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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Why does Sweden enable Quran burnings? Like a lot of West, it has no blasphemy legal guidelines

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STOCKHOLM — A latest string of public desecrations of the Quran by a handful of anti-Islam activists in Sweden has sparked an indignant response in Muslim international locations and raised questions – together with in Sweden – about why such acts are allowed.

Within the newest such incident, an Iraqi residing in Sweden on Thursday stomped on and kicked Islam’s holy guide in a two-man rally exterior the Iraqi Embassy in Stockholm. The protest was approved by Swedish police, who saved a handful of agitated counterdemonstrators at a secure distance.

The identical Iraqi man burned a Quran exterior a Stockholm mosque final month in an analogous protest that was authorised by police. And firstly of the yr, a far-right activist from Denmark carried out an analogous stunt exterior the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm.

Right here’s a take a look at how Swedish authorities have been coping with these acts.


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There isn’t a legislation in Sweden particularly prohibiting the burning or desecration of the Quran or different non secular texts. Like many Western international locations, Sweden doesn’t have any blasphemy legal guidelines.

It wasn’t all the time that method. As late because the nineteenth century, blasphemy was thought-about a critical crime in Sweden, punishable by dying. However blasphemy legal guidelines had been regularly relaxed as Sweden grew to become more and more secularized. The final such legislation was taken off the books in 1970.


Many Muslim international locations have referred to as on the Swedish authorities to cease protesters from burning the Quran. However in Sweden it’s as much as police, not the federal government, to determine whether or not to authorize demonstrations or public gatherings.

The liberty of speech is protected below the Swedish structure. Police must cite particular grounds to disclaim a allow for an illustration or public gathering, similar to dangers to public security.

Stockholm police did simply that in February once they denied two purposes for Quran-burning protests, citing assessments from the Swedish Safety Service that such acts might improve the danger of terror assaults towards Sweden. However a courtroom later overturned these choices, saying police must cite extra concrete threats to ban a public gathering.


Sweden’s hate speech legislation prohibits incitement towards teams of individuals based mostly on race, ethnicity, faith, sexual orientation or gender identification.

Some say burning the Quran constitutes incitement towards Muslims and may due to this fact be thought-about as hate speech. Others say such acts are concentrating on the faith of Islam slightly than practitioners of the religion, and that criticism of faith should be lined by freedom of speech, even when some contemplate it offensive.

Searching for steerage from the justice system, Swedish police have filed preliminary hate crime fees towards the person who burned the Quran exterior a mosque in Stockholm in June and desecrated Islam’s holy guide once more on Thursday. It’s now as much as prosecutors to determine whether or not to formally indict him.


Some Muslims in Sweden who had been deeply damage by latest Quran burnings questioned whether or not Swedish police would enable the desecration of holy books from different religions.

One Muslim man apparently determined to place that to the take a look at and utilized for permission to stage a protest final Saturday exterior the Israeli Embassy by which he stated he meant to burn the Torah and the Bible.

Although Israeli authorities officers and Jewish teams condemned the deliberate act and referred to as on Swedish authorities to cease it, police authorised the person’s request. Nevertheless, as soon as on the scene the person backed away from his plans, saying that as a Muslim he was towards the burning of all non secular books.


Blasphemy is criminalized in lots of international locations. A Pew Analysis Heart evaluation discovered that 79 international locations and territories out of the 198 studied had legal guidelines or insurance policies on the books in 2019 that banned blasphemy, outlined as “speech or actions thought-about to be contemptuous of God or of individuals or objects thought-about sacred.” In at the very least seven international locations – Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia – it carried a possible dying sentence.

Within the Center East and North Africa, 18 of the 20 international locations studied had legal guidelines criminalizing blasphemy, though not typically punishable by dying.

In Iraq, publicly insulting an emblem or an individual that’s held sacred, revered, or revered by a spiritual sect is against the law punishable by as much as three years in jail.

Likewise in religiously numerous Lebanon, the place sectarian divisions helped gasoline a brutal 15-year civil struggle from 1975 to 1990, any act “meant to or leading to” frightening “sectarian strife” is against the law punishable by as much as three years in jail.

In america, below the liberty of speech protections within the First Modification of the Structure, it’s not unlawful to burn copies of the Quran or different holy books.

For instance, authorities had been appalled by Florida pastor Terry Jones’ risk in 2010 to burn a duplicate of the Quran on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 assaults, however had been unable to take authorized motion. Jones didn’t undergo with that plan, however he led a Quran-burning in Florida the subsequent yr.

___ Related Press writers Abby Sewell in Beirut, Lebanon, and David Crary in New York contributed to this report.

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