Another Qur'an Burning
Unbelief Brief
July 3, 2023
A demonstration outside the Stockholm Central Mosque has ignited a storm of controversy.

Another Qur’an burning in Sweden

A demonstration outside the Stockholm Central Mosque in which Salwan Momika, “a 37-year-old Iraqi who fled to Sweden several years ago” burned a Qur’an has ignited a storm of controversy, being yet another incident of its kind in a string of recent ones.

Reportedly, it was stopped from turning violent by police, who subdued a man with rocks that he had apparently intended to throw. The demonstration itself was approved by Swedish authorities on grounds of freedom of expression.

The usual suspects don’t see it this way. Turkish President Erdogan said:

We will teach the arrogant Western people that it is not freedom of expression to insult the sacred values of Muslims.

Most Muslim-majority countries likewise condemned the burning. Morocco even recalled its ambassador from Sweden over the incident. 

The US State Department, for its part, condemned the burning but supported the decision to allow it as consistent with the principle of freedom of expression.

Blasphemy lynching in Nigeria

In the Nigerian state of Sokoto, a man named Usman Buda, a butcher, was stoned to death for purported blasphemy. The crowd who took part in the stoning reportedly included children.

As the AP reports, the governor of the state condemned the vigilante killing, but not without making sure to remind everyone that blasphemy is the greater offense, effectively doing nothing to discourage more incidents of this kind, an increasingly pervasive problem in Nigeria:

Sokoto Gov. Ahmed Aliyu said local residents should not take laws into their hands. But he also warned that his government would “deal decisively” against anyone found guilty of blasphemy.

The group Muslim Rights Concern took a similar line:

It is not in dispute that Islamic law provides a death sentence against anybody who insults, defames or brings disrepute to the Prophet of Islam Muhammad (Peace and Blessing of Allah be Upon Him). … [but] Islamic law does not leave the killing open in the hands of private individuals as it happened in the case of Usman Buda.

In other words: killing him was necessary. We and the mob just have disagreements on how to get there.

Ahmadiyya persecution in Pakistan

The Swedish Qur’an burning was timed to coincide with Eid al-Adha. Across the world, in Pakistan, a Muslim minority sect, ever the target of discrimination in most of the Islamic world, were once again singled out on Eid.

Ahmadi Muslims were reportedly barred from engaging in the same rituals on Eid as other Muslims, since the government in Pakistan (along with many other Muslim-majority countries) does not consider them legitimate Muslims.

In a significant development, DSP of Hafizabad issued a legal notice on behalf of the Home Department and Deputy Commissioner. The notice orders all the police stations to ensure that no Ahmadiyya muslim performs the ritual sacrifice known as Qurbani. Furthermore, the notice demanded imprisonment for any Ahmadiyya individual found participating [in] Qurbani. Similarly, the Lahore Bar Association and District Bar Association of Sargodha also issued notices restricting Ahmadiyyas from celebrating Eid and engaging in sacrificial offerings.

This has nothing to do with concern for animal welfare, as Qurbani remains a common practice in Pakistan. Rather, it is about keeping Ahmadis in their place.

Ahmadi Muslims are systematically persecuted in much of the Islamic world, whether in state-sanctioned ways such as this or through a climate of fear cultivated by vigilante violence—reason number one thousand and one why Islamic fundamentalism and militancy is harmful to Muslims as well.

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