Region of Concern: Sweden
Written By Iris Hautaniemi Forsberg; Edited by Cameron Munoz, Senior Editor
Date: June 30, 2023
Map of Sweden
Event: On June 29, protesters gathered outside the Swedish embassy in Iraq to protest against the latest burning of a Quran outside a mosque in Stockholm the previous day. The protesters stormed the embassy but left again after 15 minutes without any injuries to the embassy personnel. Several Muslim countries have condemned the Quran burnings, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, with 57 member states, will hold an emergency meeting to discuss the recent events. Quran burnings are legal under the existing free speech laws in Sweden, but the Swedish police later initiated an investigation into agitation against an ethnic group. After previous Quran burnings in Sweden earlier this year, the Swedish Security Police (SÄPO) declared that the threats from Islamist terrorist organizations had grown, and the US embassy in Sweden urged American citizens in Sweden to avoid large crowds. Following Quran burnings this spring, the Swedish police stopped issuing burning permits, arguing that this increases the terror threat against Sweden. However, the Swedish court dismissed the decision, saying that the police did not have support for that decision in the law.
Significance: Quran burnings in Sweden will very likely continue to be allowed under the current laws and regulations, likely inspiring similar future behavior. These acts will very likely occur outside of Mosques, embassies of Muslim countries, and during Muslim holidays such as Ramadan and Eid al-Adha, increasing the likelihood for violent demonstrations. Demonstrations against the Quran burnings in Sweden will likely occur both at the time of burnings throughout Sweden and abroad, and will target Swedish embassies, companies, and other compounds connected to Sweden. The demonstrations will likely also include boycotts of large Swedish companies, such as Ikea, Volvo, and H&M, and there is a roughly even chance that these companies might be subject to violent attacks as well. Islamist terror organizations such as ISIS and al-Qaeda will likely continue to see Sweden as a suitable target, encouraging their followers to execute attacks at Swedish events with large gatherings. In Sweden, there is a roughly even chance of violent confrontations between the police and demonstrators at Quran burnings. Islamist hacker groups, like Anonymous Sudan, will likely execute cyber attacks against Swedish government agencies and engage in disinformation campaigns intended to polarize Swedish society. The frequent Quran burnings in Sweden will very likely delay Sweden’s entry to NATO because of Turkey’s strong condemnation of the events.
Recommendations: SÄPO should immediately increase monitoring of known individuals within the Islamist movement in Sweden and engage in intelligence sharing with other states about potential terror and cyber threats against Sweden. The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs should increase contact with Swedish embassies in Muslim countries and prepare evacuation plans in case of threats and security breaches. Swedish citizens living in Muslim countries should register on the Ministry of Foreign Affair’s “Svensklistan” to inform the authorities about their stay abroad and receive information about potentially threatening events in that country. The Swedish government should appoint a committee to investigate potential new laws to stop the Quran burnings and mitigate the threat against Sweden and Swedish embassies. Swedish companies operating abroad should implement stricter security measures, both physical and cyber, and have frequent contact with Swedish authorities about potential dangers. Economically, they should also be prepared for boycott initiatives from Muslim countries.
 Koran burning in Sweden sparks protest in Baghdad, Reuters, June 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/koran-burning-sweden-sparks-protest-baghdad-2023-06-29/
 Iraqis storm Sweden's embassy as Muslim world denounces Koran burning, France 24, June 2023, https://www.france24.com/en/middle-east/20230629-iraqis-breach-sweden-mission-as-muslim-world-denounces-koran-burning
 Säpo om terrorhot mot Sverige: ”Det är ganska lättantändligt just nu”, Dagens Nyheter, February 2023, https://www.dn.se/sverige/sapo-sverige-i-fokus-for-allvarliga-hot/ (Translated by Iris Hautaniemi Forsberg)
 Ny dom: Risk för terror kan inte stoppa koranbränning, Dagens Nyheter, June 2023, https://www.dn.se/sverige/dom-koranbranning-borde-tillatits/ (Translated by Iris Hautaniemi Forsberg)