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Explained: A far-right rally left Sweden burning. What sparked off the protests?

The protests started after the leader of the anti-immigration and anti-Islam group Stram Kurs, the Danish-Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan announced his plans of burning the Quran.

Protesters set fire to a police bus in the park Sveaparken in Orebro, Sweden. (AP)

Sweden has been hit by several days of unrest and protests, sparked by a far-right group’s plans to burn copies of the Quran.

The protests started after the leader of the anti-immigration and anti-Islam group Stram Kurs, the Danish-Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan announced his plans of burning the Quran. While the demonstrations were cancelled in view of the growing protests, the agitators lit vehicles on fire and threw stones at the police.

What do we know about the protests in Sweden?

Paludan’s plans had initially received the nod from the Swedish police but the cops had kept it on hold, hoping that the protests may die down. However, the stir only turned violent as four police cars were set on fire and five people, including four cops, had been injured. On Monday, the police announced that 40 people had been injured, including 26 cops, and more than 20 vehicles had been set on fire.

According to the police, more than 200 people have been involved in violent protests, which are believed to have been organised by criminal gangs. More than 40 people have been arrested so far. The protestors threw stones, attacked police barriers and even knocked down riot fences. Cars, tires and even dustbins were set on fire and barriers were put on the streets by the protestors to halt traffic.

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The agitations had taken place in cities where Paludan had announced to hold his demonstrations — Stockholm, Landskrona, Orebro, Malmo, Linkoping and Norrkoping

On Saturday, Paludan had addressed a gathering in Malmo where protestors threw stones and the far-right leader was allegedly injured. In Norrkoping, three protesters had reportedly been hurt by gunshots fired by the police as a warning to disperse the crowd.

Anders Thornberg, the national police chief, has said that he had never witnessed violent riots on such a large scale in the country, especially in Norrkoping and Linkoping, according to BBC. Swedish police Commander Anders Wiberg said in a statement: “We do not tolerate the acts of violence that have occurred and now the police will start investigative work to prosecute the people who committed the crimes.”


The right-wing that sparked the protests

Sweden’s extremist anti-Islam party Stram Kurs was founded by Rasmus Paludan in 2017. The website of the party states: “Stram Kurs is the most patriotic political party in Denmark. We are because we have the basic position that we as a Danish political party must always prioritize the happiness of the Danes over the happiness of everyone else! It should be an obvious position for any Danish political party, but we are unfortunately the only party that thinks so.”

The party has, on frequent occasions, carried out anti-Islam activities that have offended many Muslims living in the country. Other than public demonstrations of burning the Quran, the party uses social media to further its agenda.


It also wishes to ban Islam and specifically targets Muslims living in Denmark. The party had tried to contest Denmark’s general elections in 2019 but failed to gather significant support. In 2020, it was accused of using unfair means of furthering their agenda through the Danish voting system and hence banned till 2022. As such, it changed its name to “Hard Line” to bypass this ban and has been operating under this name ever since.

Has there been an instance of a Quran being burnt in public before?

Yes. Paludan himself has burnt the Quran in the past and has even faced repercussions for the same. In August 2019, he held a demonstration of burning the Islamic holy book, leading to around 100 people protesting against the same.

He was arrested in November 2020 in France for saying that he would burn the Quran. He, along with a few other activists, were also banned from Belgium after they had planned a similar demonstration in Brussels, home to a sizeable Muslim population.

In fact, Paludan ban in Sweden in 2020 came after protests against his demonstrations turned violent with cars being set on fire and shops being damaged.

So, who is this far-right leader?


Rasmus Paludan, 40, is a Danish lawyer who was granted Swedish citizenship because his father was a resident of the country. He is widely known for his anti-Islamic and racist comments and ideology and was even prohibited from practising law.

Pauldan, who was also a YouTuber, has been constantly convicted for his racist remarks and anti-Islamic insults and sentiments. In 2019, Pauldan burnt a Quran wrapped in bacon and was banned from Facebook for a month. He was also jailed in 2020 in Denmark for multiple offences, including racism. He was also prohibited from leaving Germany in 2021 after he had talked about his plans to commit anti-Islamic acts in Berlin.


However, although he plans to contest the next Swedish polls scheduled to be held in September this year, he does not have the necessary support of signatures to qualify as a candidate.

Cars are engulfed by flames after protests broke out at Rosengard in Malmo, Sweden, early Monday, April 17, 2022. (AP)

Reactions from around the world


Following the violence and Paludan’s declarations, many Islamic countries have come forward to condemn the act.

Iraq’s foreign ministry said it had called upon Sweden’s chargé d’affaires Hakan Roth in Baghdad to inform him of the “government’s protest” on Sunday. “This matter has serious repercussions on the relations between Sweden and Muslims in general, whether in Islamic and Arab countries or in Muslim societies in Europe,” they said.

Saudi Arabia also released a statement condemning the act: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s condemnation of the deliberate abuse of the Holy Quran, provocations, and incitement against Muslims by some extremists in Sweden. The Kingdom stresses the importance of concerted efforts to spread the values of dialogue, tolerance, coexistence, renounce hatred, extremism, and exclusion, and prevent abuse of all religions and holy sites.”

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said that she will ensure that those responsible for the attacks are arrested. She added that she did not condone Paludan’s views or activities but also said that it was “unacceptable, irresponsible and illegal” to respond to it with violence.

Organisations like the Muslim World League also responded to Paludan’s act saying: “The Muslim World League condemns the absurd and shameful act carried out by some extremists in Sweden – who abused a copy of the Noble Quran and inciting Muslims during the Holy Month of Ramadan. Spreading such religious hatred only encourages hostility and division in societies, harms common humanitarian values of decency and mutual respect, and ultimately only serves the agendas of extremism and counter-extremism… These acts are designed to divide. However, we have complete confidence in the strength of Sweden’s values of unity and moderation to overcome such divisiveness and hate.”

Other countries that have condemned the incident were Egypt, Iran, Jordon, Indonesia, Malaysia and Qatar, while the organisations would include the Islamic Cooperation, the Arab Parliament and the Arab League.

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First published on: 19-04-2022 at 10:03:53 pm
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