Peaceful Sweden witnesses riots sparked by Quran burnings, dozens arrested
Sweden is witnessing violent clashes across many cities between police and protesters opposing a far-right party's plans to burn copies of the sacred Islamic book—the Quran. According to the BBC, rioters destroyed vehicles and arson and vandalism were reported in several cities in Sweden—ranked 15th in the 2021 Global Peace Index. Since riots erupted on Friday, the police arrested nearly 40 people in Sweden.
- Tensions rose in Sweden after rallies organized by right-wing Stram Kurs party leader Rasmus Paludan, a Danish-Swedish politician.
- He claims he had burned a copy of the Quran before and intends to do so again, causing trouble.
- To recall, Sweden witnessed similar protests in 2020 against Stram Kurs's plan to burn the Quran. Protests in Malmo turned violent where cars and shops were vandalized.
Paludan founded the Stram Kurs in 2017 which considers itself to be Denmark's "most patriotic political party," advocating for anti-immigration and anti-Islam policies. To note, the party won only 1.8% of the votes in the 2019 Danish elections, failing to secure any seat. Paludan now intends to contest the Swedish elections in September. However, he reportedly lacks the required number of signatures for candidature.
Back in 2020, Paludan was sentenced to a month in prison in Denmark for a range of offenses, including racism. At the time, too, he was convicted of sharing anti-Islam content on the social media channels of his Stram Kurs party.
Sweden's latest riots have reportedly injured 26 police personnel and 14 civilians so far. Over 20 police cars were also damaged. Sweden's national police chief, Anders Thornberg, said on Sunday he had never seen such violent riots in his country. According to the Swedish police, around 200 people were involved in the riots, which were said to be organized by criminal gang networks.
Riots have reportedly taken place in Stockholm, Rinkeby, Orebro, Linkoping, and Norrkoping since Friday. Surprisingly, these are places where Stram Kurs earlier planned or held demonstrations. Meanwhile, Sweden's PM Magdalena Andersson condemned the unrest. "I will make it very clear, those attacking the Swedish police, attack the Swedish democratic society. The perpetrators must be arrested, prosecuted, and serve a sentence in prison," she said.
Recently, Paludan organized a rally in central Sweden's Jonkoping on Thursday. However, his speech was disrupted by a priest who protested against him by ringing the bells of a local church as Paludan tried to speak into a megaphone holding a Quran.
Following the protests, Iraq and Iran summoned their Swedish ambassadors on Sunday, warning of "serious repercussions" on bilateral ties. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia strongly condemned the burning of the holy book of Quran in Sweden. Saudi's foreign ministry on Monday condemned the deliberate abuse of the Quran, as well as the provocative actions and incitement against Muslims by right-wing members, in the Scandinavian nation.