Why Quran Burnings Are Permitted in Sweden, Despite Outrage

by Madison Thomas
Quran burnings in Sweden

Recent incidents of Quran desecration by a small group of anti-Islam activists in Sweden have ignited anger in Muslim countries and raised questions both within Sweden and globally about the reasons behind allowing such acts.

In a recent occurrence, an Iraqi resident in Sweden publicly stomped on and kicked the Quran during a demonstration near the Iraqi Embassy in Stockholm. Surprisingly, Swedish police authorized the protest, maintaining a safe distance from a few agitated counterdemonstrators.

This is not the first incident; last month, the same individual burned a Quran outside a mosque in Stockholm with police approval. Additionally, earlier in the year, a far-right activist from Denmark performed a similar act outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm.

Understanding Sweden’s Approach:

  1. Absence of Blasphemy Laws: Sweden, like many Western countries, does not have any specific legislation prohibiting the burning or desecration of religious texts, including the Quran. Historically, blasphemy laws existed until the 19th century but were gradually relaxed as the country became more secularized, with the final law abolished in 1970.

  2. Police Authority: The decision to authorize or deny permits for public gatherings, including demonstrations, lies with the police rather than the government. The Swedish constitution protects freedom of speech, and police can only deny permits if there are specific grounds, such as potential risks to public safety.

  3. Hate Speech Considerations: While Sweden’s hate speech law prohibits incitement against groups based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity, the debate around Quran-burning revolves around whether it constitutes hate speech directed at Muslims or is an expression of criticism towards Islam as a religion. Swedish police have filed preliminary hate crime charges against an individual involved in a Quran-burning protest, leaving it to prosecutors to decide whether to proceed with formal charges.

  4. Consistency in Applying Rules: Some members of the Muslim community in Sweden have questioned whether the authorities would permit the desecration of holy books from other religions. To test this, a Muslim man applied for permission to burn the Torah and the Bible outside the Israeli Embassy, but he eventually decided against it, emphasizing that as a Muslim, he was against burning any religious texts.

Comparing Blasphemy Laws Worldwide:

The approach to blasphemy laws varies worldwide. While many countries criminalize blasphemy, ranging from fines to severe punishments, countries such as the United States safeguard freedom of speech under the First Amendment, making it legal to burn holy books, although it may elicit public outrage.

In conclusion, Sweden’s lack of specific blasphemy laws and its commitment to freedom of speech have led to the authorization of Quran-burning protests, sparking discussions both within the country and across international borders. The issue remains contentious, with debates over whether such actions constitute hate speech or fall within the realm of protected expression of criticism.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Quran burnings in Sweden

Q: Why does Sweden allow Quran burnings?

A: Sweden permits Quran burnings because it does not have specific blasphemy laws, and freedom of speech is protected under its constitution. The decision to authorize demonstrations or public gatherings lies with the police, who can only deny permits if there are specific risks to public safety.

Q: Is Quran desecration considered a hate speech in Sweden?

A: There is an ongoing debate in Sweden regarding whether Quran burnings should be considered hate speech. While some argue it targets Muslims and should be classified as hate speech, others view it as criticism of Islam, which falls under freedom of speech.

Q: How do Swedish authorities handle Quran-burning incidents?

A: Swedish police evaluate each application for Quran-burning protests, considering public safety. In some cases, they have denied permits based on security concerns, but court decisions have challenged these denials, emphasizing the need for more concrete threats to ban public gatherings.

Q: Do other countries criminalize blasphemy?

A: Yes, blasphemy laws exist in numerous countries worldwide. Some nations enforce severe punishments, including death, for blasphemy. In contrast, countries like the United States protect freedom of speech, making it legal to burn holy books, despite public disapproval.

Q: Are there any similar incidents involving other religious texts in Sweden?

A: A Muslim man tested the consistency of authorities by applying for permission to burn the Torah and the Bible outside the Israeli Embassy. Although the request was approved, he eventually decided against proceeding, citing his opposition to burning any religious texts.

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JohnnyB July 21, 2023 - 3:13 am

swedish cops decide on demos, not the guv’ment, i see. they denied some permits, but the courts said no! more concrete threats needed, man!

Liz123 July 21, 2023 - 12:57 pm

sweden’s cool, man, no blasfemi laws! but burnin’ the quran? that’s not nice, is it hate speech? some peeps think so, others say free speech all the way!

RickyB July 21, 2023 - 11:55 pm

oh man, I waz wonderin’ y Sweden let’s ’em burn the quran! they ain’t got blasphemy laws, huh? freedom of speech? interes’in stuff, 4 real!


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