Amid Quran burnings, Sweden raises ‘terror’ threat

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Supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party burn a Swedish flag during a rally in Karachi to denounce Quran burnings [File: Fareed Khan/AP Photo]

Sweden has faced international condemnation after a string of desecrations of the holy book by anti-Islam activists.

Sweden’s security service, SAPO, has raised its assessment of the level of threat against Sweden to 4 on a scale of 5 amid mounting international tension over the burning of copies of the Quran at demonstrations in the Nordic country.

“The threat against Sweden has gradually changed and the threat of attacks from actors within violent Islamism has increased during the year,” the security service said in a statement.

SAPO said Sweden had gone from being regarded as a legitimate target for “terrorist” attacks to being regarded as a priority target.

In the past few months, Sweden and Denmark have faced a backlash from Muslim countries after a string of anti-Islam activists burned copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book.

Under free speech laws, Quran burnings are permitted in Sweden, but the act is considered sinful by the Muslim world.

Sweden protests
Hezbollah supporters trample Swedish flags during a rally denouncing the desecration of the Quran in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, Lebanon [File: Bilal Hussein/AP Photo]

While Denmark and Sweden have condemned the burnings and are considering new legislation to stop them from happening, domestic critics have said it would undermine their laws on protected freedoms.

Numerous countries have denounced the Quran desecrations. In Muslim-majority nations, people protested and tried to vandalise the Swedish and Danish embassies.

In response, Denmark and Sweden tightened their border controls this month after fearing “revenge” attacks for the burnings.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said religious texts should not be burned.

“I think it would be wrong if someone stood there and burned the Bible. I also don’t think we should burn the Torah for the sake of those who belong to the Jewish faith,” he told the public broadcaster DR.

Last week, the British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office warned citizens against visiting Sweden due to an increased possibility of a attack due to the Islamophobic displays.

In the updated travel advice, Britain said Sweden had successfully disrupted some planned attacks and made arrests.

The ministry told visitors, “You should be vigilant at this time. … Terrorists are very likely to try and carry out attacks in Sweden.”

Swedish National Security Adviser Henrik Landerholm said the storming of Sweden’s embassy in Iraq on July 19, an attempted attack on its embassy in Lebanon on August 9 and the August 1 shooting of an employee at a Swedish consulate in Turkey contributed to foreign governments’ risk assessments.

The United States government has also warned of possible attacks in Sweden in its advice to travellers.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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