The German government has condemned the burning of a Koran during a protest near the Turkish embassy in Sweden's capital Stockholm as "disrespectful and highly inappropriate".
"Europe stands for the peaceful coexistence of all religions," emphasized a spokesman for the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin. Just like the freedom of demonstration and freedom of opinion, the human right to freedom of religion is a valuable asset. Provocations such as the protest action in Stockholm, on the other hand, contribute to the division.
According to a report by the Swedish news agency TT, a copy of the Koran was burned last Saturday near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. Sharp criticism came from numerous Muslim-dominated countries such as Turkey. The incident also affects Sweden's admission to NATO, which has been blocked by NATO member Turkey for months.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Sweden could not count on Turkey's support for accession. "If you don't show any respect to the Turkish Republic or the religious beliefs of the Muslims, then you can't get any support from us on the NATO issue," Erdogan said in Ankara on Monday.
Turkey in particular accuses Sweden of supporting "terrorist organizations" such as the banned Kurdish Workers' Party PKK and is demanding the extradition of a number of people whom Ankara regards as terrorists. All 30 NATO members must ratify applications for NATO membership.
The Swedish government had distanced itself from the action as well as from an incident with an Erdogan doll, but referred to the freedom of expression that applies in Sweden. "Freedom of expression is a fundamental part of democracy," Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said on Twitter in response to the Koran burning. "But what is legal is not necessarily appropriate. The burning of books sacred to many is a deeply disrespectful act."