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EXPLAINED: What might happen next in Sweden's Quran-burning crisis?

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EXPLAINED: What might happen next in Sweden's Quran-burning crisis?
Sweden's foreign minister Tobias Billström meets journalists after briefing the parliament's foreign policy committee on the actions being taken to contain the crisis. Photo: TT

Sweden's government has grown increasingly anxious and the country's terror readiness has been stepped up after recent protests involved the burning of the Quran. With talk of more provocative acts to come The Local looks at what might happen next.


What new protests have been granted permission? 

A woman has been granted permission to hold a protest outside the Israeli embassy in Stockholm at midday on Friday. She has said that she intends to burn a copy of the Torah, the Jewish scripture which contains the first five books of the Hebrew bible, which, according to the Talmud, were written by the Prophet Moses. 

According to Sweden's public broadcaster SVT woman has said that the protest is "a demonstration for the rights of children in Sweden which are being systematically transgressed."

She plans to set fire to a copy of the book with a lighter. 

While some Jews use the Torah as a ritual object, desecrating a Torah does not have the same significance for the vast majority Jews as desecrating the Quran has for Muslims.  

A 31-year-old man who had applied for a permit to burn the Quran outside Iran's embassy this Saturday withdrew his application on Tuesday and apologised, according to public broadcaster SVT.  

Salwan Momika, who burned a Quran outside Stockholm's main mosque, and kicked a copy of the book outside Iraq's embassy earlier this month, has told SVT that he plans new protests, but police say that so far none has been granted .

"There are no new permits. There are some applications of that kind, but it changes all the time," Daniel Wikdahl, from the Stockholm police, told The Local. "People make new applications and they have second thoughts, and it's a number that changes all the time. As we speak, there's no permit issued for this weekend, but things can happen."



What is the government doing? 

Sweden's government on Thursday ordered 15 government agencies to strengthen the country's ability to prevent terrorism, in response to the protests involving desecration of the Quran, with the Swedish PM saying he was "extremely worried".

Sweden's foreign minister, Tobias Billström, said he was working hard to smooth diplomatic relations with Islamic countries and protect staff based overseas, after he briefed the parliament's foreign policy committee on Thursday. 

So far, though, the government appears unwilling to enter into dialogue with Muslim representatives in Sweden to better communicate to the Muslim population how seriously it takes the desecration of the holy book of Islam. 

"Right now, we are seeing a total absence of dialogue from the government," said Muharrem Demirok, the leader of the Centre Party, who describes himself as a "secular" or "cultural" Muslim. "You can stand up for the freedom of expression, freedom to demonstrate and freedom of association, while at the same time showing understanding of people's feelings." 

What is the terror threat situation? 

Sweden's National Centre for Terrorist Threat Assessment still estimates that threat level at level three in Sweden's five-point threat scale, meaning "a raised risk", but Charlotte von Essen, the head of Sweden's security police, said on Thursday that "it would not take much" for the Säpo to rause the level to four, a "high threat level". 


What are Muslim leaders in Sweden calling for? 

Muslim leaders are calling on Sweden's government to give interviews to the Arab language media to explain why it is difficult to stop protests involving burning the Quran under Swedish law. 

"It would be good if the prime minister called a meeting to lay out what we can do to make Swedish society better," Tahir Akan, chair of the Swedish Muslim Association, who is calling for a ban on the burning of holy scriptures, told SVT.

"We're not just talking about the Quran, but about all holy books. Religion is important for some people, and in a country which has democracy, we should protect both identity and religious freedoms. It would be good if the prime minister called a meeting where we could lay out how we could make Sweden better." 


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