Emergency services were alerted to a fire at the mosque in Arby, Eskilstuna, at 12:20pm local time.—Courtesy Sebastian Skog/Motala Vadstena Newspaper
Emergency services were alerted to a fire at the mosque in Arby, Eskilstuna, at 12:20pm local time.—Courtesy Sebastian Skog/Motala Vadstena Newspaper

STOCKHOLM: Swedish police have initiated investigations to ascertain if the blaze that reduced a mosque to rubble the previous day in central Sweden was an arson attack, officials said on Tuesday.

“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 noon in Eskilstuna, a town of 108,000 people, some 150km west of Stockholm, causing no injuries, a police spokesman told AFP.

There are no suspects and no arrests have been made.

Spokesman believes the blaze was caused ‘deliberately’

“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.”

On Monday, Deneche told public broadcaster Sveriges Radio that he believed Monday’s blaze was deliberately caused.

He said that police records showed the mosque had faced threats for over a year and had previously been subjected to attacks, Middle East Eye reported.

In the recent past, there have been several desecration incidents in Sweden.

The attacks came months after a man tore up and burned a copy of the Holy Quran outside Stockholm’s central mosque in June.

The man was later charged with agitation against an ethnic or nat­ional group.

While Swedish police have rejected several recent applications for anti-Quran demonstrations, courts have overruled those decisions, saying they infringed on freedom of speech.

The incidents have evoked strong reactions from Turkiye, Pakistan and other Muslim countries.

Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2023

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