Agence France-Presse, April 20, 2022
Riots across Sweden sparked by a notorious anti-immigrant provocateur threatening to tour the country burning the Koran has challenged the country’s limits to free speech.
Police clashed with groups of mostly masked young men in several towns and cities after the anti-Islam Danish-Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan announced his Koran burning “tour” for the Muslim holy month of Ramadam.
Swedish police insisted they had to grant permits for Paludan’s incendiary events because of the country’s liberal freedom of speech laws.
But several Muslim countries have reacted angrily, with Iraq’s foreign ministry warning the affair could have “serious repercussions” on “relations between Sweden and Muslims in general.”
Despite the outcry, justice minister Morgan Johansson stressed the importance of protecting the country’s freedoms.
“We are living in a democracy with far-reaching freedoms of speech and the press and we should be very proud of that,” he said.
At least 40 people were hurt — 26 of them police officers — and as many arrested after days of rioting over the Easter weekend in Norrkoping, Linkoping, Landskrona, Orebro, Malmo and the capital Stockholm.
A school was also set alight with 20 police vehicles either damaged or destroyed.
But with Paludan announcing more events, many local officials are having misgivings.
While police can deny permits for gatherings that would constitute “incitement of against an ethnic group”, the bar is usually high.
Much of the rioters’ fury was directed at police, with national police chief Anders Thornberg even saying they “tried to kill police officers”.
The Koran burnings were planned for areas with large Muslim populations, which also happen to be neighbourhoods that Swedish police designate “vulnerable areas”.