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The Qur’an-Burning in Sweden and Turkey’s Rage and Threats



In Sweden,  Rasmus Paludan, who holds both Swedish and Danish citizenship, burned a Qur’an as a symbolic sign of opposition to the enormous disruptive influx of Muslim migrants into formerly placid Sweden. He is, of course, entitled to do this, as an exercise of free speech guaranteed by Swedish law. In Turkey, however, Western ideas of free speech are not accepted in that country, nor does the Turkish government intend, if it can help it, to allow the citizens of other, advanced, Western countries to exercise their free speech rights. There is a Jihad Watch report about the burning and Turkish rage here, and more details of Paludan’s Qur’an-burning, and of Turkey’s hysterical reaction to it, and the threats against Sweden now coming from Ankara, can be found here: “Quran Burning Ignites New Spat Between Turkey and Sweden,” i24 News, January 22, 2023:

Rasmus Paludan, a leader of a far right Danish political party who also holds Swedish citizenship, burnt a copy of the Quran outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm on Saturday. His action took place despite a call by the Turkish foreign minister to withdraw the permit for the protest.

Paludan sparked riots last year, when during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan he announced that he wanted to go on a tour to burn the Quran.

The act also has political consequences. Sweden and Finland asked to join NATO after the Russian invasion of Ukraine – something Turkey opposes, as it accuses Sweden of not doing enough to contain what it calls “Kurdish terrorism.” Its stance is not likely to change now, given the outrage the images from Stockholm sparked in Ankara.

Any single member of NATO can veto the admission of a new member. Turkey has been holding up a NATO vote on admitting both Sweden and Finland, even though both countries would be valuable additions to the military alliance, located so close to Russia, at a time when Moscow poses a threat not just to Ukraine but to NATO’s eastern flank. The reason for Turkey’s opposition to admitting both countries is that Erdogan is furious that Sweden has a large population of Turkish Kurds – 100,000 — whom Erdogan accuses, without evidence, of being members of the Kurdish PKK, a recognized terror group; Sweden, he thinks, should expel them. The Swedish government recognizes that large numbers of Kurds now live in Sweden, but it denies they are supporting the PKK. As for Finland, it seems to have been in Erdogan’s view tainted by its proximity to, and association with, Sweden; only 15,000 Kurds live in the country, and he has made no specific charges against the Finns, but still insists on opposing Finland’s entry into NATO. .

We cannot accept the burning of Koran under the umbrella of freedom of expression and human rights,” said Selcuj Geyveli, Deputy Chairman of Turkey’s New Welfare Party. “And we can never accept any attack against our holy values in any place around the world.”

Essentially, the Turkish state is declaring that in the entire world, no one should be allowed to burn Qur’ans, publish cartoons of Muhammad, or do anything that attacks the “holy values” of Muslims. Free speech be damned; Westerners must give up their free speech rights whenever its practice offends Muslims.

Turkey is not the only country expressing outrage. Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia all condemned the torching of the Quran in Sweden. The Saudi Foreign Ministry also noted “the importance of spreading the values of dialogue, tolerance, and coexistence, and rejecting hatred and extremism.”

It’s a bit rich for the Saudi Foreign Ministry talking about “spreading the values of dialogue, tolerance, and coexistence,” when in the Kingdom no religion other than Islam may be practiced, and those caught doing so are deported, such as the handful of Christian nurses who, a few years ago, were found to have been singing Christmas carols quietly, behind closed doors in their own apartments, and then were promptly expelled from the Kingdom. I am unfamiliar with any Saudi cleric who has been preaching the values of “dialogue” and “coexistence” with the Infidels; even Shi’a in Saudi Arabia are regarded by the Wahhabis as not true Muslims.

These Muslim countries can condemn all they want this instance of Qur’an-burning. But what they cannot be allowed to do is to force Western countries to obey their diktats, and to ban an act – the burning of a Qur’an – that is protected as free speech (burning a Qur’an, like burning a flag, is considered to be a  “speech-act”)in those countries. The countries of the West must not, in other words, weaken the rights of their citizens to express themselves freely, even if that angers the thin-skinned likes of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who tries to punish them for upholding the free speech rights of their citizens.

Muslims consider the Quran the word of God and torching it a major offense in Islam.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom has tried to douse the flames of indignation, tweeting that “”Islamophobic provocations are appalling. Sweden has a far-reaching freedom of expression, but it does not imply that the Swedish Government, or myself, support the opinions expressed.”

Swedish Foreign Minister Billstrom did what he could to tamp down the Turkish hysteria, by putting himself foursquare in the camp of those who deplore “Islamophobic provocations” which he called “appalling.” He might have issued a more dignified statement, such as this:

Our citizens have a right to free speech, which includes the right to engage in speech-acts of symbolic meaning, such as setting fire to a flag or burning a book. We do not necessarily agree with such speech acts but we cannot, under our laws, that guarantee freedom of speech, ban them.

But the damage was done. A visit of the Swedish defense minister to Turkey to discuss the NATO bid was canceled in light of the recent events. This comes after last week, an effigy resembling Turkish president Erdogan was hung feet up during a protest of a Kurdish group in Stockholm.

Turkey and Sweden are drifting apart diplomatically, Sweden’s NATO membership, although the U.S, has expressed its support, seems to be drifting away as well.

Sweden and Finland would be of much greater value  to NATO, as military allies guarding  against a potential Russian move into northern Europe, than Turkey. The NATO countries should ask themselves this: should Turkey be allowed to exercise its veto and keep both countries, that unlike Turkey are firmly part of the West, out of NATO? Of what real value is Turkey to NATO? The biggest worry NATO now has is Russian aggression against Ukraine, and possibly against other countries on Russia’s eastern flank.

But the much greater, and permanent, threat to the survival of the West is that of militant Islam, as the tens of millions of Muslim migrants now in Western Europe continue to swell in numbers. Muslim migration has not been halted, and those already in Europe have much larger families than do the indigenous Infidels. This may be thought of as a demographic jihad, and while some have sounded the alarm, such as Eric Zemmour, Geert Wilders, and Laurent Obertone – the Muslim migrants continue to arrive in large numbers, and their families in Europe continue to batten, and expand in size, on all the benefits that the generous welfare states of Western Europe provide.

Turkey has undergone a steady re-Islamization in the last 20 years; the Kemalists – secular, and unenthusiastic about Islam — have been on the run ever since Erdogan first came to power as prime minister in 2003. Tens of thousands of the secularists, the keepers of the Kemalist flame,  who had been opposed to Erdogan, were either jailed or, having been fired, had to leave the country, after the failure of the attempted coup in 2016. Lawyers, professors, rectors of universities, and especially journalists were among those who lost their jobs. Erdogan has undertaken a huge program of mosque building and has also established a vast network of Imam Hatip schools, which provide religious instruction along with vocational training. Erdogan has built tens of thousands of these schools, too; in 2002 there were 60,000 students in Imam Hatip schools, in 2022, there were 1.5 million. Erdogan predicted in 2018, during a rant against Austria for closing some “extremist’ mosques, that there may be a war approaching “between the cross and the crescent,” and he left no doubt as to which side his country would be on. In case of such a conflict, Turkey under Erdogan will not be taking the side of NATO countries.

Now he is trying to bully Sweden – by threatening to veto its membership in NATO – so that it will limit its own citizens’ freedom of speech. Erdogan doesn’t understand our political freedoms; he really believes that Western governments can, if they choose, do away with freedom of speech if they really want to. He’s wrong, of course. And now the entire membership of NATO – save for Turkey – ought to respond as one with an unambiguous defense of our freedoms: “Freedom of speech in our countries is sacrosanct. It will not be infringed upon. And only those who support the freedom of speech, which is the most basic of the freedoms NATO was formed to defend, should be allowed to continue as NATO members. If any member of the alliance believes otherwise, then it makes sense for that country to withdraw from the alliance.”

That should get Erdogan’s attention. He will be furious. But he’ll have to contain himself. It is clear that he doesn’t want to have to leave NATO. And having been read the riot act by the Alliance, and properly chastened, perhaps he’ll be more inclined to stop opposing NATO membership for Sweden and Finland. Now that Turkey’s economy in a tailspin, with soaring inflation and a collapsing currency, Erdogan needs to be put in his place.


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