Criticizing Sweden for giving a permit for a planned burning of the Quran, Türkiye’s foreign minister on Saturday said racism and hate crimes do not count as freedom of thought.
“Despite all our warnings, such permission was unfortunately given to this person. No one can call this freedom of expression and freedom of thought,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in the southern province of Antalya.
Cavusoglu’s remarks came after Rasmus Paludan, leader of the Danish far-right party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), was given permission to burn the Quran on Saturday outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm.
“Today, they do not allow the burning of another book but when it comes to the Quran, Islam’s holy book, and hostility to Islam, they immediately call it freedom of expression and freedom of thought,” he said.
According to Swedish law, the decisions of the Council of Europe, and the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, hate crimes and racism are not freedom of thought or freedom of expression, he added.
The “vile” action is reportedly being planned to take place at around 4-5 p.m. Turkish time (1300-1400GMT), he said, adding that he hoped Swedish authorities would take measures by then to prevent it from happening.
“Because this will create outrage all over the world in the same way. It would be a vile, racist, and hate crime act,” he said.
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said he was concerned that the demonstration would risk further delaying Türkiye’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO bid. However, he added that it would be “very inappropriate” for him to call for a person to not be allowed to carry out a demonstration.
In response to Sweden’s permission, Ankara has canceled Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson’s upcoming visit to Türkiye.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Friday summoned Swedish Ambassador to Ankara Staffan Herrstrom, who was told that Türkiye “strongly condemns this provocative act, which is clearly a hate crime, that Sweden’s attitude is unacceptable, that Ankara expects the act not to be allowed, and insults to sacred values cannot be defended under the guise of democratic rights.”
Türkiye warned Sweden that allowing propaganda activities that PKK-affiliated circles were preparing to carry out in Stockholm on Saturday was a “clear violation” of the tripartite deal, according to the Turkish diplomatic sources.
Last week, Türkiye called on Sweden to take steps against terror groups after a demonstration in Stockholm, where supporters of the PKK terrorist organization hung in effigy by the feet a figure of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and then uploaded footage of the provocation along with threats against Türkiye and Erdogan.
Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO last May, abandoning decades of military non-alignment, a decision spurred by Russia’s war on Ukraine, which started on Feb. 24.
But Türkiye – a NATO member for more than 70 years – voiced objections, accusing the two countries of tolerating and even supporting terror groups, including the PKK and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).
Last June, Türkiye and the two Nordic countries signed a memorandum at a NATO summit to address Ankara’s legitimate security concerns, paving the way for their eventual membership in the alliance.