Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the Swedish government after a decision by Stockholm police to allow the Bible and Torah to be burned during a protest outside the Israeli Embassy.
“The sacred books of all religions must be respected,” he told news outlets. “I strongly condemn the decision of the authorities in Sweden to allow the burning of a Bible book in front of the Israeli embassy in the country. The state of Israel takes very seriously this shameful decision that damages the holy of holies of the Jewish people.”
Other top Israeli officials “unequivocally” condemned the permissions granted during the planned protests, including Israeli President Issac Herzog, who said, “As the president of the state of Israel, I condemned the burning of the Quran, sacred to the Muslim world, and I am now heartbroken that the same fate awaits a Jewish Bible, the eternal book of the Jewish people. Permitting the defacement of sacred texts is not an exercise in freedom of expression; it is blatant incitement and an act of pure hate. The whole world must join together in clearly condemning this repulsive act.”
The decision by Stockholm police came just weeks after Sweden faced backlash when the Quran was burned in anti-Islam protests outside a Stockholm mosque by an Iraqi immigrant late last month. Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Eli Cohen apparently spoke with Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, Ziv Nevo Kulman, to discuss what steps have been taken to prevent the burning of the holy books.
The Muslim activist and immigrant from Syria has since backed down after widespread criticism. Ahmad Alush, arrived at the embassy armed only with a Quran and said it was not his intention to actually burn the books.
“Burning a Torah scroll is a crime of hate, provocation and serious harm to the Jewish people and tradition,” he said. “I call on the authorities in Sweden to prevent this despicable event and not to allow the burning of a Torah scroll.”
Cohen said the Israeli ambassador had spoken with his Swedish counterpart and “explained to him the seriousness with which Israel views the police’s original approval of damage to the sacred sites of Judaism.”
“There is a difference between freedom of expression and insulting ethnic groups,” Alush said. “Burning the Quran and other religious books should be considered a hate crime. I obtained permission from the police for the act of burning the Torah and the Bible to draw attention to this. I have absolutely no intention of burning any religious book.”
–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice