BEIRUT (AP) — The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has suspended Sweden’s special envoy status following a series of Koran burnings in Stockholm that sparked anger and mass protests in a number of Muslim countries.
The organization made up of 57 Muslim-majority nations said on Sunday that the suspension was due to “the granting by the Swedish authorities of licenses which allowed the repeated abuse of the sanctity of the Holy Quran and Islamic symbols”.
The Islamic holy book was burned or defaced during recent public protests in the Swedish capital. An Iraqi of Christian origin living in Sweden as a self-proclaimed atheist announced on Thursday his intention to burn the Koran outside the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm.
Protesters in Iraq stormed the Swedish embassy and the Iraqi government cut diplomatic relations with Sweden. In the end, the man in Sweden kicked and stepped on the Islamic holy book, but stopped before setting it on fire.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s decision came after the bloc’s executive committee held a meeting on July 2 following a previous Quran burning incident.
The committee asked the secretary-general to consider suspending the status of special envoy of “any country in which copies of the Holy Quran or other Islamic values and symbols are desecrated with the consent of the relevant authorities,” according to Sunday’s statement.
The organization said it had sent a letter to Sweden’s foreign minister noting the decision.
A public burning of the Koran in Denmark on Friday sparked new protests in Iraq, some of them violent. Demonstrators clashed with police as they attempted to storm Baghdad’s green zone where the Danish embassy is located, and in Basra protesters set fire to facilities belonging to a Danish Refugee Council mine clearance project.
The Danish Foreign Ministry on Sunday condemned the burning of the Koran.
“Burning sacred texts and other religious symbols is a shameful act that disrespects the religion of others,” he said. “It is a provocative act that hurts many people and creates division between different religions and cultures.”
However, he added that “freedom of expression and freedom of assembly must be respected”.
While many countries around the world still have laws criminalizing blasphemy, Sweden and Denmark do not, and burning scriptures is not specifically prohibited by law.