Stockholm (AP) – Stockholm police said Friday they allowed a protest this weekend by a man who said he wanted to burn Torahs and Bibles outside the Israeli embassy in Stockholm.
Israeli officials called on the Swedish government to stop the protest scheduled for Saturday outside the diplomatic mission.
Sweden recently faced heavy criticism from Muslim countries for allowing protesters to burn the Koran in small anti-Islam demonstrations.
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The man who submitted a protest application on Saturday said he wanted Torahs and Bibles burned outside the Israeli embassy in response to the burning of the Koran outside a mosque in Stockholm last month by an Iraqi immigrant.
Stockholm police approved the protest in a decision obtained by the Associated Press, saying three people would take part in the demonstration outside the Israeli embassy at 1pm (1100 GMT) on Saturday.
The right to hold public demonstrations is strong in Sweden and is protected by the constitution. Blasphemy laws were abandoned in the 1970s. Police grant permits based on whether they believe a public gathering can be held without disturbances or significant risks to public safety.
Stockholm police emphasized this distinction in an email to the AP, saying that they “don’t give permission for different actions. We give permission for a public meeting! That’s an important difference.”
Israeli officials called on Sweden to stop the event.
Isaac Herzog said: “As President of the State of Israel, I have condemned the burning of the Qur’an, which is sacred to Muslims around the world, and I am now saddened that the same fate awaits the Jewish Bible, the eternal book of the Jewish people.” in the current situation.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said he was urging Swedish officials to “prevent this abominable event and not allow the burning of the Torah scroll”.
The Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yitzhak Yosef, even appealed to the figurehead King of Sweden to intervene, condemning the planned event as well as the recent burning of the Quran in front of a mosque in Sweden.
“By preventing this event from happening,” he wrote, “you are sending a powerful message to the world that Sweden stands firm against religious intolerance and that such actions have no place in a civilized society.”
The Council of Swedish Jewish Communities denounced the police’s decision to allow the protest, saying: “Our tragic European history links Jewish book burnings with pogroms, expulsions, the Inquisition and the Holocaust.”
Last month, an Iraqi Christian immigrant burned a Koran in front of a Stockholm mosque during the Eid al-Adha holiday, sparking widespread condemnation in the Muslim world. A far-right activist staged a similar protest outside Turkey’s embassy earlier this year, complicating Sweden’s efforts to persuade Turkey to allow it to join NATO.
On Wednesday, the United Nations’ top human rights body overwhelmingly approved a measure calling for countries to do more to prevent religious hatred in the wake of the burning of the Koran. It was approved despite the objections of Western countries who fear that tougher steps by governments could trample on freedom of expression.
Olsen reports from Copenhagen, Denmark. Associated Press correspondents Julia Frankel and Sam McNeil in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
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