Previously permitted act by the Sweden police may turn harmful for Sweden’s NATO bid
In an act of profanity and protest, a man called Salwan Momika tore up and burnt a Quran in front of the central mosque in Stockholm on Wednesday, June 28, coinciding with the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Adha, and sparking strong condemnation from countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
The Sweden police had granted approval for the man seeking written permission previously, but later charges were pressed on Momika on the grounds of agitating against a national or ethnic group. Momika had sought permission to burn the Quran to ‘express his opinion’ about the holy book.
The police had no justification to reject the permission as, in April, an administrative court had repealed the ban on anti-Quran protests, citing the reason that the right to assembly as well as the right to protest have protection under Sweden’s constitutional laws.
Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said that the protest was ‘legal but not appropriate’, and left the decision of permission up to the police.
A crowd of about 200 was gathered in front of the mosque, while shouts were exchanged between those who supported the mosque and those who supported the burning. Elderly Muslims were seen pleading with others to not pay heed to the man and not be provoked.
Numerous protests in Stockholm against Islam and for Kurdish rights have also been a cause for infuriation to Turkey, whose support is vital for Sweden to join NATO. Sweden hastened its NATO bid in the aftermath of the Russia-Ukraine war, but its entry has been held up by Turkey, who refuses support on grounds of the accusation that Sweden shelters ‘terrorists’, seeking their expulsion.
Image Source: POLITICO
Turkey’s condemnation of Sweden
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan criticized the incident in a tweet, labelling it as a ‘heinous act’ and saying that anti-Islam protests under the pretext of freedom of expression were unacceptable, and to turn a blind eye to such protests was to be complicit.
Turkey had previously suspended talks with Sweden in late January regarding its NATO application in a similar incident when Rasmus Paludan, Danish far-right political party (Hard Line) leader, had burnt a translated copy of the Quran near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.
The Director of Communications of the Turkish government, Fahrettin Altun, also condemned the continued Islamophobia and instances of religious hatred in European nations, especially Sweden.
The incident may prove damaging to Turkey-Sweden relations and further stall Sweden’s accession to NATO.
Saudi Arabia’s response
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia condemned and denounced the incident in strong words. The foreign ministry’s statement said that these ‘repeated, hateful’ acts remain unjustified, and cause exacerbation of exclusion, hatred and racism. The Muslim World League also denounced the protest saying that the heinous act carried out under police protection abused the true concept of freedom.
In a response to the incident, Morocco has recalled its ambassador to Sweden for an indefinite time period.