ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday condemned the desecration of the Holy Quran by an anti-immigrant Swedish politician, saying that freedom of expression could not be used to hurt the religious sentiments of 1.5 billion Muslims across the world.
Rasmus Paludan, a Danish-Swedish leader of far-right Stram Kurs or “Hard Line” party, caused widespread anger among the global Muslim community when he burnt a copy of the Quran in a protest in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm a day before.
Following the incident, several Muslim countries, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Iran, Turkiye and Jordan, among others, condemned the act and urged the Swedish government to prevent Islamophobic acts.
“No words are enough to adequately condemn the abhorrible act of desecration of the Holy Quran by a right-wing extremist in Sweden,” the prime minister said in a Twitter post. “The garb of the freedom of expression cannot be used to hurt the religious emotions of 1.5 billion Muslims across the world. This is unacceptable.”
Pakistan’s foreign office also reacted to the development on Saturday evening while pointing out such actions could not be 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,” said a statement issued by the kingdom.
Meanwhile, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson expressed his “sympathy for all Muslims who are offended by what has happened in Stockholm.”
“Freedom of expression is a fundamental part of democracy,” he said. “But what is legal is not necessarily appropriate. Burning books that are holy to many is a deeply disrespectful act.”
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.”
The incident took place at a time of rising tensions between Turkiye and Sweden, especially over the former’s objection to the latter’s bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The Nordic country needs Turkiye’s backing to join NATO.
Angered by the protests allowed by the Swedish government outside its embassy in Stockholm and the Islamophobic act, Turkiye canceled a planned visit by the Swedish defense minister to its country.