A Somali citizen residing in Norway who set fire to the Dombås Church and the Sel Church in February 2020 has admitted his guilt in court, claiming he was upset over a Quran burning that, according to him, went unpunished.
The man is in his 20s and resident in Nord-Gudbrandsdalen, where both churches are located. He arrived in Norway in 2015 and first lived in an asylum shelter until receiving a residence permit. So far, he has not had a job in Norway, but has had several internships across the municipality.
By his own admission, he took action after he saw members of the anti-Islamic organisation Stop the Islamisation of Norway (SIAN) burn the Quran in the city of Kristiansand in the autumn of 2019.
"I got angry. The Quran means everything to us", the accused said, as quoted by national broadcaster NRK.
The man said that he had lived in Dombås for a long time and had never before thought of doing something stupid. "On the contrary, I am grateful for how they have received me at Dombås", he said. "But I started to check, and found out that the person who had set fire to the Koran, had not been punished. Then I got angry. I am a Muslim. I do not like anyone trampling on my religion, because I respect the religion of others".
The man further explained that he bought a flammable liquid and matches and took action the same night. According to him, he broke a church window and threw the liquid inside followed by burning matches. The fire started inside the church, but soon spread to the spire, causing damages to the tune of NOK 20 million ($2.2 million).
Dombås kirke. pic.twitter.com/OcygiBJSNz— Politiet i Innlandet (@politiinnlandet) February 20, 2020
"It's not a pleasant sight. You still see things you have cared for for decades, and now they are gone", church caretaker Ola Rindal said.
In the witness box, the arsonist said that he has received a lesson.
"I am very sorry, and I regret it. I should have responded to the burning of the Quran verbally, and not with action", he said, assuring it was not his intention to harm Norwegian citizens.
The arsonist is now facing 15 years in jail, but, according to NRK, there are indications that the sentence will be somewhat lower.
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I KVELD: Dombås kirke ble påtent og ødelagt natt til 20. februar. En måned senere ble Sel kirke forsøkt påtent. Nå er en mann pågrepet for brannstiftelsen. I Åsted Norge får du se politets jakt etter spor på Dombås. I tillegg trenger politiet din hjelp til å få stanset en ny gruppering som har spesialisert seg på pin-snapping. Følg med på TV 2 fra kl. 21.40 i kveld.
In late 2019, Stop the Islamisation of Norway (SIAN), a Norwegian anti-Islamic organisation, set fire to the Quran during a demonstration that ended in a street brawl, despite the presence of a dozen policemen. The event triggered strong reactions among Norway's Muslims and cast a ripple across the entire Muslim world, sparking anti-Norwegian protests.
Quran burnings are a go-to method of ethno-nationalist Danish Party Hard Line, whose leader Rasmus Paludan celebrates it as a token of free speech.