Quran burning in Sweden: Freedom of expression cannot justify a crime

Published : Tuesday, 18 July, 2023 at 12:00 AM

Though the human are naturally peace-loving, the history of mankind is filled with thousands of violent incidents. Religion has been at the center of so many violence and atrocities as many groups or individuals tried to utilize religion as the weapons to serve their own interests. An Iraqi Christian immigrant in Sweden abused and burnt the Holy Quran, the religious book of the Muslims and the Swedish government allowed doing so in the name of freedom of speech or expression few weeks back. But such freedom can hurt the sentiments of billions of people and can intrigue severe violence. Hence, the governments of all countries should take extreme care in protecting human rights while safeguarding the emotions of the masses, especially when it is related to the religion.

Two men tore pages off a Quran and torched them outside a mosque on June 28 in Stockholm, Sweden. One of the men, SalwanMomika, who Swedish media identified as an immigrant from Iraq living in Sweden, stated in his application for the permit that he wanted to express his view about the Quran by tearing it up and burning it. After a Swedish court determined that prohibiting the rally would violate the right to “freedom of speech,” the police had issued a permit for it. The timing of the burning of the Quran-during the significant Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Adha-further incensed and hurt Muslims who were celebrating the occasion in several nations.

Following a similar event in which a far-right Danish-Swedish person burnt a copy of the holy book outside the Turkish Embassy in the Swedish capital in January, which further heightened tensions with Turkey, the Quran was vandalized in Stockholm. Since then, according to the Stockholm police, they have turned down two further requests to burn Qurans as a form of protest, and Sweden’s security services have expressed worry that such actions could compromise national security and represent a threat to overseas embassies. The police’s judgment was reversed by a Swedish court in April.

The Muslims’ holy book or scripture is the Holy Quran. It has a thorough religious philosophy and lays out for them the law and commandments as well as guidelines for their social and moral conduct. The Quran is written in Arabic. It is a collection of the verbal revelations that were made to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Sm) throughout a 23-year period. There are 114 chapters or surahs in the Quran, 6,236 ayats, 77,430 words, 18,994 unique words, 12,183 stems, 3,382 lemmas, and 1,685 roots. Beginning in 610 and continuing until Muhammad’s passing in 632 AD, the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in the West Arabian cities of Mecca and Medina by the angel Jibrail (As) at the command of Allah, the planet’s creator.

The Holy Quran is a book which came directly from Allah. The authenticity of the Quran was challenged by many but none could prove their claims. The Quran narrates many events thousands of years prior to the birth of Prophet Muhammad (Sm) including events before the creation of the earth and many events of the future including those after the destruction of the world as we know it. Prophet (Sm) was an unlettered man and it was not possible for Him to know or read about those facts narrated in the Quran.

Moreover, the language, rhythm and poetic beauty of the Quran cannot be from the world and especially it cannot be generated by an unschooled man. It also narrates the stories of all previous Prophets and all previous Holy books. The Quran is not only a guide book for the Muslims but also that for all men and all creatures. This Holy book depicts such facts which are still being proven and cannot be generated by any man so many years ago. Hence, the authenticity of the Quran cannot be questioned and the Quran must receive proper respect from everyone irrespective of their religion.
The teaching of the Holy Quran protects the right to religion as it allows everyone to perform their own religion. It also protects human rights and upholds the idea of women empowerment. For language differences, many might not completely realize these guidelines. But the Quran is a guideline for modern life focusing on peace and empathy. If a follower of Quran does not follow its principles properly, then that is not the fault of the Quran. It will be the fault of the follower only and none should disgrace the Quran for the misdeeds of certain person.

There are around 2 billion Muslims in the world who follow the instructions of the Holy Quran. Insulting the Quran will ignite hostile feelings inside them and it is very natural as such will happen with anyone from other religion if their Holy book is abused. Several hundred Iraqis demonstrated in front of the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad, and the foreign ministry of Iraq also denounced Sweden for permitting an extremist to burn a holy Quran. In addition to recalling its own ambassador to Sweden, Morocco summoned Sweden’s representative in Rabat and requested that he condemn the incident. Jordan also expressed its displeasure to Sweden’s ambassador.

Such vile and repetitive acts cannot be allowed with any justification, Saudi Arabia declared, while Egypt referred to the burning of the Quran as a disgusting act. The burning of a holy book when Muslims celebrated such a significant event, according to Malaysia’s foreign minister, is upsetting to Muslims all around the world. According to Turkish President RecepTayyipErdogan, insulting things that are revered by Muslims is not exercising one’s right to free speech. Nearly every Muslim-majority nation criticized the incident.

In the aftermath of a Quran-burning stunt in Sweden that sparked protests throughout the Muslim world, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has endorsed a resolution on religious hate and bigotry. The proposal was approved on July 12 despite opposition from the US and EU, who claimed it went against their stances on freedom of expression and human rights. The resolution, among other things, called on countries to take steps to prevent and prosecute acts and advocacy of religious hatred that constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. Sweden has condemned the Quran burning but maintains that the country has a constitutionally-protected right to freedom of assembly, expression and demonstration.

It is very unfortunate that the West meaning the US, UK and many other European nations felt that abusing the Quran is a form of freedom of expression. In reality, violating any religion cannot be the example of freedom of expression or human rights as the right to religion is protected by the constitution in almost all nations. Moreover, the West reacts when a minority group is vandalized at different corners of world, especially in Islamic States or in China. If burning Quran is justified in their eyes, they cannot protest those incidents. If freedom of expression is beyond everything, then genocides, killing in the name of religion or ethnicity, all sorts of crimes are also legal and justified as those are mere freedom of expression from someone’s point of view. The West should be careful about what they really vouch for. Hurting anyone’s religious sentiments cannot help them much.

The world is going through heavy divisions and wars at different corners for ideological differences. Incidents like burning Quran and subsequent reactions by the West will create more divisions in the world and may even lead to World War III. For the sake of the world and its inhabitants, such incidents must not be allowed against any religion. If the world leaders cannot think about everyone as a human and have neutral viewpoint over the believers of different religions, then they will not be able to do anything good for the world.

We hope, freedom of expression does not hurt anyone’s sentiment and belief. Hurting someone’s religion under the state sponsorship is the vilest work. If such things keep happening, then violence will follow and that is inevitable. We want peace and hope no religious values will be hurt in the name of freedom of expression and none will support such heinous acts. At the end of the day, humanity is all that matters.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Editor at Kishore Bangla

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