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Muslim countries condemn Quran burning in Sweden

Morocco recalls ambassador to Stockholm, while Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, and several other governments denounce the provocative act
A picture taken during Friday prayers at Stockholm's largest mosque, on 17 December 2010 (AFP)
Friday prayers at Stockholm's largest mosque, 17 December 2010 (AFP)

Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Egypt were among many Muslim-majority countries to condemn the burning of the Quran by a man in Sweden during the festival of Eid-al-Adha on Wednesday. 

Morocco recalled its ambassador to Sweden following the incident in Stockholm, and summoned Sweden's chargé d'affaires in Rabat to express its "strong condemnation of this attack and its rejection of this unacceptable act".

The UAE also summoned the Swedish ambassador in protest. Iraq and neighbouring Jordan also both summoned Sweden's top diplomats in their countries. 

Salwan Momika, a 37-year-old Iraqi man living in Sweden, tore up several pages of the holy book, stomping on it and setting pages alight outside the largest mosque in the Swedish capital.

Momika carried out the provocative act under heavy police presence after being granted permission to do so by Swedish authorities. Despite allowing it on free speech grounds, Swedish police later launched an investigation on the basis of "agitation". 

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"These events inflame the feelings of Muslims around the world and represent a dangerous provocation for them," Iraq's foreign ministry said.

In Baghdad, dozens of supporters of influential Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr briefly stormed the compound of the Swedish embassy in the afternoon, but did not enter the building. The protesters raised pictures of Sadr, chanted his name, and left soon after security forces were deployed.

Swedish embassy staff were warned the day before and only security staff were present at the compound.

The Middle East Eye correspondent in Baghdad reported that no one was harmed and there was no damage done. Sadr and other political leaders have called for protests on Friday.

Egypt meanwhile described it as a "disgraceful act provoking the feelings of Muslims", while Kuwait called for the perpetrators of such "hostile acts" to be brought to justice. 

The Arab League, an intergovernmental organisation representing Arab-speaking countries across the Middle East and Africa, described it as an "assault on the core of our Islamic faith". 

There were also condemnations from Saudi Arabia, Syria, the Palestinian foreign ministry, and the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

In January, protests were held across Muslim countries after far-right Danish-Swedish political activist Rasmus Paludan set fire to the Quran, followed by an hour-long diatribe against Islam and immigration in Sweden. 

Paludan was denied entry into the UK in March after he said he planned to burn the Quran in a public square in the English town of Wakefield. 

'Vile protest'

The Taliban government in Afghanistan called Momika's Quran burning an act of "utter contempt towards this noble religion".

Meanwhile, the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon called on Muslim and Arab nations to take steps to compel Sweden and other countries to prevent it from occurring again in future. 

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Influential Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called for protests outside the Swedish embassy in Baghdad to demand the removal of the country's ambassador. 

It was also condemned by Turkey's foreign minister, who labelled it a "vile protest in Sweden against our holy book on the first day of the blessed Eid al-Adha". 

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "We will eventually teach the Western monuments of arrogance that insulting Muslims is not a freedom of thought."

Middle East Eye reported earlier this month that Erdogan had closed the door on Sweden joining Nato at an upcoming summit in Vilnius, saying Stockholm hasn’t done enough to uphold its promises because the country recently allowed supporters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) to demonstrate. 

The event left Washington trying to strike a balance between supporting freedom of expression and religion. 

"We do condemn it. We are deeply concerned by the act," Matthew Miller, a US State Department spokesperson, said on Thursday. "The US of course supports freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly." 

The presence of people linked to the PKK in Sweden has been a major stumbling block for the country’s attempts to join Nato following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Turkey has a veto on any country joining the alliance and has promised to use it until its demands over the alleged PKK presence in Sweden have been addressed.

Ankara cancelled a planned visit by Sweden's defence minister in January following its decision to allow Paludan's protest to take place outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. 

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