We don't demolish places of worship, says Swedish PM after mosque ban proposed

Government ally Jimmie Akesson wants to ban new mosques and tear down existing ones

Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson was compelled to rule out proposals by Sweden Democrats regarding the banning of mosques. EPA
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Sweden’s Prime Minister has insisted “we do not demolish places of worship” after a far-right politician proposed a ban on new mosques and the tearing down of existing ones.

Ulf Kristersson made the comments after the call by Jimmie Akesson, leader of the country’s far-right Sweden Democrats and a government ally. The Sweden Democrats party is not a full member of the ruling coalition but work as a co-operating partner, agreeing to help shape policy in exchange for backing in parliament.

"In the long term, we should start seizing and demolishing mosques where anti-democratic, anti-Swedish, homophobic and anti-Semitic propaganda is generating from," said Mr Akesson at the weekend. He also said the building of new mosques should not be allowed.

Mr Kristersson has dismissed the suggestion, telling Swedish news agency TT: "In Sweden, we do not demolish places of worship."

Michael Sahlin, Sweden's former ambassador to Turkey, warned Mr Akesson's remarks could complicate the country’s Nato membership bid, which has already run into problems.

Sweden and Finland requested to join Nato in May last year, only months after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised objections at the time over what he said was the Nordic nations' protection of those who Turkey deems terrorists, as well as their defence trade embargoes.

Turkey eventually endorsed Finland's bid in April but has kept Sweden waiting, demanding it takes more steps to rein in members of the Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK), considered a terrorist group by the EU and the US.

In response, Stockholm introduced a bill that makes membership of a terrorist organisation illegal, while also lifting arms export restrictions on Turkey. It said it has upheld its part of a deal signed last year.

The bill must be approved by the Turkish foreign affairs commission before being put to a full parliamentary vote, which could come days or weeks later.

Turkey recently informed Nato the ratification of Sweden's membership bid will not come in time to allow for the country's accession ceremony at a meeting of alliance foreign ministers this week.

"Turkey already knew that Sweden Democrats said problematic things in the past but its leader talking about demolishing mosques is very extreme and unfortunate," Mr Sahlin told Swedish broadcaster SVT. "Akesson's remarks brought a different burden to Sweden's membership to Nato."

Updated: November 27, 2023, 11:08 AM