OSLO, Norway – The founder of suspected terror group Ansar al-Islam, normally cool under pressure, lost his temper when a female Muslim comedian jokingly lifted him off the ground before an audience.
Mullah Krekar (search), the former leader of a fundamentalist Islamic group of Kurds in northern Iraq, was participating in a debate over his new biography Tuesday evening.
Krekar, a refugee in Norway since 1991, has become the country's highest profile Muslim after his repeated arrests, court cases, television appearances and his new book "My Own Words."
Comedian and women's rights activist Shabana Rehman (search) — a well-known Muslim here as well — was in the audience for the debate and talked Krekar into allowing her to perform what she called a little test to see if he was a fundamentalist.
Pakistan-born Rehman walked onto the stage, grabbed the mullah around the hips, and lifted him up.
"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. I can't accept this," the Oslo newspaper Aftenposten quoted Krekar as saying.
The mullah threatened a lawsuit, and demanded that all the photographers in the hall erase any pictures of him being lifted. But the images were broadcast on television and published in newspapers.
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."
Ansar al-Islam (search) is suspected by the United States of links to the Al Qaeda network and for involvement in suicide bombings targeting U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq.