Swedish police approve anti-Koran protest at Stockholm mosque

The 200-year-old mosque was full of worshippers when the roof gave way.

The 200-year-old mosque was full of worshippers when the roof gave way. Photo: EPA

Police have given permission for a protest to take place outside a mosque in Stockholm – an event that risks angering Turkey as Sweden bids to join NATO.

Although only two people were expected to take part, the organisers said they would tear up and burn the Koran.

A series of protests in Sweden against Islam and for Kurdish rights have offended Turkey, whose backing Sweden needs to gain entry to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

Sweden sought NATO membership in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year but alliance member Ankara has held up the process, accusing Sweden of harbouring people it considers terrorists and demanding their extradition.

Although Swedish police have rejected several recent applications for anti-Koran demonstrations, courts have overruled those decisions, saying they infringed on freedom of speech.

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said at a press conference on Wednesday he would not speculate about how the approved Koran burning could affect Sweden’s NATO process.

“It’s legal, but not appropriate,” he said, adding that it was up to the police to make decisions on Koran burnings.

“I believe we live in a time where one should stay calm and think of what’s best for Sweden’s long-term interest,” Mr Kristersson said.

In its permit for Wednesday’s demonstration, police said while it could have foreign policy consequences, the security risks and ramifications linked to a Koran burning were not sufficient for the application to be rejected.

Police said only two people were expected to take part, one of them Salwan Momika, who in a recent newspaper interview described himself as an Iraqi refugee seeking to ban the Koran.

Mr Momika could not be reached for comment.

Turkey in late January suspended talks with Sweden on its NATO application after Rasmus Paludan, leader of Danish far-right political party Hard Line, burned a copy of the Koran near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.

Mr Paludan was not expected to take part in Wednesday’s demonstration.

Several Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait also denounced the January Koran-burning.

The Turkish embassy in Stockholm was not immediately available for comment.

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