Turkey has strongly condemned the burning of a copy of the Quran during a protest in Stockholm, describing it as a “vile act” and criticizing the Swedish government for allowing the demonstration to take place, BBC reported.
The incident, which took place on Saturday afternoon outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, was carried out by Rasmus Paludan, a politician from the far-right Stram Kurs (Hard Line) party.
The burning of the Quran has further escalated tensions between Turkey and Sweden, which have been rising due to Turkey’s opposition to Sweden’s bid to join the NATO military alliance.
Muslims consider the Quran the sacred word of God and view any intentional damage or show of disrespect towards it as deeply offensive.
In a statement Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that permitting this “anti-Islam act, which targets Muslims and insults our sacred values, under the guise of ‘freedom of expression’ is completely unacceptable.”
The statement went on to say that the burning of the Quran was another example of the “alarming” extent to which Islamophobia, racism and discrimination had reached in Europe and called on the Swedish government to take “necessary measures” to address the issue.
The incident has also led to the cancellation of a planned visit by Sweden’s defense minister, Pal Jonson, to Turkey.
The visit was scheduled for Jan. 27 and was aimed at overcoming Turkey’s objections to Sweden’s NATO bid. Turkey’s defense minister, Hulusi Akar, said the meeting “has lost its significance and meaning, so we cancelled.”
In a tweet, Jonson said that “our relations with Turkey are very important to Sweden, and we look forward to continuing the dialogue on common security and defense issues at a later date.”
Both Sweden and its neighbor Finland are hoping to join NATO, dropping decades of military non-alignment in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, they need the consent of Turkey, a member of the alliance, to join.
Turkey has stated that its approval is conditional on Swedish steps to extradite people it accuses of terrorism or of having played a part in the 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The burning of the Quran during the protest on Saturday has sparked widespread condemnation and has further strained the diplomatic relations between Turkey and Sweden.
Separate protests both in support of and against Turkey were also held in the capital.