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Saudi, Iran summon Swedish diplomats over Holy Quran protests


Mar 16, 2012
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Middle East powerhouses Saudi Arabia and Iran have summoned Swedish diplomats to denounce Stockholm’s permission for protests that desecrate the Holy Quran on free speech grounds.

The separate moves by both majority-Muslim countries, announced in statements late on Thursday, came amid heightened tensions between Sweden and Iraq over a Sweden-based Iraqi refugee who last month desecrated the Holy Quran outside Stockholm’s main mosque.

In the latest such incident on Thursday, the refugee, Salwan Momika, stepped on the Holy Quran but did not burn it, triggering renewed condemnations and calls for protest across the Muslim world.

Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites, said it would hand the Swedish charge d’affaires “a protest note that includes the kingdom’s request to the Swedish authorities to take all immediate and necessary measures to stop these disgraceful acts”, according to a foreign ministry statement.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said Sweden’s ambassador to Tehran had been called in to censure the permit granted to Momika’s protest and to warn Stockholm of the consequences of such actions.

“We strongly condemn the repeated desecration of the Holy Quran and Islamic sanctities in Sweden and hold the Swedish government fully responsible for the consequences of inciting the feelings of Muslims around the world,” Kanani said.

News that Swedish authorities would permit the latest demonstration to go ahead had led hundreds of Iraqis to storm and torch Sweden’s Baghdad embassy in a chaotic pre-dawn attack.

Iraq’s government condemned the attack. It also retaliated against the protest in Sweden by expelling its ambassador, vowing to sever ties and suspending the operating licence of Swedish telecom giant Ericsson.


On Thursday, the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation denounced the Stockholm protest as “another provocative attack” that could not be justified under the right to freedom of expression.

Turkey’s foreign ministry called on Sweden to take “dissuasive measures to prevent hate crimes against Islam and its billions of followers”.

Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred”.

As protests continued in subsequent days, Swedish police approved a permit for a demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in Stockholm, which involved burning holy texts outside the Israeli embassy in Stockholm, sparking condemnation from Israel and Jewish organisations.

Initially, the demonstration was planned to involve burning the Torah and the Bible as a response to the Holy Quran burning protest. The application submitted to the police described it as an expression in support of freedom of speech.

However, a day later, the organiser of the protest announced that he would not proceed with it.

He had explained that his intention was in fact to denounce those who burn sacred books such as the Holy Quran in the Nordic country.

“This is a response to the people who burn the [Holy] Quran. I want to show that freedom of expression has limits that must be taken into account,” the Swedish resident of Syrian origin had said.

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