Following the burning of a copy of the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm on Saturday, several protests took place across Turkey over the weekend, with the Swedish Embassy in Ankara saying it expects the protests to continue, Swedish public broadcaster SVT reported.
The incident, which took place Saturday afternoon outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm, was staged by Rasmus Paludan, a politician from the far-right Stram Kurs (Hard Line) party.
“In the coming days we can expect more demonstrations in front of the embassy in Ankara and the consulate general in İstanbul,” the Swedish Embassy in Ankara said and advised Swedes in Turkey to avoid large gatherings.
On Saturday evening several hundred protesters gathered outside the Swedish diplomatic missions in Ankara and İstanbul, burning the Swedish flag and images of Paludan.
Muslims consider the Quran the sacred word of God and view any intentional damage or show of disrespect towards it as deeply offensive.
The largest demonstration took place on Sunday in the city of Batman in southeastern Turkey, where thousands of people gathered.
“Freedom of expression is a fundamental part of democracy. But what is legal is not necessarily appropriate. Burning books that are holy to many is a deeply disrespectful act. I want to express my sympathy for all Muslims who are offended by what has happened in Stockholm today,” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson tweeted on Saturday.
Freedom of expression is a fundamental part of democracy. But what is legal is not necessarily appropriate. Burning books that are holy to many is a deeply disrespectful act. I want to express my sympathy for all Muslims who are offended by what has happened in Stockholm today.
— SwedishPM (@SwedishPM) January 21, 2023
Speaking to SVT, Minister of Defense Pål Jonson said, “I can state that Swedish flags were burned, and that is certainly a protest against our political positions, but they are ultimately based on democracy, freedom of expression and human rights, and those are values we will continue to stand for.”
Under Swedish law, it is not a crime to burn Swedish flags inside or outside 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.
In April 2022 Paludan’s announcement of a Quran burning “tour” for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan sparked riots across Sweden.
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.