Diplomatic Crisis: Koran Desecration in Stockholm

Iraq on Thursday ordered the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador to Baghdad and suspended all business with companies in Sweden in response to the desecration of a copy of the Koran in Stockholm.

Iraq severed diplomatic ties with Sweden in response to the desecration of a copy of the Koran in Stockholm. Even as the mini-rally took place in the Swedish capital where the holy book of Islam was trampled on, but not burned as planned, the Iraqi government ordered the expulsion of the Scandinavian country’s ambassador to Baghdad, and recalled its own representative. The Iraqi authorities have also announced that they are suspending the license of Swedish telecom equipment giant Ericsson in the country.

Thursday evening, some 200 demonstrators denounced in Baghdad the desecration of the Koran. Some burned Swedish flags, according to an AFP photographer, when supporters of Shiite religious leader Moqtada Sadr stormed the Swedish embassy in Baghdad at dawn and set it on fire before being dispersed by police with water cannons. About 20 people were arrested, according to a security source.

An event authorized by the Swedish police

A few hours after the violence in Baghdad, the organizer of the rally in Stockholm, Salwan Momika, a 37-year-old Iraqi refugee in Sweden, desecrated a copy of the Koran but did not go through with his project. In front of an audience held at a distance by barriers and from which rose cries and others “Allah akbar!” (“God is the greatest!”), he repeatedly stomped on and tore a copy of the book to pieces, without setting it on fire as he had announced.

“I don’t like the burning of sacred texts so I’m very happy that it didn’t happen today,” reacted to AFP Rickard Wall, a 66-year-old retiree living in Stockholm. “It’s just a circus, it’s just a show, it wants publicity, it’s just a clown.”

Swedish police had allowed the rally in the name of freedom of assembly, but stressed that this did not amount to condoning what would happen there.

A doomed provocation

Denouncing the desecration of the Koran, Turkey, which has long blocked Sweden’s membership in NATO, condemned the “despicable” desecration and urged Stockholm to “take dissuasive measures” to avoid any new similar act.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) spoke of a “new provocative act”. Its secretary general, Hissein Brahim Taha, urged Stockholm to “stop issuing (gathering) permits to extremist groups and individuals,” according to a statement.

The head of pro-Iranian Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, for his part demanded the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador to Lebanon and called for demonstrations.

At the end of June, Salwan Momika had already burned a few pages of a copy of the Koran in front of Stockholm’s largest mosque on the first day of Eid al-Adha, a holiday celebrated by Muslims around the world. This first incident prompted Moqtada Sadr’s supporters to storm the Swedish embassy in Baghdad, but they quickly got out. Salwan Momika’s gesture in Stockholm then provoked a volley of international condemnations. This type of action has already taken place in Sweden or in other European countries, sometimes at the initiative of far-right movements. In January, Swedish-Danish right-wing extremist Rasmus Paludan went into action near the Turkish embassy.

This article is originally published on letemps.ch



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