| 20 April 2024, Saturday |

Protesters burn Koran at Stockholm mosque on Eid holiday

After Swedish police gave permission for the demonstration, a man tore up and burnt a Koran outside Stockholm’s prominent mosque on Wednesday, risking infuriating Turkey as Sweden seeks to join NATO.

The individual was later charged with agitation against an ethnic or national group by police.

A series of protests in Sweden against Islam and for Kurdish rights have enraged Ankara, whose support Sweden requires to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Sweden sought NATO membership in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. But alliance member Turkey has held up the process, accusing Sweden of harbouring people it considers terrorists and demanding their extradition.

Turkish foreign minister Hakan Fidan condemned the act in a tweet, adding that it was unacceptable to allow anti-Islam protests in the name of freedom of expression.

Some 200 onlookers witnessed one of the two organisers tearing up pages of a copy of the Koran and wiping his shoes with it before putting bacon in it and setting the book on fire, whilst the other protester spoke into a megaphone.

Some of those present shouted ‘God is great’ in Arabic to protest against the burning, and one man was detained by police after he attempted to throw a rock.

A supporter of the demonstration shouted “let it burn” as the holy book caught on fire.

After the burning, police charged the man who set fire to the Koran with agitation against an ethnic or national group and with a violation of a ban on fires that has been in place in Stockholm since mid-June.

While Swedish police have rejected several recent applications for anti-Koran demonstrations, courts have overruled those decisions, saying they infringed on freedom of speech.

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said at a press conference on Wednesday he would not speculate about how the protest could affect Sweden’s NATO process.

“It’s legal but not appropriate,” he said, adding that it was up to the police to make decisions on Koran burnings.

One of the two people who took part is Salwan Momika, who in a recent newspaper interview described himself as an Iraqi refugee seeking to ban the Koran.

Representatives of the mosque were disappointed by the police decision to grant permission for the protest on the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, mosque director and Imam Mahmoud Khalfi said on Wednesday.

“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,” Khalfi said in a statement.

Up to 10,000 visitors attend Stockholm’s mosque for the Eid celebrations every year, according to Khalfi.

Turkey in late January suspended talks with Sweden on its NATO application after a Danish far-right politician burned a copy of the Koran near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.

  • Reuters