Man convicted of inciting ethnic hatred by burning Quran in Sweden

The ruling is the first conviction for the crime in the country

A court in Sweden sets precedent by issuing a first conviction for inciting ethnic hatred through the public desecration of the Quran. AP
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A Swedish court convicted a man for inciting ethnic hatred by burning the Quran, a first such judgment in the country’s legal history.

In September 2020 the 27-year-old man posted a video on social media platforms, showing a Quran and bacon being burnt on a barbecue, an act accompanied by a derogatory remark regarding the Prophet Mohammed and music associated with far-right groups and linked to the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks.

The man’s actions were found by the court to be a targeted threat against Muslims rather than a criticism of Islam as a religion.

He was convicted of “agitation against an ethnic or national group” and handed a suspended sentence with a two-year probation period attached.

In delivering the verdict, the court clarified that the conviction was attributed to the intended threat against the Muslim community and not merely the act of burning the Quran.

The decision emphasises the delineation between the freedom of expression and acts aimed at inciting hatred or violence against specific ethnic or religious groups.

The Linkoping court said that the “film's content and the form of its publication are such that it is clear that the defendant's primary purpose could not have been other than to express threats and contempt”.

The man had denied any wrongdoing, arguing that his action was a criticism of Islam as a religion.

A series of Quran desecrations occurred in Sweden this year, leading to heightened terrorism alert levels and affecting Sweden’s diplomatic relations, including its application to join Nato.

The incidents prompted extensive discussions on legal provisions to prevent the public desecration of the Islamic holy book, aligning with national security considerations.

Updated: October 12, 2023, 2:23 PM