Far-Right politician barred from UK after threatening to ‘burn the Koran’ in Wakefield

·4 min read
Rasmus Paludan - Fredrik Sandberg/TT News Agency/AFP
Rasmus Paludan - Fredrik Sandberg/TT News Agency/AFP

A far-Right politician planning to burn a copy of the Koran during a visit to Wakefield will “not be allowed access” into the UK, the security minister has said.

Tom Tugendhat said Danish-Swedish Rasmus Paludan, the leader of the Stram Kurs (Hard Line) party, founded in 2017, has been added to the “warnings index” and will be barred from entering the country.

Mr Paludan has become known for holding events where he burns copies of the Koran, some of which have led to violent counter-protests.

However, in his latest stunt, he published a video on Twitter announcing that he is planning to burn a copy of the Islamic holy book in Wakefield, West Yorkshire this week to coincide with Ramadan. He claims he is doing this to ensure “undemocratic forces” in the city “understand and respect democracy”.

His post comes in response to a 14-year-old autistic schoolboy receiving death threats earlier this month after a copy of the Koran was dropped, causing a small tear on the cover and scuffing to some pages at Kettlethorpe High School, Wakefield.

However, speaking in the Commons during Home Office questions, the Labour MP Simon Lightwood (Wakefield) raised concerns over the potential visit and protest.

He said: “Far-right Islamophobic Danish politician Rasmus Paludan said he is going to travel from Denmark to Wakefield for the sole purpose of burning a Koran in a public place.

“Mr Paludan was previously jailed in Denmark for his hateful and racist statements. He is a dangerous man that should not be allowed into this country. Can the Home Secretary assure me and my community that the Government is taking action to prevent this?”

Mr Tugendhat replied: “May I inform the House that Mr Paludan has been added to the warnings index and therefore his travel to the United Kingdom would not be conducive with the public good and he will not be allowed access.”

The intervention comes after the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) criticised Mr Paludan’s “wanton act of incitement” and said it will be writing to the Home Office to “express our deep concern over the possible granting of entry into the UK of the likes of Mr Paludan”. It is also engaging with local stakeholders in Wakefield “to ensure communities remain protected at this time”.

Timed for Ramadan

Mr Paludan said he would “burn a Koran in a public square” and added that “whenever you try to humble us, whenever you try to humiliate us, we will fight back.”

Ramadan, which this year begins on Wednesday 22 March and ends on Friday 21 April, is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar during which Muslims worldwide observe fasting, prayer and reflection.

Police were called to investigate the incident at Kettlethorpe High School and said no crime had been committed. It is not clear who dropped the holy book or how it was damaged.

Muslims are taught to handle the Koran with respect and care and in some cases many wash their hands before touching it.

In the wake of the incident, The Telegraph revealed that Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, will launch a crackdown on police needlessly recording non-crime hate incidents.

This newspaper also then revealed that an imam involved in the row over a damaged Koran spoke about punishing Muslims for celebrating Christmas.

Mr Paludan, a dual Swedish and Danish national, has a criminal record. In 2020 he was incarcerated for a month for a number of offences including racism, which he appealed, and in 2021, he was found guilty of racism and defamation, and later had his sentence changed to a suspended sentence. All of these convictions took place in Denmark.

It was reported earlier this month that Sweden had launched an investigation into the far-Right politician for his Koran-burning provocations.

Most recently, he burned a copy of the Koran outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm on January 21 with police protection and permission from Swedish authorities.

An MCB spokesman added: “Our Britain is a multicultural one; one in which diversity is our strength, and celebrated. We strive for a society where even fundamental differences in opinion are approached with empathy and respect for one another’s beliefs and cultures.

“Freedom of speech is a basic human right. However, it comes with responsibility. Rasmus Paludan’s recent burning of the Koran was a wanton act of incitement, which sparked a firestorm of Islamophobic hate. The fallout, at both national and at a diplomatic level, has impacted Sweden’s standing internationally.

West Yorkshire Police (WYP) was contacted for comment.