Sweden bans Koran burning protest
Swedish police have denied anti-Islam activists permission to burn the Koran in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, citing an upsurge in terrorist threats following a similar act last month. Ankara threatened to block Sweden’s application for NATO membership following the initial protest, which was permitted by authorities.
Sweden’s national police force announced on Tuesday that the latest protest application had been refused, explaining that “such a gathering is judged to be capable of causing serious disturbances to national security.”
Danish far-right politician Rasmus Paludan, who also holds Swedish citizenship, burned the Islamic holy book in front of the Turkish embassy last month. While Swedish politicians condemned Paludan’s stunt, the authorities still allowed it to go ahead, with Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom citing the country’s “far-reaching freedom of expression” laws.
The protest set off a wave of anger across the Muslim world. In a report on Tuesday, the Swedish Security Police – the agency responsible for espionage and counterterrorism – said that it had seen “an increase in the number of terrorist threats” following the burning.
“Sweden is judged to be in greater focus than before for violent Islamism,” the agency stated.
The national police force said that it made the decision to reject the application for a second protest after discussions with the Swedish Security Police.
As well as apparently increasing the terror threat, Paludan’s demonstration in January imperiled Sweden’s bid to join NATO. Sweden and Finland both renounced their neutrality and applied to join the US-led military bloc last summer, but Stockholm’s refusal to forbid Paludan from publicly torching the Koran prompted Ankara to call off an accession meeting with the two Nordic nations.
Türkiye had already clashed with both countries, refusing to ratify their membership bids until they agreed to extradite dozens of alleged terrorists and lift arms embargoes previously imposed on the country. In light of the Koran burning, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared last week that “as long as [Sweden allows] my holy book, the Koran, to be burned and torn… we will not say yes to your entry into NATO.”
Although the US is the dominant power in NATO, all 30 member states must vote unanimously to accept new nations into the alliance.