Cleric mocked by comedian scuffles with photographer

Ex-leader of Muslim group may be charged in Norway

May 01, 2004|By ASSOCAITED PRESS

OSLO, Norway - The founder of the militant Islamic group Ansar al-Islam lost his temper in public for a second time this week, angrily wrenching a camera from a journalist yesterday.

Mullah Krekar, the former leader of the group based in northern Iraq, was on his way into a police station to file an assault complaint against a female comedian who on Tuesday lifted him into the air and mocked him in front of cameras.

Instead, he could be the one facing assault charges.

Krekar, a refugee in Norway since 1991, erupted into a rage when a journalist took his picture outside the station. He ripped the camera from the reporter's hand and took it with him into the station.

Joergen Berge, the photographer, said Krekar's brother had to grab the mullah to restrain him, and he got his camera back only after the ensuing argument in the station became so loud that police asked them to leave.

Berge, who works for the TV-2 Nettavisen Internet news site, called the incident "very unpleasant."

TV-2 Nettavisen editor Gunnar Stavrum said that assault charges were being considered.

"What I saw shows Mullah Krekar physically attacking our reporter, and acting threatening," he said.

Krekar's attorney, Brynjar Meling, declined to comment when contacted by telephone, saying he did not have time to talk before hanging up.

Krekar left the police station without filing an assault complaint against comedian and women's rights activist Shabana Rehman, who often uses her childhood religion, Islam, in her acts.

Krekar, who has lived in Norway since 1991, has become the country's highest-profile Muslim after repeated arrests, court cases, television appearances and now his book, My Own Words.

The group he founded, Ansar al-Islam, is suspected by the United States of links to al-Qaida.

Rehman was in the audience for a debate about Krekar's new book and talked the mullah into allowing her to perform what she called a little test to see if he was a fundamentalist.

Pakistani-born Rehman walked onto the stage, grabbed Krekar around the hips and lifted him up - a stunt she has performed often with other people.

"A man who can be carried by a woman can't be a fundamentalist," Rehman said to howls of laughter.

Krekar, who comes across as calm and tolerant in public appearances, exploded with rage and grabbed the microphone.

"She does not have the right to touch me. She is showing contempt for me," the Oslo newspaper Aftenposten quoted Krekar as saying.

Rehman said the point was to see his reaction.

"If he is as tolerant and relaxed as he presents himself, he didn't need to react so strongly," she told the newspaper. "One who is not a fanatic would have gone along with such a joke."

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