The burning of a Quran, the holy book of Muslims, over the weekend in Stockholm was denounced as “extremely insulting” by Sweden’s prime minister. This has heightened tensions with Turkey as the Nordic nation courted Ankara for its NATO ambition.
Rasmus Paludan, a far-right lawmaker, set fire to a Muslim holy book on Saturday in front of the Turkish consulate in the Swedish capital.
Ankara canceled the visit of Sweden’s defense minister and summoned Stockholm’s ambassador because it was incensed that Paludan had been allowed by Swedish police to carry out the demonstration.
Late on Saturday, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson tweeted: “Freedom of expression is a fundamental part of democracy. But what is legal is not necessarily appropriate. Burning books that are holy to many is a deeply disrespectful act.”
“I want to express my sympathy for all Muslims who are offended by what has happened in Stockholm today.”
As Stockholm tries to persuade NATO member Turkey to allow Sweden and Finland joining the armed alliance, Paludan’s protest has further strained relations.
The Turkish government’s demands that Stockholm turn over Kurdish activists and stop demonstrations criticizing the Turkish government have blocked Sweden’s application.
The burning of the Holy Quran on Saturday reportedly shocked many Muslim nations.
Morocco expressed shock at the decision of the authorities to permit it to occur “in front of the Swedish forces of order.”
Indonesia, the Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also condemned it, as did the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Jakarta said “the act of blasphemy against the holy book has hurt and tarnished religious tolerance”, adding that “freedom of expression must be exercised in a responsible manner”.
In front of the Swedish consulate in Istanbul, dozens of protestors gathered late on Saturday. There, they burned a Swedish flag and demanded that Ankara break diplomatic ties with Stockholm.
Last year, when Paludan, a Swedish-Danish activist who has already been found guilty of using racist slurs, went on a tour of the nation and burnt copies of the Quran in public, he incited riots in Sweden.