Woman with fire extinguisher interrupts Quran desecration protest in Sweden

Police detain unnamed woman on suspicion of disturbing public order and violence against a police officer

A police officer on a Segway patrols the area near Sweden's Riksdagen in Stockholm. AP
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Swedish police detained a woman on Friday who sprayed an anti-Islam activist with a fire extinguisher as he staged a Quran-burning protest outside the Iranian embassy in Stockholm.

Video of the scene showed the woman rushing up to Salwan Momika and spraying white powder towards him before she was intercepted by plainclothes police officers, who led her away.

Mr Momika, who appeared stunned but unhurt, then resumed his demonstration, which had been authorised by police.

Police spokeswoman Towe Hagg said the woman, who was not identified by police, was detained on suspicion of disturbing public order and violence against a police officer.

Mr Momika, a refugee from Iraq, has desecrated the Quran in a series of anti-Islam protests that have caused anger in many Muslim countries. Swedish police have allowed his demonstrations, citing freedom of speech while filing preliminary hate speech charges against him.

The Quran-burnings have sparked angry protests in Muslim countries, attacks on Swedish diplomatic missions and threats from Islamic extremists.

Sweden on Thursday raised its terror alert to the second-highest level, saying the country had become a priority target for terrorist groups.

The move comes as Stockholm is considering changing the Public Order Act to make it possible for police to deny permission for acts such as burning the Quran

Minister of Justice Gunnar Strommer said on Friday he would appoint a commission to look into giving police wider powers to deny acts such as Quran burnings.

“Of course, general international dissatisfaction or vague threat should not be enough – it must be about serious and qualified threats,” Mr Strommer told a news conference.

He added it could give police the power to select a different location for a protest or to dissolve it.

Earlier on Friday, the government said it had tightened security at embassies and other missions due to an increase in threats against Swedish interests abroad.

Sweden's Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom told TT that Sweden has increased security at embassies and other missions, without giving detail for security reasons.

“But the safety of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' staff is the highest priority,” he said. He added that the safety of families of diplomats and local staff was also taken into account.

“So there are different categories that are affected by this security work that is now being intensified,” Mr Billstrom said.

Updated: August 18, 2023, 7:57 PM