Sweden’s prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, has accused Russia of engaging in a “disinformation campaign” to damage Sweden’s reputation abroad. Kristersson took to social media to express his concerns, stating that “states and state-like actors” were spreading false claims about recent Quran-burning incidents in Stockholm.
The Swedish prime minister specifically pointed out that Russian actors were actively disseminating the incorrect claim that Sweden itself was responsible for desecrating various scriptures. He emphasized that this was entirely false, asserting that the Swedish government does not issue permissions to burn copies of the Quran in public. However, he explained that the police do grant permits for public gatherings, which is a right protected by Sweden’s constitution. How individuals exercise this right, including whether they choose to burn religious texts, is up to them.
The Quran-burning incidents in Stockholm sparked international backlash, leading to diplomatic consequences for Sweden. The Stockholm police approved two protests outside Iraq’s embassy, where demonstrators burned and destroyed copies of the Quran. This act of desecration angered Iraqis, who marched on the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad, breached the building, and set it on fire before being repelled by security forces.
The controversy surrounding the Quran-burnings has also drawn condemnation from several Muslim nations, including Türkiye, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan. Russian officials have also condemned the burnings, with the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, stating that such acts have nothing to do with democracy or freedom of speech. President Vladimir Putin described the Quran attacks as hate crimes, emphasizing that they would not be tolerated in Russia.
A group of lawmakers, including Russian MPs and Muslims from around the world, expressed outrage over the desecration of sacred items and rejected Stockholm’s justification for allowing such demonstrations. They argued that the act of desecrating religious texts has no connection to freedom of speech or religion.
This is not the first time allegations of Quran burnings have been raised against Russia. Finland’s top diplomat, Pekka Haavisto, previously made similar claims, suggesting that Moscow may have been behind a Quran-burning incident carried out by an anti-Islam activist. The Russian Foreign Ministry condemned that incident and dismissed Haavisto’s allegations as “disgusting.”
The tensions resulting from these Quran-burning incidents highlight the delicate balance between freedom of speech and religious sensitivities. While individuals have the right to express their opinions, it is essential to respect the values and beliefs of others. Russia and Sweden will need to address these concerns and work towards fostering understanding and respect to prevent further damage to their diplomatic relations.