Three men have been arrested in connection with a violent riot that broke out in Malmo, Sweden’s third largest city, after an anti-Islam activist burned a copy of the Quran on Sunday. Police said they detained 10 people for disturbing public order and vandalism, and that dozens of cars were set on fire by angry protesters.
The unrest started when Salwan Momika, a refugee from Iraq who has been involved in several Quran desecration incidents in the past, set fire to the Islamic holy book in front of a crowd of about 300 people. Some of them tried to stop him and clashed with the police, who used pepper spray and batons to disperse them.
Later that night, more violence erupted in the Rosengard neighborhood, which has a large immigrant population and has seen similar clashes in the past. A group of mainly young people threw rocks, electric scooters, bicycles and barriers at the police and set fire to tires and debris. They also displayed banners relating to the Quran burning.
Police said they arrested three people on suspicion of rioting, arson and assaulting a public servant. They also said they were investigating possible hate crimes committed by Momika and his associates.
Momika, who claims to be an anti-Islam activist, has burned pages of the Quran in front of Stockholm’s largest mosque in June and posted videos of himself tearing up and spitting on the Quran online. He has also received threats from Islamic extremists and sparked angry protests in Muslim countries.
Muslim leaders in Sweden have condemned his actions and called on the government to find ways to stop the Quran burnings. They have also urged calm and dialogue among the communities.
Sweden does not have any blasphemy laws and allows freedom of speech and expression. However, the government has announced an inquiry into legal possibilities for enabling police to reject permits for demonstrations over national security concerns.