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Hundreds of Iraqi protesters attempt to storm Danish embassy over Qur’an burning

Followers of Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr protest on Tahrir Square near Baghdad's Green Zone a day after an alleged burning of the Qur'an in Copenhagen, early on July 22, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

Hundreds of protesters have clashed with security forces in Iraq as they tried to storm the Danish embassy in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone in reaction to reports of a Quran burning in the Nordic country.

Iraqi security forces fired tear gas to disperse around 1,000 demonstrators on Saturday, following reports that a far-right group had burned a copy of the holy Muslim book in front of the Iraqi Embassy in Copenhagen a day earlier.

They blocked the Jumhuriya Bridge that leads to the Green Zone and prevented the protesters from reaching the Danish embassy.

The protesters waved Iraqi flags, chanted slogans in support of prominent Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and shouted “Yes, yes to the Qur’an!”

Another protest is planned for later in the day.

The development came after members of the ultra-nationalist “Danish Patriots” group set fire to a book purported to be the Qur’an, as well as an Iraqi flag in front of the Iraqi Embassy in Copenhagen, livestreaming the action on Facebook.

In a statement on Saturday, Iraq’s Foreign Ministry condemned “in strong and repeated terms, the incident of abuse against the Holy Qur’an and the flag of the Republic of Iraq in front of the Iraqi Embassy in Denmark.”

Baghdad also called on the international community “to stand urgently and responsibly towards these atrocities that violate social peace and coexistence around the world”.

Danish Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen also condemned it as an act of "stupidity" by a few individuals, saying, "It is a disgraceful act to insult the religion of others”.

“This applies to the burning of Qur’ans and other religious symbols. It has no other purpose than to provoke and create division,” he added.

In another development on Saturday, demonstrators also set fire to the headquarters of the humanitarian organization Danish Refugee Council in the Basrah governorate of Iraq, according to reports by local media and Sky News.

The latest developments come two days after hundreds of Iraqi protesters stormed the Swedish embassy in Baghdad and set part of it on fire in protest against the second planned desecration of the Holy Qur’an in that country.

The Iraqi government condemned the torching of the Swedish embassy building but ordered the Swedish ambassador to leave and decided to withdraw its envoy from Stockholm for permitting the desecration of the Holy Qur'an.

On Thursday, an assembly was held outside the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm, where two people burned a copy of Muslims’ holy book as well as the Iraqi flag.

Earlier, Swedish media reported that one of two people is the same person who set a Qur’an on fire outside a Stockholm mosque in June.

On June 28, Salwan Momika, a 37-year-old Iraqi immigrant stomped on the Qur’an before setting several pages alight in front of Stockholm’s largest mosque. The insult to the Muslim holy book was made under the authorization and protection of the Swedish police. 

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

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