According to reports, police shot and injured 3 people during Sweden protests against the planned burning of the Quran. Danish far-right politician Rasmus Paludan is known for his anti-Islam stance and has prepared a countrywide Quran burning demonstration. Since Thursday 14th, April, it has resulted in counter-riots from the angry Muslim community, and police have responded with warning shots in return to disperse crowds. On Sunday, 17th April, things started to get more violent after about 150 protestors threw stones at the police and burned cars in the eastern city of Norrkoping.
Sweden Protests over Quran Burning Plans
Paludan planned to burn the Quran in Norrkoping but didn’t show up. It could not stop Sweden protests from taking place. Police said it fired warning shots, but 3 people got hit by ricochets. First, they were taken to hospital and then got arrested on suspicion of a crime.
The reports of unrest came from several other cities as well. Paludan also planned a demonstration meeting in Linkoping but later cancelled. He said on social media that he withdrew because authorities were “completely incapable” of protecting him from angry Muslims.
Similarly, violence between rioters and authorities has been going on for the past 3 days in Stockholm, as well. In Orebro, angry protestors injured dozens of police officers and set fire to 4 emergency vehicles on Friday, 15th April, when Paludan announced to hold a Quran burning meeting over there. Some protestors set cars, tyres, and trash cans on fire in Landskrona and created a barrier to block traffic. The same kind of demonstrations went on in Malmo too, where the mob torched various street objects, including a city bus.
Paludan’s anti-Islam Agenda
Danish lawyer Paludan who also holds a Swedish nationality is a strong critic of Islam. He created a right-wing political party Stram Kurs (“Hard Line” in English), in 2017. It exclusively runs on anti-Islam and anti-immigration activism. It has not only incited Sweden protests but also caused trouble in Denmark as well. Paludan’s party held an event in 2019 under police protection where he was encouraging attendees to desecrate the Quran. It resulted in counter-protests from those who were against the burning of the Quran, and Paludan ended up getting hurt. The police escorted him away and attacked the demonstrators who protested the defiling of the Quran. After that incident, the police and general public have seen multiple episodes of violence.
Calls for Making Europe Islam-Free
The incidents in Sweden protests ignited a debate on social media about whether European countries made a mistake by letting Muslims in. Many argued that countries that allow immigration had faced assimilation challenges. They want that people should let others burn Quran peacefully in the name of “freedom of expression“. They don’t want Muslims to be there and demonstrate how angry it makes them.
There were only a few counter voices that questioned the need to burn Quran in the first place. Burning Quran, which is a sacred Book for Muslims is just an act of hate-mongering. Inevitably the reaction to such incidents can be violent and can further polarize society. So, it also raises the question of whether the anti-Islam party intended to create tensions between Sweden and Muslims.