US joins Muslim countries in expressing outrage at Sweden’s sanctioning of Quran burning
The actions of two Iraqi immigrants living in Sweden on Wednesday, who tore pages from the Quran and burned them outside a Mosque during one of the holiest days in the Muslim calendar, have once again placed Sweden at the centre of outrage across the Muslim world.
Swedish authorities have repeatedly argued that the granting of permits is in recognition of its position on freedom of speech. On this occasion the issuing of the permit for the demonstration was in recognition of a Swedish court ruling which directed that banning it would impinge on the right to freedom of speech. To most liberal and law abiding Swedish citizens and to Muslims worldwide this act perpetrated during the important Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, is nothing short of an act in violation of religious tolerance and an incitement to hatred.
Ironically, the two men were subsequently arrested for ‘agitation against an ethnic or national group’.
Swedish Ambassadors and senior Diplomatic staff summoned from their Embassies across the Muslim world
Statements in condemnation were made from the governments of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Morocco. Some states including Morocco recalled their Ambassadors to Sweden in protest. The Moroccan government summoned the Swedish chargé d'affaires in Rabat, to an official dressing down before issuing a statement:
‘..strong condemnation of this attack and its rejection of this unacceptable act'
The UAE, Iraq and Jordan followed suit, as Ambassadors and senior diplomats were summoned one after another to receive official complaints from the respective governments.
Muslim feelings inflamed globally as protests break out
As protesters took to the streets in Baghdad and even at one point attempted to breach the security of the Swedish Embassy, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry issued a statement which read:
‘These events inflame the feelings of Muslims around the world and represent a dangerous provocation for them’
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the act was ‘odious and contradicts the values of respect for others and their sanctities’
The Saudi Foreign Ministry described the act as ‘heinous’ and said it ‘incites hatred, exclusion, and racism’
As the list of Muslim majority countries condemning the act continued to grow, the Swedish Prime Minister, Ulf Kristersson, was forced to make a statement in which he declared the act ‘legal but not appropriate… We live in a time when one should stay calm and think of what’s best for Sweden’s long-term interest’
He will no doubt be concerned that this latest incident may once again stoke a fresh row with Turkey over Sweden’s bid to join NATO. The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is reported as saying to the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz following the incident, that ‘Sweden has made some progress, but not enough.’ In what appeared to be a veiled reference to Sweden’s NATO aspirations he added:
‘Those who commit this crime, as well as those who allow it under the guise of freedom of opinion and those who tolerate this despicable act, will not be able to achieve their ambitions’
Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Hakan Fidan issued the statement:
‘I condemn the vile protest in Sweden against our holy book on the first day of the blessed Eid al-Adha… [it is] unacceptable to allow anti-Islam protests in the name of freedom of expression’
The US State Department spokesman, Vedant Patel, in advance of next week’s NATO meeting, added the voice of the US in criticising the burning of a Koran in Sweden. He said:
‘We've said consistently that the burning of religious texts is disrespectful and hurtful, and what might be legal is certainly not necessarily appropriate…we continue to believe that Sweden should become a NATO member as soon as possible’