Koran Fire Prompts Swedish Embassy Repatriation

Supporters of Iraqi religious leader Moqtada Al-Sadr stormed the building early Thursday to protest against an event involving the destruction of a copy of the Koran in Sweden.

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The Swedish Embassy in Iraq has been temporarily repatriated to Stockholm for security reasons, the Swedish Foreign Ministry announced on Friday, July 21, the day after it was set on fire by demonstrators in Baghdad.

For its part, Iraq on Thursday ordered the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador to Baghdad in reaction to the desecration of a copy of the Koran in Stockholm. The Iraqi authorities also announced that they were suspending the license of the Swedish telecommunications equipment giant Ericsson in the country.

After Swedish police announced on Wednesday that they would authorize the mini-rally where a copy of the Koran was to be burned – the holy book of Islam was ultimately trampled on – supporters of Shiite religious leader Moqtada Al-Sadr stormed the Swedish embassy in Baghdad at dawn on Thursday, which they set on fire.’

After several hours of tension between demonstrators and riot police in front of the building, calm was restored. Twenty people were arrested, according to a security source. The Iraqi authorities have decided to “bring to justice the perpetrators of the fire who have been arrested”, according to the office of the Iraqi Prime Minister.

The Swedish foreign ministry called the attack “unacceptable”. He then summoned the Iraqi charge d’affaires to Stockholm. For their part, France and the United States “condemned” the attack on the embassy, Washington deeming “unacceptable that the Iraqi security forces did not act to prevent the demonstrators” from entering it.

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Turkey, which has long blocked Sweden’s NATO membership, for its part condemned the “despicable” desecration and urged Stockholm to “take dissuasive measures” to prevent any further similar acts. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meanwhile spoke of a “new provocative act”. Its secretary general, Hissein Brahim Taha, urged Stockholm to “stop issuing permits [for gatherings] to extremist groups and individuals,” according to a statement.

The organizer of the rally in Stockholm, Salwan Momika, is a 37-year-old Iraqi refugee in Sweden. In front of an audience, kept at a distance by barriers, from which rose cries, like “Allahou akbar!” (“God is great!”), he repeatedly stomped on and tore a copy of the Quran to pieces, without setting it on fire as he had announced.

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.

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.

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This first incident prompted Moqtada Al-Sadr’s supporters to storm the Swedish embassy in Baghdad, but they quickly got out.

Salwan Momika’s gesture in Stockholm then aroused numerous 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 engaged in the practice near the Turkish embassy.

This article is originally published on lemonde.fr


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