Swedish police said they have granted a permit for a protest where the organiser plans to burn a Koran outside Stockholm’s main mosque on Wednesday, the start of the Muslim three-day Eid al-Adha holiday.
The police said in the written decision that the security risks associated with the burning “were not of a nature that could justify, under current laws, a decision to reject the request.”
The green light came two weeks after a Swedish appeals court rejected the police’s decision to deny permits for two demonstrations in Stockholm which were to include Koran burnings.
Police had at the time cited security concerns, following a burning of the Muslim holy book outside Turkey’s embassy in January which led to weeks of protests, calls for a boycott of Swedish goods and further stalled Sweden’s NATO membership bid.
Muslims are outraged by the destruction of their holy text and similar acts have in the past sparked violent protests.
Police argued the January protest had made Sweden “a higher priority target for attacks”.
Turkey, which has blocked the country’s NATO bid due to what it perceives as Stockholm’s failure to crack down on Kurdish groups it considers “terrorists”, took particular offence that police had authorised the January demonstration.
Police then banned two subsequent requests for protests involving Koran burnings — one by a private individual and one by an organisation, outside the Turkish and Iraqi embassies in Stockholm in February.
The appeals court in mid-June ruled that police were wrong to ban those, saying “the order and security problems” referenced by the police did not have “a sufficiently clear connection to the planned event or its immediate vicinity.”
– ‘Burn it’ –
In granting the new protest permit, police said that “in light of this judgement,” the “security risks and consequences” it expected in connection with the protests were not enough to warrant them denying the request.
The request for the Wednesday demonstration was made by the same private individual who had his previous request blocked.
“I want to protest in front of the large mosque in Stockholm, and I want to express my opinion about the Koran… I will tear up the Koran and burn it,” Salwan Momika, 37, wrote in the application, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.
Speaking to newspaper Aftonbladet in April, Momika — who fled to Sweden from Iraq — said his intention had not been to sabotage the Swedish NATO bid, and had considered waiting to stage his protest until after Sweden had joined the alliance.
“I don’t want to harm this country that received me and preserved my dignity,” Momika told the newspaper.
Police said Wednesday they had called in reinforcements from across the country to maintain order.
An AFP correspondent said several police cars were already parked near the mosque early Wednesday.
Swedish police had granted a permit for the January protest, which was organised by Rasmus Paludan, a Swedish-Danish activist who has already been convicted for racist abuse.
Paludan also provoked rioting in Sweden last year when he went on a tour of the country and publicly burned copies of Islam’s holy book.
Swedish politicians have criticised Koran burnings, but have also adamantly defended the right to freedom of expression.