Protest action in Stockholm: Man tramples on the Koran – and should have burned it. Would that also be allowed in Germany?

Another Koran was to be set on fire in Stockholm.

Protest action in Stockholm: Man tramples on the Koran – and should have burned it. Would that also be allowed in Germany?

Another Koran was to be set on fire in Stockholm. The protest action took place in front of the Iraqi embassy on Thursday afternoon, but the Holy Scriptures of Islam were burned, as reported by the Swedish news agency TT.

Only two people were involved in the action. A man trampled on a copy of the Koran. Away from the audience and cameras, the book was also set on fire - but the fire did not ignite properly. According to TT, no one observed that the Koran was actually burning. Small burn marks were visible in pictures of the book.

It was the second time in a few weeks that a Koran had been denigrated in an Islamophobic action in the Swedish capital. A burning at the end of June caused outrage in the Arab world. Several days of protests broke out in Iraq. The new action coincided with the Muslim New Year celebrations. Muslims worldwide celebrated the 1st of Muharram this Wednesday and with it the beginning of the new year. The two protesters were the same as in the June action.

The planned burning of the Koran in Stockholm has significantly worsened relations between Sweden and Iraq. The Swedish embassy in Baghdad was stormed by angry demonstrators on Thursday night. Sweden lodged an official protest, demanding better protection for its diplomats from the Iraqi authorities. Instead, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani had the Swedish ambassador expelled. Baghdad even threatened to sever diplomatic relations altogether.

The Swedish police had approved the actions in Stockholm in advance. When the Koran was first burned in June, the 37-year-old demonstrator named Salwan Momika justified his wish with the right to freedom of expression, among other things. However, the police later began investigating the man on suspicion of incitement against ethnic groups.

The Swedish government had condemned the burning of a Koran in June as an "Islamophobic" act. The government "fully understands that the Islamophobic acts committed by individuals at demonstrations in Sweden can be offensive to Muslims," ​​the foreign ministry said at the time. "We strongly condemn these actions, which in no way reflect the views of the Swedish government," it said. The Foreign Ministry said racism and xenophobia "have no place in Sweden or in Europe".

The question remains: why did the man get permission to burn a Koran at all? You have to go back a few months for the answer.

In January this year, a puppet was hung in Stockholm that was supposed to represent the Turkish President. The action triggered violent reactions in Turkey. A few days later, far-right politician Rasmus Paludan burned a Koran near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. The action was approved.

Security authorities in Sweden warned in February that the events could pose a threat to the country. The police then refused to burn the Koran again in front of the Turkish embassy, ​​on the grounds that previous burnings had provoked violent international protests and influenced the threat level against Sweden. A second burning of the Koran in front of the Iraqi embassy was also banned, but both decisions were challenged in court.

On April 4, the Administrative Court in Stockholm ruled that the police had wrongly banned the burning of the Koran. The judges justified their verdict by saying that the circumstances on which the police authority based their decision were not sufficient. The freedom of assembly and demonstration is a constitutionally protected right, which is why there are only limited possibilities to refuse permission to a public assembly, for example if public safety is endangered.

"The administrative court does not consider the threat picture presented, which was the basis for the police authority's decision to refuse the permits, to be sufficiently specific and related to the assembly in question," one of the judges justified the verdict.

The police appealed. However, on June 12, the Court of Appeal rejected them, also finding that the police had no authority to ban the protests. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also pointed out that Sweden has a "constitutionally protected right to freedom of assembly, freedom of opinion and demonstration".

On the basis of this ruling, the police then approved the burning of the Koran in June, but according to the Expressen newspaper, in their approval they pointed out that there was a ban on open fire in Stockholm. However, a police spokeswoman told the newspaper: "The constitutional protection of freedom of expression takes precedence". Nevertheless, the violation of the fire ban is now being investigated, according to "Expressen".

On Wednesday, the Swedish police approved the next protest action of this kind. As reported by the TT news agency, the organizers announced when they registered for the demonstration that they wanted to burn Iraqi flags and the Koran. But the latter did not happen. The Swedish police emphasized that they only issue permits for public gatherings, not for the content of those gatherings.

Would the burning of the Koran, as happened in Sweden, also be possible in Germany?

"Burning the Koran or the burning of a Bible or Torah in public would certainly be an outrageous, seriously degrading act in Germany, as it is in Sweden, and Muslims should rightly feel attacked by it," says Sonka E. Mehner, a specialist in criminal law, the star. But it wouldn't be a crime. "Religious freedom does not only apply to believers. Believers must endure attacks and abusive criticism of their religion."

It is true that there is paragraph 166 in the German Criminal Code, "Insulting denominations, religious communities and ideological associations". According to Mehner, however, this paragraph does not include the burning of religious writings without comment. "The incineration would only constitute a fact if it was also accompanied by a derogatory value judgement." The violation of religious feelings alone is not punishable.

Mehner explains that one could also be prosecuted for other crimes when the Koran is burned. "The person who burned the Koran is neither a rabble-rouser under Section 130, Paragraph 1 of the Criminal Code, nor would he be punishable for insult under Section 185 of the Criminal Code."

And further: "By publicly burning a copy of the Koran, the perpetrator documents his hostile attitude towards Islam. But if he sticks to this form of disregard, he doesn't incite it. Nor does he insult or insult an individual believer by degrading his honor. The burning of the Koran is an attack on the entire Muslim community, which is unpunished as a collective insult. The religion itself cannot be insulted."

At most, damage to property could be considered, for example if another person's Koran was burned without their consent.

But otherwise there is no need to fear any legal consequences, says Mehner. "As long as he does not endanger other things or people through public fire and violates regulations in this respect."

But the burning of the Koran in Germany will not be entirely without consequences, says the lawyer: "But he is certain that the LKA, BKA and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution will be monitoring him in the future."

Sources: DPA News Agency, Criminal Code, Stockholm Administrative Court Judgment, Stockholm Court of Appeal Judgment, SVT, "Expressen" (1), "Expressen" (2)