‘Islamophobic’ Quran burning in Sweden draws condemnation from Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has strongly condemned the desecration of the Quran that took place in Sweden during a weekend protest against Turkey’s delay in ratification of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), a military alliance, membership bid by Sweden.

The Quran burning, planned and approved by Sweden, was carried out by Rasmus Paludan, leader of Danish extremist political party Hard Line near the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm. Paludan, who also has Swedish citizenship, has held a number of demonstrations in the past where he has burned the holy book.

“No words are enough to adequately condemn the [abhorrent] act of desecration of the Quran by a right-wing extremist in Sweden. The garb of freedom of expression cannot be used to hurt the religious emotions of 1.5 billion Muslims across the world. This is unacceptable,” tweeted the prime minister.

Separately, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the spokesperson of the Foreign Office, in a statement on Sunday, condemned the act as “senseless and provocative” and “an Islamophobic act that hurts the religious sensitivities of over 1.5 billion Muslims around the world.”

The statement emphasised that such actions do not fall under the legitimate expression of freedom of expression and that international human rights law requires not to incite people to violence.

Baloch urged the international community to show a common resolve against Islamophobia, xenophobia, intolerance and incitement to violence on the basis of religion or belief and work together for promoting interfaith harmony and peaceful coexistence.

The statement also conveyed Pakistan’s concern to the authorities in Sweden and urged them to take steps to prevent Islamophobic acts.

Turkey has also condemned the demonstration and in response cancelled Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson’s upcoming visit to Ankara, further inflaming tensions between the two countries amid Stockholm’s Nato bid.

Sweden and Finland applied last year to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but all 30 member states must approve their bids. Turkey has said Sweden in particular must first take a clearer stance against terrorists, mainly Kurdish terrorists and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a militant group Ankara blames for the 2016 coup attempt.

At the demonstration to protest Sweden’s NATO bid and to show support for Kurds, speakers stood in front of a large red banner reading “We are all PKK”. The group is outlawed in Turkey, Sweden, and the United States among other countries.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said he was concerned that the demonstration risks further delaying Turkey’s ratification of his country’s NATO bid. However, he claimed that it would be “very inappropriate” for him to call for a person — Paludan — to not be allowed to carry out a demonstration.

Several Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait also denounced the event. “Saudi Arabia calls for spreading the values of dialogue, tolerance, and coexistence, and rejects hatred and extremism,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

— With Reuters and Anadolu Agency


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