Edwin Wagensveld, leader of the Dutch chapter of the far-right Pegida movement, provoked outrage on Friday when he publicly tore up a copy of the Quran during a demonstration outside the Turkish Embassy in The Hague, inciting clashes with counter-protesters and leading police to intervene, Dutch news website the NL Times reported.
The controversial demonstration, condemned by the Dutch government ahead of the event, saw Wagensveld accompanied by two others desecrating the Quran. As he left the scene, some from the crowd, infuriated by his actions, began throwing stones at him and attempted to chase him down.
Approximately 50 counter-protesters were on the scene, with many shouting, “Shame on you.” Some 20 police officers equipped with shields and batons ensured that the situation didn’t escalate further.
This is not the first time the Quran has been subject of protests in Europe. Last month, Sweden and Denmark saw several protests where copies of the Quran were damaged or burned, causing outrage among Muslims. Sweden’s embassy in Baghdad was stormed and set on fire on July 20 by angry protesters.
These incidents have heightened tensions and concerns about retaliatory actions. Sweden recently raised its terror threat level, linking it in part to backlash from the Quran-burning incidents.
Justice Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz expressed concern earlier in the day, noting that similar actions in Sweden resulted in an increased terror threat. She mentioned that although she found the act of destroying or burning a book “primitive and sad,” it remains a constitutionally protected right in the Netherlands.
Hague Mayor Jan van Zanen expressed disapproval of Wagensveld’s behavior, emphasizing the importance of mutual respect in the city. However, he, too, acknowledged the constitutional right to freedom of expression and demonstration.
Wagensveld has a history of inflammatory acts and statements. He is awaiting trial for previous comments regarding the Quran, labeling it “a fascist book.”