On Wednesday, Swedish authorities permitted a Quran-burning demonstration outside a mosque in central Stockholm.
According to Swedish police, the decision to allow the protest was made in compliance with the right to free expression.
This potentially has jeopardised the country’s attempt to join NATO before the bloc’s major summit in July.
The fire will take place on the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Adha, one of the most important in the Islamic calendar.
The rally does not pose an urgent security danger.
Allowing such an aggressive protest, though, may elicit additional backlash in Turkey, a NATO member state that has stymied Sweden’s admission bid.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and neighbouring Finland have formally asked to join the union.
NATO leaders are aiming to avoid the embarrassment of failing to admit Sweden to the alliance by July 11 – the date of the group’s next official summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.
Officials are concerned that failing to meet this deadline will send an embarrassing and potentially dangerous message to the alliance’s rivals.
Turkey, the alliance’s second-largest military power and a strategically vital NATO member due to its geographical location in both the Middle East and Europe, has proven to be the most difficult impediment to Sweden’s NATO admission ambition.
Read Also: 3 Ways To Greet Muslims In Sallah
Earlier this year, Turkish-Swedish relations took a hit after an anti-immigrant politician set fire to a copy of the Quran outside Stockholm’s Turkish Embassy.
The incident provoked outrage in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, prompting protestors to take to the streets and burn the Swedish flag outside the Swedish embassy.
Hostage To Anti-terrorist Laws
According to state news agency Anadolu, the Turkish foreign minister at the time accused the Swedish government, stating it had “taken part in this crime by allowing this vile act” to take place.
An Eastern European ambassador said, that any delay in Sweden’s entrance risks “emboldening NATO’s enemies” as well as “giving the sense of Erdogan’s power over the alliance”.
According to the diplomat, “Erdogan will take advantage of the situation and throw the ball to Sweden, holding them hostage to their (own) anti-terrorist laws.”
At a press conference on Tuesday, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom stated that Sweden had met all of Turkey’s prerequisites for NATO membership, including enacting a new anti-terrorism law.
“In Sweden, new legislation has recently come into effect making it illegal to participate in a terrorist organisation in any way that promotes, strengthens or supports it.
“We are thus fulfilling the last parts of our agreement,” Billstrom explained.
However, allowing a Quran-burning rally may further deteriorate Sweden’s relations with Turkey and undermine the country’s chances of joining NATO.
Freedom Of Expression
Apart from his interpreter, a single person is behind the planned Quran burning and is likely to be the only person at the demonstration.
Salwan Momika said on Wednesday that he moved to Sweden from Iraq five years ago and had Swedish citizenship. He informed CNN that he is an atheist.
He stated that he was staging this protest after three months of legal battles in court.
“This book should be banned around the world because it endangers democracy, ethics, human values, human rights, and women’s rights.
“It simply does not work in this day and age,” he explained.
According to the demonstration permit, Quran burnings “increase the risk of a terrorist attack and can also have foreign policy consequences.
“However, it stressed that security problems must have a clear connection to the planned gathering or its immediate surroundings
“This is in order for security problems to be the basis for a decision to refuse a general assembly.
“Authorities gave permission for the meeting subject to certain conditions, including a fire ban in Stockholm that has been in effect since June 12 and “applies until further notice.
While speaking in a phone call the Stockholm police spokesman Helena Bostrom Thomas stated that the applicant had been notified about the limits,
The police said that “freedom of speech weighs heavier than if he acts against the restrictions of the fire ban.”