TEHRAN – Swedish authorities have confirmed that individuals had applied for and received permission from police to burn the Quran, once again, outside the Iraqi embassy for the second time in a matter of a few weeks.
Stockholm police spokesman Mats Eriksson said police had granted permission for a “demonstration involving two people” outside the Iraqi embassy.
On Friday, a small group of extremists in Stockholm desecrated the Quran by kicking and partially damaging the holy book. Reports suggest they did not burn it as they had planned to do so.
According to Swedish media reports, the blasphemous act was planned by Salwan Momika, a 37-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker in Sweden who also set ablaze pages of a Quran in front of Stockholm’s largest mosque during the Islamic Eid al-Adha holiday late last month.
The Iraqi government has now expelled the Swedish ambassador in response to the repeated permissions being granted by the Swedish government to allow the burning a copy of the Holy Quran.
Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani has also directed the Foreign Ministry to recall the country’s charge d’affaires from the Republic of Iraq’s embassy in Sweden.
Baghdad has informed the Swedish government, through diplomatic channels, “that any recurrence of the incident involving the burning of the Holy Quran on Swedish soil or to grant approvals under the pretext of freedom of expression would necessitate severing diplomatic relations”, a government statement warned.
State news media reported that Baghdad has suspended working permits for Swedish businesses such as telecom giant Ericsson on Iraqi soil.
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry has announced that Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein issued a request to hold an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to address the repeated insults to Islam’s holy book.
The ministry has also issued a statement condemning the storming of the Swedish embassy.
“The Iraqi government has instructed the competent security authorities to conduct an urgent investigation and take the necessary security measures in order to uncover the circumstances of the incident and identify the perpetrators of this act and hold them accountable according to the law,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Ahead of the planned Quran burning, angry protesters stormed the Swedish embassy in Baghdad early Thursday, breaking into the compound and lighting a small fire.
Videos circulating on social media shows demonstrators at the diplomatic mission waving flags and photos showing Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
The footage shows dozens of men climbing over the fence at the complex, with the sound of them trying to break down a front door. Another video, which cannot be authenticated, shows what appears to be a small fire being set.
Videos also show a group of men inside what appears to be a room at the embassy. An alarm is audible in the background. Others performed morning prayers outside of the embassy.
Police and other security officials gathered at the embassy as small plumes of smoke still rose. Firefighters tried to douse the flames from the ladder of a fire truck.
The Finnish embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone is adjacent to the Swedish embassy, in an area that is surrounded by blast walls. Finland’s ambassador to Iraq told the Finnish public broadcaster YLE that the Swedish and Finnish embassy staff had evacuated the area on Wednesday and were unharmed.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said that the approval of a protest with intent to burn the Quran was “legitimate, but not appropriate.”
Regarding the incident at the Swedish embassy in Baghdad, he said that this was a security breach that must be dealt with immediately, and those responsible for security must be held accountable.
Before being recalled to Baghdad, Sweden summoned Iraq’s charge d’affaires in Stockholm.
“The attacks against the Swedish embassy in Iraq are completely unacceptable. It is the second time in a short time that this has happened. Iraq has a responsibility to protect Sweden’s embassy in Baghdad. The government will today summon Iraq’s top diplomat in Sweden,” Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said in a statement.
The Iraqi government’s emergency meeting ordered those responsible for storming the embassy, ??who were arrested, to the judiciary, as well as referring any negligent security officials for an investigation, and to take legal measures against them.
Just weeks ago, Momica burned a copy of the Holy Quran in front of Stockholm’s largest Mosque, when Muslims were celebrating Eid al-Adha, which triggered widespread condemnation in Islamic countries, and a call from the OIC to take collective measures against the repeated desecration of the Quran, while Yemen issued a decision to boycott Swedish products.
Earlier this year, the Swedish police also allowed Rasmus Paludan, leader of the far-right Danish Stram Kurs party, to burn a copy of the Quran in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.
In Iran, protesters braved the summer heat to flood the streets nationwide. Footage shows demonstrations in capital Tehran, Sari, Birjand, Kermanshah, Mashhad, Qom, and elsewhere.
People across Lebanon staged mass protests outside mosques and churches across the country after Friday prayers following a call by the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
During a speech marking the month of Muharram, Nasrallah called on the Lebanese people to “show their support for the Quran and gather in front of mosques, so that it is not an ordinary Friday”
Seyyed Nasrallah added, “The title of our sit-in in front of all mosques and churches should be to demand that governments withdraw their ambassadors from Sweden and expel the ambassadors of Sweden.”
People across Lebanon heeded the call with footage showing large rallies outside different places of worship.
Thousands have protested in Pakistan in response to the planned burning of the Quran.
Anti-Swedish rallies have also been staged in different Muslims countries, including the Iraq capital.
Demonstrations took place across Iraq following a call by the coordination framework “in support of God’s religion and His Holy Book,” calling on Arab and Islamic countries, and the OIC to “take strong steps and positions to stop this flagrant violation of the sanctity of Islam and Muslims.”
The Iraqi coordination framework (a coalition of political parties with a parliamentary majority) announced its strong condemnation and denounced Swedish authorities for again allowing an extremist to burn a copy of the Quran.
The coordination framework affirmed its support for the “courageous decision” of the government for issuing a warning to sever diplomatic relations with Sweden, and to withdraw Iraqi representation from Stockholm, in order to allow transgression against the Holy Quran.
Other Iraqi political parties and organizations have also condemned the repetitious attack on Islamic sanctity, many saying it “would not have been repeated had it not been for the hostile policy of America and the West.”
In a statement, the Presidency of the Iraqi Sunni Endowment Office called on Arab and Islamic countries to follow the example of the Iraqi government in its position, which the statement described as honorable, in reference to the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador from the country.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry has summoned the Swedish ambassador, informing him of its strong protest against the Swedish government’s repeated permission to offend the Holy Quran.
“We strongly condemn the repeated desecration of the Holy Quran and Islamic sanctities in Sweden, and we hold the Swedish government fully responsible for the consequences of inciting the feelings of Muslims around the world,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said.
“Continuing to desecrate Islamic holy places and spreading hatred in this way is considered a perfect example of organized violence and a hostile action against the world’s two billion Muslim population, God-believing people and followers of the heavenly religions,” Kanaani stated.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian has called on the UN Secretary-General to condemn the sacrilegious actions against Islam, saying they only spread Islamophobia and extremism.
Abdollahian told the UN chief that the desecration of the Quran as well as other holy books under the pretext of freedom of expression will spread hatred, violence and xenophobia.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Bangladesh are among the Muslim countries that have summoned Swedish envoys conveying their strong condemnation over the latest sacrilegious act.
Jordan condemned the Quran’s desecration “as a reckless act that fuels hatred, and a manifestation of Islamophobia that incites violence and insult to religions”, its Foreign Ministry said.
Turkey strongly condemned the “despicable attack” on the Quran, calling on Sweden to take “decisive measures to prevent this hate crime” against Islam, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.
“We strongly condemn the despicable attack targeting our sacred book, the Quran in front of Iraq’s Stockholm embassy,” a statement by the Foreign Ministry noted.
The Lebanese Hezbollah chief has called on all Muslim governments to follow Iraq’s path and expel Sweden’s ambassadors from their counties.
He said if the burning of the Quran occurs again, countries should sever diplomatic ties with Sweden in line with Iraq’s policy.
The al-Azhar University led the condemnations by Muslim Sunni organizations across West Asia. The highly-respected university said the “approvals to burn the Quran reflects chaotic policies, hateful extremism and support for terrorism.”
Pakistan, which holds the presidency for the OIC, was among other Muslim countries that condemned in the “strongest possible terms” yet another Islamophobic act of public desecration of the Holy Quran in Sweden.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said, “From the platform of OIC, we will create a common strategy to remedy this evil,” Sharif said in a statement. “The OIC is to play a historic role in expressing the sentiments of the Muslim world and stopping this evil.”
“The sequence and continuity of the events is evidence that this is not an expression, but part of a political and satanic agenda,” Sharif noted. “All Muslims and Christians will have to jointly put an end to this conspiracy.”
“Permission to carry out premeditated and provocative acts of religious hatred cannot be justified under the guise of freedom of expression, opinion and protest,” the Pakistani Foreign Office spokesperson said in a statement.
The disturbing recurrence of such Islamophobic incidents, which have hurt the sentiments of over 2 billion Muslims worldwide, is both legally and morally reprehensible.
The sacrilegious action and other anti-Muslim measures in the West have been limited only to Islam by groups of far-right extremists. The Western governments’ inaction against the blasphemy has infuriated the Islamic world.
Three such incidents have occurred in Sweden this year alone, triggering calls in West Asia for the boycott of Swedish products.
Experts say Israel and the U.S. seek a sinister goal by orchestrating such sacrilegious acts as they have a long tradition of anti-Islam prejudice.