Steven Sahiounie, journalist and political commentator
An immigrant in Sweden, Salwan Momika, burnt the Quran on the first day of the Muslim holiday, Eid al Adha. He first stomped on the book, kicked it, wrapped it in bacon strips which is a forbidden food under Muslim laws, and then burnt the book while standing on a stage in front of onlookers outside a Mosque in Stockholm.
Momika has said previously that he believed the Muslim religion had such a negative impact that the Quran should be banned globally.
The United States, Morocco, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and many Muslim countries expressed condemnation of the act. Jewish groups in Sweden condemned the act and recalled a Torah that was burnt by Nazis in Germany in the 1930s which later followed with the Jewish people being burnt alive.
The Swedish Police
Momika made an application to burn the Quran as an act of free speech in a democracy. The police have ultimate authority over approving such an act, and apparently without investigating the motives and ideologies driving Momika to commit such an act, they approved his application.
Danish extremist Rasmus Paludan burnt the Quran outside the Turkish embassy in January, which led to Sweden’s talks with Turkey over NATO membership being put on hold, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his country will not back Sweden’s membership of NATO unless burning the Quran is made illegal.
President Vladimir Putin’s comments
Russian President Putin was visiting a Mosque in Derbent for Eid al Adha yesterday and was gifted with a Quran from Muslim clerics from Dagestan.
Putin took the opportunity to comment on the Quran burning in Sweden and said that is treated as a crime in Russia, both constitutionally and by the civil penal code.
“The Quran is sacred for Muslims and should be sacred for others,” he said as he thanked the clerics for the gift and added, “We will always abide by these rules.”
Turkey and the vote for Sweden to join NATO
Turkey holds the key to allowing Sweden to join NATO. In the US statement of condemnation of the Quran burning, the US stressed that Turkey must allow Sweden to join NATO. The urgency is tied to the US-engineered war against Russia for regime change, being currently fought in Ukraine. Turkey is an ally of Russia, while also being a NATO member. This situation has left Turkey split between relationships with nations in conflict with one another.
Turkey is about 99% Muslim and President Erdogan takes the burning of the Quran very seriously, and personally. The burning of the Quran in Sweden appears to be a direct attack on Turkey and against the Swedish national interest in joining NATO.
Erdogan had pointed out that Sweden has harbored and supported Kurds who have links to the PKK, a terrorist group who have killed over 30,000 people over three decades in Turkey. The US-supported SDF and YPG in northeast Syria are also linked to the PKK, and this has been a serious threat to the US-Turkey relationship.
Who burnt the Quran, and why?
Salwan Momika, 37, is an Iraqi from Qaraqosh but had been living in Ankawa since 2016. His national passport was Iraqi, but his identity is Assyrian. He is a Syriac Christian, part of a historical community of Christians of Iraq who suffered massacres during the 2003 US invasion and occupation of Iraq, and who suffered again during the ISIS attack in the 2014-2016 occupation. He received a Swedish passport in 2022.
Momika tried to conceal his identity by describing himself as an atheist to the media recently, but he wears a cross tattooed on his arm. He is part of a large community in Sweden of 150,000 Syriac Christians, who began migrating there in the 1960s, and after the US war on Iraq and its people, and then the US-NATO attack on Syria for regime change in 2011 more Syriacs arrived in Sweden looking for a safe place to live.
The Facebook page Momika had in 2016 carried photos of banners held in crowds that read SAYFO 1915. This refers to the Turkish Ottoman Empire’s genocide against Syriac Christians, Greek Catholics, and Armenians. The word Sayfo is Momika’s self-identifying term.
Kevork Almassian, a noted Syrian journalist, found on Momika’s website that he claims to be the founder and head of the “Syriac Union Party” between 2014 and 2018, and is allied with the US-backed Kurdish SDF and the page says “decentralization is the best system” for Syria.
Momika is a Syriac filled with hatred of Muslims in general, but particularly of the Turkish. His motivation to burn the Quran is very personal, and it touches his identity and ancestry. He found a haven in Sweden and uses the freedom he is granted there to pursue his agenda of sectarian and ethnic hatred. His support of the Kurds in northeast Syria shows he is against Turkey and its security.
Momika is a member of the Sweden Democrats party, which is a right-wing party, and the second largest in the Riksdag. Some of the founders of the party were white nationalists and neo-Nazis, and the party continues to be anti-Islamic.
The question is, why couldn’t the Swedish authorities investigate him and not allow the burning of the Quran, which has nothing to do with religious freedom, but is just one man’s fantasy being carried out? Or, is Sweden acting out on their own sectarian and ethnic fantasies?
The Swedish police taking Syrian children away from their parents
Sweden has a large Muslim community and while there have been criminal elements among them, the majority are law-abiding residents and citizens who are contributing to the economy and the society.
Sweden is taking school-aged children away from their Syrian parents and placing them into a foster home, and the parents are prevented from even knowing where the child is at. The Swedish Social Services are teaching children at schools what is allowed and not allowed at home. This encourages the children to then report on their parents, which results in the child being taken away permanently.
Muslims and Muslim immigrants living in Sweden are feeling they are not welcome, not respected, and not appreciated.
One resident in Malmo, who asked not to be named, but is working as an English teacher from Syria, said, “I am starting to feel like the Swedish are asking me to take my Quran and my kids and go home.”
Steven Sahiounie is a two-time award-winning journalist