Countries condemn desecration of Quran in Sweden

Governments, many from the Middle East, issue strong statements and summon Swedish ambassadors in their countries.

The burning of the Quran took place on June 28, 2023, outside the Stockholm Central Mosque [TT News Agency/Caisa Rasmussen/via Reuters]

Officials from a number of countries, including many in the Middle East, have condemned the desecration of the Quran by a man in Sweden’s capital during a protest authorised by police.

Salwan Momika, a 37-year-old Iraqi who fled to Sweden several years ago, tore up and lit pages of the Islamic holy book on fire on Thursday as Muslims celebrated the Eid al-Adha holiday.

The act outside the Stockholm Central Mosque prompted international condemnation. Here are some of the reactions:

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Turkey

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan slammed Sweden over the incident, saying Ankara will never bow down to a policy of provocation or threat.

“We will teach the arrogant Western people that it is not freedom of expression to insult the sacred values of Muslims,” he said.

A day earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan called the Quran desecration “despicable”.

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“It is unacceptable to allow these anti-Islamic actions under the pretext of freedom of expression,” Fidan wrote on Twitter. “Turning a blind eye to such atrocious acts is to be complicit.”

The act in Stockholm passed largely without incident with many in the crowd saying they refused to be antagonised [Nils Adler/Al Jazeera]
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had told Sweden’s leaders at the time, “If you do not show respect to the religious beliefs of the Republic of Turkey or Muslims, you will not receive any support for NATO from us.”

Morocco

Morocco went beyond a statement of condemnation and recalled its ambassador to Sweden for an indefinite period.

The kingdom’s foreign ministry also called on Sweden’s chargé d’affaires in Rabat and expressed its “strong condemnation of this attack and its rejection of this unacceptable act”, according to state media.

United States

The United States condemned the burning but added that issuing the permit for the demonstration supported freedom of expression.

“We believe the demonstration created an environment of fear that will impact the ability of Muslims and members of other religious minority groups from freely exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief in Sweden,” US Department of State spokesperson Matt Miller said.

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“We also believe that issuing the permit for this demonstration supports freedom of expression and is not an endorsement of the demonstration’s actions.”

A day earlier, another US Department of State spokesperson, Vedant Patel, expressed the government’s opposition to the burning of the Quran while also urging Turkey to approve Sweden’s NATO bid.

“The burning of religious texts is disrespectful and hurtful, and what might be legal is certainly not necessarily appropriate,” Patel said. “Broadly, we continue to encourage Hungary and Turkey to ratify the accession protocol of Sweden without delay.”

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Iran

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson called the desecration “provocative, ill-considered and unacceptable”.

“The government and people of the Islamic Republic of Iran … do not tolerate such an insult and strongly condemn it,” said Nasser Kanani.

“The Swedish government is expected to seriously consider the principle of responsibility and accountability in this regard, while preventing the repetition of insulting the holy sanctities,” he added.

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Iran’s foreign ministry summoned Sweden’s charge d’affaires in Tehran, state media reported on Thursday, condemning what it said was an insult to the most sacred Islamic sanctities.

“While Muslims are performing the Haj … insulting their sanctities merely serves the path of spreading hatred and violence, exploiting the principle of freedom of expression,” Iranian state media said, citing a statement by the ministry.

Saudi Arabia

The Saudi foreign ministry also condemned the burning.

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“These hateful and repeated acts cannot be accepted with any justification,” it said.

Egypt

Egypt said Momika’s act was “shameful”, especially since it took place on Eid al-Adha.

The foreign ministry also voiced concern about “repeated incidents” of the burning of the Quran in Europe.

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“Egypt expresses its deep concern about the repeated incidents of burning the Holy Qur’an and the recent escalation of Islamophobia and crimes of blasphemy of religions in some European countries, affirming its total rejection of all reprehensible practices that affect the constants and religious beliefs of Muslims,” it said in a statement.

Iraq

Iraq summoned the Swedish ambassador to Iraq on Thursday over the incident.

It called the act “racist” and “irresponsible”, adding that it condemns “the repeated acts of burning copies of the holy Koran by individuals with extremist and disturbed minds”.

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“They are not only racist but also promote violence and hatred,” the Iraqi government said in a statement.

“These irresponsible actions, in direct conflict with the values of respect for diversity and the beliefs of others, are unequivocally condemned,” the government added.

Hundreds of Iraqis stormed the Swedish embassy in Baghdad on Thursday after influential Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr urged people to do so, calling Sweden “hostile to Islam”.

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Jordan

Jordan on Thursday summoned the Swedish ambassador in Amman and informed her of the country’s strong protest, the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates said in a statement.

The country condemned the act, calling it “racist” and an “incitement”.

“The Ministry affirmed that burning the Holy Qur’an is an act of dangerous hate, and a manifestation of Islamophobia that incites violence and insulting religions and cannot be considered a form of freedom of expression at all,” the kingdom said in a statement.

Jordan said rejecting “extremism” is a “collective responsibility that everyone must abide by”.

Kuwait

Kuwait’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the burning was a “dangerous, provocative step that inflames the feelings of Muslims around the world”.

It called on the international community and governments “to take responsibility for swift action to renounce feelings of hatred, extremism and religious intolerance”.

Yemen

The Yemeni government rejected the incident as one “deliberately provoking the feelings of Muslims around the world on holy Islamic occasions by a hateful extremist movement”, a statement by its foreign ministry said.

It also called for an end to the “repeated abuses” stemming from a “culture of hatred”.

Syria

Syria’s government condemned the “disgraceful act” on one of the holiest days for Muslims “by an extremist with the permission and consent of the Swedish government”.

Palestine

The Palestinian foreign ministry called the desecration a “flagrant attack on human rights, values of tolerance, acceptance of others, democracy and peaceful coexistence among followers of all religions”.

United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates summoned the Swedish ambassador on Thursday to protest against the burning.

Qatar

Qatar condemned the Swedish authorities’ permission to burn copies of the Quran Thursday calling it a “heinous” act to have especially occurred on Eid.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs warns that allowing repeated infringement of the Holy Qu’ran under the pretext of freedom of expression fuels hatred and violence, threatens peaceful coexistence, and reveals abhorrent double standards,” its foreign ministry said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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