ISLAMABAD, JUL 7: Rallies were organised across the country on Friday to protest of the desecration of the Holy Quran in Sweden as the nation observed “Youm-i-Taqaddus-i-Quran” (Quran Sanctity Day).
Last week, a man had desecrated the Holy Quran in Sweden’s capital Stockholm, resulting in strong condemnation from several Muslim states, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the European Union, Pope Francis and the Swedish government, among others.
Earlier this week, a joint session of Parliament had passed a resolution urging Sweden to take “appropriate steps” against the perpetrators involved while the government had designated today as Yaum-i-Taqaddus-i-Quran to express outrage over the incident.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had also on the nation to record their protest. Meanwhile, protests have been taking place in the country during the past week, including by political parties, lawyers and the Christian community.
Rallies were held in major cities after Friday prayers with citizens expressing their anger at the incident in Sweden.
Religious organisations and members of civil society staged a demonstration outside the Quetta Press Club. On the occasion, protesters said that the desecration of the Holy Quran in Sweden had hurt the sentiments of Muslims across the world. They also called on the government to summon the Swedish envoy to record Pakistan’s strong protest.
Another rally was also organised in Chagai and Dera Bugti, where protesters carried placards and chanted slogans.
In Lahore, Jamaat-i-Islami’s Ziauddin Ansari addressed a rally and said that the ruling coalition had only passed a resolution in the National Assembly condemning the incident. He called on the government to call a meeting of the OIC and to expel the Swedish envoy from the country. He also told participants to boycott Swedish products.
Rallies were also taken out in parts of Karachi, including Bolton Market, main M. A. Jinnah Road and Dawood Chowrangi, disrupting traffic in the city. According to AFP, about 3,000 supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) marched for kilometres.
Meanwhile, Swedish flags were burned during a rally at Islamabad’s Sitara Market.
“The Holy Quran is our red line,” chanted hundreds of protesters at the market, who held placards calling for the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador and the severing of diplomatic ties with Stockholm.
Others trampled on modified Swedish flags that read “#Boycott Sweden” and featured a crossed-out image of Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.
People burn a banner of Sweden’s flag during a demonstration in Peshawar on July 7, 2023, as they protest against the burning of the Quran outside a Stockholm mosque that outraged Muslims around the world.— AFP
Separately, several rallies were held in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Shangla district. Political parties, including the PTI, PML-N and the JI, staged protests in Bisham, Karora, Alpuri, Puran and Chakesar.
During a protest at Khatmi Nabuwat Chowk in KP’s Battagram, PTI leaders Amal Shah Sherazi, Ghulamullah, Ajab Khan addressed the demonstrators, saying the desecration of the Holy Quran could not be tolerated.
The leaders said the intention behind the act was to hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims across the globe.
Noting that such incidents had been taking place in Europe repeatedly, the called for European nations to take measures to stop these occurrences.
These countries must draw a line between the freedom of expression and hurting the Muslim community’s religious beliefs, the leaders stressed, demanding action from the Swedish government against the person who burnt the Holy Quran last week.
Hold him accountable for hurting billions of people, the leaders said.
They also demanded the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador from Pakistan as a means to register the country’s protest over the incident.
‘Muslim Ummah disturbed at incident in Sweden’
In a tweet today, Shehbaz said, “When it comes to the [matter of] Quran, the [entire] nation is united. The entire Muslim Ummah is disturbed by the incident in Sweden.”
He further said the nation will unite to protest to “express their feelings and emotions over the disheartening incident”, adding that after the Friday afternoon prayers, “all classes of Pakistani Muslims will raise the flag of the Holy Quran’s honour and record their peaceful protest”.
“The Holy Quran is in our hearts. The Holy Quran is not only a recitation for us but a guideline for living,” Shehbaz said.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also took to Twitter, noting that the desecration was “another example of the rising Islamophobic mindset that seeks to dehumanise and denigrate our faith”.
He called the act a “blatant provocation to try [to] inflame sentiments and undermine Islam as a religion of peace, tolerance and acceptance”.
Bilawal asserted that Pakistan will be raising the issue at the urgent debate of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which will be held on July 11 in Geneva, on behalf of the OIC group.
Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman voiced similar concerns, saying that the incident “not just dehumanises our religion but also deliberately seeks to provoke Muslim sentiment”.
Premier urges OIC to chalk out ‘comprehensive’ strategy
The premier also held a telephonic conversation with OIC Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha and appreciated his role in articulating the Muslim Ummah’s concerns and demands about Islamophobic trends and incidents.
He urged the Taha to chalk out a coordinated and comprehensive strategy aimed at raising global awareness about its perspective apart from building legal and political deterrence against rising incidents of anti-Muslim hatred and Islamophobia.
Referring to the recurring incidents of the Holy Quran’s desecration, PM Shehbaz conveyed Pakistan’s strong condemnation of the willful and provocative acts, which had hurt the sentiments of Muslims worldwide.
He stressed that the vilification of religion, revered religious personalities, holy scriptures and symbols could not be condoned on the self-serving pretext of freedom of expression and protest.
Welcoming the convening of an urgent debate at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council over the issue, PM Shehbaz said that the OIC must raise the issue with the UN secretary general and at other relevant forums and bodies within the UN system.
The OIC secretary general echoed Pakistan’s condemnation and concerns about the despicable incidents of the public desecration of the Holy Quran.
Taha reaffirmed the OIC’s firm commitment to tackle the contemporary scourge of Islamophobia. He also lauded Pakistan’s leading role in OIC deliberations in general and on this issue in particular.