Egypt’s religious body calls for boycott of Swedish and Dutch goods over Quran burnings

Far-right activists damaged copies of the book in separate incidents at the weekend

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Egypt’s top religious institution has called on Muslims to boycott Swedish and Dutch products over the desecration of Islam’s holy book by far-right activists in Sweden and the Netherlands.

The call by Al Azhar, Egypt’s highest authority on Sunni Islam, is the latest in a series of reactions from the Muslim world over the incidents, which took place last weekend.

The incidents led Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to say on Monday that Sweden should not expect Turkey’s support for its membership application to Nato.

The furore comes after Sweden allowed Danish anti-Islam activist Rasmus Paludan to burn the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, on Saturday.

His actions were then followed on Sunday by more destruction when Edwin Wagensveld, the Dutch leader of the far-right Pegida movement, tore pages out of the Quran near the parliament in The Hague and stamped on them.

Al Azhar described the desecrations as an offence to Muslims and said a boycott of both countries would be an appropriate response to governments that protect “barbaric crimes under the inhuman and immoral banner they call freedom of expression”.

In Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore on Tuesday hundreds protested and condemned the desecration. Protests also took place in the two main Turkish cities, Istanbul and Ankara.

European countries have long defended the right to freedom of expression, although incitement to violence or hate speech is largely prohibited. Both Mr Paludan and Mr Wagensveld were granted permission by authorities for their protests.

On Wednesday, Iran added Mr Paludan to its sanctions list.

Mr Paludan, an anti-immigration politician who leads the Danish far-right political party Hard Line, burnt the Quran after a speech of almost an hour in which he denounced Islam.

The politician, who also holds Swedish citizenship, has held several demonstrations during which he has burnt the Quran.

Swedish leaders, including Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom, said the burning of the Quran was appalling.

“Sweden has a far-reaching freedom of expression but it does not imply that the Swedish government, or myself, support the opinions expressed,” Mr Billstrom said.

This week Turkey postponed Nato accession talks with Sweden and Finland, after its condemnation of Sweden for allowing the burning of the Quran.

Updated: January 26, 2023, 5:44 AM