JEDDAH: A man was charged by Swedish police on Wednesday with “agitation against an ethnic group” after he desecrated and set fire to pages of the Qur’an outside the main mosque in Stockholm.
Salwan Momika, 37, who fled from Iraq to Sweden several years ago, said he wanted to highlight the importance of freedom of speech. “This is democracy. It is in danger if they tell us we can’t do this,” he said.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said Momika’s protest was “legal but not appropriate,” and it was up to the police to permit it or not.
Under a heavy police presence and with about a dozen objectors shouting at him in Arabic, Momika addressed a crowd of a few dozen through a megaphone. Police had cordoned off an area in a park next to the mosque separating Momika and a co-protester from the crowd.
Authorities said the protest had not caused “disturbances to order,” but Momika was charged because he had chosen to burn the Qur’an so close to a mosque.
He was also being investigated for violating a temporary ban on lighting fires, in place because of a heatwave.
Noa Omran, 32, an artist from, Stockholm called the protest “absolutely insane.” She said: “It’s just hatred masquerading in the name of democracy and freedom, which it isn’t.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan condemned Momika’s protest as despicable. “It is unacceptable to allow these anti-Islamic actions under the pretext of freedom of expression,” he said.