The burning of a copy of the Holy Qur’an in front of the Grand Mosque in Stockholm was not the first such incident in Sweden and it is unlikely to be the last. In January, for example, a Dutch man burned a copy of the Holy Book in front of the Turkish Embassy in the Swedish capital, in protest at Turkiye’s rejection of Sweden’s accession to NATO. This sparked a wave of anger among Muslims all over the world and prompted Turkiye to stick to its position on the issue of Sweden’s membership of NATO.
This latest attack on Muslim sanctities occurred on the day of Eid Al-Adha, the major Muslim holiday, with the approval of the country’s president and legal backing from the courts. Police officers protected the criminal responsible.
His name is Salwan Momika, a Swedish citizen of Iraqi origin. Momika is a member of the Sweden Democrats party, and the Syriac Democratic Union Party, as well as the Hawks Syriac Forces, a Christian brigade of extremists founded in 2016 after splitting from the Babylon Brigades led by Rayan Al-Kildani. These brigades fight in the ranks of the Popular Mobilisation Forces in Iraq, and are accused of committing human rights violations as well as stealing civilian homes in the Iraqi province of Nineveh.
Criminal acts and insults against Muslims and Islam are no longer newsworthy in Europe. From the notorious Charlie Hebdo cartoons in France to arson attacks on mosques and opening fire at worshippers, such incidents have taken place in Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, among other places.
This indicates a dangerous development in the relationship between the West and Muslim-majority countries, whose governments were content with merely issuing statements of condemnation about this latest attack, and nothing more. No Swedish ambassadors were summoned to send a message to their governments about the Qur’an burning, let alone declared to be persona non grata. Relations with Sweden weren’t severed — I am not getting carried away in my dreams — because of the Arab leaders’ weakness despite holding many strong cards that would allow them to deal a harsh blow to Sweden. They could boycott Swedish products, for example, which would cost the Nordic country around $20 billion is lost exports; the Swedish economy depends heavily on trade and investment with Arab and Muslim countries. The economy is already weak at the moment, so provoking the Muslim nations could have prompted a damaging backlash. But it hasn’t happened. The Arab leaders simply don’t care.
Europe’s hatred of Islam has been deep rooted since the Middle Ages, throughout the fall of Andalusia and the Crusades, all the way to colonialism and the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. When Europe had achieved what it wanted, it continued to plot against Islam and its people through the education system and discriminatory laws targeting Muslim communities across the continent. The resurgence of right-wing politics has introduced the kind of fascist rhetoric against which Europeans fought and died in World War Two. An aggressive racism is now prevalent in many countries, especially those which support the Zionist state of Israel, planted in the heart of the Muslim world as a “bastion of European civilisation in a sea of barbarism”. All of this is well documented.
It is absurd for Western governments to defend the vicious racists who insult the sanctities of Muslims and grant them legal cover in the guise of “freedom of speech”, when similar criticism, abuse or attacks on the Holocaust are punishable by imprisonment. No freedom of speech or opinion takes precedence when that happens. Unlike the Muslims, Jews in Europe and elsewhere are protected by the law in what is fast becoming a one-eyed society without a conscience.
The strength of racist trends in European politics, turning them into popular currents, is reflected in the laws of European countries and thus their judiciaries. It is ironic that these countries use the slogans of democracy, freedom and secularism to deny minorities equal rights. “Liberty, equality, fraternity” applies to everyone in France, apart from Muslims and their faith.
That is why I believe that the Islamic world must have a clear strategy to resist this Western hostility against Muslims and Islam. Political and economic interests must not take priority, because we are facing people and governments whose hostility stems from pernicious ideologies, whether global Zionism or racist, far-right Christian Evangelism. Freedom of speech is being used in the West to cover attacks against Islam and Muslims; it is time to take this assault on our sensibilities and sanctities seriously
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.