US condemns burning of Quran in Sweden

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The United States on Thursday said it condemned the burning of a Quran outside a mosque in Sweden, but added that issuing the permit for the demonstration supported freedom of expression and was not an endorsement of the action.

A man tore up and burned a Quran outside Stockholm’s central mosque on Wednesday, the first day of Muslim Eid al Adha holidays, an action that angered Turkey whose backing Sweden needs to gain entry to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

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Speaking at a daily press briefing, State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said Washington believes the demonstration created “an environment of fear” that effectively curbs the ability of Muslims to practice their religion freely.

“I will say that we do condemn it,” Miller said.

“We believe the demonstration created an environment of fear that will impact the ability of Muslims and members of other religious minority groups from freely exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief in Sweden,” he added.

“We also believe that issuing the permit for this demonstration supports freedom of expression and is not an endorsement of the demonstration’s actions.”

Swedish police had granted permission for the anti-Quran protest to take place. But after the burning, police charged the man who carried it out with agitation against an ethnic or national group.

Sweden sought NATO membership in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. But alliance member Turkey has held up the process, accusing Sweden of harboring people it considers terrorists and demanding their extradition.

Miller declined to say whether the demonstration and its fallout would have an impact on Turkey-Sweden ties and therefore the latter’s NATO bid, but reiterated Washington’s position that the Nordic country was ready to join the alliance.

“It is time to move to full accession to NATO for Sweden,” he said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed Sweden over the burning of a Quran in Stockholm and said Turkey would never bow down to a policy of provocation or threat.

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