In Fisksatra, a quiet suburb in the Nacka municipality just outside Stockholm, Muslims and Christians have coexisted peacefully for years.
Together, they have held “peace prayers,” organized cultural festivals, and even planned to establish their houses of worship next to one another.
That spirit has been put to the test by the recent wave of attacks on the Muslim holy book in Sweden, but the people of Fisksatra are determined to overcome the challenge together.
In July, members of the Muslim and Christian communities of Fisksatra stood side by side at the Medborgarplatsen square in Stockholm to protest the desecration of the Quran.
Among those who turned out for the show of solidarity was Carl Dahlback, vicar of the Nacka community parish of the Church of Sweden.
“It was touching. Many Muslims came to me and thanked me for participating in a protest against the burning of the Quran. They wanted to take pictures with me,” he told Anadolu in a video interview.
The Islamic Cultural Circle of Sweden (ICC), a Stockholm-based Muslim organization, said the demonstration was the biggest such protest held so far and gave people a peaceful way to express their views.
Outreach for peace
The ICC is planning several activities to raise awareness about Islam and its holy book.
For these, the Muslim and Christian communities of Fisksatra will be collaborating, according to Mohammad Aqib, an ICC official.
“We will organize a program in the church, where there will be prayers and Quran recitations,” he told Anadolu.
The group will also distribute copies of the Quran with Swedish translation, along with educational videos on social media platforms about the holy book.
It also wants to call in a leading Muslim scholar from Saudi Arabia to hold recitations of the Quran at major squares across Sweden.
The repeated attacks on the Quran in Sweden and neighboring Denmark have drawn fierce condemnation from Muslims around the world and calls for measures to stop such acts.
In late July, Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said he was in “close dialogue” with his Danish counterpart Mette Frederiksen, adding that both countries recognize that “the situation is dangerous and measures are needed to strengthen our resilience.”
Kristersson said his government would look into ways to address the issue, but ruled out any sweeping changes to Sweden’s freedom of expression laws.
Dahlback, a reverend for more than three decades, said the individuals desecrating the Quran are troublemakers who want to create problems and hurt people.
He said these acts are a form of hate speech, adding that while it is against Muslims today, it is also prevalent against Jews and Christians.
“Stop doing this. Come and talk with us,” he appealed to those engaged in these acts, stressing that burning the Quran is a terrible way of exercising a person’s freedom of expression.
In Aqib’s view, the attacks are more about individuals seeking attention and popularity, rather than a hatred of Islam and Muslims.
He also believes these people are being backed and egged on by far-right political groups.
Dahlback feels such incidents will continue, but was optimistic about positive changes in the future since “no one wants troublemakers to rule the world.”
He feels that existing laws in Sweden could be enough to prevent more such attacks.
“Many people think that it is possible to use the law we have today to forbid this … burning of the Quran,” he said.
A new law which explicitly deals with burning of scriptures is not necessary, as the existing one should be used to interpret this as hate speech against religious groups to stop such incidents, he added.
However, Aqib, the ICC official, said changes to the current law are necessary to ensure there is no space to abuse religions or religious books under the guise of freedom of expression.
“The existing law should be amended so that there are no provisions left that let people disrespect Islam or any other religion,” he told Anadolu, warning that such actions spread hatred in society and could cause wider unrest.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.