Desecration of the Quran: Demonstrations in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon

Protesters took to the streets in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon on Friday to condemn Sweden’s permission for rallies held to desecrate the Koran, amid diplomatic tensions between Stockholm and several Muslim countries.

Swedish diplomacy said it has temporarily moved operations and staff back to Stockholm at its embassy in Baghdad, which was set on fire by supporters of influential Iraqi religious leader Muqtada Sadr a day earlier.

According to AFP photographers, hundreds of people demonstrated after Friday prayers in Baghdad, as well as in the cities of Nasiriya and Najaf, chanting “no to Sweden, no to Sweden”, “yes to the Quran”, according to AFP photographers.

Sweden is the target of these protesters after two events organized for insulting the Quran. His instigator, Salwan Momica, an Iraqi refugee, set pages of the book on fire in late June, before trampling and tearing the book to pieces on Thursday in Stockholm.

Hundreds of protesters waved Iranian flags and copies of the Quran in Tehran on Friday. Others set fire to the Scandinavian country’s flag and threw eggs and tomatoes at the Swedish embassy before dispersing.

In Budgad, shielded from the scorching sun by a sea of ​​umbrellas, loyalists gathered on an avenue in the poor district of Madinet Sadr, waving pictures of Muqtada Sadr and chanting “yes, yes to Islam”, according to an AFP correspondent.

Protesters set fire to rainbow flags Muqtada Sadr considered it the best way to upset Westerners and denounced the “double standard” which, according to him, included protecting LGBT+ minorities but authorizing desecration of the Quran.

“Through this demonstration, we want (…) to be punished for any desecration of the holy books of Islam, Christianity, Judaism: these are all holy books”, explained municipal employee Amer Shemal.

– “Unacceptable and unfair” –

The Swedish police allowing Momica’s events in the name of freedom of assembly said that this does not mean they have approved.

“It is unacceptable and unfair to repeat these actions under the pretext of freedom of expression,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said in a phone call with his Swedish counterpart. They demanded that Mr Momica be “arrested and prosecuted”.

The man has already sparked a diplomatic crisis between Sweden and Iraq, which on Thursday decided to expel the Swedish ambassador.

Swedish diplomacy responded on Friday, saying “for security reasons embassy operations and expatriate staff have been temporarily moved to Stockholm.” Attacked twice by Sadrist supporters, the embassy was set on fire before dawn on Thursday.

Iraq has also announced that it has suspended the license of Swedish giant Ericsson. The government nevertheless backtracked on Friday: Farhad Aladdin, an adviser to the prime minister, assured foreign press journalists that “contractual agreements” concluded by Baghdad “will be respected”, such that “no company has been suspended, not even Ericsson”.

In Lebanon, hundreds of people gathered outside mosques in the southern suburbs of Beirut, a Hezbollah stronghold, and in other cities.

In a statement from Foreign Affairs, the Sultanate of Oman condemned the Swedish authorities for “repeatedly granting permits and protection to extremists to burn and desecrate the Quran”.

– “Warning” –

Iraqi Muqtada Sadr, a supporter of violence, has repeatedly demonstrated his ability to mobilize thousands of protesters in his country.

In the summer of 2022, his supporters stormed the parliament in Baghdad and staged a sit-in. Muqtada Sadr was then in the midst of a clash with the opposing political camp over the appointment of the Prime Minister.

With the Swedish file, he sends a “message to his audience” and a “warning” to his “political opponents”: “+ I have retained the same strength, I can come back at any time +”, believes political scientist Ali al-Baider.

He underlined that his present also wants “to be seen as a shepherd of the religious file in Iraq”.

“How it will be used politically, or whether it will be used for electoral purposes, will depend on Sadr’s wish,” he added, referring to the crucial election to provincial councils to be held in December.

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