Sweden targeted by disinformation campaigns drawing on anger from Koran burnings: PM

AFP , Wednesday 26 Jul 2023

Sweden's Prime Minister warned Wednesday that his country was being targeted by disinformation campaigns that seek to capitalise on the anger sparked by protests involving desecrations of the Koran.

Sweden PM
Swedish prime minister Ulf Kristersson warned Wednesday that his country was being targeted by disinformation campaigns to harm Sweden and Swedish interests. AFP


"Sweden is right now the target of influence campaigns, supported by states and state-like actors, whose purpose is to harm Sweden and Swedish interests," Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said in a social media post.

The head of government said in a message on Instagram that recent "burnings of copies of religious texts" coincide with a difficult "security policy situation."

"These events are then retold in an inaccurate way, sometimes with direct calls to hurt our country," he continued.

In a separate statement, Minister for Civil Defence Carl-Oskar Bohlin also warned of an increased spread of disinformation against Sweden.

"There is a risk that the current disinformation campaigns against Sweden could jeopardise the situation of Swedish citizens and companies abroad, and pose a threat to national security," Bohlin said.

Tensions have flared between Sweden and several Middle Eastern nations after an Iraqi refugee staged two protests in which he desecrated the Koran.

In late June, Salwan Momika, 37, set pages of the Muslim holy text alight outside Stockholm's main mosque.

Last week he staged a similar protest outside Iraq's embassy, stomping on the Koran but leaving before burning it.

Sweden's government has condemned the desecrations, while stressing the country's constitutionally protected freedoms of speech and assembly.

Sweden and other European countries have previously seen protests where far-right and other activists, citing free speech protections, damage or destroy religious symbols or books, often sparking protests.

Advance news of the planned Stockholm protest had prompted hundreds of Iraqis to mass at Sweden's Baghdad embassy the night before -- as they did in response to June's Koran burning -- before scaling the walls and torching buildings.

The events have raised diplomatic tensions throughout the Middle East, with Swedish envoys summoned in Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

Sweden's ambassador has been expelled from Iraq, while Iran said it would not allow a new Swedish ambassador into the country, after repeated protests at embassies in both Baghdad and Tehran.

Abandoning centuries of military non-alignment, Sweden decided to apply for NATO membership in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but its membership is still awaiting ratification by Hungary and Turkey.

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