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Sweden blocks Quran-burning protest

Turkey came out against Sweden’s NATO bid after a far-right activist burned a Quran outside the Turkish embassy last month. Sweden is now seeking to resume dialogue over the issue.
Far-right politician Rasmus Paludan holds up a Koran copy as he speaks in front of a mosque in Copenhagen, on January 27, 2023. - Turkey summoned Denmark's ambassador on January 27, 2023 to condemn a protest at which far-right extremist Paludan burned the Koran over Ankara's refusal to let Sweden and Finland join NATO. (Photo by SERGEI GAPON/AFP via Getty Images)

Authorities in Sweden decided on Wednesday not to allow a planned Quran burning. 

Swedish police denied permission to a protest planned for Thursday that would have included a burning of the Quran. The protest was against Sweden’s bid to join NATO, Deutsche Welle reported. 

The ban followed far-right politician Rasmus Paludan burning a Quran outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm last month. Swedish authorities previously said that the incident was causing security concerns for Swedish citizens abroad. 

Why it matters: The Quran burning in Stockholm created a diplomatic firestorm, particularly with Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly came out against Sweden’s bid to join NATO after the incident. Turkey was already critical of Sweden and Finland’s quests to join NATO due to the presence of Kurdish groups in the Scandinavian countries. 

The refusal to allow this week's protest could be related to the country’s quest to join NATO. Sweden Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said Tuesday that he is ready to restart talks with Turkey on the issue, Reuters reported.

The controversy is hardly the first of its kind. There were also riots in Sweden in 2022 in response to Paludan’s plans to burn a Quran at the time. In 2020, a French teacher named Samuel Paty was beheaded by an angry student after showing an image of the prophet Muhammed in class. 

These incidents have led to tension between leaders in the Middle East, particularly Turkey, and their European counterparts. Erdogan criticized French President Emmanuel Macron’s defense of freedom of expression after Paty’s murder, for example. 

Religious and political officials from the Gulf, Iran and other Muslim-majority countries also condemned the Quran burning in Stockholm in January. 

Know more: French author Gilles Kepel wrote for Al-Monitor in January that the Quran burning incident in Sweden could lead to renewed tensions between the West and Muslim world

This week, Sweden has extended its condolences to Ankara over the earthquake that has killed at least 12,000 people in Turkey and Syria. Stockholm has also dispatched a team of rescuers to eastern Turkey, to help with the relief efforts. 

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