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Religious Violence: Iraqi Protesters Storm Swedish Embassy

The Oasis Reporters

July 22, 2023




Iraqi riot police officers tried to disperse protesters outside the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad on Thursday, hours after the building was set ablaze.
Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Agence France-Presse —u


Iraq threatened to sever diplomatic ties with Sweden on Thursday over the desecration of a Quran in Stockholm.
Swedish residents, with authorization from the nation’s police and protected by the country’s extensive freedom of speech laws, kicked and destroyed the holy Islamic text as well as stomped on an Iraqi flag outside the Iraqi Embassy.
In response, supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr stormed and set fire to the Swedish Embassy in Iraq and urged Baghdad to cut ties with Stockholm entirely.

No staff members were injured. The Iraqi government has since condemned the facility’s partial burning, and police have arrested at least 15 protesters as well as three photojournalists covering the incident.



But Baghdad appears unwilling to completely ignore public anger at Sweden. Iraqi officials expelled the Swedish ambassador, recalled its chargé d’affaires in Sweden, and suspended Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson’s working permit “in response to the repeated permission of the Swedish government to burn the Holy Quran, insult Islamic sanctities, and burn the Iraqi flag,” Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani tweeted. The Iraqi government then went further by saying any similar recurrence of burning the Quran on Swedish soil would “necessitate severing diplomatic relations.”




This is not the first time Sweden has been in hot water for its citizens’ defiling of the Quran. In January, Danish far-right politician Rasmus Paludan burned a Quran near the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm, leading Ankara to suspend talks with Sweden on its NATO membership bid.

Turkey has since expressed support for moving Sweden’s application forward, coinciding with this year’s NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. Then, last month, Iraqi Christian refugee and alleged militia leader Salwan Momika burned a Quran outside Sweden’s main mosque.

Supporters of the influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr protesting outside the embassy last month.
Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The incident was deemed particularly offensive because it was held on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
The international community condemned Thursday’s attack on the Swedish Embassy as well as the Quran’s desecration and other similar incidents that prompted it.

The United States in particular has walked a careful line on such anti-Islam demonstrations in Sweden in the past, decrying the actions of protesters as creating an “environment of fear” for Muslims while also noting that Swedish courts’ decisions to allow the demonstrations to take place support “freedom of expression.”

Sweden, for its part, has said it is considering changing its laws to allow police to stop Quran burnings in public, citing the security threats these incidents are creating for the country.

Foreign Policy

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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