Quran Disrespected at Sweden Mosque during Eid al-Adha. Turkey criticized Sweden for allowing a Quran-burning demonstration near a mosque in Stockholm. This decision might put Sweden’s NATO membership bid at risk before the important summit in July.
A single person took part in the planned Quran burning in the Swedish capital and images of the event show he was the only person apart from his translator at the demonstration, which coincided with the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Adha, one of the most significant in the Islamic calendar.
Swedish police stated that they allowed the protest based on the principle of freedom of speech. They emphasized that the demonstration does not present an immediate security threat.
However, permitting such a provocative protest has caused Turkey, a NATO member that has opposed Sweden’s bid to join the alliance, to react strongly. Both Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Turkey’s foreign minister strongly criticized the protest, describing it as a “heinous act.”
Hakan Fidan, a Turkish government official, stated that it is not acceptable to permit anti-Islamic actions under the guise of freedom of expression.
He emphasized that ignoring such terrible acts is equivalent to supporting them. In a tweet, Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish government’s Director of Communications, expressed frustration with the promotion of Islamophobia and ongoing instances of hatred towards their religion, particularly by European authorities, including Sweden.
He said that those who aspire to be our allies in NATO cannot tolerate or support destructive actions by Islamophobic and xenophobic terrorists.
NATO officials are concerned about the alliance failing to meet its own goal of admitting Sweden to the alliance by the upcoming summit on July 11 in Vilnius, Lithuania. Missing this deadline would send a humiliating and possibly risky message to the alliance’s adversaries.
Turkey, a strategically vital NATO member situated in both the Middle East and Europe and possessing the second-largest military power within the alliance, has been the main hurdle in Sweden’s NATO membership aspirations.
Earlier this year, Turkish-Swedish relations were severely strained after an anti-immigration politician set fire to a copy of the Quran during a rally outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm.
This incident sparked anger in Ankara, the Turkish capital, leading to protests where the Swedish flag was burned outside the Swedish embassy.
At that time, the Turkish foreign minister reportedly blamed the Swedish government, accusing them of allowing this disgraceful act to occur.
According to an Eastern European diplomat interviewed by CNN, any delay in Sweden’s NATO accession not only strengthens NATO’s enemies but also gives the impression of President Erdogan’s influence over the alliance.
The diplomat added that Erdogan would take advantage of the situation, putting Sweden in a difficult position and using their own anti-terrorist laws against them.
During a press conference, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom stated that Sweden has fulfilled the requirements set by Turkey to join NATO, including implementing new terrorism legislation.
However, the decision to permit the Quran-burning protest may further strain Sweden’s relationship with Turkey and impact their chances of joining NATO.
Freedom of speech is an important right that allows people to express their opinions.
In an interview with CNN, Salwan Momika, a protester, explained that he moved to Sweden from Iraq five years ago and is now a Swedish citizen. He identifies as an atheist.
Momika mentioned that he had been involved in a legal battle for three months before organizing this demonstration.
He expressed his belief that the Quran should be banned worldwide due to the perceived dangers it poses to democracy, ethics, human values, human rights, and women’s rights. He believes it is not suitable for this modern era.
According to a police permit obtained by CNN, the security risks associated with burning the Quran were not significant enough to reject the application for the demonstration based on current laws.
The permit acknowledged that Quran burnings could potentially increase the risk of a terrorist attack and have foreign policy consequences.
However, the decision to allow the gathering was made with certain conditions, such as adhering to the fire ban in Stockholm that has been in place since June 12.
Stockholm police spokesperson Helena Bostrom Thomas, speaking to CNN, mentioned that the applicant was informed about the restrictions related to the fire ban. However, the right to freedom of speech was given priority over violating the fire ban restrictions.