On June 26th , 2023, Sweden authorised Salwan Momika’s desecration of the Holy Quran outside the Swedish capital’s main mosque. This led to an outburst around the Muslim world towards extremists provocative behaviour, which coincided with Eid al-Adha, one of the largest Islamic religious festivals observed by Muslims.
Officials from numerous Islamic countries, including Turkey, Jordan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Morocco, Mauritania, and Senegal, reacted to the incident, calling on Stockholm to step up measures against religious hatred.
Morocco’s foreign ministry expressed its strong condemnation of this event and rejected this unacceptable act. Not only that, but they also took further action by recalling their ambassador to Sweden for an indefinite period of time.
Baghdad, Iraq, recorded their protest by storming the Swedish embassy and chanting, Yes, yes to the Quran”.
History of Islamophobia in Sweden
This was not the first Islamophobic act demonstrated by Sweden. Their animosity towards Islam dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries. It was the era of the expansion of Sweden’s military power and dangerous religious doctrines.
The report on “Islamophobia in Sweden: National Report 2022” discusses the rapidly increasing arbitrary securitization of Muslim civil society and anti-Muslim radicalization in the broader Swedish context.
These protests are permitted in the name of freedom of speech, conscience, and religion or belief.
At the rise of the Ottoman Empire, the Swedish government unwillingly allowed Muslims and Jews to practise their faith within Sweden. However, this tolerance lasted until the 19th century, when Sweden regained military, political, and economic strength. Their Social Democratic Party laid the foundation for a Western style stereotypical view of Islam and the Eastern world, depicting Islam as inferior to Christianity.
Sweden adopted a multicultural policy in response to an inflow of refugees after World War II and portrayed Islam more poorly than the dominant framework.
In the past two decades, Sweden has increasingly pursued Islamophobic and anti-immigrant policies as its power has grown.
Was it the Right Time to Protest?
This protest certainly did not end well with the Muslim world, especially Turkey. Sweden is adamant about joining NATO, and the only roadblock to joining it is Turkey. The geographical location of Turkey makes it a strategically important NATO member and the alliance’s second-largest military power.
The next official summit of NATO is on July 11, and officials fear seeing the alliance miss its own stated aim of admitting Sweden to the alliance.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said, “We will teach the arrogant Western people that it is not freedom of expression to insult the sacred values of Muslims.”
Hakan Fidan stated: “It is unacceptable to allow these anti-Islamic actions under the pretext of freedom of expression. To turn a blind eye to such heinous acts is to be complicit in them.”
Earlier this year, Turkish-Swedish relations had already suffered a major blow following an anti-immigration politician rally outside Stockholm’s Turkish Embassy. During the rally, a copy of the Holy Quran was set alight, exacerbating tensions between the two nations.
This sparked anger in Ankara, the Turkish capital, where protesters burned the Swedish flag outside the Swedish embassy in response.
The Bottom Line
Swedish government stated these heinous acts as as “freedom of expression.” However, this is not the case. Freedom has its limits. It cannot violate the rights of individuals. There is no excuse to attack a nation, religion, individual, or state. Hate crimes can never be justified, be they against Muslims, Christians, Hindus, or any other religion.
According to the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights adopted in 1966, freedom of expression encompasses the boundaries of respecting the dignity and rights of others. Additionally, it entails protecting public order, national security, health, and morals (Article 19). Furthermore, Article 20 of the covenant crucially prohibits defending enmity that incites discrimination, hatred, or violence based on national, racial, or religious grounds.