Thousands of al-Sadr supporters protest in Baghdad over Quran burning

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Thousands of supporters of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr held a protest in front of the Swedish embassy in Baghdad on Friday to demand an end to diplomatic ties after a man set fire to a Quran outside a mosque in Stockholm.

Protesters carried portraits of al-Sadr and his father, also a prominent cleric, as well as Iraqi flags and chanted “yes, yes to the Quran, Muqtada, Muqtada.”

People burned large rainbow-colored flags representing the LGBT community after standing on them while verses from the Quran were recited in the background.

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There was no apparent link between the attack and the community but al-Sadr had urged his followers to keep burning the LGBT flag until the eighth day of the lunar month of Muharram because “it is what irritates them the most.”

He had called on Thursday for “mass angry protests against the Swedish embassy in Baghdad” and to demand the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador and the cutting of ties with Sweden.

Swedish police charged the man who burned the holy book with agitation against an ethnic or national group. In a newspaper interview, he described himself as an Iraqi refugee seeking to ban it.

Iraq’s foreign ministry summoned Sweden’s ambassador on Thursday, urging the Swedish government to hand the man over so he could be tried in accordance with Iraqi law.

While Swedish police have rejected several recent applications for anti-Quran demonstrations, courts have overruled those decisions, saying they infringed on freedom of speech.

In its permit for Wednesday's demonstration, Swedish police said that while it "may have foreign policy consequences", the security risks and consequences linked to a Quran burning were not of such a nature that the application should be rejected.

The governments of several Muslim countries, including Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Morocco have also issued protests about the incident. The United States also condemned it, but added that issuing the permit supported freedom of expression and was not an endorsement of the action.

Read more:

Iraqi protesters briefly breach Swedish embassy in Baghdad over burning of Quran

Sweden PM Kristersson urges calm after Quran burning protests

Man who burned Quran in Sweden says planning another burning within 10 days

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