07/21/2023 Sweden (International Christian Concern) – The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed a resolution calling on the international community to “prevent and prosecute acts and advocacy of religious hatred that constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility, and violence” after a Quran burning in Sweden caused widespread outrage.
Delegates from Pakistan and Palestine submitted the resolution, which passed on a 28-12 vote with seven abstentions over the objections of some Western nations who oppose it on the grounds of freedom of speech, according to the Associated Press.
On June 28, 2023, an Iraqi man burned a Quran outside the Stockholm Central Mosque. Local law enforcement had attempted to obstruct other Quran burnings in 2023, but a Swedish court ruled that Swedish law protected such acts of reprobation. Thus, Stockholm police permitted the recent Quran burning to occur, but subsequently charged the man for acting “against an ethnic or national group,” according to Reuters.
The event provoked indignation throughout the Islamic world. The Organization for Islamic Cooperation denounced the act and Swedish authorities; Iran withheld its new ambassador to Stockholm in protest; the Taliban precluded Swedish NGOs from working in Afghanistan; Muslims demonstrated against Sweden in cities across Pakistan; and a mob of protestors stormed the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad. In response to the event, the Pakistani government petitioned the UN Human Rights Council to convene a special session to address the issue, leading to the resolution referenced above.
The Swedish government itself condemned the Quran burning as an “Islamophobic act.” A U.S. Department of State spokesman stated that Washington believes “the demonstration created an environment of fear” that imperils religious liberty while affirming that allowing the act to occur “supports freedom of expression.”
International Christian Concern (ICC) reported that Stockholm law enforcement subsequently authorized a request to burn the Torah and the Bible outside the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm. Multiple sources later reported that the demonstration did not occur.
The international controversy further jeopardizes the accession of Sweden into NATO, since Ankara previously blocked ratification after a Danish politician burned a Quran near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. This comes as President Biden recently visited Finland—which joined NATO in April 2023—to strengthen Western resolve against Moscow. As Western aid to Kiev prolongs the war with Russia, unity among NATO members becomes increasingly critical to achieving a resolution to the conflict in Ukraine.
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