Arab, Muslim states call for action over Sweden Quran burning

Arab, Muslim states call for action over Sweden Quran burning
Governments across the Middle East as well as Islamic institutions have condemned the repeated desecration of Islam's holy book in Stockholm, calling for action.
5 min read
21 July, 2023
Protesters in Baghdad, Iraq, burn the Swedish flag in protest of the desecration of the Quran during a demonstration in Stockholm [Getty]

Arab and Muslim-majority nations have strongly condemned the desecration of the Quran by far-right activists in Sweden, which has led to a diplomatic crisis between some MENA countries and Stockholm.

Iraq expelled Sweden's ambassador after an Iraqi refugee in Stockholm stomped on a copy of the Quran during a demonstration on Thursday, just hours after the Swedish embassy in Baghdad was stormed and torched over the planned protest.

Salwan Momika reportedly stomped and kicked the Quran around but did not burn it, as he did during a similar demonstration outside of Stockholm’s main mosque in June.

Islamic authorities

Egypt’s Al-Azhar on Friday slammed the continued burning of Quran copies in Sweden - seen as a provocation by many Muslims - calling on "all free people in the world to continue boycotting Swedish products in support of the Quran, the book of God".

"Sweden has proven, with its practices, that it is the closest society to racism and the furthest from respecting religions and peoples," Al-Azhar added, in a series of tweets on its Twitter account.

Al-Azhar is considered the highest Sunni Muslim authority in the world.

The Jeddah-based 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) also condemned the burning.

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Secretary General of the organisation, Hussein Ibrahim Taha, expressed his deep disappointment that the Swedish authorities continued to issue permits for the far-right provocations "despite the horrific consequences of the despicable act of desecration".

He said the acts were contrary to the spirit of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and cannot be justified under the pretext of freedom of expression or opinion.

Article 20 of the resolution states: "Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law."

"Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law."

Turkey calls for action

Turkey’s foreign ministry condemned "in the strongest terms the despicable attack" on the Holy Quran.

"After the despicable attack on the Quran in front of a mosque in Stockholm on June 28, the United Nations Human Rights Council considered, by the resolution it adopted on July 12, that the attack on the Quran is religious hatred," a ministry statement said.

The UN’s Human Rights Council approved a disputed resolution on religious hatred in the wake of the Quran burning, prompting concern by Western states who say it challenges long-held practices in protection of religious and ethnic minorities.

The resolution was introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the OIC and backed by other members of the body.

"We expect Sweden to take deterrent measures to prevent this hate crime against the Islamic religion and billions of believers, within the framework of its international responsibilities, especially its obligations within the scope of the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Council of Europe," the Turkish foreign ministry added.

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan discussed the latest developments in Sweden and Iraq with his Arab counterparts, including Iraqi Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein.

Relations between Turkey and Sweden have long been strained due to Ankara accusing Stockholm of harbouring Kurdish militants.

Another Quran burning protest in Sweden by a far-right activist earlier this year exacerbated the diplomatic rift between the two countries.

But after months of blocking Sweden’s membership bid for NATO, Turkey announced this month its approval for Stockholm to join the military alliance.

Gulf Cooperation Council

The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) also denounced the "continued provocation of Muslims, and the desecration of another copy of the Noble Quran in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, today".

"These heinous and unacceptable acts provoke the feelings of Muslims all over the world, and that the Swedish authorities must take immediate and serious action to stop these behaviours and hold extremists accountable," said the council’s Secretary-General Jassim al-Budaiwi.

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GCC member states had individually released statements of condemnation, including Saudi Arabia – home to Islam’s two holiest sites – which summoned Sweden’s charge d’affaires on Thursday and handed him a note of protest.

Qatar expressed its "strong dissatisfaction" with the repeated permission given to attack the Quran, and the failure of Swedish authorities to put an end to this practises.

It also summoned Sweden’s ambassador.

Jordanian deputies: Take matter to ICC

Jordan’s foreign ministry condemned the Quran burning demonstrations in Stockholm, considering it "a reckless act that fuels hatred, and a manifestation of Islamophobia that incites violence and insult to religions".

More than 60 Jordanian lawmakers on Thursday called on the government to file a complaint with the International Criminal Court and the UN Security Council against Sweden, freeze all treaties with it, and boycott its products in protest.

Expel Swedish ambassadors: Nasrallah

Lebanon’s foreign ministry in a statement on Friday also condemned the Quran burning.

Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the powerful Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah, during a speech Thursday evening called on all Muslim and Arab countries - including Lebanon - to expel Sweden’s ambassadors and withdraw their envoys from Stockholm. He also called for demonstrations on Friday, the most holy day of the week in Islamic tradition.


Iran’s foreign ministry summoned the Swedish ambassador to Tehran on Thursday to "strongly protest against the desecration of the Holy Quran", according to Iranian state media.

Other Muslim states and world leaders have also spoken out against the desecration of the Quran.

Last month, following Momika’s first demonstration outside the Stockholm mosque, Pope Francis said the burning of the Quran made him "angry and disgusted".

Similar Quran burning demonstrations have happened in Denmark this year.