Quran burning: Iran delays Sweden ambassador appointment

Iran says it is postponing its appointment of a new Swedish ambassador, citing the protest by an Iraqi man earlier in the week in Stockholm

The man trod on the book and set several pages alight (Photo: DW)
The man trod on the book and set several pages alight (Photo: DW)


Several Muslim countries continued to complain to Sweden on Sunday about a protest earlier in the week in Stockholm in which an Iraqi national set fire to a copy of the Quran, Islam's holy book.

That's despite the Swedish government repeatedly criticizing the protests, and pointing out that a court had ruled beforehand that police were not entitled to stop it.

The man trod on the book and set several pages alight. Another man, who stood next to him filming with a smartphone, had carried Swedish flags.

Swedish authorities also later opened an investigation against the 37-year-old on suspicion of agitation.

Iran delays ambassadorial appointment

Iran's Foreign Minister Hussein Amirabdollahian said that Tehran had put on hold the appointment of a new ambassador to Sweden.

He said that the administrative details had been completed, but the new diplomat would not be taking up the Stockholm post for the time being.

Iran, which spent much of the past year violently repressing protesters seeking more political and religious freedom, summoned Sweden's charge d'affaires earlier in the week to demand an explanation.

Protesters in Tehran also demonstrated several times, some of them burning Swedish flags in response.

Similar demonstrations have taken place in several Muslim countries this week, including a small one in Jakarta in Indonesia on Sunday.

Muslim countries call for global Quran burning ban

Also on Sunday, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OiC), a 57-member body based in Saudi Arabia, called for collective measures to avoid future instances of Quran burnings.

Following what was billed as an "extraordinary" meeting of the body, it issued a statement calling for member states to "take unified and collective measures to prevent the recurrence of incidents of desecration of the" Quran.

The body's secretary general, Hissein Brahim Taha, "streesed the need to send a clear message" that such acts "are not mere ordinary Islamophobia incidents," the statement said.

"We must send constant reminders to the international community regarding the urgent application of international law, which clearly prohibits any advocacy of religious hatred," the statement said.

In most Muslim countries burning the Quran is outlawed and in some, including Saudi Arabia, it can carry a public beheading death sentence.

Iraq has appealed to Sweden to return the Iraqi citizen behind the protest to face trial there.

Turkey has also used the incident to again question Sweden's NATO accession bid, having already held up fellow Nordic applicant Finland for months amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Sweden condemns protest again

The Swedish government condemned the protests again on Sunday, both in a public statement and in an email to a Swedish newspaper.

"In Sweden, freedom of expression enjoys strong protection. But naturally this does not mean that the Government supports every opinion that is expressed. Public gatherings that are entirely legal can also be polarizing and offensive. Demonstrations like that held on Wednesday are just that," the Swedish Foreign Ministry said in a statement explaining that the country was introducing additional border security steps in response to the week's events.

"It can be noted, for example, that the man now being investigated for the offense of agitation against a national or ethnic group following Wednesday’s events is an Iraqi national who only has a temporary residence permit in Sweden," the statement also said.

The ministry went somewhat further in an email reply to the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper, referring to the protest by a Muslim who had renounced his faith as "Islamophobic" and saying that "the burning of the Quran, or any other holy text, is an offensive and disrespectful act and a clear provocation."

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson earlier in the week had described the protest as "legal but not appropriate," in reference to the failed attempt in the Swedish courts to block the demonstration. He reiterated how the decision did not rest with his government.

msh/wd (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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