Attacks on Quran 'extremist acts,' say British academics

Attacks on Quran 'extremist acts,' say British academics

'A democratic government should be able to tell the difference between free speech and deliberate provocation,' says professor at SOAS University

By Behlul Cetinkaya and Zuhal Demirci

LONDON (AA) - Academics known for their work on religion, faith and society in the UK have said that attacks on the Muslim holy book Quran in Scandinavian countries are "extremist acts that must be prevented."

Alison Scott-Baumann, a professor of society and faith at the Center for Islamic Studies at SOAS University, and David Thomas, a professor of theology and religion at the University of Birmingham, spoke to Anadolu about the increasing Islamophobic attacks in Scandinavian countries, especially Sweden and Denmark.

Scott-Baumannn stated that the acts of burning the Quran in Scandinavian countries are a result of the effect caused by the discourses of politicians and emphasized that these discourses are fed by the idea of "creating enemies in society" by Nazi philosopher Carl Schmidt.

"A democratic government should be able to tell the difference between free speech and deliberate provocation.This is an act of provocation," she said.

She recalled the EU's decision that "acts that incite violence are not freedom of expression but illegal acts."

Despite this, Scott-Baumann emphasized that Scandinavian countries see themselves as "privileged" in terms of freedom of expression.

"These are, I think, in any civilized country, these are illegal acts," she said.


- Creating enemy

Nazi philosopher Schmitt said that in order to achieve a peaceful society, it is imperative to establish an internal enemy to be hated. "This is the current situation" in the Nordic countries, Scott-Baumann said.

She added that if society creates an enemy people will direct their hatred towards the fabricated enemy, rather than the government.

She underlined that more difficult to resolve is the issue of social media, showing it as another reason why Quran burnings are so effective as such messages spread in seconds.


- Quran burnings are definitely 'extremist acts'

"These are definitely extreme actions. It's not easy to know the precise motivation of the perpetrators. But clearly, they are people who are anti-Islamic for whatever reason, and who knew that to perform this action of burning the Quran itself will provoke a reaction," Thomas said.

Stating that the condemnation of the attacks on the Quran all over the world, including the British government, is also understandable, he said: "The Quran being what it is for Muslims, much more than a book ... it is understandable why Muslims should feel so insulted, and why the perpetrators decided to do this particular action."

Asked whether governments should pass laws to prevent attacks on religious texts, he said that it is "very difficult "to do that because when you pass a law as a government, there may be some implications in that law that you cannot foresee.

"It requires a lot of discussion and thinking," he added.

Recent months have seen repeated acts of Quran burning and desecration by Islamophobic figures or groups, especially in northern European and Nordic countries.




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