Britain warns of possible terrorist attacks in Sweden

Brits are warned of possible terrorist attacks in Sweden following series of Koran burnings

  • Burning of the holy scripture in Nordic country has angered Muslims worldwide
  • Last month Sweden’s intelligence agency warned of an increased terror threat 

The Government has warned British citizens going to Sweden of possible terrorist attacks following Koran burnings by anti-Islam activists that have outraged Muslims.

In updated travel advice, Britain’s foreign ministry said Swedish authorities had already disrupted some planned attacks and made arrests.

‘You should be vigilant at this time,’ it said, adding that ‘terrorists are very likely to try and carry out attacks in Sweden’ with places visited by foreigners potential targets.

The U.S. government has also warned of possible terrorist attacks in Sweden in its travel advice. 

In a statement acknowledging Britain’s changed travel advice, Sweden’s National Security Advisor Henrik Landerholm reiterated the increased threats to Sweden since the burnings.

Landerholm said the storming of Sweden’s embassy in Iraq on July 19, an attempted attack on its embassy in Lebanon on Aug. 9, and also the Aug. 1 shooting of an employee at a Swedish consulate in Turkey contributed to the risk assessment.

It comes just weeks after Sweden’s domestic intelligence agency sounded the alarm over the increased terrorist threat amid a wave of protests against the burnings.  

Yemenis participate in a protest denouncing the burning of Islam’s holy book, the Koan, in Sweden and Denmark, on July 24, 2023 in Sana’a, Yemen

Demonstrators burn the Swedish flag during a protest against the insult to the Koran in Stockholm, in Tehran, Iran July 21, 2023

Kashmiri Shiite Muslims protest denouncing the burning of the Koran in Sweden

Koran burnings are permitted in Sweden under free speech rules, but Muslims see burning of their holy book as blasphemy.

The Swedish intelligence agency, known by its acronym SAPO, last month said the burning and desecration of religious books in Sweden have negatively affected the country’s reputation.

The image of Sweden has changed ‘from a tolerant country to a country hostile to Islam and Muslims, where attacks on Muslims are sanctioned by the state and where Muslim children can be kidnapped by social services,’ SAPO said in a statement.

‘It’s a serious situation that we’re in,’ Susanna Trehorning, SAPO’s deputy head of counter-terrorism, told Swedish public broadcaster SVT. 

‘It’s a heightened threat and an attack can occur within the framework of a heightened threat.’

Like many Western countries, Sweden does not have any blasphemy laws.

The right to hold public demonstrations is strong in Sweden and protected by the constitution. Blasphemy laws were abandoned in the 1970s.

Police generally give permission for public gatherings based on whether they believe an event can be held without major disruptions or risks to public safety.

Civil Defence Minister Carl-Oskar Bohlin said in July that the Koran desecrations have made Sweden a target of malicious influencing campaigns ‘by states and state-like actors with the aim of damaging Swedish interests and ultimately Swedish citizens’.

He debunked claims that the Swedish government grants permission for people to burn Islam’s sacred text or other religious books, something that ‘is factually incorrect’. 

A participant lifts a copy of the Koran, in response to the burning of a copy of Islam’s holy book in Sweden, as Iraqi Shiites in costumes re-enact events of Ashura, a ten-day period during the Muslim month of Muharram to remember and mourn the seventh century killing of Prophet Mohammed’s grandson Imam Hussein, in al-Kifah district in central Baghdad, on July 25, 2023

Yemenis participate in a protest denouncing the burning of Islam’s holy book, the Koran, in Sweden and Denmark, on July 24, 2023 in Sana’a, Yemen

Demonstrators march in a rally denouncing the burning of the Koran, Islam’s holy book, in Sweden in Yemen’s Huthi-held capital Sanaa on July 24, 2023

‘No state permits are issued for burning,’ he told reporters at a news conference.

‘The state guarantees the right to freedom of expression but does not sanction political messages. Sweden has no tradition of burning holy scriptures.

‘On the contrary. Sweden is a secular country where religious freedom is a cornerstone and where there is respect for different beliefs.’

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell last month condemned the religious book desecrations in Sweden, saying the acts ‘by individual provocateurs only benefit those who want to divide us and our societies’.

‘Respect for diversity is a core value of the European Union. This includes respect for other religious communities,’ the EU’s top diplomat said.

‘The desecration of the Koran, or of any other book considered holy, is offensive, disrespectful and a clear provocation. 

Expressions of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance have no place in the European Union.’

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