A Muslim man put off a protest that would have involved burning a Torah scroll in front of Stockholm’s Israeli embassy this past weekend.
The man, identified in reports only as a 34-year-old Egyptian writer living in Sweden, had reportedly received approval from Swedish authorities for the protest, which would have come in the wake of a far-right politician’s recent burning of a Quran outside of a mosque in Denmark.
The man told Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter that he is trying to spark debate and expose a double standard in the treatment of Muslims and Jews in Sweden. He also said he believed a provocative protest outside the Israeli embassy would shed further light on the Israeli-Arab conflict.
“My action is not aimed at the Swedish Jewish minority. I am standing outside the Israeli embassy because I want to remind about Israel’s killing of Palestinian children,” he said.
He added that he had only postponed his plan.
“I will still carry out my actions, it is important to me. I will submit a new application next week,” he said.
Danish politician Rasmus Paludan — whose far-right Hard Line party does not sit in government — burned a Quran on Jan. 21 in response to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hints that his country might block Sweden’s attempt to join NATO. The burning sparked an outcry in Turkey and across the Islamic world. On Monday, the U.S. State Department warned U.S. citizens residing in Turkey to avoid churches and synagogues, as they could be targets for retaliatory terror attacks.
Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, Ziv Nevo Kulman, tweeted last week that his embassy worked with Swedish authorities to successfully thwart the Torah burning. But a rabbi involved in interfaith work in Sweden told the Jerusalem Post that he credited Muslim leaders for dissuading the protest organizer.
“The burning of the Torah scroll was prevented thanks to the leadership of the Muslim community in Sweden,” said Rabbi Moshe David HaCohen, who was formerly the rabbi for the Jewish community in Malmö, in Southern Sweden. HaCohen is now the director of Amanah, an interfaith organization that connects Swedish Jews and Muslims.
Both Jewish and Muslim clergy had spoken out against the desecration of sacred texts as a form of protest since the Quran burning.
“It is with deep concern that we once again witness Islamophobic hate manifestations in the streets of Sweden. Once again racists and extremists are allowed to abuse democracy and Freedom of Speech in order to normalize hate against one of the religious minorities in Sweden, by burning the Quran,” Amanah said in a statement.