BERLIN – The Norwegian Royal Palace reportedly has dropped controversial plans to present a prestigious award to a converted Muslim who is accused of anti-Semitism.
The decision to withdraw the honor for Trond Ali Linstad was announced Tuesday after Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang canceled his participation in the award ceremony.
Linstad, 69, is a former communist activist who converted to Islam and has published texts warning of Jewish influence on media and lobbying.
Norway’s Royal Medal of Merit (Silver) recognizes service in the fields of art, science and industry and outstanding public service.
Linstad – who is the founder and leader of Urtehagen, the Islamic foundation that operates kindergartens and educational programs for women – was slated to receive the award for his work in the field of immigrant education.
Stang was scheduled to present a medal to Linstad on behalf of King Harald.
“I usually award the king’s service medals with pleasure, but in this case I evaluated it as problematic,” Stang is quoted as telling the Norwegian daily Aftenposten this week.
The royal family’s original decision to recognize Linstad had unleashed a storm of US, Israeli and Norwegian outrage.
The Anti-Defamation League issued a strong condemnation of the planned award and sent a letter to Wegger Strømmen, the Norwegian Ambassador to the US, calling on Norway to rescind it. According to the ADL, Linstad “has openly espoused various anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and has defended violence against Israel as a legitimate and ‘great success.”’ This involves his support of the use of a recognized jihadist term for violence against Jews in the context of anti-Israel actions, the ADL said, and the term has appeared on his blog.
Indeed, an op-ed published under Linstad’s name on the website Koranen.no warned readers to be “critical of the Jews in the world” who have “influence in newspapers and other media, in many political organs” and “networks.”
The leading Israeli expert on Norwegian anti-Semitism, Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, has argued that Norway is not taking the business of fighting modern anti-Semitism seriously. He told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday, “This is not the first time King Harald is involved in scandals. Watching Norway’s authorities and cultural elite for a number of years I conclude that one can expect from them the vilest manifestations of direct and indirect hatred.”
“In 2010 the Norwegian embassy in Damascus even financed an exhibition there of anti-Israel hate paintings by the Norwegian painter Hakon Gullvag,” Gerstenfeld said, adding that"anti- Semitic cartoons have been published regularly over the past decades in the mainstream Norwegian media.
One such cartoon, by Finn Graff, depicted former prime minister Ehud Olmert as a sadistic Nazi camp commander.
In March 2007, Graf was knighted by the king in the prestigious royal order for his contribution as an artist, and his drawings were declared an inspiration for all who draw and illustrate."
Meanwhile, the TV2 Norwegian station reported that the Royal Palace said it was holding off on plans to award the medal “indefinitely.”
The event, planned and organized by officials from the Norwegian Royal Palace, was scheduled to take place at the National Theater in Oslo on Tuesday, but the theater’s management canceled for “security reasons.”
The Norwegian Broadcasting Corp. later reported that Linstad was poised to receive the medal later in the afternoon at an impromptu event set up as an alternative to the National Theater ceremony, but it was canceled, too, following a discussion involving palace officials and Linstad.
JTA contributed to this story.