STOCKHOLM (AP) — The man who said he would burn the Torah and the Bible outside the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm gave up his plan and instead held a one-person demonstration on Saturday against the burning of holy books, the media reported.
At the scene, he said he was a Muslim and threw a lighter he held in his hand to the ground, saying he never intended to burn holy books.
The man, who is in his 30s and had been issued a permit for the protest by Stockholm police, said such an action would be against the Quran, the Muslim holy book, and that he “will not burn,” according to the Swedish news agency TT.
The man, who resides in western Sweden, also said that “no one should do that,” the report said.
Israeli officials had called on the Swedish government to stop the protest and the burning of the holy books on Saturday afternoon outside the diplomatic mission. Israeli President Isaac Herzog and the World Jewish Congress condemned the action in advance as did Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and Israel’s Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.
The Times of Israel reported that the man arrived outside the Israeli diplomatic mission on Saturday afternoon holding a copy of the Quran and saying that it was never his intention to burn Jewish or Christian holy books, only to protest the recent burning of the Quran.
Swedish public broadcaster SVT said the man threw a lighter in his hand to the ground and said he didn’t need it.
“I’m a Muslim, we don’t burn (books). I want to show that we have to respect each other,” the man said, according to SVT, adding that he had no intention to realize his original plan.
Sweden has recently faced strong criticism from Muslim countries for allowing protesters to burn the Quran at small anti-Islam demonstrations.
The man who filed the request for Saturday’s protest, said he wanted to burn the Torah and the Bible outside the Israeli Embassy in response to a Quran-burning outside a Stockholm mosque last month by an Iraqi immigrant.
The right to hold public demonstrations is strong in Sweden and protected by the constitution. Blasphemy laws were abandoned in the 1970s. Police give permissions based on whether they believe a public gathering can be held without major disruptions or risks to public safety.
Last month, an Iraqi Christian immigrant burned a Quran outside a Stockholm mosque during the major Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, triggering widespread condemnation in the Islamic world. A similar protest by a far-right activist was held outside Turkey’s Embassy earlier this year, complicating Sweden’s efforts to convince Turkey to let it join NATO.
On Wednesday, the top U.N. human rights body overwhelmingly approved a measure calling on countries to do more to prevent religious hatred in the wake of the Quran-burnings. It was approved despite objections of Western countries who fear tougher steps by governments could trample freedom of expression.