Sweden vows to prevent desecration of Jewish holy books after planned public burnings

Justice minister Gunnar Strömmer has pledged to examine legal and legislative possibilities to ban the desecration of holy books in the country


Old worn shabby leather-bound jewish books on open blurred Torah in the background. Closeup. Selective focus

Sweden has pledged to look into options to ban the burning of Jewish holy books after recent incidents sparked tensions with Israel. 

Justice minister Gunnar Strömmer said the Swedish government was examining legal and legislative possibilities to ban the desecration of holy books.

It comes after police granted permission for two planned burnings outside the Israeli embassy. The most recent burning was planned for Saturday. 

Meanwhile, copies of the quran have been burned, or otherwise damaged. Two men set the Koran alight outside the Swedish parliament in Stockholm on Monday. 

Salwan Momika and Salwan Najem stomped on the quran and set its pages ablaze before slamming it shut.

In a letter to Rabbi Menachem Margolin, chairman of the European Jewish Association, Strömmer said: ”It is not the government, but the authorities and courts, that decides on individual requests to demonstrate or to hold a public meeting.

“However, the fact that an act is lawful does not mean that it is appropriate. For example, acts that manifestly violate the beliefs of others.

“Desecration of Holy Books is an offensive and disrespectful act, and a clear provocation.”

He went on to say: “The Swedish government understands that the acts in question committed by individuals attending demonstrations may be offensive, acts which in no way reflect the Swedish Government’s opinions.

“The Swedish government is closely monitoring developments both nationally and internationally in response to recent events. 

“We are conducting a process of analysis of the legal situation in the light of this.”

Rabbi Margolin said: “Those bent on stoking division are exploiting the constitution for their own ends and it is a loophole that needs to be closed.  

“While the right to freedom and protest is a fundamental right, it must end at the point where it infringes on another’s fundamental rights of faith and traditions.”

Israel’s Foreign minister Eli Cohen on Friday warned his Swedish counterpart Tobias Billström that any planned burning of Torah books would harm relations between the two countries. 

He urged an end to the threats to damage holy books, adding: “I talked with my friend the Swedish foreign minister and made it clear to him that we expect the Swedish government to prevent events like this, which are liable to harm relations between our countries.”

On Sunday, neighbouring Denmark said it would explore legal means of stopping protests involving the burning of holy texts, citing security concerns following a backlash over incidents that saw the Koran desecrated in the country.

Swedish and Danish envoys have been summoned by a slew of Middle Eastern nations.

Saudi Arabia and Iraq have called for a meeting, expected to be held on Monday, of the Jeddah-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to address Koran desecrations in both Sweden and Denmark.

Billstrom said he had been in contact with several of his counterparts among the 57 member states of the organisation ahead of the meeting and sent a letter to all members.

Sweden currently has constitutional laws protecting freedom of speech, allowing for burnings to take place. 

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive