Protests in Baghdad following Quran burning in Sweden

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Riot police hold their shields during a protest outside the Swedish embassy in Baghdad a day after a man tore up and burned a copy of the Quran outside a mosque in the Swedish capital Stockholm, Iraq, June 29, 2023 [Ahmed Saad
/Reuters]

Protesters set fire to flag representing the LGBTQ community while others held portraits of populist Iraqi leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

Hundreds of Iraqis stormed and protested at the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad after a man burned a Quran outside a mosque in Stockholm.

A crowd of supporters of Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr on Thursday stayed inside the compound for about 15 minutes, then left as security forces deployed, an AFP news agency photographer said. Iraqi officials have yet to make any statement on the storming of the embassy.

Some of the protesters set fire to a rainbow-coloured flag representing the LGBTQ community and many held the Quran and portraits of al-Sadr and chanted, “Yes, yes to the Quran”. Iraq’s foreign ministry summoned Sweden’s ambassador.

In its permit for Wednesday’s demonstration, in which the Quran was desecrated, Swedish police said that while it “may have foreign policy consequences”, the security risks and consequences linked to a Quran burning were not of such a nature that the application should be rejected.

Swedish police charged the man who burned the holy book with agitation against an ethnic or national group. In a newspaper interview, he described himself as an Iraqi refugee seeking to ban it.

Protesters gather at the entrance to the Swedish embassy in Baghdad a day after a man tore up and burned a copy of the Quran outside a mosque in the Swedish capital Stockholm, Iraq, June 29, 2023.
Protesters gather at the entrance to the Swedish embassy in Baghdad [Ahmed Saad/Reuters]

The Iraqi ministry said he was Iraqi and urged the Swedish government to hand him over so he could be tried in accordance with Iraqi law.

“Legal justifications and freedom of expression do not justify allowing offense to religious sanctities,” the foreign ministry statement said.

Al-Sadr had called on his followers to hold the protest and demand the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador, the cutting of ties with Sweden and to keep burning the LGBTQ flag until the eighth day of the lunar month of Muharram because “it is what irritates them the most,” he said in a statement.

Encouraging ‘terrorism, extremism’

The 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation said it would hold an “emergency meeting” to discuss the situation.

An OIC official said the talks would most probably be held on Sunday in the Saudi Red Sea port of Jeddah.

Iran joined in the condemnation, with Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian saying the Quran burning was an “insult” against “religious sanctities”.

“Calling these behaviours freedom and democracy only encourage terrorism and extremism,” he warned in a tweet.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also denounced Sweden for allowing a protest, further clouding the Nordic nation’s chances of quickly joining NATO.

“We will eventually teach the arrogant Westerners that insulting Muslims is not freedom of thought,” Erdogan said in televised remarks.

“We will show our reaction in the strongest possible terms, until a determined victory against terrorist organisations and Islamophobia is achieved.”

The US also condemned it, but added that issuing the permit supported freedom of expression and was not an endorsement of the action.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

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