Emergency Meeting Held by the UN on the Quran Burning Incident in Sweden


Emergency Meeting Held by the UN on the Quran Burning Incident in Sweden

The United Nations Human Rights Council held an emergency meeting to discuss a motion related to the burning of copies of the Quran in Sweden on June 28th.

Muslim countries, including Iran and Pakistan, argue that the desecration of the Quran incites violence and demand accountability following a series of incidents in Sweden that sparked global outrage.

The motion submitted to the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday (July 11, 2023) calls on countries to review their laws and address any loopholes that may "hinder the prevention and prosecution of actions and advocacy of religious hatred."

The debate highlights the divisions within the UN Human Rights Council between the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Western members concerned about the implications of the motion on freedom of speech and the challenges it poses to longstanding practices in protecting human rights.

An Iraqi immigrant in Sweden tore, burned, and desecrated the Quran outside a mosque in Stockholm during the Eid al-Adha holiday, triggering anger among Muslims worldwide and sparking furious protests in several cities in Pakistan.

"We must see this for what it is: incitement to religious hatred, discrimination, and an attempt to provoke violence," said Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in a video statement to the council based in Geneva, as quoted by Al Jazeera.

He added that such actions were taking place "under government sanction and with a sense of impunity."

Bhutto Zardari's statement was echoed by ministers from Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia, who denounced the incident as an act of Islamophobia.

"Stop abusing freedom of expression," said Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.

In 2020, a right-wing extremist in Denmark burned the Quran in Stockholm, just days after a similar incident in the southern city of Malmo.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian urged Sweden and European countries to take "urgent and effective steps" in response to such incidents.

Lolwah Rashid Al-Khater, Qatar's Minister of State for International Cooperation, reiterated the Gulf state's condemnation and blamed an agenda that "sows hatred and incites provocation among Muslims and their societies, besides provoking the beliefs of billions of people worldwide."

Some Western countries also condemned the actions but also defended "freedom of speech."

Germany's Ambassador to the UN, Katharina Stasch, called the acts in Sweden a "terrible provocation," but added that "freedom of speech sometimes also means expressing opinions that may seem almost unbearable."

France's Ambassador to the UN stated that human rights are about protecting individuals, not religions and their symbols.

Volker Turk, the UN's Chief of Human Rights, told the council that inciting actions against Muslims or other religious or minority groups is "offensive, irresponsible, and wrong."

Meanwhile, the Taliban government announced in a statement that they are suspending all Swedish activities in Afghanistan "following the insult to the Quran and the permission granted to insult Muslim beliefs."

They did not provide details on which organizations would be affected by the ban. However, Sweden no longer has an embassy in Afghanistan since the Taliban took power in 2021.

The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA), a humanitarian organization, said it is seeking clarification from the authorities.

"The SCA is not a Swedish government entity. It is an independent organization that remains impartial in its relations with all political stakeholders and countries, and strongly condemns all desecration of the Quran," the NGO stated.

"For over 40 years, the SCA has closely collaborated with rural communities and highly respects Islam and local traditions in Afghanistan."

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