Swedish PM says 'no need to insult' others after Koran demo

AFP , Friday 30 Jun 2023

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on Friday distanced himself from this week's protest at which a Koran was burned outside a Stockholm mosque, which sparked outrage in parts of the Muslim world.

Supporters of Iraq s Sadrist movement hold up the Koran during a protest
Supporters of Iraq s Sadrist movement hold up the Koran during a protest in Basra on June 30, 2023, denouncing the burning of Islam s holy book in Sweden. AFP


"It is difficult to say what the consequences will be. I think there are many people who have reason to reflect," Kristersson told a press conference.

"This is a serious security question. There's no need to insult other people," the right-wing head of government said.

On Wednesday, after being granted a permit to protest by Swedish police, Iraqi refugee Salwan Momika stomped on a copy of the Koran and set several pages alight outside Stockholm's largest mosque on Wednesday.

The incident, which coincided with the start of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha and the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, sparked protests in Iraq and elsewhere.

Kristersson called for calm and reflection.

Swedish police had granted Momika, 37, permission to stage his protest in line with free speech protections.

They later said they had launched an investigation into "agitation against an ethnic group," noting that Momika had burnt pages from the Islamic holy book very close to the mosque.

"I think that just because some things are legal, they are not necessarily appropriate," Kristersson said on Friday.

In Iraq, protesters on Thursday briefly breached the Swedish embassy in Baghdad.

"It is of course completely unacceptable to have people who unlawfully break into Swedish embassies in other countries," Kristersson said.

Authorisation for Momika's demonstration came two weeks after a Swedish appeals court rejected a police decision to deny permits for two protests in Stockholm which were to include Koran burnings.

Police had at the time cited security concerns, following a Koran burning outside Turkey's embassy in January which led to weeks of protests, calls for a boycott of Swedish goods and further stalled Sweden's NATO membership bid -- which is being blocked by Turkey.

After the January burning, Turkey temporarily broke off NATO admission talks with Sweden.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has condemned the latest Koran burning.

Kristersson stressed it was too early to say what the consequences of this week's events would be.

"I think we should focus on the right things now. It's important that Sweden becomes a member of NATO. We have important and large issues to deal with," he said.

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