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Swedish PM “extremely worried” what could happen if further Quran burnings go ahead

Stockholm, Sweden

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson is “extremely worried” about the consequences if more demonstrations go ahead in which the Quran is desecrated, he said on Thursday, amid growing Muslim anger at a series of attacks on Islam’s holy book.

Attacks on the Quran in Sweden and Denmark have offended many Muslim countries including Turkey, whose backing Sweden needs to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a goal of Stockholm’s following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson addresses the media ahead of a NATO leaders summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 11th July, 2023.

 Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson addresses the media ahead of a NATO leaders summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 11th July, 2023. PICTURE: Reuters/Ints Kalnins/ File photo

Kristersson told Swedish news agency TT that further requests had been filed with police for permission to hold protests where desecration of the Quran was again planned.

“If they are granted, we are going to face some days where there is a clear risk of something serious happening. I am extremely worried about what it could lead to,” he said.

Sweden’s embassy in Baghdad was stormed and set ablaze on 20th July by protesters angered by a planned Quran burning.

Kristersson said the decision whether to grant permission for the demonstrations was up to the police.

Sweden’s security service, SAPO, has kept its assessment of the threat level at three on a scale of five, signifying an “elevated threat” during the crisis, but its head said there had been a strong reaction to recent events.

“Anti-Islamic land”
“Sweden has gone from being seen as a tolerant country to being seen as an anti-Islamic land,” Charlotte von Essen told reporters on Thursday.

Denmark and Sweden have said they deplore the burning of the Quran but cannot prevent it under rules protecting free speech.

Sweden has accused other countries – such as Russia – of manipulating the crisis to damage its interests and its bid to join NATO.

“In some countries there is a perception that the Swedish state is behind or condone this. We don’t,” Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom told reporters on Thursday.

“These are acts committed by individuals, but they do it within the framework of freedom of speech laws,” he said.

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Billstrom said he had been in touch with the foreign ministers of Iran, Iraq, Algeria and Lebanon among others as well as the United Nations secretary-general about the current crisis. 

“And just now I will speak to the secretary-general for the Organisation of Islamic Countries,” Billstrom said. 

“We will discuss these issues and it’s important to stress that this is a long-term issue, there are no quick fixes,” he said.

The government is facing a difficult balancing act in defending far-reaching freedom of speech laws, while at the same time avoiding potential insult to Muslims.

Its position is not made easier by the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, whose support keeps the right-of-centre coalition in power though the party is not formally part of the government. 

Members of Sweden Democrats, the biggest party on the right, have repeatedly warned about the “Islamization” of Swedish society and called for immigrants to adopt “Swedish” values.


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