Far-right extremist burns Quran outside Danish mosque

Rasmus Paludan's actions have sparked protests across the Middle East

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A far-right extremist sparked fresh anger on Friday when he burnt a copy of the Quran outside a mosque in Denmark, streaming his stunt live on Facebook.

Loud music blared from inside the mosque in Copenhagen as anti-Islam activist Rasmus Paludan spoke outside, in an apparent attempt to drown out his words.

“This mosque has no place in Denmark,” said Mr Paludan, wearing a protective helmet and surrounded by riot police. The activist was later driven away in a police car.

Later, in front of the Turkish embassy, the Danish-Swedish activist said: “Once he [Erdogan] has let Sweden into Nato, I promise that I will not burn the Quran outside the Turkish embassy. Otherwise, I will do so every Friday at 2pm.”

Mr Paludan had performed the same stunt in Sweden last Saturday.

The politician has established far-right parties in both Sweden and Denmark that have failed to win any seats in national, regional or municipal elections. In last year’s parliamentary election in Sweden, his party received only 156 votes nationwide.

Before the protest on Friday, Turkey summoned Denmark's ambassador to condemn the planned actions of Mr Paludan who said he was protesting Ankara's refusal to let Sweden and Finland join Nato.

The ambassador was told that “Denmark’s attitude is unacceptable” and that Turkey expected that the permission be revoked, according to Anadolu.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry later issued a statement calling Paludan an “Islam-hating charlatan” and deploring the fact that he was allowed to stage the demonstration.

“Showing tolerance towards such heinous acts that offend the sensitivities of millions of people living in Europe threatens the practice of peaceful coexistence and provokes racist, xenophobic and anti-Muslim attacks,” the ministry said.

Denmark's Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen confirmed the ambassador had been summoned, and said his country enjoyed “good relations with Turkey, and this doesn't change that”.

“Our job is to explain to Turkey the conditions that prevail in Denmark with our open democracy, and make them understand that there is a difference between Denmark as a country — our people as a whole — and individuals who hold a wide range of views,” he told Danish television channel TV2.

Mr Paludan's actions have led to widespread protests across the world, including in Pakistan, Iraq and Lebanon.

In Pakistan's capital Islamabad, police officers stopped some demonstrators trying to march towards the Swedish Embassy.

In Beirut, about 200 angry protesters burnt the flags of Sweden and the Netherlands outside the blue-domed Mohammed Al-Amin mosque at Beirut’s central Martyrs Square.

Mr Paludan's actions were followed last 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 stomped on them.

Egypt’s top religious institution called on Muslims to boycott Swedish and Dutch products over the desecration of Islam’s holy book.

A decision by Swedish police to allow Mr Paludan to stage his protest in Stockholm last week prompted Turkey to postpone planned Nato accession talks with Sweden and Finland.

A Turkish diplomatic source said the Danish ambassador was summoned to protest against Denmark's “unacceptable” attitude towards Mr Paludan's actions.

“We strongly condemn the decision to grant permission for this provocative act, which clearly constitutes a hate crime,” the Turkish diplomatic source said.

Muslims across the region condemn burning of Quran in Sweden — in pictures

Swedish leaders have strongly condemned Mr Paludan's action but defended their country's broad acceptance of free speech.

Finland and Sweden broke with decades of military non-alignment and decided to join Nato in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Bids to join Nato must be approved by all 30 members of the alliance.

Turkey and fellow Nato member Hungary are the only members that have yet to ratify the two applications by votes in parliament.

Hungary's parliament is expected to ratify the two bids next month.

Updated: January 27, 2023, 5:22 PM