Istanbul: Sweden and Turkey are embroiled in a diplomatic dispute that has sparked a wave of rallies and demonstrations, which is raising tension between the two nations. Following demonstrations in front of its embassy in Stockholm that included the burning of a Quran by far-right sympathisers and a separate rally by Kurdish activists, Turkey chastised Sweden. Rasmus Paludan, the head of the Danish far-right political group Hard Line, burned the Quran. During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Paludan’s announcement of a Quran burning “tour” in April of last year caused riots throughout Sweden.
Paludan, surrounded by police, denounced Islam and immigration in Sweden during a nearly hour-long tirade before setting fire to the holy book with a lighter. Nearby, about 100 people gathered for a calm counterprotest. “If you don’t think there should be freedom of expression, you have to live somewhere else,” he said.
Now, around 250 people gathered outside the Swedish Consulate in Istanbul, where a photo of Danish anti-Islam activist Rasmus Paludan was set on fire. Paludan burned Islam’s holy book outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm on Saturday, sparking protests in Istanbul and Ankara that night. Participants in the rally on Sunday carried banners reading, “We denounce Sweden’s state-supported Islamophobia,” as well as green flags bearing the Islamic proclamation of faith. The Swedish Consulate displayed a statement on a window that stated, “We do not share that book-burning idiot’s viewpoint.”
Prior to this, Turkey called off the visit of Swedish Defense Minister Paul Jonson to Ankara because of the escalating hostilities between the two nations as a result of the Quran-burning incident. Turkey accuses the Swedish government of allowing the rally to take place in Stolkholm.