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Sweden police refuse permission for new Quran-burning protest, citing security fears

FILE: Activists step on the Swedish flag as demonstrators gather outside the Swedish Embassy in Jakarta on January 30, 2023,
FILE: Activists step on the Swedish flag as demonstrators gather outside the Swedish Embassy in Jakarta on January 30, 2023, Copyright AFP
Copyright AFP
By David Mac Dougall with AP
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In January a far-right activist set fire to copies of the Quran in both Sweden and neighbouring Denmark.


Police in Sweden have refused to grant permission for a new rally that would have included a Quran- burning incident, citing increased security concerns.

In January, a far-right activist first burned a copy of the Mulsim holy book outside a mosque in Copenhagen, and then a few days later replicated the stunt in front of the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm. 

Rasmus Paludan, who holds dual Danish and Swedish nationality, sparked protests across the Middle East and Asia, with Turkey branding his actions a "hate crime" 

Now, Stockholm Police tell Euronews they turned down a new application for a protest which stated a Quran would be set on fire, because it "increased the risk of attacks against Sweden." 

It is understood that organisers of the new rally have appealed against the police department's decision.

Earlier this month, Sweden's domestic security agency SAPO warned that the threat of attacks in the country has increased in the weeks after Paludan's stunt. 

The agency noted that international reactions to the events outside the embassy in January "have been extensive” and "the assessment is that the security situation has deteriorated.”

"Sweden is judged to be in greater focus than before for violent Islamism globally," said SAPO. 

The security agency, however, did not change Sweden's terror threat level, which already stood at three on a five-point scale.

FILE: Police secure the area in front of the Turkish embassy in Copenhagen, 27 January 2023AFP

Who is Rasmus Paludan, and what does he want?

Rasmus Paludan is a lawyer, and has established far-right parties in both Sweden and Denmark that have failed to win any seats in national, regional or municipal elections. 

In Sweden's 2022 parliamentary election, his party received just 156 votes nationwide.

During one of his protests he said over a bullhorn: "Once he (Erdogan) has let Sweden into NATO, I promise that I will not burn the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy. Otherwise, I will do so every Friday at 2pm." 

The Quran incident had an immediate effect, with Turkey's government calling off important talks with Sweden's application to join NATO.

The Swedish and Danish governments have both gone out of their way to condemn the actions of people who burn Qurans, while also being careful to note that the Nordic nations have broad freedom of speech rights enshrined in law. 

Turkey has blocked Sweden's NATO bid since May in an attempt to get Stockholm to fulfil several political demands, such as deporting critics of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Kurds it claims are "terrorists". 

Critics have warned against meeting these demands, saying they undermine rights and freedoms in Sweden, alongside the country's sovereignty.

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