A far-right anti-Islam activist on Saturday burnt a copy of the Quran, Islam’s holy book, as part of a one-hour demonstration against Islam and immigration outside Turkey’s embassy in Stockholm.
Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) condemned the act and stated that they were against “all kinds of polarising discourse and actions that bring people and beliefs against each other.”
“Attacks on beliefs and the sacred cannot be justified for any reason,” said the party’s co-chairs Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar via Twitter after the anti-Islam protest.
There are already increasing tensions between Sweden and Turkey, over demands Turkey is making regarding Kurdish activists living in the Nordic country in exchange for approval of Sweden’s NATO membership, and these tensions rose still more with Saturday’s anti-Islam demonstration.
Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs described the act, which was allowed to take place despite “all warnings” from Turkey, as a “hate crime” in a statement on Saturday.
“That this provocative anti-Islamic act targeting Muslims and insulting our sacred values was allowed in the name of freedom of expression is completely unacceptable,” the ministry said, calling on the Swedish authorities to “take the necessary action against the perpetrators of this hate crime”.
Turkish government officials had expressed that they expected the anti-Islam protest to be disallowed before the demonstration took place.
The day before the far-right demonstration, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry summoned Sweden’s ambassador over the Swedish police giving advance permission for the burning of the holy book.
Earlier on Saturday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced the cancellation of Swedish Defence Minister Pål Jonson’s visit to Turkey, which had been scheduled for 27 January.
Sweden’s government has distanced itself from the anti-Islam demonstration. “Islamophobic provocations are appalling,” Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström tweeted on Saturday.
“Sweden has a far-reaching freedom of expression, but it does not imply that the Swedish government, or myself, support the opinions expressed.”