Far-Right Leader Burns Quran in Sweden, Triggers Worldwide Condemnation

Paludan, a leader of the Stram Kurs party in Denmark, had received permission from the police to burn the holy book.

3 min read

Video Producer: Shohini Bose

Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam

A far-right leader in Sweden has triggered a massive worldwide outrage after he burnt a copy of the Holy Quran outside the Turkish embassy in the Swedish capital Stockholm on Saturday, 21 January.  

Who Is Behind the Act?  Rasmus Paludan, leader of the Danish far-right political party Hard Line, carried out the burning of a copy of the holy book of Muslims. Paludan’s announcement of a “Quran burning tour” during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan sparked riots across the country in April last year. 

Who Is Rasmus Paludan? Described an anti-Muslim provocateur, Rasmus Paludan had gained some notoriety through a series of online videos in which he insults Islam and its adherents, according to The New York Times. A lawyer, Paludan gained national attention after his announcement of the Quran burning tour led to riots in Sweden.

Paludan is the leader of the Stram Kurs (Hard Line) party in Denmark. His party received 1.8% of the vote in the 2019 Denmark national elections, less than the 2% threshold required to enter parliament.


Why the Protest? According to a Washington Post report, Paludan burned Islam’s holy book outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm on Saturday. Before putting the copy of the Quran on fire with a lighter, Paludan attacked Islam and immigration in Sweden in an hour-long speech, Al Jazeera reported. 

“If you don’t think there should be freedom of expression, you have to live somewhere else,” he was quoted as saying.  

Paludan had received permission from the police to burn the holy book.  

Why? The protest is said to have been sparked by Turkey’s reluctance to allow Sweden to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Sweden and Finland have applied for membership of the military alliance and they need the approval of all 30 members of the bloc. Ankara has said it will not ratify the two countries’ membership until all of its security concerns are addressed.  

Turkey Reacts: The burning of the holy book invited immediate condemnation from Turkey and other Muslim nations. "We condemn in the strongest possible terms the vile attack on our holy book... Permitting this anti-Islam act, which targets Muslims and insults our sacred values, under the guise of freedom of expression is completely unacceptable,” the Turkish foreign ministry said.  

“It’s a racist action, it’s not about freedom of expression,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said. 

International Condemnation: Several Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jordan, and Kuwait also condemned the act.  

“No words are enough to adequately condemn the abhorrable act of desecration of the Holy Quran by a right-wing extremist in Sweden. The garb of freedom of expression cannot be used to hurt the religious emotions of 1.5 billion Muslims across the world. This is unacceptable,” Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said.  

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's strong condemnation and denunciation of the Swedish authorities' allowing an extremist to burn a copy of the Holy Quran in front of the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said.  

Bangladesh condemned the “act of insulting the sacred values of Muslims all over the world in the guise of 'freedom of expression'.” 

Egypt said it was a “disgraceful act that provokes the feelings of hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world.” 

Oman said it was an “act of provocation to the feelings of Muslims and incitement to violence and hatred, by extremists.” 

Swedish PM Reacts: Amid the outrage, Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson also criticised the act.  

“Freedom of expression is a fundamental part of democracy. But what is legal is not necessarily appropriate. Burning books that are holy to many is a deeply disrespectful act,” Kristersson said.  

“I want to express my sympathy for all Muslims who are offended by what has happened in Stockholm today,” he added.  

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