Turkey and Sweden tension escalates with burning of the Koran in Stockholm

Stockholm (Caasimada Online) – Tensions between Turkey and Sweden have escalated following a series of protests in the Swedish capital Stockholm on Saturday. 

The protests were against Turkey and Sweden’s bid to join NATO and included burning a copy of the Koran by an anti-immigrant politician from the far-right fringe. 

This act led to a strong condemnation from the Turkish Foreign Ministry, which stated that “permitting this anti-Islam act, which targets Muslims and insults our sacred values, under the guise of freedom of expression is completely unacceptable.” 

The ministry called on Sweden to take action against those responsible. It urged all nations to take concrete measures against Islamophobia.

Rasmus Paludan, the head of the Danish far-right political group Hard Line, set fire to a Koran. Paludan, who also holds Swedish citizenship, has previously staged similar protests where he burned the Muslim holy book. 

According to the permit he obtained from the police, his demonstration was targeted at Islam and the perceived influence of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on freedom of expression in Sweden.

The Swedish Foreign Minister, Tobias Billstrom, condemned the Islamophobic provocations and stated that while Sweden upholds freedom of expression, it does not mean that the government or himself personally endorses the views expressed.

The Koran burning led several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Kuwait, to denounce the act. Saudi Arabia called for spreading the values of dialogue, tolerance, and coexistence and rejected hatred and extremism.

Sweden and Finland applied last year to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, all 30 member states must approve their bids. Turkey has stated that Sweden, in particular, must first take a more unambiguous stance against what it sees as terrorists, mainly Kurdish militants and a group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt.

In addition to the protest against Sweden’s bid to join NATO, a separate protest took place in the city supporting Kurds. A group of pro-Turkish supporters also held a demonstration outside the embassy. All of these gatherings were approved by the police with permits.

In Istanbul, a group of around 200 people set a Swedish flag on fire in front of the Swedish consulate to respond to the burning of the Koran. Turkey also announced that it had canceled a planned visit by the Swedish defense minister to Ankara, citing a lack of action to restrict the protests.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar stated, “it is unacceptable not to make a move or react to these (protests). The necessary things needed to be done, and measures should have been taken.”

Source: Caasimada Online and News Agencies