• Second such incident in Europe within days
• Turkiye summons Dutch envoy
• Qatar warns against repeating desecration of Holy Quran

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday strongly condemned the despicable act of desecration of a copy of the Holy Quran in the Netherlands.

A day after a similar act was committed by Sweden’s far-right politician Rasmus Paludan in Stockholm, Edwin Wagensveld, who heads the Dutch chapter of a German anti-Islam group, tore pages out of the holy scripture in The Hague during a one-man protest on Sunday.

In a video posted on social media on Monday, Wagensveld claimed that he had received permission from the city of The Hague for the “destruction” of the holy book.

In a statement issued in Islamabad, the Foreign Office spokesperson said: “It is undoubtedly a provocative Islamophobic hate crime committed under the guise of freedom of expression. Such offensive acts deeply hurt the feelings of 1.5 billion Muslims around the world and can create disharmony among the international community.”

Turkiye, Qatar and some other Muslim countries also denounced the sacrilegious act.

Pakistan, the spokesperson said, had always maintained that freedom of expression came with responsibilities.

“We also believe that it is the responsibility of national governments and the international community at large to prevent such vile acts, which are perpetrated with the ulterior motive to provoke and incite religious hatred and violence.”

The spokesperson urged the international community to raise its collective voice against Islamophobia and work together to promote inter-faith harmony and peaceful coexistence.

That was the spirit behind the resolution passed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2022 to mark March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia, the spokesperson added.

As Pakistan’s concerns were being conveyed to the authorities in the Netherlands, the spokesperson urged them to be mindful of the sentiments of the people of Pakistan and the Muslims around the world and take steps to prevent such hateful and Islamophobic acts.

Turkiye summons envoy

On Tuesday, the Turkish foreign ministry summoned the Dutch ambassador in Ankara to express its “deep displeasure” over the anti-Islam protest.

The Turkish foreign ministry said it condemned “in the strongest possible terms the vile attack of an anti-Islamic person”.

Earlier, the Dutch public broadcaster NOS said Edwin Wagensveld, who heads the Dutch chapter of Germany’s anti-Islam group Pegida, tore pages out of a copy of the holy scripture. Images on social media also showed him walking on the torn pages.

The summons came days after a similar protest outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm threatened to sink Sweden’s ambitions to join the Nato.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Sweden could no longer expect support for its Nato membership bid following its decision to allow an anti-Islam protester to desecrate the Holy Quran. Turkiye has one of the largest presence in Nato forces.

Mr Erdogan’s warning prompted Finland, which applied to join Nato together with its Nordic neighbour, to say for the first time on Tuesday that it might consider joining the US-led bloc without Sweden.

Meanwhile, Qatar also condemned and denounced in the strongest terms the incident occurred in The Hague.

In a statement, Qatar’s ministry of foreign affairs warned against allowing the repetition of such behaviour under the pretext of freedom of expression. It called on the world community to double its efforts and take responsibility to stop such “deliberate insults and repeated acts”.

Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2023

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