Quran burnings ‘dangerous acts,’ could lead to ‘devastating consequences’: Former Swedish politician
Due to this ‘discriminatory and racist act,’ Sweden and Denmark are risking losing diplomatic relations with Muslim countries, says Masoud Kamali, who worked as special investigator on integration
By Leila Nezirevic
LONDON (AA) – Sweden has seen a string of Quran-burning protests in recent weeks, which prompted the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) last week to call on all member states to take appropriate political and economic measures against the countries where the Muslim holy book is desecrated.
Despite this, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said the Nordic country has no plans to make changes to its freedom of expression laws.
He also admitted that “the situation is dangerous, and measures are needed to strengthen our resilience,” promising that the government will look into ways to prevent such protests amid security and geopolitical concerns.
“In a free country like Sweden, you have a great deal of freedom. But with that great degree of freedom comes a great degree of responsibility.
“Everything that is legal is not appropriate. It can be awful but still lawful. We try to promote a respectful tone between countries and peoples,” Kristersson told a news conference on Tuesday.
According to the Human Rights Act, Article 10 protects the right to hold your own opinions and to express them freely without government’s interference, however an authority should also be allowed to restrict your freedom of expression if, for instance, you express views that encourage racial or religious hatred.
The OIC said that the failure of the authorities in Sweden and Denmark to take measures is contrary to the UN Security Council Resolution 2686, which refers to international tolerance, peace and security.
The Swedish government has the majority in the parliament and “if they want to forbid the Quran burnings, it’s easy to do that,” Masoud Kamali, a former Swedish politician who was employed by the government as a special investigator in the question of integration, structural discrimination and power in Sweden, told Anadolu.
Quran burnings in Sweden continue under the pretext of freedom of speech, said Kamali, adding that this is just an excuse that the government uses to “not to do anything about it.”
The real reason behind the government’s decision to not to put a stop to such acts is that the current government relies on the support of the populist anti-Muslim Sweden Democrats, he argued.
Without their support, the government would fail and the Nordic country would soon be facing a new election, he further said.
Today “we have a government which is racist, and whenever country’s leaders come out with false statements condemning the Quran burnings, they are lying, they are very openly lying,” Kamali added.
The government is simply “being governed by the Sweden Democrats policy, politics and programs,” he asserted.
- Risking diplomatic relations
According to Kamali, the only language that Sweden or even other Western countries understand is the economic language.
For that reason, Muslim countries should stop economic relations with these countries, as only then they are going to change the law to do with the burnings of the Muslim holy book, he argued.
Due to this “discriminatory and racist act,” Sweden and Denmark are risking losing diplomatic relations with Muslim countries, added Kamali.
However, he also stressed that the diplomatic relations are not the major problem for the two Nordic countries.
The current bill could lead to dangerous conflict in those countries between Muslims and some racist groups, in particular between those who are burning the Quran and the police who support them, Kamali said.
- Nazi book burning
The public burnings of books for ideological reasons have taken place in Europe throughout history, including when in 1930’s Jewish book burnings stood as a powerful symbol of Nazi intolerance and censorship.
When any book is burned, this recalls horrible images of the 20th century, “frankly, of Nazi book burning,” a former US diplomat Matthew Bryza told Anadolu.
Bryza condemned burnings of the Quran and the desecration of holy books.
For Kamali, allowing Quran burnings is not some “innocent act” that falls under the freedom of expression, instead, he argued, this is “a very dangerous act” that could lead to “devastating consequences” in the future.
- ‘Blatant hypocrisy’
The ways in which Western countries have been dealing with Quran burnings we see a “blatant hypocrisy,” Yasser Louati, a French political analyst and human rights advocate who currently is the head of the Committee for Justice & Liberties (CJL), told Anadolu.
In 2010, the French government banned the burning of the national flag after in a photography contest the winning photography was a photo of a man wiping his behind with the French flag.
This caused such a hysteria at the national level that then interior minister of the country pushed for a bill that banned “such expressions of disrespect towards the French flag,” Louati said.
Under the current law, those who do so can be fined or even prosecuted for mocking the state’s officials.
Another example of Western “hypocrisy” came to light when the US gridiron football player and social activist Colin Kaepernick protested racial injustice and police brutality against African Americans.
“We have seen his career completely destroyed for refusing to stand before the national anthem,” argued Louati, adding that a famous Irish singer Sinead O’Connor lost her career after she tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II during a TV appearance in 1992.
If the Western countries want to claim “these freedoms,” they also must show some sense of responsibility when making laws, he said.
Yes, under the current laws you have the right to burn the Muslim holy book, but at the same time, “what will be the consequences?” he questioned.
“Nothing good is coming out of it,” and if this continues, these countries are risking ties with Muslim countries and with local Muslim communities, he asserted.
The fact that the Quran burnings are being used in the midst of diplomatic negotiations between Sweden and Türkiye makes it “even more despicable,” said Louati.
- Targeting marginalized communities
When asked about his response to those politicians who put a blame on police or judiciary system when it comes to Quran burnings, Louati said that this is just adding to the “hypocrisy.”
Bryza told Anadolu that we must understand how the rule of law and the society of Sweden works, as “it’s not the government that has any authority to stop Quran burnings. It’s the police,” he defended.
However, Louati disagreed and said: “No, that is not true, we see these Western countries censoring pro-Palestinian groups, we see these Western countries censoring artists who speak against the government, we see these countries not giving a platform to intellectuals who are critical of economies…”
In Louati’s opinion, these politicians “should not be taken seriously” especially when it comes to targeting marginalized communities who do not have a platform to answer back when their holy book is being burnt.
“I would dare to see the reaction of these politicians when the Bible gets burnt, or where other people take aim at sacred symbols of these countries,” he added.
The Western politicians are nowhere near being moral figures when it comes to upholding freedom of speech for all and “let alone the possibility for people to express themselves once they are targeted,” said Louati.
The OIC said that it is necessary to stop the burning of the Quran, which is an act characterized as “an act of aggression that spreads hatred and contempt for religions and threatens global peace, security and harmony.”
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