So far, Rasmus Paludan’s anti-Islamic demonstrations that featured all sorts of violations of the Quran have only gained him marginal fame.
This time, however, his planned Quran-burning comes in the wake of a series of high-profile scandals that may impede Sweden’s NATO bid.
Danish-Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan, the leader of the Hard Line party, has voiced his intentions to burn the Quran outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm on Saturday, January 21.
According to Paludan, who made Quran-burning a staple of his political repertoir, this will be done in support of the freedom of expression, which, he argued, was “missing here and there.”
Paludan called the Turkish President an “Islamist dictator,” a point also made by Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson, who holds much more sway in Swedish politics as a key government ally.
“I have no problem with Sweden joining NATO, but you cannot demand that we abolish freedom of expression as part of that application,” Paludan told Swedish media.
His planned manifestation comes on the coattails of a massive diplomatic scandal over President Recep Erdogan being hanged in effigy outside Stockholm City Hall during a demonstration by supporters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
However, Paludan emphasized that, unlike many other protests, this is not done in support of the Kurds. He stressed that he has nothing against Turkey’s demands that Sweden deport people Ankara identified as PKK terrorists in return for greenlighting its NATO bid.
“I want neither Kurds nor Turks in Sweden. But that is not the point. I just don’t want Erdogan dictate what you get to say,” he explained.
The Erdogan effigy incident sparked vocal protests from Turkey and demands that those responsible be punished. Speaker of the Swedish Parliament Andreas Norlen’s visit to Turkey was also cancelled.
In Sweden, the action was strongly condemned by the government, where it was described as “sabotage” of the Swedish NATO application, which depends on Ankara’s approval.
“I understand Turkey’s anger — we would have shown exactly the same anger if it had happened in another country, directed at a leading Swedish politician,” Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson was quoted as saying.
Turkey warned that relations with Sweden may become “much more strained” unless Stockholm takes a tougher stand against terrorism and stressed that Stockholm should not take its NATO bid for granted if it continues to ignore such provocations. Earlier, Swedish prosecution said no action will be taken in connection with the Erdogan incident.
Rasmus Paludan rose to fame and notoriety in Denmark through anti-Islamic demonstrations in areas which feature in the country’s official ghetto list, which were subsequently released as videos. The demonstrations, which the party itself celebrated as exercises in free speech, featured provocative acts such as torching, tearing up or kicking the Quran, the literary centerpiece of Islam whose violation is seen as sacrilegious by Muslims. Following numerous threats and assassination attempts, Paludan has been placed under costly all-round police protection.
In 2019, Paludan ran for the Danish parliament with his Hard Line party campaigning on a stern anti-Islamist agenda and a promise to deport non-Western immigrants and ban Islam. However, he failed to overcome to the 2 percent threshold.
Subsequently, Hard Line activists tried to establish themselves in Sweden and continued the practice of Quran-burnings in a string of Swedish cities. This, however, unleashed violent Islamic riots and dozens of arrests.