Iraq’s reaction to the desecration of the Holy Quran

In a rally organized by the ruling Iraqi parties and armed groups, many of which are allied to Iran, thousands of Iraqis protested on Saturday in Baghdad over the destruction or burning of the Koran during anti-Islamic demonstrations in Sweden and Denmark.

The supreme leader of Iran declared that Sweden was preparing for a “war” against Muslims by protecting individuals who desecrated the Koran and calling for the “most severe punishment” to be meted out to those responsible.

This week, there have been protests over insults to the Koran in Sweden and Denmark, both of which permit the burning of the book in accordance with the principles of free expression.

Heavy security was in place as demonstrators gathered in Baghdad; after an attempt by protesters to enter the Green Zone, which is home to many foreign embassies, the bridges leading there were closed.

What happened

In response to a planned burning of the Koran in Stockholm, the Swedish Embassy was invaded and set on fire 48 hours prior to that effort, which was thwarted by Iraqi security forces using tear gas, according to a government source.

Iraq denounced the assault on the Swedish Embassy but also removed the Swedish ambassador in retaliation for the planned burning of the Koran, which Muslims believe to be a revelation from God and is the core text of Islam.

Why it happened

A man set fire to a book claiming to be the Quran on Friday in Copenhagen, Denmark, across from the Iraqi Embassy.

A group calling itself the “Danish Patriots” live-streamed the event on Facebook. The video depicts the burning book in a tin foil tray with two onlookers nearby.

Danish Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen condemned it, thought it stupid, and told the national broadcaster DR: “It is a disgraceful act to insult the religion of others”.

War on the Muslim world

Saudi Arabia and Iran, the region’s top Sunni Arab and Shi’ite countries, respectively, summoned Swedish officials in protest following the event. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, asked that Sweden turn over the criminals to the legal systems of Islamic countries. He later tweeted, “The Swedish government should realize that by backing the criminal who burned the Holy Quran, it has gone into battle array for war on the Muslim world.

The Danish government, according to Nasser Kanaani, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, is in charge of both preventing and punishing offenses including insults to Islamic symbols. Muslims expected concrete action, he said. A book they claimed to be the Koran was kicked and partially smashed by protestors during Thursday’s anti-Islamic march in Stockholm, but they fled the scene without lighting it on fire.

Iran claimed it will not accept a new Swedish envoy in retaliation for Sweden delaying the installation of a new ambassador due to attacks on the Koran.

The Swedish and Iranian foreign ministries spoke on the phone on Friday, according to a representative for the Swedish government, who declined to provide any details.

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