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Sweden bans Koran burning protest

Türkiye has said that it may block Stockholm’s NATO bid over the desecration of the Islamic holy book

Swedish police have denied anti-Islam activists permission to burn the Koran in front of the Turkish embassy, citing an upsurge in terrorist threats following a similar act last month. Ankara threatened to block Sweden’s application for NATO membership following last month’s protest, which was permitted by authorities.

Sweden’s national police force announced on Tuesday that the protest application had been refused, explaining that “such a gathering is judged to be capable of causing serious disturbances to national security.” 

Danish far-right politician Rasmus Paludan, who also holds Swedish citizenship, led a protest in Stockholm last month in which he burned the Islamic holy book in front of the Turkish embassy. Swedish politicians condemned Paludan’s stunt, but authorities allowed it to go ahead, with Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom citing the country’s “far-reaching freedom of expression” laws.

The protest set off a wave of anger across the Muslim world. In a report on Tuesday, the Swedish Security Police – the agency responsible for espionage and counterterrorism – said that it had seen “an increase in the number of terrorist threats” following the burning.

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FILE PHOTO:  Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto speaks at a February 2019 press briefing in Budapest.
NATO member condemns Sweden’s response to Koran burning

“Sweden is judged to be in greater focus than before for violent Islamism,” the agency stated.

The national police force said that it made the decision to reject the application for a second protest after discussions with the Swedish Security Police.

As well as apparently increasing the terror threat, Paludan’s demonstration in January imperiled Sweden’s bid to join NATO. Sweden and Finland both renounced their neutrality and applied to join the US-led military bloc last summer, but Stockholm’s refusal to forbid Paludan from publicly torching the Muslim scriptures prompted Ankara to call off an accession meeting with the two Nordic nations.

Türkiye had already clashed with both countries, refusing to ratify their membership bids until they agreed to extradite dozens of alleged terrorists and lift arms embargoes previously imposed on the country. In light of the Koran burning, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared last week that “as long as [Sweden allows] my holy book, the Koran, to be burned and torn… we will not say yes to your entry into NATO.”

Although the US is the dominant power in NATO, all 30 member states must vote unanimously to accept new nations into the alliance.

February 08, 2023 at 11:24PM

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