The right to free expression always comes with responsibilities, which were not demonstrated by the Swedish man who burned the Holy Quran in full public view outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm. The event drew widespread outrage, with other countries joining Muslim voices in condemning the vile and immensely harmful destruction of the Holy Quran. The incident was also slammed as “very insulting” by Sweden’s prime minister, despite his administration being powerless to prevent far-right politician Rasmus Paludan from burning a copy of the holy book.
The event has caused diplomatic difficulties between Sweden and Turkey as well. Outraged that Swedish police had allowed Paludan to stage the protest, Ankara postponed the defence minister of Sweden’s visit and summoned Stockholm’s ambassador. Pakistan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, among other Muslim nations, also condemned the action. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif referred to the heinous conduct as unacceptable in his denunciation, stating that “the garment of freedom of expression can’t be used to damage the sensibilities of Muslims.”
After the recent effort to desecrate the Holy Quran, the world, especially the west, should review its policies to combat the rising trend of Islamophobia. Pakistan has contributed by strongly protesting the incident to the local ambassador via the foreign office. Iran, Turkey, and Malaysia have all expressed strong disapproval of the act, excluding Pakistan. Anger is rising around the Muslim world as the Swedish authorities investigate the incident. According to a statement from the Foreign Office, “such activities damage the sensibilities of 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide, including those in Pakistan.” It is imperative that Sweden go beyond merely “disapproving” activities that injure other religions and adopt concrete steps to combat the rise of Islamophobia and the far-right. It was once said that this stunning European nation was a haven of peace and moderation.
When a gunman opened fire on a mosque in New Zealand in March 2018, live-streaming the horrific incident online, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stood by the Muslim community as a sign of peace and took extensive measures to stem the flow of extremism. Sadly, although occasionally experiencing attacks against Muslims, Sweden has not shown this kind of character. Two Muslims stopped a shooter from attacking a mosque in Bearam city in August. The far-right is given a lot of airtime in the Western media, and the far-right narratives are taking over the local mainstream political parties. If the wave of radicalism continues unchecked, Sweden will suffer.15