Protests in Pakistan join global condemnation of Swedish, Dutch attacks on Holy Quran
Several thousand people rallied in Muslim-majority Pakistan after Friday prayers to voice outrage over right-wing protests targeting the Holy Quran in Sweden and the Netherlands.
Blasphemy and insults to Islam are galvanizing issues in Pakistan, where leaders have regularly voiced concerns about rising Islamophobia on the international stage.
At least 5,000 people marched through the second-largest city of Lahore chanting “Holy Quran is printed in our hearts” and “I am a protector of the Holy Quran” in a rally organized by the radical anti-blasphemy party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).
A smaller protest of about 1,000 people was held in the southern city of Karachi and Swedish flags were torn up in both cities.
A resolution was also passed in the national parliament.
Protest in Afghanistan
Small protests were also held in several cities in neighboring Afghanistan, where men, some carrying Taliban flags, were allowed to take part in rare and brief street demonstrations sanctioned by the interim Taliban government.
Around 1,000 men gathered in the eastern city of Jalalabad chanting: “Death to infidels, Death to Sweden, Death to America.”
Right-wing Swedish-Danish politician Rasmus Paludan set fire to a copy of the Islamic holy book in front of Turkey’s embassy in the Swedish capital on Saturday.
It was followed days later by a one-man anti-Islam protest in The Hague targeting the Holy Quran.
The incidents have been condemned by world leaders as well as the United Nations and the European Union.
Demonstrations have also broken out in Iraq, while Indonesia summoned Sweden’s envoy and Egypt called for a boycott of Swedish and Dutch products.
Turkey summons Danish envoy
Turkey summoned Denmark’s ambassador Friday to condemn a protest at which a far-right extremist burned the Koran over Ankara’s refusal to let Sweden and Finland join NATO.
An AFP team witnessed anti-Islam activist Rasmus Paludan burn a copy of the Muslim holy book near a Copenhagen mosque.
The Danish-Swedish dual national pledged to perform the same act outside the Turkish embassy later Friday.
A decision by Swedish police to allow Paludan to stage a similar protest in Stockholm prompted Turkey to postpone planned NATO accession talks with Sweden and Finland.
A Turkish diplomatic source said the Danish ambassador was summoned to protest Denmark’s “unacceptable” attitude towards Paludan’s actions.
“We strongly condemn the decision to grant permission for this provocative act, which clearly constitutes a hate crime,” the Turkish diplomatic source told reporters.
Paludan vowed on Friday to stage weekly actions involving the Koran until Turkey approves Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership.
Swedish leaders have strongly condemned Paludan’s action but defended their country’s broad acceptance of free speech.
Finland and Sweden broke with decades of military non-alignment and decided to join NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Bids to join NATO must be approved by all 30 members of the alliance.
Turkey and fellow NATO member Hungary are the only members that have yet to ratify the two applications by votes in parliament.
Hungary’s parliament is expected to ratify the two bids next month.