Israel warns EU country about burning religious texts
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen has warned his Swedish counterpart Tobias Billstrom that a planned demonstration on Friday, which was set to feature a Torah book being set alight outside its embassy in Stockholm, could have damaged the two countries’ relationship on the world stage.
In a statement on Friday, Cohen said he was “horrified by the additional threat to burn a Torah book in Sweden,” and called upon the nation’s leadership to impose measures to end ongoing threats to destroy religious texts in the EU country.
The demonstration did not go ahead, Israel National News reported later on Friday, with the protester instead setting alight a blank sheet of paper which she said was a “symbol of the Swedish system that is empty of content.”
“I talked with my friend the Swedish foreign minister and made clear to him that we expect the Swedish government to prevent events like this, which are liable to harm relations between our countries,” Cohen stated ahead of the proposed Torah-burning.
Israel’s objection comes after Swedish authorities authorized a request on Thursday by a 50-year-old woman who said she intended to burn a religious text the following day, reportedly to highlight perceived violations of children’s rights.
It remains unclear why she selected the Torah – the first five books of the Hebrew Bible – as the method for her demonstration.
“The burning of sacred texts stands against the values of the Swedish government,” Billstrom said on Friday in response to Cohen, according to Israeli publication Ynet News. He also said he would investigate constitutional changes that could prohibit such acts in future.
Stockholm has previously indicated that it does not approve the actions but allows them to take place to protect citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and protest.
This week’s proposed demonstration came around two weeks after another incident in which a person sought permission to burn a Jewish and Christian Bible outside Israel’s embassy in Stockholm “as a symbolic gathering for the sake of free speech.”
On that occasion, Swedish police indicated that there was an “important distinction” between authorizing demonstrations and advocating the destruction of sacred texts. “The police does not issue permits to burn various religious texts,” Stockholm law enforcement press officer Carina Skagerlind said in a statement earlier this month. “The police issues permits to hold a public gathering and express an opinion.”
That demonstration, which itself came soon after a copy of the Quran was burned outside Stockholm’s largest mosque in June, also did not proceed. The activist, 32-year-old Ahmad Alush, told reporters at the scene of the proposed demonstration that it was not his intention to destroy Jewish or Christian holy books, but only to protest the burning of the Quran.