Explained: Why Sweden witnessing violent riots? What we know so far
Stockholm, Apr 19: 'Peaceful' Sweden, a nation of 10 million, has been on the boil following violent clashes in several Swedish cities between police and people protesting against a far-right outfit's plans to burn copies of the Quran, the Islamic sacred book and the Easter weekend.
Sweden's national police chief, Anders Thornberg, said he had never seen such violent riots in the country, ranked 15th in the 2021 Global Peace Index.
Who Is Rasmus Paludan?
Rasmus Paludan is a Danish-Swedish politician and head of the Hard Line party whose views have often been described as far-right on the political spectrum with the financial patrionage and material support from Russia's security services.
In 2017, he set up the Stram Kurs party, which runs on an anti-immigration and anti-Islam agenda. "Stram Kurs is the most patriotic political party in Denmark," the website of the party says.
Paludan has repeatedly made anti-Islam statements, including calling for the exclusion of Islam from Western society, and has regularly tried to hold anti-Islam protests involving the desecration of the Quran, a Muslim holy book, in order to provoke violence.
Sweden has a notable Muslim community, many members of which felt outraged by the Quran burnings and associated rallies.
Have such riots happened before?
On April 14, crowds rioted in the city of Linköping attacked police vehicles and burned a car. 12 police officers were wounded and four of their cars set on fire by angry mobs in Örebro. Social media posts showed men breaking the windows of police cars as they screamed Allahu akbar (the Takbir).
Paludan successfully burned a Quran the next day in Rinkeby, causing more riots.
An attempt to hold a gathering in Malmö on April 16 by Paludan was interrupted after people threw stones at it. Paludan was hit by a rock and the attackers were driven off with pepper spray. Rioters also torched a bus in the city overnight.
Over a hundred demonstrators gathered in Landskrona, Scania on April 17, where a ceremony to burn the Muslim holy book was set to take place, but never took place. Protesters stoned and set fire to vehicles, causing extensive property damage and intentionally obstructing traffic.
Police fired at them with ricochets in response, injuring three.
Which cities were affected?
Since Friday, clashes have been reported in Stockholm, Rinkeby, Orebro, Linkoping and Norrkoping. Interestingly, these locations are where Stram Kurs either planned or had demonstrations.
Sweden unrest: Protests turn violent
More than 40 people had been arrested in connection to the violence in Swedish cities, while 26 officers and 14 members of the public had been injured. Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait and Jordan have meanwhile responded by condemning the provocation and incitement of Muslims.