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Turkish Muslims protest Quran-burning incident in Sweden

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Turks on Sunday protested the burning of a copy of the Quran by a far-right politician in Sweden over the weekend, with some demonstrators setting the Swedish flag and a photo of the politician on fire, local media reported.

The Quran burning, which took place on Saturday afternoon outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, was staged by Rasmus Paludan, a politician from the far-right Stram Kurs (Hard Line) party. Paludan gave an hour-long speech against Islam and immigration before setting fire to a copy of the Quran.

Muslims consider the Quran the sacred word of God and view any intentional damage or show of disrespect towards it as deeply offensive.

The incident sparked protests in majority-Muslim Turkey’s provinces of Ankara, İstanbul and Batman.

According to Turkish media reports, a group of people gathered on Sunday outside the Swedish Consulate in İstanbul, where a Swedish flag was set on fire. The protesters reportedly included members of the Alperen Hearths Foundation for Education, Culture, and Solidarity, a far-right youth organization affiliated with the Grand Unity Party (BBP).

Swedish flag

Protesters burn the national flag of Sweden as they demonstrate in front of the Consulate General of Sweden after Rasmus Paludan, leader of Danish far-right political party Hard Line and who also has Swedish citizenship burned a copy of the Quran near the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm, in Istanbul, on January 21, 2023.

The group shouted “Allahu Akbar,” meaning “God is the greatest,” and the slogan “Let Sweden be raided [and] Paludan hanged.”

“This disrespect was done to 1.5 billion Muslims around the world. … Let no one doubt that we will stand against this disrespectful and indecent act,” Burak Tekin, who leads the Alperens in İstanbul, said in a press statement.

Representatives from the Association for Free Thought and Educational Rights (Özgür-Der) and the Anatolia Youth Association (AGD) also held protests in İstanbul on Sunday, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Anadolu quoted Rıdvan Kaya, the head of Özgür-Der, as saying that they condemn the act of burning the Quran “in the strongest terms” and that what’s “more dangerous” than the incident itself was the Swedish government issuing a permit for the gathering outside the Turkish embassy to take place.

A report by the Demirören News Agency (DHA) said a group of 300 people, including members of the youth organization of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara and the Turkey Youth Foundation (TÜGVA), on whose advisory board President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son Bilal Erdoğan sits, gathered on Sunday in front of the Swedish Embassy in the Turkish capital.

The group held placards that read “NATO is not a life for you, but a dream,” in reference to Sweden’s bid to join the NATO military alliance, and “Sweden, you are the disgusting face of the hypocritical West.”

The protests have renewed concerns about Turkey holding up Sweden and Finland’s bid to join NATO. Turkey has not yet ratified the Nordic nations’ membership in the military alliance, saying Sweden needs to address Ankara’s security concerns.

Thousands of people also gathered in the southeastern province of Batman on Sunday to protest Paludan’s burning a copy of the Quran, DHA said, adding that Serkan Ramanlı, vice chairman of the Free Cause Party (HÜDAPAR), a political party that allegedly has ties with Hizbullah, made a statement to the press during the protests.

Describing Paludan’s move as “organized evil” and not a spontaneous act, Ramanlı said they don’t accept the insults targeting their beliefs and were gathered to “put those who attack Islam in their place.”

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