Photo by [AP News]
Rasmus Paludan burned a copy of the Holy Quran near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm on Saturday. The Turkish foreign ministry and multiple Muslim countries immediately condemned the burning of the Quran by the right-wing Danish-Swedish activist.
During Ramadan, the leader of the right-wing extremist party, Hard Line, burned the Quran in multiple Swedish cities in April last year.
The previous incidents provoked violent rioting of the minority Muslim population, destroying public and private property.
Emin Poljarević, a Professor of Religion at Uppsala University in Sweden, said Quran burnings are an ongoing issue in Sweden by right-wing politicians and activists.
It is an issue which has not adequately been dealt with by the Swedish authorities. Poljarević fears if it continues, it might lead to social instability between Muslims and non-Muslims in the country.
Police Protecting Islamophobia
Reports have criticised Swedish law enforcement for allowing Paludan to commit this act of Islamophobia. However, according to Poljarević, he had committed no crime under Swedish law. Therefore, there was no reason for police interference.
“The police authorities deem every and each of these protests or manifestations as based on the freedom of expression. [Last year] they [the police] did not give Paludan authority to do this in several cities. The [case] was brought to Swedish courts, and the police lost the case. According to the reading of the law by legal experts in Sweden, they said the police made a mistake by not allowing him to do that [burn the Quran].”
Poljarević said the problem lies with the Swedish legal system, which allows for hurtful action under the guise of “freedom of expression”. He was, however, convicted on charges of hate crimes and racial abuse in Denmark a few years ago.
Tensions Grow Between Sweden and Turkey as a Result
The Quran burning did little to incite violent protests by the Muslim population in Sweden this time round. However, it did cause an uproar in Turkey as protests have broken out at the Swedish consulate in Istanbul.
The war in Ukraine caused much concern for neutral European countries. As a result, Sweden, alongside Finland, applied for NATO membership.
For a country to be inducted into the military bloc, its application approval must be unanimous from member states. As fate would have it, Turkey is one of two nations that hold Sweden’s deciding vote.
Poljarević said some analysts suggest Turkey is stalling Sweden’s induction into NATO due to the presence of PKK activists who are allowed to function and move freely within the country. “But some analysts say it’s much larger than that.”
According to Poljarević, Paludan’s actions are considered self-serving and opportunistic, taking full advantage of Sweden’s current political climate with Turkey. His actions managed to further fuel the strained relationship between the two nations.
Rise of Islamophobia in Europe
The summer of migration in 2015 saw large amounts of Syrian refugees entering Europe. The refugee influx triggered right-wing political parties, mobilising like-minded citizens in many countries.
As a result, it gave rise to Islamophobia at a state and social level. It also allowed extreme Islamophobic provocation by right-wing activists directed at Muslim refugees in countries like Sweden and elsewhere.
Poljarević said the only way to combat and react to this level of Islamophobia is to act in a manner per the Quran’s teaching.
“I believe as a citizen and a Muslim, you should try to ignore such acts as much as possible and not give them any attention. Because … These types of people, legally, you cannot do much. You also cannot commit acts of violence because that would be breaking the law. So, I think Muslims, in general, should flip the situation and … Apply Quranic values and use the attention in a positive way. Because most of the [Swedish] society disapproves of this [burning the Quran].”