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After Sweden, tension on Islam between Europe and Middle East hits dangerous crossroad

Activists of radical anti-blasphemy party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan burn a Swedish flag as they protest against the burning of the Koran in Sweden, in Karachi on January 27, 2023. - Several thousand people rallied in Muslim-majority Pakistan after Friday prayers to voice outrage over right-wing protests targeting the Koran in Sweden and the Netherlands. (Photo by ASIF HASSAN/AFP via Getty Images)

During a demonstration in Stockholm in front of the Turkish Embassy last week, a copy of the Quran was burned in public. It immediately led Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reinstate his veto on Sweden’s adhesion to NATO, and then the (Dutch) NATO secretary-general to reply that the demonstration, pertained to freedom of speech in a democratic country.

That context echoed the vagaries of Michel Houellebecq, the most widely read living French author worldwide. His work explores the complex ethnic and religious weaving of religious and ethnic diversity brought about by the tidal waves of immigration from Africa, the Middle East and Asia in countries that — until the 1960s — were mostly rooted in their own culture, language and feeling of belonging to a cohesive nation.

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