On July 2, 2023, Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir Abdollah, announced that Iran will withhold the dispatch of a new ambassador to Sweden This move is a reaction to a recent incident involving the burning of the Quran at outside a mosque in Stockholm.
Iran, which spent much of the past year violently repressing protesters seeking more political and religious freedom, summoned Swedish Charge D’ Affairs earlier in the week to demand an explanation. Protestors in Tehran also demonstrated several times, some of them burning the Swedish Flag in response. Similar demonstrations have taken place in all the Muslim World, including a small one in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Several Muslim countries have complained to Sweden about a protest earlier in the week in Stockholm near a central mosque in which an Iraqi national named Salwan Momika set fire to a copy of the Quran, the holy book of Islam, on Eid-Al-Adha. He stomped on the holy book and placed bacon between the pages before lighting a few pages on fire and kicking like a football while raising Swedish Flag.
The Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation, a 57-member-state body based in Saudi Arabia, called for collective measures to avoid future incidents of burning
Following what was called an “extraordinary meeting” of the body, it issued a statement calling member nations to take unified and collective measures to prevent the recurrence of incidents of the desecration of the Quran.
The body’s secretary general, Hissein Brahim Taha, stressed the need to send a clear message that such acts are not mere Islamophobia incidents. “We must send constant reminders to the international community regarding the urgent application of international law, which clearly prohibits any advocacy of religious hatred,” the statement said.
The Swedish government, on July 2, 2023, condemned the protest again, both in a public statement and an email to a Swedish newspaper. “In Sweden, the freedom of expression enjoys stronger protection.
But naturally, this does not mean that the government supports every opinion that is expressed. Public gatherings that are entirely legal can be polarizing and offensive. Such demonstrations are just that,” the Swedish Foreign Ministry said in a statement explaining that the country was introducing additional border security steps in response to the week’s events.
It can be noted, for example, that the man now being instigated for the offence of agitation against a national or ethnic group following the events is an Iraqi national with only a temporary residence permit in Sweden,” the statement said.
The ministry went somewhat further in an email reply to Svenska Dagbladet newspaper, referring to the protest by a Muslim who had renounced his faith as “Islamophobic and saying that the burning of Quran or any other religious or holy text is an offensive and disrespectful act of clear provocation.”
Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, earlier in the week, described the protest as “legal but not appropriate” in reference to the failed attempt in Swedish courts to block the demonstrations. He reiterated how the decision did not rest with his government.
In most Muslim countries burning the Quran is outlawed, and in some cases, such as in Saudi Arabia, it can carry a public beheading death sentence. Iraq has appealed to Sweden to return the Iraqi citizen behind the protest to face trial there.
The most notable person involved in the burning of the Quran is the Danish politician Rasmus Paludan. He burnt a copy of the Quran on January 21, 2023. He burnt the scripture in front of the Turkish Embassy. It is not the first sacrilege committed by Paludan. He is a far-right politician affiliated with Sweden’s “Hard Line Party.” During the holy month of Ramazan, he threatened to burn copies of the Quran in Wakefield, Sweden
Turkey, a strong member of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), has turned down Sweden’s bid to join the NATO alliance, having already held up fellow Nordic applicant Finland for months after the Russia-Ukraine War (2022).