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Muslim countries condemn Quran burning protest at Stockholm mosque

A man destroys a Koran at a protest outside Stockholm's largest mosque
A man destroys a Koran at a protest outside Stockholm's largest mosque Copyright Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP
Copyright Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP
By Euronews with AFP
Published on Updated
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An Iraqi refugee tore, burned and kicked the holy book at a protest initially allowed by the authorities.

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Several Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran, have condemned a "provocative" incident in which a man burned pages from the Quran outside a Stockholm mosque, denouncing it as "incitement to hatred".

At a rally authorised by the Swedish authorities on Wednesday – which Muslims marked as the Eid al-Adha celebration – an Iraqi man who had fled his country for Sweden, trampled on a copy of Islam's holy book outside the capital's largest mosque before ripping out and burning several of its pages.

While the authorities gave permission for the protest by Salwan Momika, police said afterwards they were investigating his action as a potential act of "agitation against an ethnic group".

This was the latest in a string of such incidents in Sweden and other European countries, sometimes at the instigation of far-right movements, which have previously led to diplomatic tensions.

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan condemned the "despicable" action, deeming it "unacceptable (to) allow these anti-Islamic actions under the pretext of freedom of expression".

"Turning a blind eye to such atrocious acts is tantamount to complicity", he added.

A demonstration in January during which a copy of the Quran was burnt in Stockholm in front of the Turkish embassy aroused the anger of Ankara and the Muslim world, leading to demonstrations and calls for a boycott of Swedish products.

A flare-up in relations with Turkey could not come at a more sensitive moment, with Ankara still blocking Sweden's accession to NATO on the grounds that it is home to a number of people whom the Turkish government considers terrorists.

But the incident also aroused anger in other Muslim countries.

Global outrage

A spokesman for the Iraqi government condemned "irresponsible acts" that he said occur "repeatedly", are carried out by "sick and extremist minds", and reflect "a spirit of hatred and hostility with no connection to freedom of expression".

"This is racism and incitement to violence and hatred", he declared. "This odious act, which has offended the feelings of millions of Muslims, is also damaging to the people of the West, who pride themselves on embracing diversity and respect for the beliefs of others and the protection of religions and the rights of their followers."

Also in Baghdad, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday condemned "the permission given by the Swedish authorities to an extremist to burn a copy of the Holy Koran".

"These events inflame the feelings of Muslims throughout the world and represent a dangerous provocation for them", the statement warned.

In Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced "repeated and heinous acts that cannot be accepted under any pretext".

These actions "clearly incite hatred, exclusion and racism, and directly contradict international efforts to spread the values of tolerance, moderation and the rejection of extremism, and undermine the necessary mutual respect in relations between peoples and states", an official Saudi statement said.

Iran also denounced the "provocative, thoughtless and unacceptable" act, with foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani saying his country's government and people "will not tolerate such an insult and strongly condemn it"

He expressed the hope that "the Swedish government will take serious account of the principle of responsibility and accountability in this matter, while preventing any repetition of insults to the sacred".

Morocco has recalled its ambassador to Sweden, condemning an "offensive and irresponsible" act and "repeated provocations, committed under the complacent gaze of the Swedish government".

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