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Denmark and Sweden are seeking to limit the burnings of the Koran and other holy books as the two Scandinavian countries face a growing diplomatic crisis.
The Danish and Swedish prime ministers spoke on Sunday to try to find ways of countering strong freedom of speech laws that have permitted repeated burnings of holy books. Muslim foreign ministers were due to hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the crisis under the auspices of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Five Korans were burnt on Sunday in front of foreign embassies in the Danish capital Copenhagen and another seven were due to be set alight on Monday, according to Denmark’s foreign minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen.
“We will find a legal tool that allows us to prevent the Koran burnings in front of foreign embassies,” Rasmussen said.
Swedish prime minister Ulf Kristersson added: “We share the same analysis: the situation is dangerous and measures are needed to strengthen our resilience.”
But in recent days the burnings have spread to Denmark and are close to sparking a full-blown diplomatic crisis between Muslim countries and the two Scandinavian nations. Multiple countries including Saudi Arabia and Israel summoned ambassadors from Denmark, Sweden or both at the end of last week to express their displeasure.
The Danish and Swedish governments have sought to distance themselves from the burnings but both countries have strong protection for freedom of speech. Swedish police have several times tried to use public order legislation to stop the burnings but have been overturned subsequently by court decisions that have stated the burnings are permitted unless there is an immediate security threat.
Sweden’s prime minister has used increasingly dramatic language to describe the crisis, accusing Russia and others of trying to spread disinformation about the burnings by falsely claiming that the government in Stockholm was behind the acts.
On Sunday, Kristersson warned: “We are currently in the most serious security situation since the second world war and, as for Sweden, we are aware that states and state-like actors are actively exploiting the situation.”
He added that the Swedish government had “started analysing the legal situation — including the Public Order Act — with the purpose of exploring the scope for measures that would strengthen our national security and the security of Swedes in Sweden and abroad”.
Following the storming of Sweden’s embassy in Iraq, Kristersson and other Swedish ministers warned of a growing terrorist threat against the country’s interests.
The Danish government sought again to distance itself from the burnings on Sunday night. It said: “The burnings are deeply offensive and reckless acts committed by few individuals. These few individuals do not represent the values the Danish society is built on. These actions play into the hands of extremists. They sow division at a time when we need to stand together.”