Ahmad A. who has been given permission by the police for a public gathering to burn a Torah and a Bible outside the Isaeli embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, is surrounded by journalists on July 15, 2023, after he chose not to burn the books but to hold a manifestation holding a Quran in his hand. Image Credit: AFP

STOCKHOLM: A 32-year-old man, who sparked condemnation from Israel for his plans to burn a Torah in Stockholm, on Saturday said he was not going to go ahead with his protest.

He explained that his intention was in fact to denounce those who burn sacred books such as the Quran in the Nordic country.

Swedish police on Friday said they had granted a permit for a protest which was to include a burning of the Torah and the Bible outside the Israeli embassy in Stockholm.

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog was one of several Israeli representatives and Jewish organisations to immediately condemn the decision.

Ahmad A., the organiser of the demonstration, explained that his aim actually was not to burn the holy books but to criticise the people who have burnt copies of Quran in Sweden in recent months, something that Swedish law does not prohibit.

“This is a response to the people who burn the Quran. I want to show that freedom of expression has limits that must be taken into account”, explained the Swedish resident of Syrian origin.

“I want to show that we have to respect each other, we live in the same society. If I burn the Torah, another the Bible, another the Quran, there will be war here. What I wanted to show is that it’s not right to do it,” he added.

In January, Swedish-Danish right-wing extremist Rasmus Paludan burned a Quran to denounce Sweden’s membership application to Nato and the negotiations with Turkey to allow Sweden to join the alliance.

On 28 June, an Iraqi refugee in Sweden burnt some pages of a copy of the Quran in front of Stockholm’s largest mosque during Eid Al Adha.

The two events triggered a series of condemnations in the Muslim world.

Although the Swedish police pointed out that permission to demonstrate was not a formal authorisation to burn a sacred book, there is no law prohibiting the burning of holy books.

But the police can refuse to allow a demonstration if it jeopardises the security or gives rise to acts or words that incite racial hatred.