Muslim-majority countries across the globe are condemning the burning of a copy of the Quran outside a mosque in Sweden on the first day of the three-day Eid holiday.
The protest took place outside the Stockholm Central Mosque on Wednesday when a man identified as Salwan Momika tore pages from the Quran, wiped his shoes with some of them, burned others, and then placed a slice of bacon in the book, according to Swedish public broadcaster SVT.
According to The Guardian, Swedish police allowed the protest to take place, saying security risks “were not of a nature to justify, under current laws, a decision to reject the request.”
Seen as the sacred word of God, the Quran is a religious text for Muslims. According to Al Jazeera, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Syria, Palestine and more have criticized the burning as an act of hate.
About 200 people attended the protest on one of the holiest days for Muslims. Mosque representatives expressed disappointment with officials on their decision to allow the burning to take place, noting that police could have diverted the organizer to another location, “which is possible by law, but they chose not to do so.”
Momika, the protest organizer, is being investigated for incitement and violating a seasonal ban on lighting fires in Sweden, according to the Guardian.
Speaking to CNN Wednesday, Momika said he is an atheist who immigrated to Sweden from Iraq five years ago.
“This book should be banned in the world because of the danger it causes to democracy, ethics, human values, human rights, and women’s rights. It just doesn’t work in this time and age,” he said.
Per Al Jazeera, another man is also being investigated for “agitation against an ethnic group” after allegedly collecting rocks to throw at mosque-goers.
During a press conference Wednesday, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said the protest was “legal but not appropriate,” noting that police officials had the right to make the final call on such matters.
The incident and Sweden’s response have also fed into questions about whether it will impact the country’s pending NATO application
Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan issued a statement saying: “It is unacceptable to allow these anti-Islamic actions under the pretext of freedom of expression. Turning a blind eye to such atrocious acts is to be complicit.”
Turkey is currently blocking Sweden’s NATO membership bid due to what it calls the country’s failure to identify Kurdish groups it considers “terrorists.”
Wednesday’s protest follows a similar incident that also took place in Stockholm earlier this year, when a politician burned the Quran outside the Turkish embassy, creating further tension between the two countries.
In the wake of that protest, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would continue to block Sweden’s application for NATO membership: “If you do not show respect to the religious beliefs of the Republic of Turkey or Muslims, you will not receive any support for NATO from us.”
To become a member of NATO, new members must be approved unanimously by all existing members.
The U.S. State Department both rejected the burning of the Quran and called on Turkey to approve Sweden’s NATO bid.
“The burning of religious texts is disrespectful and hurtful, and what might be legal is certainly not necessarily appropriate,” spokesperson Vedant Patel said. “Broadly, we continue to encourage Hungary and Turkey to ratify the accession protocol of Sweden without delay.”