The burning of a copy of the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm on Saturday has been condemned by foreign governments, international organizations and rights groups.
The incident, which took place Saturday afternoon, was staged by Rasmus Paludan, a Danish-Swedish politician from the far-right Stram Kurs (Hard Line) party.
Following the Quran burning, the European Commission criticized the incident, noting that hatred of religions is contrary to EU values. The commission has also called on Sweden to take action.
“We are aware of the incident and the reaction of the Swedish authorities,” Johannes Bahrke, a spokesman for the commission, said at a daily press conference in Brussels.
Speaking to Germany’s Welt TV station, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he found the burning of the Quran in Sweden “inappropriate” even though it is not illegal in democracies like Sweden, where freedom of expression is a valuable asset.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday during a press briefing that “burning books that are holy to many is a deeply disrespectful act.” Price described the incident as “disgusting” and “vile.”
The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), which works to increase understanding between different cultures, also described the Quran burning as “disgusting.”
“The Quran burning is an expression of hatred towards Muslims. It is disrespectful and insulting to the followers of Islam and should not be confused with freedom of expression,” chairman Miguel Ángel Moratinos said in a statement.
Speaking to Dagens Nyheter, Swedish Prime Minister Tobias Billström said the Swedish government has been clear that there is freedom of expression in Sweden but that they don’t approve of what the people who burned the Quran did. “This is something for which we must take full responsibility. Of course, the Swedish government in no way supports burning holy scriptures,” Billström added.
Muslims consider the Quran the sacred word of God and view any intentional damage or show of disrespect towards it as deeply offensive.
In April 2022 Paludan’s announcement of a Quran burning “tour” for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan sparked riots across Sweden.
The burning of the Quran has further heightened tensions between Turkey and Sweden, which have increased due to Turkey’s opposition to Sweden joining the NATO military alliance.
Both Sweden and its neighbor Finland are hoping to join NATO, dropping decades of military non-alignment in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, they need the consent of Turkey, a member of the alliance, to join.
Turkey has stated that its approval is conditional on Swedish steps to extradite 130 people it accuses of “terrorism” or of having played a part in a 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.