Widespread fury over desecration of Quran in Sweden by far right politician
Far-right politician Rasmus Paludan sparked widespread condemnation and fury after burning a copy of the Holy Quran outside the Turkish embassy in Sweden.
Politicians from Turkey expressed their anger over the decision by Swedish authorities to permit a demonstration led by Paludan, which they called racist, Islamophobic and an act of ‘barbarism.’
Other Arab and Muslim-majority nations also condemned the Quran burning, saying it was an act of extremism.
Paludan, a Swedish-Danish politician who leads the right-wing Hard Line party, obtained permission to stage a demonstration outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. Surrounded by police, he burned the Quran after a long rant attacking Islam and immigration.
"It's a racist action, it's not about freedom of expression," said Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said in a tweet: "Allowing this action despite all our warnings is encouraging hate crimes and Islamophobia.
“The attack on sacred values is not freedom but modern barbarism."
Permission granted for the protest resulted in Turkey announcing the cancellation of a visit from Swedish Defence Minister Pal Jonson. The visit intended to address Turkey's objections to Sweden's bid to join NATO.
Muslim countries denounce act
Several Muslim countries, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, denounced the Quran burning.
Qatar said it condemned in the “strongest terms’ the Swedish authorities permission for the demonstration to go ahead. Qatar added that it “rejected all forms of hate speech based on religion or race in addition to rejecting the involvement sanctities in political dispute.”
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also denounced the Swedish authorities for ‘allowing an extremist’ to burn the Quran and reiterated calls for spreading the values of “dialogue, tolerance, and coexistence, and rejecting hatred and extremism.”
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation bloc said the "provocative action... targets Muslims, insults their sacred values, and serves as further example of the alarming level reached by Islamophobia.”
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said: “This senseless and provocative Islamophobic act hurts the religious sensitivities of over 1.5 billion Muslims around the world."
Meanwhile, demonstrators gathered outside the Swedish embassy in Ankara to protest the Quran burning and recite the Quran.
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said the demonstration led by Paludan was Islamophobic but added that certain freedoms were allowed in the country.
"Islamophobic provocations are appalling," he tweeted. "Sweden has a far-reaching freedom of expression, but it does not imply that the Swedish Government, or myself, support the opinions expressed."
Last year, Paludan announced a Quran-burning "tour" during Ramadan, which sparked violent riots throughout Sweden.