BAGHDAD: Tensions flared between Iraq and Sweden on Thursday over a Stockholm protest in which a man stomped on the Holy Quran, weeks after he had burnt pages of Islam’s holy book, sparking widespread Muslim anger.
News that Swedish authorities would permit the protest to proceed on free speech grounds had led hundreds of Iraqis to storm and torch Sweden’s Baghdad embassy in a chaotic pre-dawn attack.
Iraq’s government condemned the attack, but retaliated against the protest in Sweden by expelling its ambassador, vowing to sever ties and suspending the operating licence of Swedish telecom giant Ericsson.
Around the time of the protest outside the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani “instructed the Swedish ambassador in Baghdad to leave Iraqi territory”.
Pakistan condemns latest act of sacrilege
The decision was “prompted by the Swedish government’s repeated permission for the burning of the Holy Quran, insulting Islamic sanctities and the burning of the Iraqi flag”, his office said.
Advance news of the planned Stockholm protest had prompted hundreds to mass at its Baghdad embassy overnight before scaling the walls and torching buildings. The protesters clashed with riot police.
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said Iraq’s charge d’affaires would be summoned. The US also condemned the attack.
Pakistan has also condemned the desecration of the Holy Quran. “Permission to carry out premeditated and provocative acts of religious hatred cannot be justified under the guise of freedom of expression, opinion and protest” a statement issued by Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said.
Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2023