On January 21st, 2023 a Swedish anti-NATO activist executed a planned and government-approved demonstration which included burning a Quran. Turkish officials and President Erdogan himself responses harshly, effectively communicating that Turkey would not vote Sweden into NATO. Two days ago, a similar demonstration was planned, but the Swedish government denied the permit.
However, this has not culled the backlash in the Muslim world. That backlash has culminated in an announcement made today in al-Qaeda channels across Telegram and Rocketchat which have called for Swedish Muslims to carry out attacks. In the publication One World, a monthly newspaper from al-Qaeda, the authors urge brothers to use whatever means available to kill non-believers in Sweden. Other unrelated messages include a reflection that the U.S. is retreating from global leadership and condemnations of Qatar for spending money on the World Cup.
According to the Guardian, the initial burning was carried out by a far-right Swedish national, Rasmus Paludan, a dual Danish-Swedish national. However, the permit was paid for by a journalist with ties to the Kremlin and Russian state-owned media. The account reads below:
“Swedish media have reported that Paludan’s demonstration permit of 320 Swedish krona (£25, $31) was paid for by a former contributor to the Kremlin-backed channel RT, Chang Frick, who now does regular media spots for the far-right Sweden Democrats. Frick has confirmed he paid for the permit to hold the protest, but denied he had asked anyone to burn the Muslim holy book.”
This call for violence and the potential blocking of a NATO vote may cause Swedish authorities to further restrict demonstration rights of their citizens in the coming week.