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Wednesday June 19, 2024

Iraq expels Swedish ambassador amid Quran row

Controversy surrounding the holy Quran incident has also brought into focus the freedom of speech laws in Sweden

By Web Desk
July 21, 2023
Iraqi riot police use water cannon to disperse protesters outside the Swedish embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, July 20, 2023. AFP/File
Iraqi riot police use water cannon to disperse protesters outside the Swedish embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, July 20, 2023. AFP/File

BAGHDAD: Diplomatic relations between Iraq and Sweden hit a boiling point as Iraq decided to expel the Swedish ambassador over a contentious Quran incident that occurred in Stockholm. 

The disagreement centres around a Swedish demonstration where a man stomped on the holy Quran, igniting anger among Muslims worldwide. 

The situation took a dramatic turn when hundreds of Iraqis stormed and set fire to Sweden's embassy in Baghdad in response to the holy Quran incident in Stockholm. Protests in the Iraqi capital were mainly led by followers of cleric Moqtada Sadr. The demonstrators clashed with riot police, leaving the embassy compound in ruins.

In reaction to the escalating tensions, Iraq's Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al-Sudani instructed the Swedish ambassador to leave the country immediately. Moreover, Iraq's charge d'affaires in Sweden was also recalled, and business with Swedish companies, including telecom giant Ericsson, has been suspended.

"The moves were in response to what it called Sweden's repeated permission for the burning of the Quran and Iraqi flag as well as insults to Islamic sanctities," the Prime Minister's office said, emphasising the reasons behind the decision.

The situation has drawn international attention, with numerous Muslim-majority countries and even Pope Francis condemning the actions of the Swedish demonstrator. In a statement, Sweden's Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom strongly condemned the attack on its embassy and called on Iraqi authorities to uphold their obligations to protect diplomatic missions under the Vienna Convention.

The controversy surrounding the holy Quran incident has also brought into focus the freedom of speech laws in Sweden. While Swedish police initially rejected applications to burn the Quran, the courts overruled their decision, citing the legal right to freedom of assembly.

The incident marks a significant escalation in tensions between Iraq and Sweden, raising concerns about the potential impact on diplomatic ties and international relations. The fallout from the Quran incident highlights the delicate balance between freedom of speech and respecting religious sensitivities.

As the situation unfolds, global leaders and authorities are closely monitoring developments and calling for restraint. The incident underscores the need for thoughtful dialogue and understanding among nations to prevent further clashes over sensitive issues that can have far-reaching consequences.