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Riot erupts after Holy Quran desecration in Sweden

Policemen stand next to demonstrators at Mynttorget Square in Stockholm, Sweden, July 31, 2023. —AFP
Policemen stand next to demonstrators at Mynttorget Square in Stockholm, Sweden, July 31, 2023. —AFP

Two individuals were arrested and approximately 10 were detained after a riot broke out after the desecration of the Holy Quran in Malmo, Sweden.

The rally, organised by Iraqi refugee Salwan Momika, has added to a series of protests that have ignited anger across the Middle East.

The incident occurred when a rally took place in a square densely populated by immigrants. Salwan Momika, an Iraqi refugee known for initiating similar controversial events, organised the gathering, during which a copy of the Holy Quran was set on fire, eliciting a strong reaction from spectators.

Swedish police said: “Spectators showed their emotion after the organiser burned the writings,” further noting that “the atmosphere was stormy,” leading to “violent riots” in the early afternoon.

After the departure of the organiser, the gathering appeared to disband, but a group of individuals remained behind. Law enforcement took action, arresting around ten people for disturbing public order and detaining two others on suspicion of participating in the violent riots.

This incident comes on the heels of a controversial holy book desecration in Stockholm at the end of July, where Salwan Momika and another individual, Salwan Naja, desecrated the Holy Quran, similar to actions taken in previous rallies. 

These actions triggered diplomatic tensions between Sweden and Middle Eastern countries, including attacks on the Swedish embassy in Baghdad.

Sweden’s government has previously condemned Holy Quran desecrations while emphasising that the nation’s constitution upholds the right to assembly and freedom of expression. The aftermath of these incidents has prompted Sweden to raise its terrorist alert level and strengthen border controls.

In response to growing concerns, neighbouring Denmark, where public Holy Quran desecrations have also occurred, is contemplating banning the burning of the Muslim holy book. Sweden is likewise exploring legal avenues to address the issue.

These recent events underscore the delicate balance between freedom of expression and maintaining social harmony in a multicultural society. Sweden, like other nations, grapples with finding appropriate ways to address controversial actions that risk inciting violence and international tensions.

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