Swedish police open arson case after mosque fire

Published September 26, 2023
Swedish police said Tuesday they were investigating whether a fire that reduced a mosque to rubble the previous day in central Sweden was arson. — AFP/File
Swedish police said Tuesday they were investigating whether a fire that reduced a mosque to rubble the previous day in central Sweden was arson. — AFP/File

Swedish police said on Tuesday that they were investigating whether a fire that reduced a mosque to rubble the previous day in central Sweden was arson.

“The investigation into the fire is continuing. Police will question witnesses and verify whether there were security cameras in the area,” the police said in a statement on their website.

The fire broke out on Monday around noon in Eskilstuna, a town of 108,000 people 150 kilometres (93 miles) west of Stockholm, causing no injuries, a police spokesman told AFP.

There are no suspects and no arrests have been made.

“The mosque is almost completely destroyed, nothing can be saved,” mosque spokesman Anas Deneche told AFP.

Deneche said the mosque had been the target of several acts of violence in the past year and his family had been threatened.

“But it’s still too early to draw any conclusions (about the cause of the fire), we’ll have to wait for the police to do their work,” he said.

Police said they were investigating several leads but provided no other details.

Between 15,000 and 20,000 Muslims live in Eskilstuna.

The mosque fire coincides with a spate of public desecrations of the Holy Quran in Sweden in recent months. The burnings have sparked widespread outrage and condemnation in Muslim countries.

The country has condemned the desecrations of the Holy Quran but upheld its laws regarding freedom of speech and assembly.

The government has vowed to explore legal means of stopping protests involving the desecration of holy texts in certain circumstances, though a majority appear to be opposed to such a change.

Call to ban acts displaying of religious hatred

In July, the United Nations Human Rights Council approved a resolution on religious hatred, which was introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

The resolution called for the UN rights chief to publish a report on religious hatred and for states to review their laws and plug gaps that may “impede the prevention and prosecution of acts and advocacy of religious hatred”.

The same month, the UN General Assembly adopted, by consensus, a Moroccan resolution, co-sponsored by Pakistan, calling for countering hate speech and strongly deploring attacks against places of worship, religious symbols and holy books.

The resolution, titled ‘Promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue and tolerance in countering hate speech’, won the approval of the 193-member assembly and stated: “Strongly deploring all acts of violence against persons on the basis of their religion or belief, as well as any such acts directed against their religious symbols, holy books, homes, businesses, properties, schools, cultural centres or places of worship, as well as all attacks on and in religious places, sites and shrines in violation of international law.”

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