Overseas actors including the Iranian government are fanning tensions that helped spark violent riots in Sweden last week, the country’s justice minister has said.
Protests broke out across the country over the news that a Danish far-right provocateur, Rasmus Paludan, who has burned copies of the Quran at events, was planning to come to Sweden.
The planned visit sparked widespread anger. In Malmo on Sunday crowds threw rocks and burned cars, while in Norrkoping several people were injured by warning shots fired by the police.
Justice Minister Morghan Johansson told the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet on Wednesday that Paludan, a Danish-Swedish dual national, “seems for some reason to hate Sweden and try to harm Sweden. I do not understand why.”
But at the same time, he said, “We see how the image of Sweden is set by some actors in the Middle East. It is also addressed by a couple of governments, in Iraq and in Iran.”
State-owned and state-controlled media outlets in Iran capitalized on the news of Paludan’s visit. The IRGC-affiliated Fars News Agency ran an English-language news item on Tuesday foregrounding a claim by Kazem Gharibabadi, head of Iran’s so-called Human Rights Headquarters, that Sweden was “morphing into a prison for Muslims”.
The IRIB’s foreign-facing arm PressTV also described Swedish prime minister Magdalena Andersson as having “come out in support of the far right” and “backed [their] intention to burn the Holy Quran”.
Andersson had called for an end to violent reactions to Paludan's stunt. A total of 26 police officers and 14 other individuals are so far known to have been injured in the riots.
“In Sweden,” she said, “people are allowed to express their opinions, whether they are in good or bad taste, that is part of our democracy. No matter what you think, you must never resort to violence.”
The governments of Iran and the UAE have summoned the Swedish ambassadors to their countries to protest Paludan’s visit. Dozens of students gathered outside the Swedish embassy in Tehran on Monday, chanting “Insulters of the Quran must be condemned” as well as the ubiquitous “Death to America" and “Death to Israel”.