Jun 29, 2023, 2:05pm EDT

Why a Quran-burning protest could affect Sweden’s bid for NATO membership

TT News Agency/Stefan Jerrevang/via REUTERS

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The News

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed outrage at an approved demonstration involving the burning of a Quran outside a mosque in Stockholm, calling the act “an insult to the Muslim people.”

The burning of the sacred Islamic text attracted widespread condemnation, especially from Turkey, a NATO member state which has repeatedly pushed back on Sweden’s bid to join the security alliance.

“Those who seek to become our allies in NATO, cannot tolerate or enable destructive behaviors of Islamophobic and xenophobic terrorists,” Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish government’s Director of Communications said in a tweet Wednesday.

We’ve curated insights and analysis on what this latest controversial demonstration means for Sweden’s path to NATO membership.

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  • The prospects of Sweden’s accession to NATO are “close to zero,” according to Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Ankara has pressured Sweden to clamp down on the burning of the Quran, deeming such protests acts of terrorism. Although Sweden altered its counterterrorism laws last year to criminalize those who “engage in or support terrorism”, the country has still allowed protests to take place. — Al-Monitor
  • In neighboring Finland, the burning of the Quran is considered a violation of religious peace and a punishable offense — a decision that lawyers made when Finland was in consideration for NATO membership. Ali Bakeer, a political analyst at the Middle East Institute, tweeted that Sweden should follow Helsinki’s example. But in a separate tweet, Paul Levin, who heads the Turkish Studies program at Stockholm University, said that Turkey outlined what Sweden needed to do to attain membership to the security bloc, but did not mention anything about Quran burnings.
  • After a January protest in Sweden involving the burning of the Quran, the U.S. political analyst Andrew Korybko argued that the Swedish government’s defense of free speech perpetuated Islamophobia. “No sincere Muslim could ever support a society that praises the burning of the Quran as an integral expression of their so-called “values”, the same as no sincere Jew, for instance, could ever support the burning of the Torah,” he wrote in his newsletter.
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Know More

Sweden had high hopes of joining NATO by the alliance’s annual summit on July 11. But delays in Hungary’s parliamentary vote and Turkey’s continued hesitancy could further hinder Stockholm’s chances of joining.