Most Swedes want ban on Quran burnings after global outcry

Opinion is shifting amid an international political fallout over the burnings and a spike in new applications.

Quran Sweden
Demonstrators burn a Swedish flag during a protest against the burning of a Quran in Sweden, in front of the Swedish Embassy in Tehran, Iran [Vahid Salemi/AP]

Stockholm, Sweden – A majority of Swedish people support a ban on the public burning of religious texts such as the Quran or the Bible, according to a new survey conducted on behalf of Swedish national television broadcaster SVT, marking a significant shift in the Scandinavian nation where a man set Islam’s holiest book on fire last week.

In the survey, carried out by Kantar Public, 53 percent of those questioned said that burning holy scriptures of any religion in public should be prohibited, while 34 percent answered that it should be allowed, and 13 percent were undecided. This marks an 11 percent increase in those looking to forbid such acts, from February when Kantar asked the same question in a Survey for TV4, a Swedish Television network.

The new survey was released Thursday, amid a storm of protests that Sweden has faced since it allowed a man to burn the Quran in front of a Stockholm mosque on Eid-al-Adha last week.

Multiple governments, especially in Asia and the Middle East, publicly condemned the act, with Pakistan’s prime minister calling for nationwide protests on Friday. The Pope said he was “angry and disgusted” by the burning. The United Nations is expected to meet soon to discuss the incident.

That global reaction might have influenced the change in public opinion, Toivo Sjoren, head of opinion at Kantar Public, told SVT.

The Quran burnings have contributed to Turkey holding up Sweden’s bid to join NATO, which it launched following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed Sweden over last week’s burning.

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

‘Islamophobic’ but ‘constitutionally protected’: Swedish government

Though the majority of Swedes now oppose the burning of religious texts, the practice appears poised to continue.

Police have already refused permission for two Quran burnings in 2023, but the Court of Appeals later overturned these decisions.

The Swedish government has also condemned the “Islamophobic” act after the Organisation of Islamic Countries called for measures to avoid future desecration of the Muslim holy book.

“The burning of the Quran, or any other holy text, is an offensive and disrespectful act and a clear provocation. Expressions of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance have no place in Sweden or in Europe,” the Swedish foreign ministry said in response to the latest burning.

At the same time, the ministry added that Sweden has a “constitutionally protected right to freedom of assembly, expression and demonstration”.

Sweden can enact a law on incitement against ethnic groups but only to restrict what can be said and where the burnings can occur. A complete ban on desecrating holy scriptures would require a law which Sweden scrapped in the 1970s to be reintroduced.

Joe Biden sits with Ulf Kristersson in the Oval Office
US President Joe Biden told Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson that he is ‘anxiously looking forward’ to Sweden joining NATO during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on July 5, 2023. [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

Three new applications to burn the Quran, the Bible and the Torah

SVT revealed on Wednesday that three new applications to burn religious scriptures had been submitted to the police.

One application made by a woman in her 50s requested that she be allowed to burn the Quran outside a mosque in the capital, Stockholm, “as soon as possible”.

Another application made by a man in his 30s requested he be allowed to burn the Torah and the Bible in front of the Israeli embassy on July 15. He wrote that the act would be a response to the Quran burning last week and “a symbolic gathering for the sake of freedom of speech”.

Source: Al Jazeera