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Sweden reaches out to OIC members with 'regret' over Qur'an desecration: Iraq

People gather outside the Swedish embassy in Baghdad on June 30, 2023, for a second day of protests against a Qur'an burning outside a Stockholm mosque. (Photo by AFP)

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry says it has received a letter from the Swedish government that expresses “deep regret” over a Qur'an burning outside a Stockholm mosque that sparked a backlash across the Muslim world.

In a statement on Friday, the ministry said the Swedish Foreign Ministry had sent a letter to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation's member states, denouncing the anti-Islamic acts and views of a man who burned the Quran and stressing that the Swedish government did not support or condone them in any way.

The 37-year-old Iraqi man stomped on the Qur'an before setting several pages alight in front of Stockholm's largest mosque last Wednesday. The insult to the Muslim holy book was made under the authorization and protection of the Swedish police. 

The letter said the Swedish government “fully understands” that Muslims have been offended by the incident while also claiming that the police were conducting an investigation into the incident over potential hate crimes violations.

The Iraqi ministry said in the statement that it will continue to demand the Swedish government to extradite the perpetrator of the “heinous act” so he can be punished in accordance with Iraqi law.

Muslims slam desecration

The incident, coinciding with the start of the Muslim Eid al-Adha and the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, has drawn the anger of Muslims from across the world.

On Friday, Several thousand Iraqis gathered near the Swedish embassy in Baghdad for a second day of protests against the Quran burning. Police closed off the street past the embassy with concrete blocks and the protesters gathered on a nearby avenue.

On Thursday, one group of protesters managed to penetrate the embassy and stay inside for some 15 minutes before leaving when security forces arrived.

People in other Muslim countries have also taken to the streets in protest against the move, including Iran, where people held a demonstration outside Sweden's embassy in Tehran on Friday.

Iran, Iraq, the UAE, Kuwait and a number of other countries have voiced diplomatic protest against the Swedish government's authorization of the Qur'an desecration.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on Friday distanced himself from the blasphemy. "This is a serious security question. There's no need to insult other people," the right-wing premier said.

The perpetrator of the insult told a Swedish newspaper late Thursday that he intended to repeat his protest in July. "Within 10 days I will burn the Iraqi flag and the Koran in front of Iraq's embassy in Stockholm," he told Expressen.

Sweden has repeatedly permitted Qur'an burnings in recent years. In January, a Swedish-Danish right-wing extremist burned a copy of the Qur'an near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.

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