Organizers of protests in Baghdad and Basra suggested defacing the Pride banner instead
Protesters gathered outside the Swedish embassy in Baghdad on Friday chose to express their fury by trampling on the Rainbow Pride flag and photos of the Iraqi who torched the Koran earlier this week. They refrained from setting fire to the Swedish flag or breaching the embassy on the request of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who organized the demonstrations.
Several hundred police guarded the embassy and the surrounding compounds on Friday from the crowd, which carried the Muslim holy books and chanted anti-LGBTQ slogans.
“No to homosexuality, yes to the Koran,” chanted the demonstrators, according to AFP.
Earlier in the day, the Baghdad news portal Al-Yaum quoted al-Sadr’s instructions forbidding the protesters from storming the embassy again or carrying any banners endorsing political parties, militias, or specific figures.
“It is not allowed to publicly burn the flag of the Kingdom of Sweden,” Sadr’s instructions reportedly said. “As an alternative, burn the flag of the LGBT community.”
This comes after the incident on Thursday, when a group of protesters broke into the Swedish embassy compound and desecrated the Nordic country’s flag, demanding the expulsion of its ambassador. After the influential Shia cleric intervened, the protesters dispersed within 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, Swedish ambassador Jessica Svardstrom was summoned to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry to receive a strong protest over Stockholm’s decision to allow an Iraqi immigrant to burn the Koran in public.
Salwan Momika, 37, stomped on the Muslim holy book, placed a strip of bacon on it, tore out several pages and set them ablaze on Stockholm’s Medborjarplatsen on Wednesday. The stunt coincided with the feast of Eid Al-Adha, as more than 1.8 million Muslims completed their pilgrimage to Mecca, known as the Hajj.
On Thursday, Momika told the Swedish newspaper Expressen that he intends to burn the Koran again, along with the Iraqi flag outside the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm “within ten days.” Baghdad has requested his extradition to Iraq to face charges for the stunt.
Momika had secured a police permit for his public performance, but the government in Stockholm has since attempted to disavow him. Türkiye has cited previous Koran burnings – among other things – to hold up Sweden’s application to become a member of NATO.
“This is a serious security question. There’s no need to insult other people,” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said on Friday.
Russia has condemned Momika’s stunt as an “act of vandalism” promoting religious hatred. “The desecration of sacred items has nothing to do with freedom of speech and religion, and with the principles of democracy,” the State Duma said in a statement.
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