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Sweden issues rare ban over Quran burning rally

Words of faith 2023-02-09, 8:11pm

Sweden bans Quran burning rally. - DW News

An anti-NATO rally in Stockholm that would have included the burning of a Quran has not been allowed to go ahead. It comes after a similar incident sparked threats from NATO member Turkey.

Swedish police on Wednesday refused to grant permission to a planned rally that would have included the burning of a Quran — a rare move by the Swedish authorities.

The effective ban follows a similar stunt in January which saw a far-right politician burning the Muslim holy book close to the Turkish embassy in Stockholm last month — the same place Thursday's protest had been planned for.

But Sweden's security service, Sapo, said that the January rally had increased the risk of attacks against Sweden, citing this in its reason for refusing to greenlight another such protest.

"The burning of the Koran outside Turkey embassy in January 2023 can be determined to have increased threats against both the Swedish society at large, but also against Sweden, Swedish interests abroad and Swedes abroad," the police decision said.

"Sweden has become a higher priority target for attacks."

Fears over Sweden's NATO bid

The fallout of the previous book burning was not limited to anti-Swedish protests across the Muslim world.

Turkey responded by canceling a visit from Sweden's defense minister to Ankara for a planned meeting to discuss Sweden's accession into NATO, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Sweden to not count on its support.

The incident has caused diplomatic headaches for Sweden which must have unanimous approval to join the NATO alliance — a decision it took following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Erdogan had said that Turkey would not approve the Swedish bid as long as Quran burnings were allowed. Protests are rarely banned in Sweden, being considered protected under the freedom of assembly.

Rise of the far-right in Sweden

Swedish police said that Thursday's rally had not been called for by the same far-right politician, but by a little-known association. AFP reported that the rally was aimed at protesting Sweden's NATO membership bid.

The police defended their decision to permit the previous Quran-burning rally, saying that the situation had changed.

Stockholm was the scene of an Islamist terror attack in 2017 that left five people dead.

Sweden has also seen its far-right and neo-Nazi organizations flourish in recent years, one of which — the Sweden Democrats — became the second-largest party in the Swedish parliament following elections last year.

It is also the largest party in the right-wing ruling bloc, although not recognized as a part of the government.

ab/jcg (AFP, dpa) – DW report