Hundreds protest Quran burning in Sweden

Public outcry: Demonstrators gathering outside the Swedish Embassy in Jakarta to protest the burning of the Quran in Sweden. — AFP

HUNDREDS of Indonesian Muslims marched to the heavily guarded Swedish Embassy in the country’s capital to denounce the recent desecration of Islam’s holy book by far-right activists in Sweden and the Netherlands.

Waving white flags bearing the Islamic declaration of faith, more than 300 demonstrators filled a major thoroughfare in downtown Jakarta and trampled and set on fire portraits of Danish anti-Islam activist Rasmus Paludan along with the flags of Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands yesterday.

Authorities blocked streets leading to the embassy, where over 200 police and soldiers were deployed in and around the building that was barricaded with razor wire.

Earlier this month, Paludan received permission from police to stage a protest outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm, where on Jan 21 he burned a copy of the Quran.

Days later, Edwin Wagensveld, Dutch leader of the far-right Pegida movement in the Netherlands, tore pages out of a copy of the Quran near the Dutch Parliament and stomped on them.

It angered millions of Muslims around the world and triggered protests, including in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Protesters in Jakarta chanted “God is Great” and “Get out, Swedish embassy!”

The Indonesian government has strongly condemned the act by Paludan and summoned Swedish Ambassador Marina Berg last week, said Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah.

“This act of blasphemy has hurt and tarnished religious tolerance,” the ministry said on Jan 22.

“Freedom of expression must be exercised in a responsible manner.”

The Swedish Embassy in Jakarta said “the Islamophobic act committed by a far-right extremist in Sweden is strongly rejected by the Swedish government”.

“This act does not in any way reflect the opinions of the Swedish government,” the statement said. — AP

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