A wave of anger spread across Islamic nations around the world after an Iraqi in Sweden burned the Quran outside a mosque.
Leaders of Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other nations, expressing their displeasure, said such activities had the potential to spark and inflame Muslim sentiments around the world.
Under a heavy police presence, Salwan Momika, a 37-year-old who fled to Sweden several years ago, on Wednesday stomped on the Quran before setting several pages alight in front of Stockholm’s largest mosque.
Police in the Swedish capital had granted him a permit for the protest in line with free-speech protections, but said later they had opened an investigation into the man over “agitation”.
The incident occurred as Muslims around the world began marking the Eid al-Adha holiday and as the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia was drawing to a close.
Iraq condemned the Swedish authorities’ decision to grant an “extremist” permission to burn the Quran.
“These events inflame the feelings of Muslims around the world and represent a dangerous provocation for them,” the foreign ministry in Baghdad said.
Iraq’s influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr called for a demonstration outside the Swedish embassy in Baghdad to demand the removal of the ambassador, charging that his state is “hostile to Islam”.
Iran joined in the condemnation, calling the Quran burning “provocative, ill-considered and unacceptable”.
“The government and people of the Islamic Republic of Iran… do not tolerate such an insult and strongly condemn it,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanani.
“The Swedish government is expected to seriously consider the principle of responsibility and accountability in this regard, while preventing the repetition of insulting the holy sanctities,” he added.
Saudi Arabia, which hosted around 1.8 million Muslim pilgrims for the hajj that ended on Wednesday, also denounced the Quran burning.
“These hateful and repeated acts cannot be accepted with any justification,” the Saudi foreign ministry said.
‘Freedoms as a ploy’
Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, called the Quran burning a “disgraceful act provoking the feelings of Muslims” as they mark Eid.
The Cairo-based Arab League branded the Quran burning an “assault on the core of our Islamic faith”.
Kuwait called for perpetrators of such “hostile acts” to be brought to justice and “prevented from using the principle of freedoms as a ploy to justify hostility against Islam or any holy faith”.
The Quran burning was also condemned by the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council and by Morocco, which recalled its ambassador to Stockholm.
“This new offensive and irresponsible act disregards the feelings of more than a billion Muslims, at this sacred time of the great pilgrimage to Mecca and the blessed feast of Eid al-Adha,” the kingdom said.
“Faced with these repeated provocations, committed under the complacent gaze of the Swedish government”, Morocco summoned Sweden’s charge d’affaires in Rabat and recalled its ambassador, it added.
Syria’s government condemned the “disgraceful act” on one of the holiest days for Muslims “by an extremist with the permission and consent of the Swedish government”.
Lebanon’s powerful Iran-backed movement Hezbollah charged the Swedish authorities were “complicit in the crime”.
Hezbollah called on Sweden to put an end to such acts “rather than hiding behind freedom of speech”.
It urged religious authorities and Muslim and Arab nations to take “all the necessary steps” to compel Sweden and other countries to prevent the recurrence of such incidents and stop “the spread of a culture of hate”.
The Palestinian foreign ministry condemned what it said was a “flagrant attack on human rights, values of tolerance, acceptance of others, democracy and peaceful coexistence among followers of all religions”.
Further afield, Afghanistan’s Taliban government, which enforces a strict interpretation of the Quran and Islamic law, also reacted angrily, labelling the Quran burning an act of “utter contempt towards this noble religion”.
Turkish foreign minister Hakan Fidan called the Quran desecration “despicable”.
“It is unacceptable to allow these anti-Islamic actions under the pretext of freedom of expression,” Fidan wrote on Twitter.
“Turning a blind eye to such atrocious acts is to be complicit.”
In January, a Swedish-Danish right-wing extremist burned a copy of the Quran near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, also triggering outrage in the Muslim world.
The US state department condemned the burning of the Quran while also pressing Turkey to support Sweden’s NATO bid.
Jordan condemned the act, calling it “racist” and an “incitement,” while the Yemeni government rejected the incident as one “deliberately provoking the feelings of Muslims around the world on holy Islamic occasions by a hateful extremist movement.”
With inputs from AFP
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