Putin says Russia does not reject talks with Ukraine

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - STOCKHOLM: The Swedish migration agency has said it is re-examining the residency permit of an Iraqi refugee who is behind several acts of Quran desecration in Stockholm in recent weeks, which have upset Muslims across the world.

An Iraqi refugee by the name of Salwan Momika burned a copy of the Qur’an outside Stockholm's central mosque on Eid Al-Adha (June 28) and also held a demonstration in front of the Iraqi Embassy earlier this month, where he threatened to burn the Muslim holy book once again.

The migration agency said late on Friday that it was re-examining the man’s immigration status, after it received information from the Swedish authorities that had given it reason to examine whether the man’s status in Sweden should be revoked.

“It is a statutory measure that is taken when the Swedish migration agency receives such information and it is too early to say anything about the outcome of the case,” a spokesperson for the agency said in a statement to Reuters news agency, adding it was unable to comment further due to confidentiality.

According to the Swedish news agency TT, the man has a temporary residency permit in Sweden that is set to expire in 2024.

Sweden has found itself in the international spotlight in recent weeks following protests where copies of the Qur’an have been damaged and burned.

Attacks on the Qur’an in Sweden and Denmark in the past weeks have offended many Muslim countries including Turkey, whose backing Sweden needs to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Stockholm police have also received applications for demonstrations that included burning other religious books, prompting many to criticize Sweden.

Swedish courts have ruled that police cannot stop burnings of holy scriptures, but Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson’s government said earlier in July it would examine if there was reason to change the Public Order Act to make it possible for police to stop Qur’an burnings.

Salwan Momika, an Iraqi refugee in Sweden, carried out his protest in Stockholm as Muslims worldwide marked the Eid Al-Adha holiday on June 28. (AFP/File Photo)

Earlier, Kristersson confirmed the police had received several permit applications for the burning of religious texts in the country next week, and that he feared this might escalate tensions further with the Muslim world.

In his first public comments since the start of the crisis that has severely strained Stockholm’s ties with Muslim nations, Kristersson told Swedish news agency TT on Thursday that he was “extremely concerned” about a new wave of desecrations.

“It’s the police that make those decisions, not me. If they (permits) are granted, we face a number of days with the obvious risk of serious things happening,” Kristersson told TT.

A recent string of public Qur’an desecrations by a handful of anti-Islam activists in Sweden — and more recently in neighboring Denmark — has sparked angry demonstrations in Muslim countries.

The Swedish Security Service said on Wednesday that Sweden’s image among Muslim nations and its security situation have deteriorated after the recent Qur’an burnings, and that it could face threats from “within the violent Islamist milieu.”

Foreign Minister Tobias Billström and security service representatives appeared before Swedish Parliament’s foreign affairs committee on Thursday to discuss the Qur’an burning crisis, at the request of the opposition Social Democratic Party.

After the meeting, Billström told TT that the situation was serious but that there was no “quick fix” to cool down the anti-Swedish mood in the Muslim world.

“Our primary and most important task is to protect Swedish interests and the safety of Swedes both here and abroad,” Billström was quoted by TT. “We should take the developments that are now underway very seriously; everyone in our country should do so.”

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has called an emergency remote meeting on July 31 at the ministerial level to discuss the Qur’an burnings in Sweden and Denmark.

* With Reuters and Associated Press

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