newsWorld News

Swedish Jewish leader opposes ban on Bible burning

After Muslim backlash, Stockholm mulls passing a law to protect religious scriptures.

Libertarian Rasmus Paludan burns a translation of the Koran during a demonstration outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. Jan. 21, 2023. Photo by Tobias Hellstren via Wikimedia Commons.
Libertarian Rasmus Paludan burns a translation of the Koran during a demonstration outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. Jan. 21, 2023. Photo by Tobias Hellstren via Wikimedia Commons.

The head of the Swedish Jewish community has come out against an outright ban on burning holy books even as a majority of Swedes favor such legislation.

The remarks were made as the Swedish government is considering changing the law to allow police to stop Koran burnings in public, in the wake of the damage to the country’s internal security triggered by such recent action.

In reaction to the Koran vandalism, an activist is planning to burn a Torah book and a Christian Bible outside the Israeli embassy in Stockholm.

“Many people outside Sweden have difficulty in understanding why this is allowed at all,” said Aron Verstandig, chairman of the Council of Swedish Jewish Communities. “In Sweden we have a very wide freedom of expression and demonstration. That’s good, not least for those of us who belong to a minority. It gives us strong protection to state our views even when they conflict with the opinion of the majority.”

He opined that while such actions against scriptures are both “abominable” and proscribed by Jewish law, the reintroduction of “ancient bans” was not the way forward, and instead proposed criminalizing the hate speech that often happens concomitantly.

The arson, which has been widely condemned, pits the wide-ranging freedom of speech against respect for religious minorities and public safety in the highly secular Scandinavian country. Many are concerned that the actions of a few could throw the country into the sort of turmoil that befell neighboring Denmark following caricatures published depicting the Prophet Muhammed.

A majority of Swedes support a ban on the public burning of religious texts such as the Koran or the Bible, according to a new survey conducted on behalf of national television broadcaster Sveriges Television (SVT).

Fifty-three percent of respondents said that burning holy scriptures of any religion in public should be prohibited, while 34% answered that it should be allowed, and 13% were undecided.

The request to burn the Torah and the Christian Bible outside the embassy on July 15, and a separate request to set another Koran on fire, are still under review by police.

Previous police rejections of such petitions had been overturned by the courts.

Sweden’s Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer said Thursday that the government is considering whether the law needs to be changed to allow the police to deny such requests.

“We have to ask ourselves whether the current order is good or whether there is reason to reconsider it,” Strömmer told the Aftonbladet newpaper.

The burning of a Koran outside the Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque, commonly known as the Stockholm Mosque or the Stockholm Grand Mosque, sparked a backlash across the Islamic world.

The security threats coupled with a delicate diplomatic dance with Sweden awaiting Turkey’s approval to join NATO led to the government’s announcement that it was considering changing the law.

Strömmer noted that Sweden had become a “prioritized target” for attacks.

“We can see that the Koran burning last week has generated threats to our internal security,” he said.

You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war. JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you. The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support? Every contribution, big or small, helps remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates