Fierce clashes have broken out between police and protesters in central Sweden’s Muslim-dominated area during demonstrations against a far-right group's intention to burn the Holy Qur'an.
The clashes erupted on the sidelines of a rally in Orebro city by the anti-immigration and anti-Muslim Stram Kurs (Hard Line) party led by Danish-Swedish politician and lawyer, Rasmus Paludan.
The far-right leader, accompanied by police, reportedly put a copy of the holy book on the floor and tried to burn it.
The blasphemous act prompted counter-protesters, around 200 people by local media’s estimate, to break into the rally and clash with the members of the far-right party and Swedish police.
The counter-protesters urged police not to allow Paludan to commit the sacrilegious act but the pleas were conveniently ignored, sparking violent clashes and stone-pelting.
Police personnel tried to disperse them in defense of the hardline group, with local authorities saying the skirmishes left nine police officers injured. Two protesters were also taken into custody.
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson came out in support of the far-right group, making remarks that have been deemed provocative.
"In Sweden, people are allowed to express their opinions, whether they are in good or bad taste, that is part of our democracy. No matter what you think, you must never resort to violence. We will never accept it,” he was quoted as saying.
Paludan has regularly been at the center of such incidents in recent years. In 2019, he wrapped the holy book in bacon and tossed it in the air.
In September 2020, the racist leader was banned from entering Sweden for two years. Later in October, he was prevented from coming to Germany after he announced plans to hold a provocative rally in Berlin.
Iraqi Shia cleric urges summoning of Swedish ambassador
Top Iraqi Shia cleric and politician Muqtada al-Sadr on Saturday condemned the sacrilegious act by the far-right Swedish group and called for summoning the Swedish ambassador to the Arab country.
“During the month of the Qur’an, the Qur’an is burned in a European country where Muslims are numerous,” he noted. “Why is this provocation happening to the feelings of Muslims?”
“If you do not believe in God and His Sharia, this does not give you the right to burn the Qur'an.”
The influential Shia cleric called on the country’s foreign ministry to summon the Swedish envoy to Baghdad and lodge a protest against the “terrorist crime” and “sedition” aimed at creating fissures between different religions.
Anti-Muslim sentiments have been on the rise across Europe in recent years in the wake of terrorist attacks in the continent, carried out mostly by Daesh sympathizers or the terrorist group's members who returned home following the group’s defeat in Iraq and Syria.
Muslim leaders in Europe and around the world have repeatedly condemned the terrorist attacks.
Moreover, the rise of far-right ideology and the propagation of anti-immigration policies have also exacerbated the status of religious minorities in Europe.