Riots erupt in EU country after Quran-burning protest

Swedish police said they were pelted with rocks and dozens of cars were set alight as violent clashes continued in the coastal city of Malmo on Monday, a day after the latest Quran-burning incident sparked angry protests in the country.

“I understand that a public gathering like this arouses strong emotions,” senior police officer Petra Stenkula said at a Monday news conference. “But we cannot tolerate disturbances and violent expressions like those we saw on Sunday afternoon.”

The riots began when Iraqi refugee Salwan Momika set a copy of the Quran on fire in Malmo’s predominantly immigrant Rosengard neighborhood, an area that has seen similar flashpoints in the recent past. At least 15 people were arrested during the initial incident, police said.

Early on Monday, a crowd of mostly Muslim youths angered by the desecration of the holy text set fire to debris and car tires in Rosengard, local media outlet DN reported. Some of those in the crowd also reportedly threw scooters and bicycles at police, while several cars were also burned in an underground parking garage in what police described as a “violent riot.”

“Regardless of the reason behind these riots, the car fires, the harassment, violence against police officers, … regardless of the reason, I think that all Swedes find this completely unacceptable,” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Krisersson told reporters on Monday.

Momika, a prominent anti-Islam activist who resides in the Swedish capital of Stockholm, has destroyed copies of the Quran in a series of protests recently. Police in the EU country have permitted the acts under its freedom of speech laws but have also stated that their move to allow the demonstration does not amount to an endorsement of Momika’s actions.

The spate of Quran-burning incidents in Sweden, as well as similar planned protests in its Nordic neighbor, Norway, have led to angry protests in several Muslim-majority countries.

Muslim leaders have called on Swedish lawmakers to implement measures to prevent further demonstrations seen as anti-Islam. While Stockholm says that it has no plans to reintroduce blasphemy laws, which were dropped in the 1970s, its government has said that it is investigating methods to reject protest permits for incidents that may lead to national security concerns.

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