Sweden’s Prime Minister worried as more people apply for permission to burn Quran in the country

Sweden's Prime Minister worried as more people apply for permission to burn Quran in the country


Amid an enraging debate over free speech in the country in light of the Quran burnings, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson made his first public statement on this issue. Speaking to a Swedish news agency TT, he expressed concerns and said that he is “extremely worried” about the ramifications if more protests are held within the Nordic country in which Quran is desecrated. 

Kristersson told the news agency that more people have sought police permission to hold protests and publicly burn the Quran. He stated that he was “extremely worried” over this growing trend and the serious consequences their country could have to face for holding these protests and public burning of the Quran.   

He said, “If they are granted (permission to hold protests and burn Quran), we are going to face some days where there is a clear risk of something serious happening. I am extremely worried about what it could lead to.”

Swedish Prime Minister’s worry stems from the fact that on the 20th of July, some protesters stormed Sweden’s embassy in Baghdad and set it on fire. The protesters were apparently angry over the public burning of the Quran in Sweden and Denmark.

Additionally, according to the security service of Sweden, Sapo, the threat level assessment is currently at 3 on a scale of 5. This implies an “elevated threat” during the crisis. Its head added that there had been a strong reaction to recent events. 

However, Swedish PM Kristersson clearly highlighted that the decision whether to grant permission for the protesters and allow them to burn the Quran was up to the police.

While both Denmark and Sweden have stated that they deplore the burning of the Quran, they have maintained that they cannot prevent it under rules protecting free speech.

The Nordic country is alarmed by these protests and public burnings of the Quran because they don’t want to strain their relations with Muslim countries any further. This includes their diplomatic ties with Turkey. Since the Russia-Ukraine war began, it has been a stated aim of Sweden to join NATO for which it desperately needs Turkey’s backing. 

Swedish government trying to diffuse tensions with the Islamic world, accuses Russia of exploiting the situation

The Swedish government has been publicly distancing itself from these protests and the act of desecration of the Quran. In line with this, they have accused other countries, particularly Russia, of trying to exploit the situation. Swedish government asserts that other countries are exploiting the crisis to undermine Swedish interests and obstruct their bid to join NATO. 

In fact, a few days earlier, on 26 July, it launched an aggressive campaign stating that Russia-backed actors have been attempting to damage the country’s image by falsely claiming that the Swedish government had supported the burning of the Quran. 

Back then, the minister for civil defence, Carl-Oskar Bohlin said, “Russia-backed actors are amplifying incorrect statements such as that the Swedish state is behind the desecration of holy scriptures.”

Similarly, the Swedish foreign minister, Tobias Billström said, “In some countries, there is a perception that the Swedish state is behind, or condones this. We don’t.” 

He added, “These are acts committed by individuals, but they do it within the framework of freedom of speech laws.” 

Billström stated that he had been in touch with the foreign ministers of Iran, Iraq, Algeria, and Lebanon, among others. Additionally, he claimed that he held talks with the UN secretary-general about the current crisis. He maintained that he also had a conversation scheduled with the secretary-general of the multinational Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to discuss this matter. However, he maintained that there is no quick solution for this issue. 

He said, “We will discuss these issues and it’s important to stress that this is a long-term issue – there are no quick fixes.”

Troubled waters for the Swedish government on the internal front

On the internal front, the Swedish government is facing a serious challenge to walk a tightrope and defend its far-reaching freedom of speech laws, while at the same time avoiding offending Muslims.

The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party has complicated matters further for the Swedish government. Though it is not formally part of the government, their support has been keeping the right-of-centre coalition in power. 

On their part, the leaders of the Sweden Democrats party, the biggest party on the right, have repeatedly opposed the “Islamisation” of Swedish society. Additionally, they have regularly called the immigrants to adopt “Swedish” values.


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