Sweden ramps up security after Quran burnings

Lazy eyes listen


Sweden’s borders will be tightened, and police will be given expanded stop and search powers, according to Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on Tuesday. Kristersson has warned that a wave of Quran burnings has created “the most serious security situation since the Second World War.”

The new limits will be temporary, according to Kristersson, who also stated that his administration is preparing legislation that would empower police to prohibit anyone from burning the Muslim holy book if doing so would jeopardize Sweden’s national security.

On Monday, Iraqi Christian immigrants burnt a copy of the Quran outside Sweden’s parliament building, the third such event in a month. The burning of sacred texts is permitted under Sweden’s free expression regulations, but the protests have generated fears of an Islamist retaliation.

“We are currently in the most serious security situation since the Second World War,” Kristersson said in a statement released on Sunday, adding that “states and state-like actors are actively exploiting the situation.” Swedish authorities have issued similar warnings for several months, with the country’s counterterrorism agency stating in February that it had seen “an increase in the number of terrorist threats” following the January burning of a Quran outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm by a Danish right-wing activist.

“You have a lot of freedom in a free country like Sweden.” But with so much freedom comes a lot of responsibility,” Kristersson told reporters on Tuesday. “All that is legal is inappropriate.” It can be horrifying but still legal. We strive to foster a respectful tone between nations and peoples.”

In Denmark, where comparable free speech regulations allow burning of sacred texts, Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen stated on Sunday that the government is looking for “a legal tool” to make an exception for the Quran.

The 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has strongly condemned the burnings, while individual Muslim-majority states have summoned their Swedish ambassadors to express their outrage. Protests have erupted outside Swedish embassies in Muslim countries, and Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has warned Stockholm that “those who have insulted the Holy Quran deserve the harshest punishment.”

The string of attacks has also put Sweden’s ambition to join NATO in jeopardy. Although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed support for Sweden’s accession at a NATO conference earlier this month in Lithuania, he previously stated that he would not sign off on admittance “as long as [Sweden] allows my holy book, the Quran, to be burned and torn.”