Quran-burning protest by anti-NATO activists banned by Swedish authorities

People chant slogans during a demonstration outside the Swedish embassy in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
By Thomas Brooke
3 Min Read

An activist group that planned to further derail Sweden’s NATO membership bid by burning a copy of the Quran outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm has been denied permission for its demonstration.

Members of Apallarkerna, a little-known organization opposed to Swedish membership of the defense alliance, had hoped to further stoke tensions with Turkey, which the Swedish government needs to ratify its NATO application.

Stockholm police refused permission for the protest on Wednesday, claiming it would pose “a serious disturbance to national security.”

Authorities have changed tack after allowing a similar protest to take place last month, which resulted in wide-scale condemnation from the Islamic world, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who pulled out of talks with the Swedish government over its ambitions to join NATO.

Apallarkerna head, Chris Makoundoul, told SVT, “We are against the NATO application, and our goal is to maintain Swedish freedom of expression. We don’t really have any interest in insulting Muslims, but when Erdogan says he wants to stand above the Swedish constitution, we wanted to show that he can’t do that.”

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He criticized the Swedish government’s “horrible decision to abandon 250 years of non-alignment without a referendum.”

Makoundoul insisted it was never the group’s intention to burn a copy of the Islamic book but simply wanted permission from Swedish authorities to do so.

“We did not intend to burn the Quran but hand it over, unburnt, to the Turkish ambassador as a gift to President Erdoğan together with the police’s permission to burn the Quran.”

Ola Österling, press secretary at the Stockholm police, confirmed the decision to refuse permission for the demonstration following a discussion with Säpo, Sweden’s security services.

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It is the second time a Scandinavian nation has banned such a protest since the Danish fringe politician Rasmus Paludan aroused the wrath of Ankara last month by burning the Islamic holy book in Stockholm.

Upon the advice of its foreign ministry, Norwegian police banned an anti-Islam demonstration due to take place last week outside the Turkish embassy in Oslo citing security concerns.

The protest had initially been green-lighted by the Norwegian government but was quickly pulled after Turkey summoned the Norwegian ambassador in Ankara to express its outrage.

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