Sweden rules out sweeping changes to free speech law amid Quran burnings

Sweden and Denmark have seen a string of protests in recent weeks in which copies of the Quran were burned.

Protesters take part in a rally in Bangladesh against the burning of a copy of the Quran in Sweden [File: Monirul Alam/EPA]

Sweden’s government has no plans to make sweeping changes to freedom of speech laws but repeated it would look into measures that would allow police to stop the burning of holy books in public if there was a clear threat to national security.

“We stand up for the Swedish freedom of speech,” Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told a news conference on Tuesday.

But he urged people to use the freedom of speech responsibly and respectfully.

“In a free country like Sweden, you have a great deal of freedom. But with that great degree of freedom comes a great degree of responsibility,” Kristersson said.

“Everything that is legal is not appropriate. It can be awful but still lawful. We try to promote a respectful tone between countries and peoples.”

He also said the government would temporarily ramp up internal security and border controls, giving police wider authority to stop and search people.

The Quran burning crisis

Sweden and Denmark have seen a string of protests in recent weeks in which copies of the Quran were burned, or otherwise damaged, prompting outrage in Muslim countries and demands that the Nordic governments put a stop to the incidents of burning.

More Quran burning, permitted under freedom of speech laws, took place on Monday as the governments of both countries said they were examining ways to legally limit such acts in a bid to de-escalate tensions.

In Denmark, the Security and Intelligence Service (PET) believes the incidents of Quran burning have led to an elevated risk of attacks, PET told public broadcaster DR on Monday evening.

Also on Monday, the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) convened an extraordinary session to discuss the recent developments where it strongly condemned the Quran burning.

It also said in a statement after the meeting ended that it called upon member states to take appropriate action, whether political or economic, in countries where the Quran is being desecrated.

After the meeting, the Danish and Swedish foreign ministers separately wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that they would continue their dialogue with the OIC.

Source: Reuters