QURAN BURNING NOT PROTECTED BY LAW
International Progress Organization condemns anti-Islamic hate crime in front of Turkish Embassy in Stockholm
Vienna, 25 January 2023
In a statement issued today, the International Progress Organization rejected the position of the Swedish government according to which the public burning of the Holy Quran is an act of freedom of expression, protected under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. On the contrary, any incitement to hatred such as the burning of sacred texts requires penalties according to Paragraph 2 of Article 10 of the Convention. Instead of issuing an official permit and providing security for the commission of what was actually a hate crime against the worldwide community of Muslims, the Swedish government should have prevented this heinous act, in conformity with the country’s obligations as a State Party to the European Convention on Human Rights.
Sweden should also pay attention to Article 20(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which obliges all State Parties to prohibit, by law, “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”
The position of the Swedish government, arguing with “freedom of expression,” is also untenable in view of the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). In a ruling of 25 October 2018 (ECHR 360) concerning a case of an abusive attack on the Prophet of Islam, the European Court confirmed the conviction of a person who, with her statements, had violated the “right of others to have their religious feelings protected” and thus had threatened religious peace in Austria. The ECHR explicitly affirmed the right of a state to take “proportionate restrictive measures” against acts that “were likely to incite religious intolerance” and thus are “incompatible with respect for the freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”
The public burning of a copy of the Holy Quran in Stockholm by a fascist activist was an act of pure provocation and an extreme form of hate crime. By allowing this vile act, on the basis of a perverted notion of the freedom of expression, Sweden has violated her international legal obligations under the ECHR as well as the ICCPR.
The increasing number of cases of anti-Islamic book burnings in Europe is eerily reminiscent of the book burnings of the Nazi period, which accompanied and preceded racist violence against people in an escalation that led to the Second World War. Those who speak of “European values” lack all credibility if they do nothing to stop acts of fascist hatred in Europe, but defend – as exercise of their freedom of expression – the right of activists to burn the holy book of one of the great monotheistic religions. In the tense and volatile inter-cultural climate of today, such an attitude is not only morally and legally indefensible, but a recipe for an escalating clash of civilizations.
International Progress Organization
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