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Protests Escalate Over Quran Desecration in Nordic Countries

Angry protesters attempted to breach Baghdad's Green Zone on Saturday over reports of a Quran burning in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. The Green Zone is a heavily fortified area in the Iraqi capital that accommodates several foreign embassies and government buildings. Security forces were able to block the two bridges leading to the sensitive area but had to resort to the use of tear gas to prevent demonstrators from breaking into the Danish embassy. Protestors carried pictures of Muqtada al-Sadr and flags related to his movement along with the Iraqi flag as they voiced their support for the prominent Shiite cleric and politician.

A man ignited a book allegedly claimed to be the Quran on Friday on a public square located opposite the Iraqi embassy in Copenhagen. The incident was live-streamed on the Facebook page of a far-right Danish group Danske Patrioter (Danish Patriots). The video depicts the burning book lying next to the Iraqi flag on the ground.

“A very small demonstration with less than 10 people took place Friday afternoon across the street from the Iraqi embassy and that a book was burned,” Copenhagen police spokeswoman Trine Fisker told the Associated Press. “We do not know what book it was. Apparently they tried to burn the Iraqi flag and after that, somebody stepped on it,” she added.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark released a statement condemning the incident. “The Danish government condemns the burning of the Quran. Burning of holy texts and other religious symbols is a shameful act that disrespects the religion of others.” It also highlighted the freedom of religion in Denmark, emphasising that many Danish citizens are Muslims who are a “valued part of the Danish population.” The statement added, “Denmark supports the right to protest but emphasises it must remain peaceful.” 

The latest display of aggression comes two days after furious Iraqis stormed the Swedish embassy in response to a similar desecration attempt of the Holy Book in Stockholm for a second time. Salwan Momika, a 37-year-old Iraqi refugee of the Christian faith, now a self-described atheist, was one of the perpetrators of this planned demonstration. The protestors kicked and partially damaged a book claimed to be the Quran. However, they left the area after an hour without setting the book on fire.

Salwan had also carried out the burning of the Quran outside a mosque in Stockholm on June 28, on the Muslim holiday of Eid al Adha. On both occasions, his actions evoked strong condemnations from nations with Muslim-majority populations.

Thousands of infuriated Muslims in Middle Eastern countries such as Iraq, Iran, and Jordan took to the streets to express their displeasure over the desecration of the Quran. Iraq’s foreign ministry condemned the incident in Copenhagen “in strong and repeated terms.” The Iraqi government also expelled the Swedish envoy and recalled its charge d’affaires in Sweden, while Saudi Arabia and Iran summoned Swedish diplomats to register their protest. Iran called upon Denmark and Sweden to take decisive actions to end the recurring desecration of the Quran within the Nordic nations, stating that Muslims worldwide anticipated an end to such acts of disrespect.

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