Swedish authorities ban anti-NATO protest over Qu’ran burning
Freedom of peaceful assembly
Far-right protesters set Qu’ran on fire
On 20th January 2023, a far-right rally took place near the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm, during which participants burned copies of the Qu'ran. Danish far-right politician Rasmus Paludan, who also holds Swedish citizenship, was one of the organisers of the event. After an hour-long Islamophobic speech, he set fire to the Qu'ran in front of the crowd, which consisted of about 100 protesters and a group of journalists. The event was heavily guarded by police.
Turkey condemned the event, which has led to escalating tensions between the two countries, particularly due to Turkey's refusal to ratify Sweden's accession into NATO. Following the protest, Turkey cancelled the planned visit by Sweden's defence minister to Ankara on 27th January. Furthermore, Turkish President Erdogan announced that Sweden cannot expect Turkey to approve its accession to NATO after allowing “such blasphemy.” A similar incident occurred in the country at the end of 2020.
Rally denied permission due to plans to burn Qu'ran
On 8th February 2023, Swedish authorities denied permission for an anti-NATO protest to be held in front of the Turkish Embassy due to the organisers' intention to burn Qu'ran books. The Swedish security services explained this decision by stating that the January event had increased the risk of attacks on the country. Meanwhile, the Stockholm police defended their decision to authorise the previous demonstration, as they believed the circumstances were different. The denial of permission for this second gathering has sparked a discussion about the limitations to freedom of expression that Sweden broadly guarantees.