Sweden suspects foreign countries had a hand in inciting violent riots in several cities recently when crowds threw rocks and burned cars after a far-right Islamophobe announced plans to hold an anti-Muslim rally.
Rasmus Paludan, leader of the Danish far-right Stram Kurs (Hard Line) party, has burned copies of the Quran at events in Denmark where he also bashes Islam, and news spread he wanted to do the same in Sweden, sparking anger.
Paludan, who holds both Danish and Swedish nationality, “seems for some reason to hate Sweden and try to harm Sweden. I do not understand why”, said the country’s Justice Minister Morgan Johansson.
In an interview with Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet published on Wednesday, Johansson referred to online claims that surfaced earlier this year about Swedish social service agencies allegedly kidnapping Muslim children.
The foreign ministry posted a Twitter thread in February devoted to what it termed “a disinformation campaign”.
‘Middle East actors’
A Swedish agency established to counter misinformation said the kidnapping allegations could be traced to an Arabic-language site whose creator expressed support for the armed group ISIL (ISIS).
“We see how the image of Sweden is set by some of these actors in the Middle East,” Aftonbladet quoted Johansson as saying. “It is also addressed by a couple of governments in Iraq and in Iran.”
After word of Paludan’s planned stunt reached Iran and the United Arab Emirates, the governments in Tehran and Dubai summoned Swedish diplomats to protest.
A total of 26 police officers and 14 other individuals were wounded in the riots, and 20 police vehicles destroyed or damaged, officials said. Many people were arrested.
The latest violence broke out Sunday night in Malmo, Sweden’s third-largest city, as an angry crowd of mainly young people set fire to tyres, debris and garbage bins in a neighbourhood known for high crime.
Unrest and violent clashes were reported in several other Swedish cities. Three people were hurt in Norrkoping on Sunday as they were hit by ricochets when police fired warning shots.
Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson visited Norrkoping and Linkoping, another city that saw rioting, on Wednesday.
Protests against plans by Stram Kurs to burn the Quran have turned violent in Sweden before. In 2020, protesters set cars on fire and stores were damaged in clashes in Malmo.
That same year, Paludan was jailed in Denmark for a month for a string of offences, including racism.