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3000 Participate in Protest Against Koran Burnings in Stockholm

Around 3000 people gathered at the Medborgarplatsen in Stockholm on Sunday to protest the burning of a Koran that occurred at a nearby mosque last week. The act, condemned by Pope Francis, Turkish President Erdogan and the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has caused a stir both in Sweden and abroad.

Nazia Iqtidar and her family were among those attending the protest. Holding up a Koran and a placard, Nazia spoke out against the act of Islamophobia. “It’s about our religion,” she said. “Some say it is freedom of expression, but freedom of expression without responsibility can create a hateful atmosphere.” Mustafa Issa, an organizer of the protest, added that the burning of Korans is a hate speech that should not be allowed.

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Helge Pettersson and Nina Klingberg, who happened to be visiting from Västerås, also joined the demonstration. “There must be limits to what one is allowed to do in terms of freedom of expression,” said Nina Klingberg. Helge Pettersson added: “Books are meant to be read, not burned.”

In response to the protests, Islamic associations in Sweden have been discussing how Sweden’s laws work in regards to freedom of expression and incitement against ethnic groups. The Stockholm Mosque has held meetings to talk about protecting sacred symbols while Hudiksvall’s Islamic cultural association has urged members to spread the right information on social media about what has happened in Sweden and that it was an individual – not Sweden – who burned the Koran.

These protests have made it clear that acts such as burning Korans are not acceptable in Sweden, and that freedom of speech should be balanced with responsibility. As Mustafa Issa said: “We are fighting for all types of hatred and incitement against ethnic groups to be included in our legislation.”

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