Saudi Arabia and Iran have summoned Swedish diplomats in their respective countries to protest against the desecration of the Quran by a Sweden-based Iraqi refugee. The refugee, Salwan Momika, burnt pages of the Quran outside Stockholm’s main mosque last month and stepped on it on Thursday, triggering outrage and calls for action across the Muslim world.
According to the Saudi Foreign Ministry, Riyadh issued a “protest note that includes the kingdom’s request to the Swedish authorities to take all immediate and necessary measures to stop these disgraceful acts”.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said Sweden’s ambassador to Tehran had been called in to censure the permit granted to Momika’s protest and to warn Stockholm of the consequences of such actions. He said Iran “holds the Swedish government fully responsible for the consequences of inciting the feelings of Muslims around the world”.
The Quran-related protests have also sparked a diplomatic crisis between Sweden and Iraq. On Thursday, hundreds of Iraqis stormed and torched Sweden’s Baghdad embassy in a chaotic pre-dawn attack. Iraq’s government condemned the attack but also retaliated by expelling the Swedish ambassador, vowing to sever ties, and suspending the operating license of Swedish telecom giant Ericsson.
The 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation denounced the Stockholm protest as “another provocative attack” that could not be justified under the right to freedom of expression. Turkey’s foreign ministry called on Sweden to take “dissuasive measures to prevent hate crimes against Islam and its billions of followers”. In Lebanon, the leader of the pro-Iranian Hezbollah movement Hassan Nasrallah called for the expulsion of the Swedish envoy there and the recall of Lebanon’s ambassador to Sweden.
Sweden has defended its decision to allow the protests on free speech grounds, saying it is not able to stop them due to its constitutional protection of freedom of expression. However, some critics have pointed out that Sweden also has hate speech laws that forbid incitement against people over their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender.