Middle East nations denounce Koran burning in Sweden

AFP , Thursday 29 Jun 2023

Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern nations on Thursday condemned the burning of the Koran by an Iraqi living in Sweden, warning such acts "inflame" the feelings of Muslims around the world.

Salwan Momika protests outside a mosque in Stockholm on June 28, 2023, during the Eid al-Adha holiday. Momika, 37, who fled from Iraq to Sweden several years ago, was granted permission by the Swedish police to burn the Muslim holy book during the demonstration. AFP


Under a heavy police presence, Salwan Momika, a 37-year-old who fled to Sweden several years ago, on Wednesday stomped on the Koran before setting several pages alight in front of Stockholm's largest mosque.

Police in the Swedish capital had granted him a permit for the protest in line with free-speech protections, but said later they had opened an investigation into the man over "agitation".

The incident occurred as Muslims around the world marked the Eid al-Adha holiday and as the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia was drawing to a close.

Iraq condemned the Swedish authorities' decision to grant an "extremist" permission to burn the Koran.

"These events inflame the feelings of Muslims around the world and represent a dangerous provocation for them," the foreign ministry in Baghdad said.

Iran joined in the condemnation, calling the Koran burning "provocative, ill-considered and unacceptable".

"The government and people of the Islamic Republic of Iran... do not tolerate such an insult and strongly condemn it," said foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanani.

"The Swedish government is expected to seriously consider the principle of responsibility and accountability in this regard, while preventing the repetition of insulting the holy sanctities," he added.

Saudi Arabia, which hosted around 1.8 million Muslim pilgrims for the hajj which ended on Wednesday, also denounced the Koran burning.

"These hateful and repeated acts cannot be accepted with any justification," the Saudi foreign ministry said.

 'Freedoms as a ploy' 

Egypt, the Arab world's most populous country, called the Koran burning a "disgraceful act provoking the feelings of Muslims" as they mark Eid.

The Cairo-based Arab League branded the Koran burning an "assault on the core of our Islamic faith".

Kuwait called for perpetrators of such "hostile acts" to be brought to justice "prevented from using the principle of freedoms as a ploy to justify hostility against Islam or any holy faith".

The Koran burning was also condemned by the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council and Morocco, which recalled its ambassador to Stockholm.

"This new offensive and irresponsible act disregards the feelings of more than a billion Muslims, at this sacred time of the great pilgrimage to Mecca and the blessed feast of Eid al-Adha," the kingdom said.

"Faced with these repeated provocations, committed under the complacent gaze of the Swedish government", Morocco summoned Sweden's charge d'affaires in Rabat and recalled its ambassador, it added.

Lebanon's powerful Iran-backed movement Hezbollah charged the Swedish authorities were "complicit in the crime".

Hezbollah called on Sweden to put an end to such acts "rather than hiding behind freedom of speech".

It urged religious authorities and Muslim and Arab nations to take "all the necessary steps" to compel Sweden and other countries to prevent the recurrence of such incidents and stop "the spread of a culture of hate".

In January, a Swedish-Danish right-wing extremist burned a copy of the Koran near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, also triggering outrage in the Muslim world.

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