Muslim world reacts to anti-Islam protests: Furious Indonesia and Turkey summon envoys after Korans were destroyed in stunts in Sweden and the Netherlands

  • Far right leaders in Sweden and the Netherlands destroyed Korans last weekend
  • Protests across Muslim world saw Swedish flags burned after anti-Islamic stunt
  • Tensions grow as Turkish demands mount during Swedish bid to join NATO

Indonesia and Turkey today summoned their Swedish envoys following the burning of the Koran by far-right leader Rasmus Paludan in Stockholm on Saturday.

Parts of the Muslim world have erupted into protest over the last few days, demanding the closure of Swedish embassies after Sweden issued the permit for Paludan to burn the holy book at a rally.

Turkey also summoned the Dutch ambassador today to express upset with a separate stunt that saw pages ripped out of the Koran by far-right Pegida movement leader Edwin Wagensveld in the Netherlands on Sunday.

Both Paludan and Wagensveld cited freedom of expression when organising the separate acts of provocation.

Palestinian teachers and students school girls of Al-Jalil school burning Sweden flag during a protest against the burning of the Koran in Sweden, in Gaza City on, 24 January 2023

Iraqis shout slogans during a demonstration by the Swedish embassy in Baghdad on Monday

In Yemen, thousands gathered yesterday in Sanaa in protest of the Koran burning in Stockholm.

Soldiers were pictured standing guard as protestors called for the boycotting of Swedish companies. 

Yemenis were also pictured burning flags of the United States and Israel.

Elsewhere, an Iraqi policeman and seven protesters were injured on Monday during a rally of dozens outside the Swedish embassy in Baghdad.

Protestors were seen with a sign reading, ‘We demand the closure of the Swedish embassy in Baghdad.’

In Palestine, teachers and students burned Swedish flags and held up copies of the Koran in protest of Paludan’s actions. 

Palestinian teachers and students from Al-Jalil School protest against the burning of a Koran

Yemenis burn a US flag during a protest against the burning of the Koran in Sweden

Yemenis burn an Israeli flag during a protest against the burning of the Koran by a Swedish politician, in Sana’a, Yemen, on Monday 23 January.

A group protesting the burning of the Koran by Rasmus Paludan, the leader of the Danish far-right Stram Kurs party, held a protest in front of the Swedish Consulate in Istanbul on Sunday

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Sweden could no longer expect support for its NATO membership bid following its decision to grant Paludan a permit to burn the Koran.

Relations between Sweden and Turkey have soured as the former seeks Turkish support for its NATO membership bid. 

Sweden and Finland have sought to join NATO since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but their bids must be approved by all 30 NATO member states.

Both still rely on votes from Turkey and Hungary, which Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has promised to deliver in 2023.

Erdogan’s warning prompted Finland, which applied to join NATO together with its Nordic neighbour, to say for the first time that it might consider joining without Sweden yesterday.

Rasmus Paludan said ahead of the book burning that he wanted to ‘mark some freedom of speech’ after the hanging of an effigy of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Stockholm by pro-Kurdish activists provoked a strong reaction in Turkey.

Turkish officials said the act went against an agreement made under which Sweden and Finland would crack down on Kurdish militants as both sought to appease Turkey in return for their support in joining NATO.

Both Sweden and Finland have populations of ethnic Kurds, many of whom fled persecution in Turkey in the 1970s and 1980s.

An effigy of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan which provoked a strong response in Turkey

Erdogan yesterday said that Sweden could no longer count on Turkey to support its NATO bid

Finland’s top diplomat, Pekka Haavisto, appears to have suggested the country may have to join NATO without Sweden, after Turkey casts doubt on expansion of the military alliance

Indonesia also condemned the permit given for Paludan to burn a Koran on Saturday.

Sweden’s ambassador to Indonesia, Marina Berg, was summoned as Jakarta lodged an official complaint.

A spokesperson for the foreign ministry said they would meet with Berg this week.

Ankara, having used the leverage of NATO membership to make demands from Sweden, also called off a visit by Swedish Defence Minister Pal Jonson, saying the meeting ‘had lost its significance and meaning’.

State Department spokesperson for the United States said that the Koran burning may have been a deliberate attempt to sabotage unity in NATO on Monday.

Ned Price told reporters that the ‘repugnant’ and ‘disgusting’ act was the doing of a ‘provocateur’ intent on putting distance between Turkey and Sweden.

Paludan previously said: ‘The enemy is Islam and Muslims. The best thing would be if there were not a single Muslim left on this earth. Then we would have reached our final goal.’

Far-right activist Rasmus Paludan burns a Koran during an election meeting in May 2022 

Protesters demonstrate outside the Consulate General of Sweden in Istanbul on Sunday

Palestinian students school girls of Al-Jalil school hold copies of the Koran during a protest against the burning of the Kuran in Sweden, in Gaza City on, 24 January 2023

Paludan, who has already been convicted of racist abuse, provoked rioting in Sweden last year when he went on a tour of the country during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and publicly burned copies of the Koran. 

In April 2022, 40 were wounded during riots in Sweden after a rally led by Paludan, which received permission to go ahead from police, saw clashes with counter-protestors.

Four police cars were set on fire and at least five were injured as protestors threw rocks and attacked police cordons. 

Paludan led the rally in Sweden to gather support ahead of elections in September 2022, planning to burn the Koran during the holy month of Ramadan.

Rasmus Paludan has been at the centre of anti-Islamic politics in northern Europe for several years.

He rose to fame with the launch of his far-right party Stram Kurs, which translates as ‘Hard Line’, in Denmark in 2017.

Stram Kurs has gained some traction in Denmark as the country’s traditional nationalist party, the Danish People’s Party, has lost ground. 

The lawyer and YouTuber is known for burning the Koran and for calling for the deportation of all Muslims from Denmark.

 

 

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