More nations slam Swedish politician’s Quran burning

ANKARA, 23 Jan 2023:

Turkey and several Arab countries yesterday condemned “Islamophobia” after a Swedish-Danish right-wing politician burned a copy of the Quran at a rally in Stockholm.

Rasmus Paludan set fire to the Muslim holy book during a protest on Saturday outside the Turkish embassy in the Swedish capital.

Ankara had urged Swedish authorities to ban the protest, calling the burning of the Quran a “despicable act” that shows the “alarming level that Islamophobia and, racist and discriminatory movements, have reached in Europe.”

“Permitting this anti-Islam act, which targets Muslims and insults our sacred values, under the guise of ‘freedom of expression’ is completely unacceptable. This is an outright hate crime,” Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a statement.

Hours before the demonstration on Saturday, Turkey had summoned the Swedish ambassador to Ankara and cancelled a visit by the Swedish defence minister Peter Hultqvist to discuss Turkey’s veto of the Scandinavian country’s Nato membership.

Sweden’s foreign minister Tobias Billstrom condemned the incident, saying “Islamophobic provocations are appalling.”

“Sweden has a far-reaching freedom of expression, but it does not imply that the Swedish government, or myself, support the opinions expressed,” Billstrom wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, a major religious institution based in Cairo, criticised the burning of the sacred Islamic text as a “violation of Muslim sanctities.”

“These criminal acts carried out by savages will not affect the sanctity of the Holy Quran in the heart of a civilised person, and it will remain a book guiding all humanity and guiding it to the values of goodness, truth and beauty,” al-Azhar said in a Twitter post.

Saudi-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation warned this “provocative action which has been committed repeatedly by far right extremists targets Muslims, insults their sacred values, and serves as further example of the alarming level reached by Islamophobia, hate, intolerance, and xenophobia.”

The governments of Muslim and Arab countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have also denounced the incident.

The Swedish-Danish politician defended his right to freedom of expression and lambasted Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Sweden’s immigration policy during the one-hour protest, which was broadcast on social media.

Paludan came to prominence a few years ago after his controversial Quran burnings in immigrant neighbourhoods.

Sweden and Finland applied to join Nato in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but Ankara has said it will veto Sweden’s accession as it accuses Stockholm of harbouring Kurdish militants wanted in Turkey on terror charges.