DUBAI: Pope Francis has condemned the burning of the Holy Quran in Sweden, saying that the vile act had “angered and disgusted” him and he refused to acknowledge the act as a form of freedom of speech.
The comments came in response to the latest incident of Quran’s desecration in Sweden when a man set a copy of the sacred book ablaze outside a mosque in the country’s capital city last week.
“Any book considered holy should be respected to respect those who believe in it,” the pope said in an interview in the United Arab Emirates newspaper Al Ittihad, published on Monday.
“I feel angry and disgusted at these actions.
“Freedom of speech should never be used as a means to despise others and allowing that is rejected and condemned.”
The abhorrent burning of the Holy Quran resulted in strong condemnation from several states, including Turkey, whose backing Sweden needs to gain entry to the Nato military alliance.
While Swedish police have rejected several recent applications for anti-Quran demonstrations, courts have over-ruled those decisions, saying they infringed freedom of speech.
On Sunday, an Islamic grouping of 57 states said collective measures are needed to prevent acts of desecration to the Quran and international law should be used to stop religious hatred.
Saudi summons Swedish ambassador
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has summoned Sweden’s ambassador to denounce the Quran-burning incident outside a Stockholm mosque that sparked a diplomatic backlash across the Muslim world, state media reported early Monday.
The kingdom — home to the holiest sites in Islam, in Makkah and Madina— had already condemned Wednesday’s incident in which an Iraqi citizen living in Sweden, Salwan Momika, 37, stomped on the Muslim holy book and set several pages alight.
The foreign ministry summoned the ambassador on Sunday to urge Sweden “to stop all actions that directly contradict international efforts seeking to spread the values of tolerance, moderation and rejection of extremism, and undermine the necessary mutual respect for relations between peoples and states”, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
Momika’s Quran burning coincided with the start of the Eid ul Adha holiday and the end of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, triggering widespread anger.
Countries including Iraq, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco have also summoned Swedish ambassadors in protest.
Iran said on Sunday it was holding off on sending its new ambassador to Sweden because of the incident.
At an extraordinary meeting on Sunday at its Jeddah headquarters, the Saudi-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation called for collective measures to avoid future Koran burnings.
Swedish police had granted Momika a permit in line with free speech protections, but authorities later said they had opened an investigation over “agitation against an ethnic group”, noting that Momika had burnt pages from the Islamic holy book very close to the mosque.
Sweden’s government condemned Momika’s actions on Sunday, calling them “Islamophobic”.