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Imam: "Burning the Quran refers to darker times when books, churches and synagogues were burned"

Shaaban Abou Zur, Imam of the Islamic Association in Kristianstad, lacks a neutral voice in the debate regarding Rasmus Paludan who burned the Quran in areas where many Muslims live. "Unfortunately, the police were subject to violence. This is not what anyone wants and I wish this was not the case", says Shaaban Abou Zur.
On its Facebook page, the congregation has posted a link to an opinion piece in the Expressen. In the article, the police are criticised for their cowardly decision not to ban Paludan's burning of the Quran in a public place.
Kristianstad • Publicerad 20 april 2022 • Uppdaterad 25 april 2022
Counter-demonstrators set fire to a police van in Örebro, where Rasmus Paludan, Party Leader of the Danish far-right party, Stram Kurs (Tight Course), received a permit for a demonstration on Good Friday.
Counter-demonstrators set fire to a police van in Örebro, where Rasmus Paludan, Party Leader of the Danish far-right party, Stram Kurs (Tight Course), received a permit for a demonstration on Good Friday.Foto: Kicki Nilsson/TT

In connection with Paludan's demonstrations during Easter, 26 police officers, 20 police cars and 14 members of the public were injured.

Why have you posted a link to an article by Fredrik Sjöshult in the Expressen on the congregation's Facebook page?

– I think that Sjöshult has written in an unbiased way, we are lacking political and cultural voices that address the issue in this way.

– I mean the issue should be addressed from all sides; free from racism and prejudices, which do not create problematic situations that unfortunately subject the police to violence. This is not what anyone wants and I wish this was not the case, says Shaaban Abou Zur, Imam of the Islamic Association.

”How can what Paludan says not be considered as hate or hate speech? It is against all Muslims”
Shaaban Abou Zur, Imam
”It’s perfectly fine to criticise Islam and the Quran. We can have heated political discussions, but with respect and in a rational and scholarly way”, says Imam Shaaban Abou Zur.
”It’s perfectly fine to criticise Islam and the Quran. We can have heated political discussions, but with respect and in a rational and scholarly way”, says Imam Shaaban Abou Zur.
Rasmus Paludan (left), Party Leader of the Danish far-right party, Stram Kurs, with a Quran in hand in Rinkeby.
Rasmus Paludan (left), Party Leader of the Danish far-right party, Stram Kurs, with a Quran in hand in Rinkeby.Foto: Henrik Montgomery/TT
”I feel sad that the police have to be subject to this. If I put myself in a policeman's shoes, it feels terrible”
Shaaban Abou Zur, Imam

Do you think the police should have banned Paludan's gatherings?

– Yes I do. How can what Paludan says not be considered as hate or hate speech? It is against all Muslims. Many people find it offensive. We have been working the whole time to try to calm people down, not to be provoked by this, but we can’t control everyone.

Facts

An opinion piece in the Expressen: "Cowardly decision by the police chief is responsible for the violent riots”

On 15 April, Fredrik Sjöshult wrote an opinion piece in the Expressen about Rasmus Paludan, that in 2020 he applied for nine permits for demonstrations in Stockholm, but was refused. Sjöhult thinks that this was a good decision. At that time, the Chief of Police in Stockholm, Carolina Paasikivi (now head of the Secret Police's Security Office who is responsible for security in upcoming general elections, among other things) said:

– We consider that there is an overall risk of a situation arising that involves such serious threats to public order and security that we cannot issue a permit.

Sjöhult writes that the decision to allow Paludan's Easter demonstration was perceived as a provocation in the areas he intended to visit, including Linköping, Örebro, and Rinkeby.

Sjöhult witnessed on social media "that the reaction was strong from those who felt offended", even before the riot in Linköping.

He also writes that "forces within the police have tried to stop Paludan's antics and the exploitation of the Swedish freedom of assembly at public gatherings".

”He can burn the Quran at home, not publicly in areas where people find it offensive”
Shaaban Abou Zur, Imam

There is a strong right to express an opinion in Sweden, what do you think about that?

– I completely agree, but I do not agree that one should be offensive and spread hate. It’s fine if he wants to debate and discuss what he thinks is wrong with Islam, but he can burn the Quran at home, not publicly in areas where people find it offensive – under the police’s protection. It can be provocative, that's the problem. I feel sad that the police have to be subject to this.

– If I put myself in a policeman's shoes, it feels terrible.

Police separating people when Rasmus Paludan, Party Chairman of the far-right party, Stram Kurs, speaks during a demonstration at Värnhemstorget in Malmö on 19 April.
Police separating people when Rasmus Paludan, Party Chairman of the far-right party, Stram Kurs, speaks during a demonstration at Värnhemstorget in Malmö on 19 April.Foto: Johan Nilsson/TT

In Denmark, Paludan is met with humor and ignorance, can’t Muslims in Sweden follow suit?

– Yes, we have encouraged people to do this, but it’s difficult when it happens repeatedly.

Muslims are acting just like Paludan is trying to prove – that Muslims are violent, what do you think about that?

– The Quran and the Prophet are so holy; it should be respected. The same is true for Jesus and the Bible. For a Muslim, it is completely forbidden to do so against something sacred, whether it’s against Christians or Jews. Muslims want to be treated in the same way and not with hatred. I am a little bit upset. Members of our congregation are very upset.

Shaaban Abouzur, Imam in Kristianstad.
Shaaban Abouzur, Imam in Kristianstad.Foto: Bosse Nilsson

What are they most upset about?

– That it’s happening in this way, they do not want there to be riots and violence. Most of them are calling for calm; it should be addressed through politics, law and culture. They can’t control everyone, there are young people who do not understand and there are those who are acting in an unacceptable way.

Facts

Public gatherings that constitute risks can be prohibited

The Public Order Act states that:

"The Police Authority may prohibit the holding of a public gathering if, at a previous gathering of the same sort, a more serious disorder arose at the gathering itself or, as a direct consequence of it, in its immediate vicinity, or if the gathering proved to have presented a considerable danger to those present, or serious disturbances of traffic."

”Is it okay to burn the Quran? Is it okay to burn books in Sweden?”
Shaaban Abou Zur, Imnm

What do you miss the most in the debate?

– I miss voices that deal with the issue impartially – is it okay to burn the Quran? Is it okay to burn books in Sweden? Burning the Quran refers to darker times when books, churches and synagogues were burned. There are other ways to discuss, argue and express yourself – not by burning something, especially when it is something sacred.

– It’s perfectly fine to criticise Islam and the Quran. We can have heated political discussions, but with respect and in a rational and scholarly way.

Paludan is going to come back to Sweden, what do you think about that?

– What are we going to do? It is a matter for the authorities to handle. We want the burning of the Quran to be stopped, says Shaaban Abou Zur.

Inga-Lill BengtssonSkicka e-post
Så här jobbar Mosaik Kristianstadsbladet med journalistik. Uppgifter som publiceras ska vara korrekta och relevanta. Vi strävar efter förstahandskällor och att vara på plats där det händer. Trovärdighet och opartiskhet är centrala värden för vår nyhetsjournalistik.