Clashes have erupted in an immigrant neighbourhood in Sweden’s third largest city after an anti-Muslim protester set fire to the Koran, police have said.
Police in Malmo said they were pelted with rocks and dozens of cars were set on fire, including in an underground garage, describing the events that started on Sunday and lasted overnight as “a riot”.
The clashes started after an anti-Islam activist Salwan Momika burned a copy of the Koran and an angry mob tried to stop him while police, some of them in riot gear, detained at least three people.
Early on Monday, an angry crowd of mainly young people also set fire to tyres and debris, and some were seen throwing electric scooters, bicycles and barriers in Malmo’s Rosengard neighbourhood, which has seen similar clashes in the past. There were several banners relating to the Koran burning.
Senior police officer Petra Stenkula said: “I understand that a public gathering like this arouses strong emotions, but we cannot tolerate disturbances and violent expressions like those we saw on Sunday afternoon.
“It is extremely regrettable to once again see violence and vandalism at Rosengard.”
Speaking at a news conference, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said: “Regardless of the reason behind these riots, the car fires, the harassment, violence against police officers… regardless of the reason, I think that all Swedes find this completely unacceptable.”
In the past months, Mr Momika, a refugee from Iraq, has desecrated the Koran in a series of anti-Islam protests mostly in Stockholm that have caused anger in many Muslim countries. Swedish police have allowed his actions, citing freedom of speech.
The Koran burnings have sparked angry protests in Muslim countries, attacks on Swedish diplomatic missions and threats from Islamic extremists. Muslim leaders in Sweden have called on the government to find ways to stop the Koran burnings.
Sweden dropped its last blasphemy laws in the 1970s and the government has said it has no intention to reintroduce them.
However, the government has announced an inquiry into legal possibilities for enabling police to reject permits for demonstrations over national security concerns.