After Swedish police authorized the demonstration, a man reportedly tore up and burned a Quran outside Stockholm’s central mosque on June 28 in a move that could enrage the Muslim community. The individual was eventually accused by police of inciting hatred against a national or ethnic group.
The incident is expected to further complicate its relationship with Turkey. Sweden has offended Ankara by holding a number of protests in the country against Islam and in support of Kurdish rights. Notably, Turkey’s support is essential for the former to become a member of the crucial NATO alliance.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine the previous year, Sweden applied to join the powerful organization. However, coalition participant Turkey has slowed down the process and alleged that Sweden is harboring individuals it regards as terrorists and asked to hand them over.
The foreign minister of Turkey, Hakan Fidan, denounced the incident and said it was wrong to permit anti-Islamic demonstrations in the guise of freedom of expression. “To condone such atrocious acts is to be complicit,” he charged.
The deputy spokesperson for the US State Department told reporters during a daily briefing that burning religious manuscripts is “disrespectful and hurtful”. Vedant Patel stated, “What might be legal is certainly not necessarily appropriate.” However, he persisted and pleaded with Turkey and Hungary to swiftly approve Sweden’s NATO acceptance treaty. “We believe Sweden has fulfilled its commitments under the trilateral memorandum,” he added.
About 200 spectators watched as one of the two participants tore up pages of a copy of the Quran, used them to wipe his shoes, and then put bacon inside before torching the book while the second one was speaking into a loudspeaker. Meanwhile, one man was detained by police as he attempted to throw a rock, while others of the attendees screamed Alla Hu Akbar in Arabic in opposition to the burning whereas another shouted “Let it burn” in support of the protest.
While Swedish police have recently turned down multiple applications for anti-Quran protests, judges have overturned the same and asserted that it violated the right to free speech. In a press conference on Wednesday, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson emphasized he would not conjecture about the effect of the protests on the country’s NATO process.
He proclaimed that police should decide whether or not to allow such occurrences and remarked, “It’s legal but not appropriate.” Mahmoud Khalfi, the mosque’s director and imam, noted yesterday that representatives of the mosque were unhappy with the police’s decision to allow the protest on the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.
“The mosque suggested to the police to at least divert the demonstration to another location, which is possible by law, but they chose not to do so,” he voiced in a statement. He estimated that up to 10,000 people attend the annual Eid celebrations at the mosque in Stockholm.
A Danish far-right politician burnt a copy of the Quran next to the Turkish embassy in the country’s capital prompting Turkey to halt discussions with Sweden about its NATO membership in late January.
Prior to Eid-Al-Adha, on June 28, the Swedish Police gave one Salwan Momika permission to burn the Quran at a demonstration outside the largest mosque in Stockholm after a Swedish court struck down the police’s ban on Quran-burning demonstrations.
Two other requests, one by a private citizen and the other by an organisation, for similar activities that include Quran burning were turned down by police in February outside the Turkish and Iraqi embassies in Stockholm. The appeals court concluded in June that the protests should have been permitted. It ruled, “The order and security problems that the police had cited had not been clearly connected to the planned event or its immediate vicinity.”