Al-Azhar, one of the most respected institutions of Sunni Islam based in Egypt, on Wednesday called for “a boycott of Swedish and Dutch products” after far-right activists desecrated the Koran in Sweden and the United States this weekend.
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The Swedish-Danish right-wing extremist Rasmus Paludan burned a copy of the Koran on Saturday as part of a protest action approved by the Swedish police near the Turkish embassy.
On Sunday, a Dutch leader of the anti-Islamic movement Pegida was filmed alone tearing up pages from a copy of the Koran near the Dutch parliament before stamping on it.
However, according to Dutch public television NOS, local police prevented him from burning the Muslim holy book. These two events sparked violent protests from Ankara and several Muslim world capitals, as well as demonstrations in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In a statement, the Sunni institution called on “Muslims to boycott Dutch and Swedish products” and called for “an appropriate response from the governments of these two countries (…) and their persistence in protecting against heinous crimes and barbarians in the name of ‘free expression of opinion'”.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry issued statements “strongly condemning” the two acts, expressing its “deep concern at the repetition of such events and the recent Islamophobic escalation in a number of European countries”.
For its part, Stockholm regretted a “deeply disrespectful” act and expressed its “sympathy” to Muslims, stressing that the Swedish constitution prohibits banning this type of act.
This was not enough to calm the anger of Turkey, which was more determined than ever to block Sweden’s bid for NATO membership.
On Monday, Washington described the Koran burning as a “repugnant” act, denouncing a “provocation” and a “willful desire to influence ongoing discussions about Sweden and Finland joining NATO” and “weakening” transatlantic unity.
“I want to renew a working dialogue with Turkey,” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told a news conference on Tuesday, criticizing the “provocateurs” trying to destabilize Sweden’s candidacy and calling for “calm” in the face of Turkey’s “serious” Situation.