Two men burned a copy of the Koran in front of the Swedish parliament on Monday, the latest in a string of demonstrations in which Islam’s holy book was destroyed.
The two trampled on the Koran and then set it on fire, the Swedish news agency TT reported.
The same men have previously attracted attention with Islamophobic actions.
Earlier in July they set fire to a Koran in front of the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm, which led to violent protests in several Muslim countries. In Iraq, a mob stormed the Swedish embassy and the government expelled the Swedish ambassador from the country.
During Monday’s action, the men had no visible supporters cheering them on, TT reported. However, there were about 15 counter-demonstrators.
On Sunday evening, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said he was in close contact with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen about the Koran burnings and they were seeking ways to legally prevent such Islamophobic acts out of concern for public safety.
A week ago, two men burned a book in front of the Iraqi embassy in Copenhagen in an action streamed live on the internet. The men said that the book was the Koran.
“We are in the most serious security situation since World War II, and we know here that both states, state-like actors and individuals can take advantage of the situation,” Kristersson wrote on Instagram.
Danish Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen spoke on Monday of a “rather high and heightened picture of the terrorist threat.”
The conflict is particularly sensitive for Stockholm, as the Koran burnings were one reason why Turkey had for months blocked Sweden’s bid to join NATO.
But the bar for legal action is high. In Denmark and Sweden, freedom of assembly and demonstration are strongly protected by the constitution. This is one reason why courts in Stockholm have rejected a ban imposed by the police on the Islamophobic protests.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, based in Saudi Arabia, called a special meeting for Monday. In a phone call with Rasmussen, the Danish foreign minister, Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha urged the Scandinavian country to take action to stop the desecrations.
Man Muslims understand the actions as hate crimes not covered by freedom of expression.
In Denmark, politicians are divided. Morten Messerschmidt, the leader of the right-wing populist People’s Party, stressed that the freedom of the West is based on the right to criticize and make fun of a religion.
The leader of the Conservative People’s Party, Søren Pape Poulsen, warned of further demands from Muslim states if the government gave in on the ban on Koran burnings.
“This is only the first step,” he said.
Controversy over what is seen as Islamophobic actions is not new to Denmark.
In 2005, controversial drawings by a Danish cartoonist depicted the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb as a turban. That triggered a wave of violent protests with dozens of deaths, during which Danish embassies were attacked.
The pictorial representation of Mohammed is a taboo in large parts of the Islamic world. In Denmark, where the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard was the main focus, a bitter debate about the limits of freedom of expression followed.
After the artist died in 2021, the newspaper Jyllands-Posten wrote that “Kurt Westergaard’s fight for freedom of expression must not die with him.”
Of the current controversy, Danish Parliament Speaker Søren Gade, defence minister at the time of the cartoon controversy, said Danish interests and the safety of Danes must take precedence.
“I can’t imagine that many Danes lose sleep over the thought that they are not allowed to set fire to holy writings.”