BEIRUT (AP) — Iraq’s foreign minister called Monday for the Organization for Islamic Cooperation to form a committee for talks with the European Union over its member countries permitting the desecration of the Quran and to enlist volunteers to file lawsuits to halt the practice.
Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein also called on the United Nations to “take measures to prevent these incidents.”
Hussein made his statement during an emergency online meeting of foreign ministers from the Jeddah-based organization to discuss recent incidents in which the Islamic holy book was burned or otherwise defaced at officially permitted protests in Sweden and Denmark.
The body did not issue any decision or official statement after Monday’s meeting.
Ahead of the meeting, two men who had previously burned a copy of the Quran in Sweden did so once again, in front of a crowd of a few dozen onlookers and about 20 counter-protesters.
In both Sweden and Denmark, t here is no law against blasphemy, and freedom of expression is generally held in high regard.
But as the recent Quran burnings have sparked angry demonstrations and diplomatic backlash in Muslim countries, officials in the Scandinavian countries have begun to consider whether there should be curbs on public defacement of holy books or other religious symbols.
Denmark’s foreign minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, said Sunday in an interview with Danish public broadcaster DR that the government is seeking a “legal tool” to prohibit such inflammatory acts without compromising freedom of expression.
In Sweden, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said Sunday on Instagram that his government is analyzing the legal situation regarding desecration of the Quran and other holy books, given the animosity such acts are stirring up against Sweden.
Before Monday’s meeting, the OIC had already suspended the status of Sweden’s special envoy over the Quran burnings.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said in a statement that he spoke in recent days with counterparts in OIC countries to explain how Sweden’s freedom of expression works and that police make independent decisions on protest applications. He added that “the government is very clear in its distance from the Islamophobic acts carried out by individuals at demonstrations in Sweden.”
The Danish foreign minister said his “government condemned and denounced the insult” to the Quran and “that it is studying this issue with great interest.”
Keyton reported from Stockholm. Associated Press staff writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad contributed to this report.