July 19, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10716

Sweden-Based Muslim Preacher In Response To Quran-Burning Incident In Stockholm: Swedish Society Is Tolerant, Muslims Should Avoid Rupturing Their Relations With It

July 19, 2023
Special Dispatch No. 10716

The June 28, 2023 incident in which an Christian Iraqi refugee burned a copy of the Quran in front of a mosque in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, sparked widespread condemnation and fury  against Sweden in the Muslim world, and even calls to punish this country for permitting this protest.[1] At the same time, some columnists in the Arab press called to restrain the Muslim fury and to avoid creating a rift in the relations with Sweden and Swedish society. Among these columnists was Idris Ajami Al-Marrakeshi, a Sweden-based researcher of thought and dialogue and a preacher at a mosque in the city of Örebro, who, in his column in the Qatari daily Al-Sharq, urged the Muslims to understand the unique outlook of Swedish society before taking a stand against it. Sweden, he explained, is a deeply secular and democratic country that regards religion as an idea that may be criticized and even ridiculed. He added that, in the last 200 years, Sweden has taken a neutral stance in various conflicts, and that the Swedes themselves are tolerant and humane people who  oppose provocations like burning the Quran and are sympathetic towards Muslims. He called on Muslims to understand the Swedish outlook and avoid creating a rift in their relations with this society.

Idris Ajami Al-Marrakeshi (Image:

The following are translated excerpts from his article:[2]

"The burning of the Quran and the denigration of religions, including Islam, are obviously acts that are universally opposed and condemned. The purpose of the article is to... try to understand the link between the events in a country like Sweden and this country's  outlook on social [issues] and human rights. Why [must we] understand this? Simply because it will enable us to better handle the event and consider our position regarding it. [We] will even be able to turn this provocation into an opportunity. Since I live among Swedish society and have first-hand knowledge of its way of life and manner of thinking, I thought it appropriate [to present] an analysis of [its] behavior, and to sensibly and objectively present some facts that can serve as guidelines for our diplomatic apparatuses as they consider how to handle this incident.

The first fact is that, in the last 200 years of its political history, Sweden and its sovereign institutions have taken a neutral stance, in the full sense of this term. While many [other] European countries went wild and occupied other peoples, Sweden was not an imperialistic power, at least not in the modern era. Two centuries of neutrality and of making peace obviously left a deep imprint  on the lifestyle and outlook of the simple Swedish citizen… This long history of refusing to side with any side against another side became a social culture that distinguishes the Swedish men and women from many of the nations in the region. They accept the other with uncommon respect and cordiality… Moreover, Swedes have a highly-developed sense of humanity… [For example, a Swedish] official may refuse a request but at the same time show a great deal of empathy… I will never forget that young Swedish woman, less than 20 years old, who prevented a plane from taking off from the Stockholm airport because there was an African refugee aboard who was being deported back to his homeland. She did not even know the man or have any connection to him, other than their shared humanity!

"This humane Swedish society was and is firmly opposed to any attempts to burn the Quran. At least in the city where I delivered a sermon immediately after a previous attempt to burn the Quran, this opposition was manifest in condemnations of the incident and in expressions of sympathy towards the Muslims by elements with country-wide influence. Chief of these elements is the church. During the previous [Quran burning], by an extremist Dane, Rasmus Paludan,[3] churches rang their bells [in protest], and the municipality departments allowed Muslims to spend the day holding [community] gatherings with [activities] for teens and children. The Swedish police provided security for this gathering as part of its duties… and large businesses provided it with water, beverages and sweets free of charge… The day ended with the police, the municipality and the church exchanging messages of mutual gratitude and appreciation with the Muslim [community]… Everyone understood that the Muslims are cultured people with noble sentiments. In fact, many new friendships were formed that day.

"The second fact is that Sweden is deeply democratic. People are free to do whatever they want, whenever they want and however they want, as long as they obtain a permit and obey the law. Sweden strictly defends this constitutional right, which, in [the Swedish] political practice, has attained the status of an existential right. The consequences of this can definitely be infuriating in many cases. Many intellectuals and [ordinary] citizens, religious and otherwise, call to make a change by pronouncing it illegal [to harm] religions and their scriptures… As a secular country, Sweden regards religion as a kind of idea that can be criticized and even ridiculed, and the state is neutral regarding this issue. The [Swedish] Prime Minister expressed this position when he said that he opposed the act of burning of the Quran, but could not forbid it. This freedom applies to Muslims as well. Several days before the Quran-burning incident, young Muslims were given a permit to collect funds for the building of mosques, even though they publicly declared in their campaign that their goal was to build a mosque in every Swedish village and town!   

"In conclusion, we Muslims must remember these facts and data, so as to direct the fire of our anger wisely and deprive fools of the opportunity to create a rift that will be hard to mend [between the Muslims] and the Swedish society, which, like us, has a long history of noble human sentiments."


[1] Al-Ahram (Egypt), June 29, 2023. Ahmad Bin Hamad Khalili, the deputy secretary-general of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) and the Mufti of Oman, called to boycott Swedish products (, July 1, 2023), and Muhammad Al-Saghir, a member of the IUMS board of directors, published an article on the union's website calling to boycott Swedish products and also to expel the Swedish ambassadors from the Islamic countries (, July 3, 2023).  

[2] Al-Sharq (Qatar), July 2, 2023.

[3] Paludan is a Danish-Swedish politician and founder of the far-right Danish party Stram Kurs ("Hard Line"). Since founding  this party in 2017 he has staged several protests in Sweden in which he burned or attempted to burn the Quran, sparking furious counter-protests.

Share this Report:

Help Fight Extremism - Support MEMRI

MEMRI is a 501(c)3 organization. All donations are tax-deductible and kept strictly confidential.