Swedish activist backs off Bible burning in Stockholm

Swedish national Ahmed Alloush says he never planned to go through with the burning of holy Jewish texts and wanted to make sure authorities weren't selectively enforcing laws

Zeev Avrahami, Stockholm|
Ahmed Alloush in front of the Israeli embassy in Stockholm
(Video: Zeev Avrahami)

A gathering was held in front of the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm on Saturday), during which Ahmed Alloush, a 32-year-old Swedish national, planned to burn Torah and Bible books but didn't go through with his plan.
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Swedish police approved Alloush’s request "so that the applicant can express his opinions," a move that was condemned by Israeli leaders, senior officials in Israel, and rabbis. Alloush arrived with a bag containing a Quran and a lighter, but didn’t burn any books during the gathering.
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מול שגרירות ישראל בשבדיה: נערכים להצית ספר תורה
מול שגרירות ישראל בשבדיה: נערכים להצית ספר תורה
Ahmed Alloush in front of the Israeli embassy in Stockholm
(Photo: Zeev Avrahami)
Alloush submitted the request to burn the holy books in response to the Quran burning in front of a major mosque in the Swedish capital two weeks ago, an incident that sparked a backlash in Sweden by the Muslim world.
The Swedes themselves didn’t show much interest in Alloush’s intent to burn the books and the gathering was mainly attended by journalists. Some Muslim citizens asked him to refrain from burning the books. In his appeal for the book burning, Alloush wrote that he decided to do it "in response to the burning of the Quran."
In front of the Israeli embassy, Alloush explained that he wanted to ensure that Swedish authorities weren’t selectively enforcing laws regarding the burning of religious texts, referring to the Quran burning incident.
"It’s not antisemitic or a hate crime," he said to those present. Swedish police said they didn’t inquire into Alloush’s possible motives due to Sweden’s right to free speech.
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מול שגרירות ישראל בשבדיה: נערכים להצית ספר תורה
מול שגרירות ישראל בשבדיה: נערכים להצית ספר תורה
Ahmed Alloush
(Photo: Zeev Avrahami)
The right to public demonstrations in Sweden is protected by its constitution. The police grant permission for gatherings to congregate as long as there is no threat to public security and the event can be conducted without major disruptions.
"We do not give permission for different actions. We give permission to hold a public meeting! That’s an important difference.” The police told the Associated Press news agency.
Prior to the event, President Isaac Herzog condemned Sweden’s decision to allow the book burnings. "I unequivocally condemn the permission granted in Sweden to burn holy books. As the President of the State of Israel, I condemned the burning of the Quran, sacred to Muslims world over, and I am now heartbroken that the same fate awaits a Jewish Bible, the eternal book of the Jewish people.”
"I strongly condemn the decision of the Swedish authorities to allow the burning of a Hebrew Bible in front of the Israeli Embassy in [Stockholm]," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted.
Former prime minister Naftali Bennett said that “Burning a Jewish Bible expresses hatred and incitement, not freedom of expression. As an Israeli, as a Jew, as a human being, I call you: do not burn the Torah."
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פעיל במהלך הפגנה שבה הצית שרף קוראן מולך מסגד ב שטוקהולם שבדיה
פעיל במהלך הפגנה שבה הצית שרף קוראן מולך מסגד ב שטוקהולם שבדיה
A Swedish activist desecrates a Quran in front of mosque in Stockholm
(Photo: AFP)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir also joined the calls against the burning of sacred books in Sweden, and asked Foreign Minister Eli Cohen to use his authority in front of Sweden, “Who is facing radical Islam which is threatening to take over its country.”
Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef sent a letter addressed to Sweden's King Carl Gustaf XVI, urging him to intervene and put an end to the book burning.
"I implore Your Majesty to intervene in this matter and prevent such an act from taking place. I must emphasize that our protest is not confined solely to the burning of the Holy Bible. We also vehemently condemn the recent act of burning the Quran in front of a mosque.”
Last week, Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism Minister Amichai Chikli appealed to Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in a letter, requesting that he intervene to prevent the burning of the Bible, which he equated to Nazi book burnings.
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עמיחי שיקלי בכנס AJC
עמיחי שיקלי בכנס AJC
Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli
(Photo: Motti Kimchi)
However, the Swedish government did not intervene in the matter and Kristersson himself declared before the Quran burning incident that he would leave the decisions regarding such matters to the law enforcement authorities.
"In Sweden, there is a constitutional right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom to demonstrate. Decisions to allow for demonstrations are taken independently by the Policy Authority,” Kristersson said.
The Swedish Government deeply regrets when extremists and provocateurs try to sow division in our society, even when they are exercising constitutionally protected acts. The Government fully understands that people of various faiths are deeply offended by burning of Holy Books."
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