Burning the Qur’an in Sweden: “billionaires’ anger” and a campaign to boycott Swedish products tops the communication sites

Burning the Qur’an in Sweden: “billionaires’ anger” and a campaign to boycott Swedish products tops the communication sites
Burning the Qur’an in Sweden: “billionaires’ anger” and a campaign to boycott Swedish products tops the communication sites

January 23, 2023

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Demonstrations took place in a number of Arab and Islamic countries to condemn the burning of a copy of the Holy Qur’an in Sweden

Condemning and angry reactions continue to follow about the burning of copies of the Qur’an in Sweden, especially on social media.

There is a relentless controversy and discontent across electronic platforms in the Islamic world, which is matched by attempts to calm down by Swedish pages speaking in Arabic and other languages.

There have been calls to boycott Swedish products through many hashtags, most notably : “Billions of anger over the burning of the Qur’an”, “the boycott of Swedish products”, and “the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador”.

formal denunciations

These calls were accompanied by official statements of condemnation from prominent institutions, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Al-Azhar University, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This is not the first time that Sweden has witnessed “demonstrations punctuated by attempts to burn copies of the Qur’an, under the protection of the police.”

Faced with this recurring scene, two conflicting visions emerge related to the view of religions and the line between freedom of expression and contempt for beliefs.

The burning of the Qur’an demonstrations in Sweden raises many questions as to whether the aims and premises of these demonstrations are ideological or political? What is the government’s position on what is going on?

Arab and Islamic anger

Those interacting with the hashtag “Burning the Qur’an in Sweden” say that this behavior “crossed red lines and crossed the limits of freedom of expression.”

Islamic preacher Ayed al-Qarni described allowing the burning of a copy of the Qur’an as a “despicable and provocative act.”

He was supported by many who warned that these demonstrations “are considered incitement against Muslims and fuel hate speech between peoples and religions.”

Commentators called for launching a campaign to collect electronic signatures to boycott Swedish companies, similar to the campaigns to boycott French goods, which have greatly affected the economy, according to them.

“Correcting Concepts” and “Double West”

On the other hand, others called for exploiting this incident to “introduce Islam and correct misconceptions.”

Some also called for “ignoring these campaigns or responding to them with law instead of being drawn into violent demonstrations.”

Others criticized what they called “the duplicity of the West,” saying that “the campaigns targeting Islam and its symbols necessitate a review of the ceiling of what one can reach in criticizing the other and his sanctities.”

A section of Arab and Muslim commentators accuse the authorities in Sweden of “extremism and collusion with promoters of Islamophobia.”

Swedish official comment

The “Sweden in Arabic” Twitter account responded to tweets that accused the Swedish government of “sponsoring extremism and discriminating against Muslims.”


The account, which identifies itself as Sweden’s official portal in Arabic, indicated that “generalizing an individual’s behavior to a country is unfair.”


The account used a tweet that had been published by the Swedish Foreign Minister, Tobias Billström.

Billström, who belongs to the conservative “Moderate Party”, condemned what happened, adding that “the anti-Islamic provocations are appalling”.

“Sweden enjoys a wide range of freedom of expression, but that does not mean that the Swedish government, or I, endorse all opinions that are expressed,” he added.

In turn, the Swedish Prime Minister, Olaf Christerson, sent a message to Muslims on Sunday.

Christerson expressed, in a post on the official account of the Swedish prime minister, his “solidarity with all Muslims who felt offended by what happened in Stockholm.”

And he added, “Freedom of expression is an essential part of democracy, but what is legal is not necessarily appropriate.”

What does Swedish law say?

  • In compliance with Article 10 of the Convention on Human Rights, Swedish law guarantees freedom of expression and dissemination of ideas, regardless of their content.
  • This means that everyone is allowed to organize demonstrations and vigils in public places.
  • But that right may be avoided when freedom of expression is used in a way that threatens national security interests, offends the reputation and rights of others, or incites against ethnic groups, etc.
  • As Article 17 of the Convention on Human Rights states, “No one may use any of the rights guaranteed by the Convention to nullify or restrict the rights of others.”

Who are the organizers of these events? What are their motives?

Some rely on these laws to justify what the right-wing politician Rasmus Paludan did of burning copies of the Qur’an, but there are those who find condemnation in these laws.

It is noteworthy that Paludan obtained a permit to organize a demonstration in front of the Turkish embassy building in Stockholm, on Saturday, January 21.

It cannot be certain that the motives of the organizers of that demonstration were political, but it certainly fueled differences between Sweden and Turkey.

It comes at a time when the Scandinavian country is trying to win Ankara’s support to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

In the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO, but it was rejected by Ankara.

Ankara accuses Sweden in particular of supporting and harboring activists from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is banned in Turkey.

Some describe Paludan’s behavior as absurd or individual, but some include it within a plan of political goals.

And there are those who go further and see that his movements come within the framework of a systematic campaign to “adapt the Muslim communities and push them to accept freedom of expression from a purely Swedish perspective.”

But portraying Paludan’s actions as a government-sponsored conspiracy against Islam, in which others find “a kind of exaggeration.”

In the dispute over the interpretation of the state’s position on the actions of Al-Wadan, it is a reflection of another controversy that some believe “summarizes the existing rift between East and West.”

Others say that “Sweden opens space for the extreme right, but it also receives those fleeing hotbeds of tension, with their ideas that may be contrary to its culture.”

Who is Paludan?

  • Rasmus Paludan is a Danish-Swedish political activist known for his anti-immigrant views.
  • Paludan entered politics in 2003, when he became a member of the Social Liberal Party Youth Union.
  • The Danes knew him in 2017, after he was appointed as a candidate for the new Civic Party in the municipal elections in Copenhagen, before he was excluded from the party because of his “extremist statements,” according to the Guardian newspaper.
  • In the same year, the right-wing politician announced the establishment of his own party and called it “Stram Cox (The Hard Way)”.
  • On its official page, the party defines itself as “the most patriotic party in Denmark, and demands the deportation of anyone who does not consider it Danish in order to preserve the ethnic privacy in the country.”
  • The party also views Islam and Muslims as a major problem.
  • Paludan and his party have been organizing demonstrations in various Danish cities to demand the deportation of Muslims and an amendment to the constitution to prevent the display of any religious affiliation in the public sphere.
  • These demonstrations usually involve burning copies of the Qur’an.
  • Paludan ran in the Danish elections in 2019 but suffered a major defeat.
  • On August 28, 2020, the Swedish authorities banned party leader Rasmus Paludan from entering their territory for a period of two years.
  • In November 2020, he was arrested in France as he was about to burn Qurans in public places, then deported on charges of “seeking to spread hatred.”
  • In April 2022, Paludan burned a copy of the Qur’an in the city of Linkoping, in southern Sweden, and tried to repeat the ball in May of the same year, despite the police’s refusal to grant him a license.
  • The burning of the Qur’an by the extremists in Al-Waddan sparked a wave of anger and indignation in the Islamic world and led to widespread demonstrations around the world.
  • Commenting on the recent events, Paludan said he “did not expect all this anger and mass protests.”
  • He added in an exclusive interview with the Swedish newspaper Expressen: “I wanted to record a position towards Turkey. But things turned out differently. I do not regret it. I did it for purely political reasons. I feel sad that many people threaten me with death.”



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