Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan has called on Sweden to take concrete measures to prevent the burning of the Quran, a source from Türkiye’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday, a day before another burning took place in Stockholm.
Sweden and Denmark have seen several incidents in recent weeks where copies of Islam’s holy book have been damaged or burned, causing outrage among Muslims. Sweden’s Embassy in Baghdad was stormed and partly set ablaze by protesters in response to the burnings.
In a phone call, Fidan told his Swedish counterpart Tobias Billstrom that the continuation of such “vile actions” under the guise of freedom of expression was unacceptable, the source said.
Fidan and Billstrom also discussed Sweden’s NATO military alliance membership application, the source added, over which Ankara holds a veto.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said on Sunday that he had held talks with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and agreed the situation was dangerous.
“We need to take measures to strengthen our resilience,” he said in a post on Instagram.
The Swedish government said this month that it would examine whether it could change Sweden’s Public Order Act to give police the possibility to stop demonstrations that threatened Sweden’s security.
“Ultimately, it is about defending our free and open societies, our democracy and our citizens’ right to freedom and security,” Kristersson defended.
Tobias Billstrom declined to comment.
On Monday, at a joint news conference with his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov, Fidan assured Ankara was working in coordination with other Muslim countries on the matter, noting, “The diplomacy Türkiye has been conducting this past week constitutes a good example for the search for a solution by raising serious awareness.”
He described the phone calls with his Swedish and Danish counterparts, as well as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s extraordinary meeting (OIC) to address the crisis earlier on Monday, as “an important message” to the pair.
The OIC called on Denmark to take measures to prevent repeated attacks on the Quran. At the same time, Secretray-General Hissein Brahim Taha held a phone call with Danish Foreign Minister Larks Lokke Rasmussen to convey the “dissatisfaction” of OIC member states about the repeated disrespect to the Quran and other Islamic symbols.
Pointing to statements released by the governments of Sweden and Denmark, Fidan said the two countries were “now starting to understand the potential harm and dangers of this situation.”
“Allowing a provocation about such a matter to take place in your own country brings with it certain questions. We have always brought up these question marks, asking why these countries weren’t adopting an attitude to prevent these. We will continue taking every necessary step in the meantime,” Fidan said.
However, another burning took place outside the Swedish parliament on Monday by two men who obtained police authorization, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP), one among many other applications requesting permission for similar acts throughout this week.
Salwan Momika and Salwan Najem kicked and stomped on the Muslim holy book; they set its pages on fire before slamming it shut, as they had done at the incident outside Stockholm’s main mosque in late June.
The protestors told the media they wanted to see the Muslim holy book banned in Sweden, AFP said.
“I will burn it many times until you ban it,” Najem told Expressen newspaper.
Swedish police have previously claimed they only grant permits for people to hold public gatherings and not for the activities conducted during the events.
In late June, Momika, 37, set pages of the Quran alight outside Stockholm’s main mosque.
A month later, he was the perpetrator of a similar incident outside the Iraqi Embassy, stomping on the Quran but leaving before burning it.
Earlier on Wednesday, Sweden’s security service, SAPO, warned that Sweden’s security situation had worsened due to the incidents.
“The image of Sweden has changed. We have gone from being seen as a tolerant country to being a land that is anti-Muslim – that’s how we are seen ... mainly the Muslim parts of the world,” Susanna Trehorning, deputy head of the Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Subversion Unit at SAPO, told Swedish state broadcaster SVT.
However, Sweden’s security-alert level has not been changed and is currently at three on a scale of five, indicating “heightened risk.” Five is the highest level of threat. Kristersson expressed “extreme concern” about a new wave of desecrations that could further escalate tensions with the Muslim world, but he still argued it was “the police making those decisions, not me.”
Minister Fidan also spoke with Rasmussen on Saturday to emphasize that Islamophobia in Europe has reached “an alarming level, even turning into an epidemic,” and allowing such actions under the guise of freedom of expression is “unacceptable.”
Fidan urged the Danish government “to take immediate action to prevent these attacks” as well.
Rasmussen told a national broadcaster on Sunday the government would seek to find “a legal tool” that would enable authorities to prevent the burning of copies of the Quran in front of other countries’ embassies.
The Quran burnings in the country have dimensions aimed at provoking and causing harm to Denmark and other nations, the Danish government too, said in a statement.
It added that 15 countries had condemned Denmark due to the Quran burnings, which it described as “extremely aggressive and reckless” and not representative of Danish society.
It said that Denmark will explore the possibility of intervening in situations where other countries, cultures and religions are demeaned to prevent negative consequences for its security.