Saudi Arabia, other Islamic countries condemn Swedish far-right group’s plan to burn copies of the Qur’an

This photograph taken on April 17, 2022 shows a burning car near Rosengard in Malmo, Sweden, during riots sparked by a far-right group to publicly burn copies of the Qur'an. (Johan Nilsson / TT NEWS AGENCY / AFP)
This photograph taken on April 17, 2022 shows a burning car near Rosengard in Malmo, Sweden, during riots sparked by a far-right group to publicly burn copies of the Qur'an. (Johan Nilsson / TT NEWS AGENCY / AFP)
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Updated 19 April 2022

Saudi Arabia, other Islamic countries condemn Swedish far-right group’s plan to burn copies of the Qur’an

Saudi Arabia, other Islamic countries condemn Swedish far-right group’s plan to burn copies of the Qur’an
  • Sweden rocked by violence after Rasmus Paludan and his Stram Kurs called for a mass book-burning 
  • Saudi foreign ministry accuses the far-right group of “incitement against Muslims,” calls for dialogue 

JEDDAH: Arab and Muslim countries have strongly condemned plans by Sweden’s notorious far-right group Stram Kurs to burn copies of the Qur’an, the holiest book in Islam, during the month of Ramadan.

Clashes broke out in Norrkoping, Linkoping, Rinkeby, Malmo, Orebro, and the capital Stockholm over the weekend as police tried to prevent the book-burning taking place.

Saudi Arabia condemned the group’s “deliberate” abuse of the Qur’an as an incitement against Muslims, calling instead for the promotion of a culture of dialogue, tolerance and religious coexistence.

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“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s condemnation of the deliberate abuse of the Holy Qur’an, provocations and incitement against Muslims by some extremists in Sweden,” the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

The Kingdom stressed the importance of renouncing hatred, extremism and exclusion, while also promoting efforts to prevent abuses against all religious groups and holy sites.

Stram Kurs’s plans were condemned by Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Malaysia and Qatar, among others. Objections were also lodged by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Muslim World League, and the Arab Parliament, the legislative body of the Arab League.

 

In a statement on Monday, Swedish police said 40 people had been injured, including 26 police officers, more than 20 vehicles had been damaged or destroyed, and 26 people had been arrested in the days of violence.

Danish-Swedish lawyer and far-right politician Rasmus Paludan, who founded Stram Kurs in 2017, had planned to attend the demonstration in Norrkoping on Sunday, but according to Swedish media he never arrived.




In this picture taken on Sept. 4, 2021, in Stockholm, Sweden, Danish-Swedish hate preaching politician Rasmus Paludan shows a copy of the Qur'an, which he later tore apart and put on fire. (Pelle T. Nilsson/Swedish Press Agency)

 


In a statement released by Stram Kurs late on Sunday, Paludan said the rally had been canceled because organizers felt the Swedish police were unable to “protect themselves and me.”

The controversy began on April 15 when Paludan shared a picture with his 4,700 Instagram followers of himself holding a book that appears to be burned at the corners. The caption reads: “Qur’an burning in Rinkeby.”

The following day, he appeared to call upon his social media followers to imitate his action with a post reading: “Time to burn the Qur’an.”




Counter-protesters throw stones at the police in Orebro, Sweden, on April 15, 2022, ahead of a demonstration planned by Danish anti-Muslim gang Stram Kurs. (Kicki Nilsson/ TT News Agency/via REUTERS)

Although still a fringe group in Scandinavian politics, Stram Kurs has gained traction in recent years, particularly in the wake of the 2015 European refugee crisis, when millions of people fleeing conflict and instability in the Middle East, Africa and Asia began arriving on European soil.

Stram Kurs and other groups on the far right routinely seek to stir up hostility against Muslims, economic migrants and refugees, even calling for the mass deportation of these groups in order to, in their words, preserve Sweden’s authentic ethnic identity.

Paludan, who intends to stand in Sweden’s legislative elections in September, is currently touring the country to secure support for his candidacy, often deliberately campaigning in areas with large Muslim communities.




Police officers chase rioters in in Orebro, Sweden, ahead of a demonstration planned by Danish anti-Muslim politician Rasmus Paludan and his Stram Kurs party on April 15, 2022. (Paul Wennerholm/ TT News Agency/via REUTERS)

This is not the first time Paludan has sought to provoke Muslims with calls to publicly burn the Qur’an. In November 2020, his website urged supporters in Paris to assemble at the Arc de Triomphe to “burn the Qur’an in preparation for the peaceful public assembly.”

That same month, Paludan also urged supporters to gather in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, where “the European patriots will burn the Qur’an in blatant contempt of the religion of Islam.”

For inciting hatred against the Muslim community on Stram Kurs’ social media accounts, Paludan was sentenced to a month in jail in 2020. The previous year, he was handed a suspended sentence for racism and faced 14 charges, including defamation and dangerous driving.

Paludan is also not the first public figure to incite hatred by attempting to burn copies of the Qur’an. In 2010, Terry Jones, a Florida pastor and founder of the nondenominational Dove World Outreach Center, vowed to mark the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by burning the Islamic text.




Palestinian Muslims read the Qur'an in the Al-Omari mosque during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan in Gaza City on April 18, 2022. (Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto)

The planned burning drew worldwide condemnation, with even the Vatican and the UN urging Pastor Jones not to go ahead with it.

David Petraeus, then commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, warned the burning could be exploited by the Taliban and other extremist groups to garner support or promote acts of terrorism on Western soil.




Iranian students demonstrate in front of the Swedish embassy in Tehran, on April 18, 2022, to protest a Swedish far-right group's plan to burn the Muslim holy book. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)

“It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community,” Petraeus said at the time.

Then-president Barack Obama likewise warned, when asked about Pastor Jones’ plan on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” that the Qur’an burning “could increase the recruitment of individuals who would be willing to blow themselves up in US cities or European cities.”

Following the outcry, Pastor Jones did not go ahead with the mass burning on the 9/11 anniversary.

It remains to be seen whether similar condemnation will dissuade Paludan and Stram Kurs supporters from going ahead with their own burning.

Decoder

What is the Stram Kurs?

Stram Kurs, or Hard Line, is a far-right political party in Denmark founded in 2017 by politician Rasmus Paludan. The hate-preaching politician's call on April 18, 2022, for a mass-burning of the Qur'an, the Muslim holy book, triggered riots in Sweden. In 2019, he was convicted of posting anti-Islam videos on his party's social media channels, was given a suspended jail term for racism, and was disbarred for three years as a criminal lawyer and banned from driving for a year.


Afghan women demand education and work at Kabul protest

Afghan women demand education and work at Kabul protest
Updated 14 sec ago

Afghan women demand education and work at Kabul protest

Afghan women demand education and work at Kabul protest
  • Since seizing power in August, the Taliban have rolled back the marginal gains made by women during the two decades of US intervention in Afghanistan
KABUL: About two dozen Afghan women chanting “bread, work, freedom” protested in the capital on Sunday against the Taliban’s harsh restrictions on their rights.
Since seizing power in August, the Taliban have rolled back the marginal gains made by women during the two decades of US intervention in Afghanistan.
“Education is my right! Reopen schools!” chanted the protesters, many of them wearing face-covering veils, as they gathered in front of the ministry of education.
Demonstrators marched for a few hundred meters before ending the rally as authorities deployed Taliban fighters in plain clothes, an AFP correspondent reported.
“We wanted to read out a declaration but the Taliban didn’t allow it,” said protester Zholia Parsi.
“They took the mobile phones of some girls and also prevented us from taking photos or videos of our protest.”
After seizing power, the Taliban had promised a softer version of the harsh Islamist rule that characterized their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001.
But many restrictions have already been imposed.
Tens of thousands of girls have been shut out of secondary schools, while women have been barred from returning to many government jobs.
Women have also been banned from traveling alone and can only visit public gardens and parks in the capital on days separate from men.
This month, the country’s supreme leader and Taliban chief Hibatullah Akhundzada said women should generally stay at home.
They were ordered to conceal themselves completely, including their faces, should they need to go out in public.
The decree, which triggered international outrage, carried echoes of the Taliban’s first reign, when they made the all-covering burqa mandatory for women.
The Taliban have also banned protests calling for women’s rights and dismissed calls by the United Nations to reverse their restrictions.
Some Afghan women initially pushed back against the curbs, holding small protests.
But the Taliban soon rounded up the ringleaders, holding them incommunicado while denying they had been detained.

Flight with 22 people on board missing in Nepal: airline

Flight with 22 people on board missing in Nepal: airline
Updated 29 May 2022

Flight with 22 people on board missing in Nepal: airline

Flight with 22 people on board missing in Nepal: airline

KATHMANDU: A small airplane with 22 people on board flying on a popular tourist route was missing in Nepal’s mountains on Sunday, an official said.
The plane, which was on a 15-minute scheduled flight to the mountain town of Jomsom, lost contact with the airport tower shortly after takeoff.
Police official Ramesh Thapa said there was no information on the Twin Otter aircraft and a search was underway.
It has been raining in the area for the past few days but flights have been operating normally. Planes on that route fly between mountains before landing in a valley.
It is a popular route with foreign hikers who trek on the mountain trails and also with Indian and Nepalese pilgrims who visit the revered Muktinath temple.


25 missing after cargo boat sinks in Indonesia

25 missing after cargo boat sinks in Indonesia
Updated 29 May 2022

25 missing after cargo boat sinks in Indonesia

25 missing after cargo boat sinks in Indonesia
  • A total of 42 people were on the boat when it sank in bad weather on Thursday morning
  • Ferry tragedies are common in Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands

MAKASSAR, Indonesia: Rescuers in Indonesia were searching for 25 people who were missing after a cargo boat sank in the Makassar Strait in South Sulawesi province, officials said Sunday.
A total of 42 people were on the boat when it sank in bad weather on Thursday morning while traveling from a seaport in Makassar to Kalmas Island in Pangkep Regency, said Djunaidi, the head of the provincial search and rescue agency. Like many Indonesians, Djunaidi goes by only one name.
Seventeen people were later rescued, including some by two tugboats that were at sea at the time of the incident.
Djunaidi said the search and rescue agency received new information about the location of the sunken boat on Saturday and dispatched crews to the area. Two motor boats and a search and rescue boat, along with local fishing boats and Indonesia air force helicopters, are involved in the search for the missing passengers.
The sunken vessel was initially said to be a passenger ferry, but Djunaidi later clarified that it was a cargo boat carrying construction materials. Thirty-six passengers had asked for a ride on the boat and there were six crew members.
Ferry tragedies are common in Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, where ferries are often used as transport and safety regulations can lapse.
In 2018, an overcrowded ferry with about 200 people on board sank in a deep volcanic crater lake in North Sumatra province, killing 167 people.
In one of the country’s worst recorded disasters, an overcrowded passenger ship sank in February 1999 with 332 people aboard. There were only 20 survivors.


Pacific ‘very positive’ on Australian re-engagement: PM

Pacific ‘very positive’ on Australian re-engagement: PM
Updated 29 May 2022

Pacific ‘very positive’ on Australian re-engagement: PM

Pacific ‘very positive’ on Australian re-engagement: PM
  • Anthony Albanese: Australia’s previous government had ‘dropped the ball’ on the Pacific, both in terms of aid and also ‘a non-engagement on values’

SYDNEY: South Pacific nations have been “very positive” about Canberra’s “re-engagement,” Australia’s new prime minister has said, as China undertakes a region-wide diplomatic offensive that is raising concerns among Western powers.
The comments from Anthony Albanese — aired Sunday in an interview with Sky News — came as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was visiting Fiji for closely watched meetings with the island nation’s leaders and others from across the region.
Wang, who began his South Pacific tour Thursday in the Solomon Islands, is expected to discuss a wide-ranging draft agreement and five-year plan that would dramatically expand security and economic cooperation with South Pacific nations.
But Albanese said Australia’s own renewed diplomatic push had been well-received.
“The response has been very positive,” Albanese said when asked about Pacific leaders’ reaction to recent efforts, including a visit to Fiji last week by new Foreign Minister Penny Wong.
The prime minister said Australia’s previous government had “dropped the ball” on the Pacific, both in terms of aid and also “a non-engagement on values.”
“For our Pacific Island neighbors, the issue of climate change is an absolute national security issue,” Albanese said.
In addition to increased action on the environment, he also touted a boost in aid and a plan to set up a defense training school in the Pacific.
During Australia’s recent election campaign, Albanese’s center-left Labor party said the school would involve forces from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.
Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang is expected to remain until at least Tuesday in Fiji’s capital, where he is to host a meeting with foreign ministers from across the Pacific.
The draft agreement and a five-year plan leaked ahead of that meeting, both obtained by AFP, would give China a larger security footprint in the region.
Australian Foreign Minister Wong warned Pacific leaders about the deal last week during her visit to Fiji.
“We have expressed our concerns publicly about the security agreement,” she said.
Beijing last month signed a wide-ranging pact with the Solomon Islands that Western governments feared could give China a military foothold in the region.


Shanghai takes further steps toward reopening, Beijing eases COVID-19 curbs

Shanghai takes further steps toward reopening, Beijing eases COVID-19 curbs
Updated 29 May 2022

Shanghai takes further steps toward reopening, Beijing eases COVID-19 curbs

Shanghai takes further steps toward reopening, Beijing eases COVID-19 curbs
  • The Chinese commercial hub of 25 million aims to essentially end from Wednesday prolonged lockdow

SHANGHAI/BEIJING: Shanghai announced on Sunday further steps toward returning to more normal life and lifting a two-month COVID-19 lockdown this week, while Beijing reopened parts of its public transport, some malls, gyms and other venues as infections stabilized.
The Chinese commercial hub of 25 million aims to essentially end from Wednesday a lockdown that has severely damaged the economy and seen many Shanghai residents lose income, struggle to source food and to cope mentally with prolonged isolation.
The painful coronavirus curbs in major Chinese cities run counter to trends seen in the rest of the world, which has largely moved toward co-existing with the virus even as infections spread.
Shanghai, China’s most populous city, will ease testing requirements from Wednesday for people who want to enter public areas, said city government spokeswoman Yin Xin, adding these tweaks should encourage work resumption.
“The current epidemic situation in the city continues to stabilize and improve,” Yin said, adding Shanghai’s strategy was now “pivoting toward normalized prevention and control.”
People entering public venues or taking public transport will need to show a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours, versus 48 hours previously.
Bus services within the Pudong New Area, home to Shanghai’s largest airport and the main financial district, will fully resume by Monday, officials said.
Plaza 66, an upscale mall in central Shanghai that hosts Louis Vuitton and other luxury brands, reopened on Sunday.
Authorities have been slowly relaxing curbs, with a focus on resuming manufacturing.
More people have been allowed to leave their flats, and more businesses permitted to reopen, though many residents remain largely confined to their housing compounds, and most shops limited to deliveries.
The authorities approved 240 financial institutions in the city for reopening from Wednesday, state-run Shanghai Securities News reported on Sunday, adding to a list of 864 firms released earlier this month. That is out of Shanghai’s roughly 1,700 financial firms.
The newspaper said on Saturday that the more than 10,000 bankers and traders who have been living and working in their offices since the start of lockdown were gradually returning home.
Shanghai has already allowed key manufacturers in the auto industry, life sciences, chemicals and semiconductors to resume production since late April.
In the capital Beijing, libraries, museums, theaters and gyms were allowed to reopen on Sunday, with limits on numbers of people, in districts that have seen no community COVID-19 cases for seven consecutive days.
The districts of Fangshan and Shunyi will end work-from-home rules, while public transport will largely resume in the two districts as well as in Chaoyang, the city’s largest. Still, restaurant dining remains banned city-wide.
Shanghai reported just over 100 daily COVID-19 cases on Sunday, while Beijing recorded 21, both mirroring a nationwide downtrend.