Al-Sadr Calls for Rallies Against Swedish Embassy Amid Quran Desecration Controversy

Al-Sadr Calls for Rallies Against Swedish Embassy Amid Quran Desecration Controversy

Shafaq News/Influential Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, on Thursday exhorted his followers to organize a massive protest against the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad, advocating the expulsion of the Swedish Charges d'affaires in reprisal to the provocative act of a Quran desecration perpetrated by a refugee of Iraqi origin in Stockholm.

In a tweet he shared earlier today, al-Sadr called for severing the diplomatic relations with Sweden and expelling the charges d'affaires of its embassy from Baghdad as he represents his country's antagonistic stance toward Islam and its perceived endorsement of moral corruption.

The Shiite leader implored the Iraqi authorities, entreating them to revoke the Iraqi nationality of the individual involved in the act of desecration.

Branding him as a "contemptuous felon", al-Sadr urged the judiciary to seek his extradition to Iraq or try him in absentia and issue a penalty that is proportional to the gravity of the transgression.

Al-Sadr beseeched the Iraqi government to safeguard the Iraqi family members of the culprit, underscoring the necessity to protect their lives amidst the burgeoning controversy.

"Had I held the position of a religious scholar, I would have unequivocally pronounced him an apostate, should he be a Muslim, and a flagrant adversary to Islam, if otherwise."

Yesterday, a man, who is believed to be a refugee from Iraqi origins, tore up and burned a Quran outside Stockholm's central mosque an event that risks angering Turkey as Sweden bids to join NATO, after Swedish police granted permission for the protest to take place.

Police later charged the man with agitation against an ethnic or national group.

A series of demonstrations in Sweden against Islam and for Kurdish rights have offended Ankara, whose backing Sweden needs to gain entry to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Sweden sought NATO membership in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year. But alliance member Turkey has held up the process, accusing Sweden of harbouring people it considers terrorists and demanding their extradition.

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan condemned the act in a tweet, adding that it was unacceptable to allow anti-Islam protests in the name of freedom of expression.

Burning of religious texts is "disrespectful and hurtful", the deputy spokesperson for the U.S. State Department told reporters in a daily briefing. "What might be legal is certainly not necessarily appropriate," Vedant Patel said.

But he continued to urge Turkey and Hungary to ratify the NATO accession protocol of Sweden without delay. "We believe Sweden has fulfilled its commitments under the trilateral memorandum."

Some 200 onlookers witnessed one of the two protesters tearing up pages of a copy of the Quran and wiping his shoes with it before putting bacon in it and setting the book on fire, while the other spoke into a megaphone.

Some of those present shouted "God is Great" in Arabic to protest against the burning, and one man was detained by police after he attempted to throw a rock.

A supporter of the protest shouted "let it burn" as the holy book caught fire.

While Swedish police have rejected several recent applications for anti-Quran demonstrations, courts have overruled those decisions, saying they infringed on freedom of speech.

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told a press conference on Wednesday he would not speculate about how the protest could affect Sweden's NATO process.

"It's legal but not appropriate," he said, adding that it was up to the police to make decisions on Quran burnings.

Representatives of the mosque were disappointed by the police decision to grant permission for the protest on the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, mosque director and Imam Mahmoud Khalfi said on Wednesday.

"The mosque suggested to the police to at least divert the demonstration to another location, which is possible by law, but they chose not to do so," Khalfi said in a statement.

Up to 10,000 visitors attend Stockholm's mosque for Eid celebrations every year, according to Khalfi.

Turkey in late January suspended talks with Sweden on its NATO application after a Danish far-right politician burned a copy of the Quran near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.

The spokesperson to the Iraqi government, Basem al-Awadi, denounced the Quran desacrstion as "aggressively reprehensible," with the government issuing a stringent caution against affording any leeway to "extremist elements instigating religious provocation and wantonly indulging in such affronts."

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