ISLAMABAD: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait on Saturday strongly condemned an anti-immigrant Swedish politician's act of burning a copy of the Holy Quran in Stockholm, calling on Sweden to take action against the Islamophobic act.
Rasmus Paludan, leader of the Danish far-right political party Stram Kurs or 'Hard Line', caused widespread anger among the Muslim community worldwide when he burnt a copy of the Holy Quran in a protest outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm on Saturday.
The incident takes centerstage at a time of rising tensions between Ankara and Stockholm, especially over the former's objection to the latter's bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The Nordic country needs Turkey's backing to join the military alliance.
Sweden and Finland applied last year to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but all 30 member states must approve their bids. Turkey has called on Sweden to take a clearer stance on what it sees as terrorists, mainly Kurdish militants and a group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt.
Angered by the protests allowed by the Swedish government outside its embassy in Stockholm and the Islamophobic act, Turkey canceled a planned visit by the Swedish defense minister to its country.
In a statement on Saturday, Pakistan's foreign office responded "strongly condemned" the desecration of the Holy Quran, calling it an "abhorrent" act.
"This senseless and provocative Islamophobic act hurts the religious sensitivities of over 1.5 billion Muslims around the world," Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) said.
Pakistan pointed out how such actions are not covered under "any legitimate expression of the right to freedom of expression or opinion", adding that Islamabad had conveyed its concerns to the Swedish authorities.
"We urge them to be mindful of the sentiments of the people of Pakistan and the Muslims worldwide and take steps to prevent Islamophobic acts," it added.
Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry also issued a strong statement against the provocative act. "Saudi Arabia calls for spreading the values of dialogue, tolerance, and coexistence, and rejects hatred and extremism," it said.
Turkey's foreign ministry slammed the "vile attack" on the Holy Quran.
"Permitting this anti-Islam act, which targets Muslims and insults our sacred values, under the guise of freedom of expression is completely unacceptable," it added.
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom also blasted Paludan's protest. "Islamophobic provocations are appalling," he said. "Sweden has a far-reaching freedom of expression, but it does not imply that the Swedish government, or myself, support the opinions expressed."