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January 22, 2023 12:12 pm
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Quran Burning Ignites New Spat Between Turkey and Sweden

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avatar by i24 News

The cover of a Koran. Photo: Wiki Commons.

i24 News – Rasmus Paludan, a leader of a far right Danish political party who also holds Swedish citizenship, burnt a copy of the Quran outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm on Saturday. His action took place despite a call by the Turkish foreign minister to withdraw the permit for the protest.

Paludan sparked riots last year, when during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan he announced that he wanted to go on a tour to burn the Quran.

The act also has political consequences. Sweden and Finland asked to join NATO after the Russian invasion of Ukraine – something Turkey opposes, as it accuses Sweden of not doing enough to contain what it calls “Kurdish terrorism.” Its stance is not likely to change now, given the outrage the images from Stockholm sparked in Ankara.

“We cannot accept the burning of Koran under the umbrella of freedom of expression and human rights,” said Selcuj Geyveli, Deputy Chairman of Turkey’s New Welfare Party. “And we can never accept any attack against our holy values in any place around the world.”

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Turkey is not the only country expressing outrage. Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia all condemned the torching of the Quran in Sweden. The Saudi Foreign Ministry also noted “the importance of spreading the values of dialogue, tolerance, and coexistence, and rejecting hatred and extremism.”

Muslims consider the Quran the word of God and torching it a major offense in Islam.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom has tried to douse the flames of indignation, tweeting that “”Islamophobic provocations are appalling. Sweden has a far-reaching freedom of expression, but it does not imply that the Swedish Government, or myself, support the opinions expressed.”

But the damage was done. A visit of the Swedish defense minister to Turkey to discuss the NATO bid was canceled in light of the recent events. This comes after last week, an effigy resembling Turkish president Erdogan was hung feet up during a protest of a Kurdish group in Stockholm.

Turkey and Sweden are drifting apart diplomatically, Sweden’s NATO membership, although the U.S, has expressed its support, seems to be drifting away as well.

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