Police grant permit for Stockholm Koran burning protest

Students from Sunni Islamic seminaries holding a placard march during a demonstration in Islamabad on July 14, 2023, as they protest against the burning of the Koran outside a Stockholm mosque that outraged Muslims around the world. – AFP photo

STOCKHOLM (July 19): Swedish police said today they had granted a permit for a protest outside the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm, with media reporting the organisers planned to burn the Muslim holy book.

The protest, scheduled for Thursday, comes just weeks after a man set fire to pages of the Koran outside Stockholm’s main mosque — leading to widespread outrage and condemnations around the world.

Stockholm police told AFP they had granted a permit for a “public gathering” outside the Iraqi embassy, but did not wish to give further comments on what the protesters were planning.

According to news agency TT, the organisers had written in their application that the protesters wanted to burn the Koran and the Iraqi flag, and told the news agency that the same two people who participated in the June protest would be staging the new one.

AFP has requested a copy of the application from police, but did not immediately get a response.

Swedish police have stressed that they only grant permits for people to hold public gatherings and not for the activities conducted during them.

In June, Swedish police had granted a permit for 37-year-old Salwan Momika’s protest where he stomped on the Koran and set several pages alight in front of Stockholm’s largest mosque during Eid al-Adha, a festival celebrated by Muslims around the world.

The permit was granted in line with free speech protections, but authorities later said they had opened an investigation over “agitation against an ethnic group”, noting that Momika had burnt pages from the Islamic holy book very close to the mosque.

In January, Swedish-Danish right-wing extremist Rasmus Paludan burned a Koran in front of Turkey’s embassy in Stockholm to denounce Sweden’s membership application to NATO and the negotiations with Turkey to allow Sweden to join the alliance.

The two events triggered a series of condemnations in the Muslim world.

Swedish police had originally blocked Momika’s protest, citing security concerns raised after the January burning.

But the decision was appealed and subsequently overturned by two courts which found that the security concerns cited did not have a clear enough connection to the planned event or its immediate vicinity. – AFP

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