Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson Thursday expressed “deep concern” over the potential consequences if more demonstrations were to occur, during which copies of the Quran, the holy book of Muslims, were desecrated.
“There are a number of further requests for permission for desecration that have been made,” he told Swedish news agency TT.
“If they are granted, we are going to face some days where there is a clear risk of something serious happening. I am extremely worried about what it could lead to.”
Sweden on terrorism alert
In response to the heightened security situation following protests involving the desecration of the Quran, the Swedish government has taken action by directing 15 government agencies to enhance the country’s counterterrorism capabilities.
Consequently, tensions have escalated between Sweden and several Middle Eastern nations.
“Recent destructive events — in particular various demonstrative burnings — have increased the risks for Sweden,” Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said in a statement posted to Instagram.
“We have, according to the Swedish Security Service, gone from being what is called a legitimate target for terror attacks, to being a prioritised target,” he continued, noting that the situation was “very serious.”
As a result, 15 government agencies — including Sweden’s armed forces, several law enforcement agencies and the Swedish tax agency — had been tasked with “intensifying their work” under the leadership of the security service.
Speaking at a press conference, Justice Minister Gunnar Strommer said the work would seek to strengthen Sweden’s “ability to prevent, deter and impede terrorism and violent extremism.”
The announcement comes a day after Sweden’s government said the country had become the target of disinformation campaigns.
‘Swedish state does not condone Quran burnings’
The Swedish state does not sanction or condone Quran burnings but they are permitted by Swedish freedom of speech laws, Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said on Thursday.
“In some countries there is a perception that the Swedish state is behind or condone this. We don’t,” Billstrom told reporters.
“These are acts committed by individuals, but they do it within the framework of freedom of speech laws,” he said.
On Wednesday, Sweden accused Russia and other state-sponsored actors of spreading disinformation designed to harm Sweden’s reputation and damage the Nordic country’s bid to join NATO.
Billstrom said he had been in touch with the foreign ministers of Iran, Iraq, Algeria and Lebanon among others as well as the United Nations secretary-general.
“And just now I will speak to the secretary-general for the Organisation of Islamic Countries,” Billstrom said.
“We will discuss these issues and it’s important to stress that this is a long-term issue, there are no quick fixes,” he said.
Sweden has seen several protests in recent weeks where copies of the Quran have been damaged or burned, causing outrage among Muslims.