The new diplomatic row comes as Stockholm awaits Ankara’s blessing to join NATO
Police in Sweden have said they will allow the leader of a hard-right political party to burn a copy of the Koran near the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm, reportedly prompting Ankara to summon its Swedish envoy over the “provocative act.”
Anti-Islam activist Rasmus Paludan, a Danish-Swedish lawyer who heads up the right-wing ‘Stram Kurs’ (Hard Line) party in Denmark, will be permitted to destroy the Islamic holy book during a rally planned outside Türkiye’s Embassy on January 21.
“Sweden’s constitutional laws give strong protection and you need to judge that the value of being able to demonstrate and freedom of expression is extremely important,” said Swedish police spokesman Ola Osterling.
According to unnamed diplomatic sources cited by Türkiye’s state-run Anadolu news agency, the Swedish ambassador to Türkiye, Staffan Herrstrom, was summoned by the Foreign Ministry to discuss the book-burning on Friday, with the sources saying the planned stunt is “clearly a hate crime.”
“Sweden’s attitude is unacceptable. We expect the act not to be allowed, and that insults to sacred values cannot be defended under the guise of ‘democratic rights,’” they added.
Paludan, who has staged several Koran-burnings at past events, said he hopes to “take a small stand for freedom of expression against Turkey” during the embassy rally. A similar protest last year prompted riots and street clashes in several Swedish cities, with hundreds of police officers and a number of protesters injured amid the unrest.
The rally on Saturday will follow another protest in Stockholm earlier this week, which saw Kurdish activists string up a life-size dummy meant to depict Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Ankara responded harshly to the incident, branding Sweden a “propaganda center” for terrorism, echoing previous allegations that the government supports armed Kurdish groups also active in Türkiye.
The spat over the planned book-burning comes as both Sweden and Finland seek Turkish approval to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which requires unanimous consent from all members before inviting new states to join. Though it appeared some progress was made on the issue last year after the two Nordic states applied for membership, negotiations have since stalled as Ankara insists the NATO hopefuls take further steps against groups and individuals it regards as terrorists.
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