STOCKHOLM (AP) — Sweden’s prime minister said Thursday that police have received several permit applications for the burning of religious texts in the country next week, and that he fears this may escalate tensions further with the Muslim world.
In his first public comments since the start of the Quran burning crisis that has severely strained Stockholm’s ties with Muslim nations, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told Swedish news agency TT he was “extremely concerned” about a new wave of desecrations.
“It’s the police that make those decisions, not me. If they (permits) are granted, we face a number of days with the obvious risk of serious things happening,” Kristersson told TT.
A recent string of public Quran desecrations by a handful of anti-Islam activists in Sweden – and more recently in neighboring Denmark – has sparked angry demonstrations in Muslim countries.
Sweden does not have a law specifically prohibiting the burning or desecration of the Quran or other religious texts. The right to hold public demonstrations is valued and protected by the Swedish Constitution. Police generally give permission based on whether they believe a public gathering can be held without major disruptions or risks to public safety.
The Swedish Security Service said Wednesday that Sweden’s image among Muslim nations and its security situation have deteriorated after the recent Quran burnings, and that it could face threats from “within the violent Islamist milieu.”
Foreign Minister Tobias Billström and security service representatives appeared before Swedish Parliament’s foreign affairs committee Thursday to discuss the Quran burning crisis, at the request of the opposition Social Democratic Party.
After the meeting, Billström told TT that the situation was serious but that there was no “quick fix” to cool down the anti-Swedish mood in the Muslim world.
“Our primary and most important task is to protect Swedish interests and the safety of Swedes both here and abroad,” Billström was quoted by TT. “We should take the developments that are now underway very seriously; everyone in our country should do so.”
Kristersson said his government has created a new task force among security agencies to come up with measures to combat terrorism and violent extremism.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has called an emergency remote meeting July 31 at the ministerial level to discuss the Quran burnings in Sweden and Denmark.