamar Ali writes in a post on the site.

Qamar Ali says went out of their way to comply with Arfan Bhatti's wish.

In the post Qamar Ali claims that Bhatti "was open not only to come up with proposals, but to also control the entire panel, also who would sit there, what subject would be, what questions would be asked."

"This is just nonsense.  To have John Olav Egeland in the debate is evidence that Ali doesn't know what he's talking about," says Eirik Veum, who was responsible for the Late Night show.

The NRK journalist decisively denies that they were dictated to by Bhatti or al-Hidayah.

He admits however, that alcohol 'was a subject' in the talks about Bhattis' participation in the conference.

"It was a subject we discussed, but I want to deny that we were dictated an alcohol ban.  We wouldn't have given in to such a demand.  What's absolutely clear is that the alcohol ban was based on security considerations linked to a possible evacuation situation," Veum told

Veum  further says that before the conference the organizers spoke with representatives of the police and hotel, but that Qamar Ali's claims differ from his own account.

"Ali, who claims this, entered this process late, two days before the conference started.  And I didn't have any talks with Ali about an alcohol ban.  Many arguments were used, among them was Bhatti's notion that alcohol would be a disruptive element, that people wouldn't want to hear what he had to say," Veum told

Veum, who works for Dagsrevyen (NRK evening news), told that he doesn't understand the Qamar Ali's statements.

"We are surprised about the way they're arguing after the fact.  I don't understand at all where they get this from.  It's a useful lesson for next time," Veum says.

Source: TV 2 Nyhetene (Norwegian)

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