EAnother desecration of the Koran in Stockholm has led to intense tensions between Sweden and several Muslim countries. Enraged demonstrators protested against the action again in Baghdad and Tehran on Friday. The evening before, the regional powers Iran and Saudi Arabia summoned the Swedish ambassadors. In Lebanon, the army strengthened security around the Swedish embassy in Beirut. Sweden said it had moved its embassy in Baghdad to Stockholm for security reasons.
Iraqi refugee Salwan Momika, who lives in Sweden, trampled on a copy of the Koran on Thursday. However, the renewed burning of the Koran in front of the Iraqi Embassy, which he had previously announced, did not take place. Earlier in Iraq, demonstrators had set fire to parts of the Swedish embassy in Baghdad to protest against the announced desecration of the Koran.
The Swedish authorities justified the approval of such actions with freedom of expression. However, they also assured that this does not mean that they endorsed the action. The Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry announced that a protest note would be handed to the Swedish ambassador, calling “in particular on the Swedish authorities to take all necessary and immediate measures to end these shameful acts”.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry said on Friday that Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian had called his Swedish colleague Tobias Billstrom. The ministry quoted Amir-Abdollahian as saying that the person responsible for this “unforgivable insult” must be “arrested, brought to justice and held accountable for his actions”. Meanwhile, dozens of demonstrators gathered in front of the heavily secured Swedish embassy in Tehran. They demanded its closure and the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador.
Tehran will not let a new Swedish ambassador into the country
Tehran has also announced that it will not allow a new Swedish ambassador into the country for the time being. The term of office of the Swedish ambassador in Tehran has ended, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Iranian state television on Friday. “According to the President’s order, we will not accept the new Swedish ambassador until the Swedish government takes concrete action against the desecration of the Holy Koran”. In addition, the Iranian ambassador “will not be sent to Sweden,” he added.
Turkey also condemned the Koran campaign in Stockholm as “shameful” and called on Sweden to take “deterrent measures”. Stockholm must prevent “hate crimes against Islam and its billions of believers,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.
Turkey only gave the green light for Sweden’s accession to NATO on July 10 after months of blockade. Ankara accused Sweden of harboring “terrorists,” meaning members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). However, Turkey has repeatedly denounced the Swedish authorities’ approval for the burning of the Koran.
Lebanon tightened security measures
On Thursday night, protesters in Baghdad broke into the Swedish embassy and set fire to parts of the building. The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs then announced that the embassy’s staff and operations had been transferred from Baghdad to Stockholm. “Safety is a priority,” said a spokeswoman for AFP.
After Friday prayers, hundreds of demonstrators gathered again in Baghdad’s working-class district of Sadr City. The influential Shiite leader Moktada Sadr had called for the protest – supporters of Sadr had also attacked the Swedish embassy.
In Lebanon, the army strengthened security around the Swedish embassy in Beirut. As AFP reporters saw, protesting supporters of the Iran-backed radical Islamist Hezbollah in Beirut carried copies of the Koran and chanted that they were protecting “God’s Book” with their “blood”.
At the end of June, the Iraqi refugee Momika had set some pages of the Koran on fire during a similar protest, triggering massive outrage in the Muslim world.
In an interview published Friday in the French magazine Marianne, Momika defended his action. She was supposed to draw attention to the discrimination against minorities in Iraq. He will “burn copies of the Koran for as long as he is legally permitted”.