A demonstration in January during which a Koran was burned in front of the Turkish embassy angered Ankara, which is blocking the Scandinavian country’s candidacy for NATO.
A man burned a few pages of a copy of the Koran outside Stockholm’s largest mosque in a “gathering” authorized by Swedish police on Wednesday on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
The event took place calmly and smoothly, under police surveillance. About 100 onlookers and journalists gathered to observe the burning organized by Salwan Momika, a 37-year-old Iraqi who fled his country for Sweden.
Dressed in beige chinos and a light shirt, he trampled on the Koran several times before slipping strips of bacon into it and burning a few pages.
“It’s crazy, it’s absolutely insane, it’s only hatred that hides behind the concepts of democracy and freedom,” reacted Noa Omran, a 32-year-old artist who came to witness the scene.
To express one’s opinion”
Earlier in the day, the police announced that they were authorizing “the gathering” because “the security risks” linked to burning the Koran “are not such as to prohibit it”. In his request for prior authorization, the organizer of the book burning, Salwan Momika said he wanted to “express (his) opinion about the Koran”.
“I will tear up the Quran and burn it,” he wrote.
Salwan Momika had made a similar request in February, which was refused by the police.
Membership of NATO
The subject is sensitive in Sweden: a demonstration in January during which a Koran was burned in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm had angered Turkey, which is blocking the Scandinavian country’s candidacy for NATO.
Organized by the Swedish-Danish far-right activist Rasmus Paludan, convicted of racist insults, the event aroused the anger of the Muslim world and led to demonstrations and calls for a boycott of Swedish products.
According to an article in the Swedish daily Aftonbladet dated April 5, Salwan Momika assured that his intention was not to make it difficult for Sweden to join the Atlantic Alliance.
“I don’t want to harm this country which has welcomed me and which has preserved my dignity,” he told the newspaper, specifying that his intention was to see the Koran banned in Sweden.
Two similar gatherings on February 6 and 9 – one of which was initiated by Salwan Momika -, which were to see copies of the holy book of Islam being burned, had been refused by the Stockholm police who had invoked risks disturbances to public order.
Risk of attacks
According to the police, the destruction of the Koran by fire is an increasing phenomenon in the country, which has made Sweden “a higher priority target for attacks”.
The book burnings planned for February had therefore not taken place. The protesters immediately appealed the decision, saying their constitutional right to protest had been violated. An administrative court had given them reason at the beginning of April.
In mid-June, the administrative court of appeal confirmed the judgment rendered at first instance, indicating that the security risks put forward by the police “did not have a sufficiently clear link” with the gatherings in question.
It is on this basis that the Swedish police took their decision on Wednesday, just a few days before the Vilnius summit, on July 11 and 12, where Stockholm hopes for progress for its entry into NATO.
Ankara is blocking Sweden’s NATO bid, which requires a unanimous green light from Alliance members, over what it sees as Stockholm’s failure to crack down on Kurdish groups based in Sweden, which she considers as “terrorists”.
Source: BFM TV