Turkish Muslims protest against the burning of the Koran in Sweden

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ISTANBUL (AP) – Outrage over a Koran-burning protest in Sweden has led to a second day of protests in Turkey, reflecting tensions between the two countries.

Around 250 people gathered outside the Swedish consulate in Istanbul, where a portrait of Danish anti-Islam activist Rasmus Paludan was burned. Paludan burned the holy book of Islam in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm on Saturday, sparking protests in Istanbul and Ankara that night.

Participants in Sunday’s event carried green flags bearing the Islamic creed and a banner that read ‘We condemn Sweden’s state-sponsored Islamophobia’. A sign on a window of the Swedish consulate read: “We do not share the view of this book-burning idiot.”

The protests have renewed concerns about Turkey holding back Sweden and Finland’s bid to join NATO. Turkey has yet to ratify the Nordic nations’ membership of the military alliance, and said Sweden must address Ankara’s security concerns.

Turkish officials criticized Sweden for allowing the Koran-burning protest, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not comment during his weekend speeches.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson tweeted late Saturday that freedom of expression was vital to democracy, but added that “what is legal is not necessarily appropriate”.

“Burning books that are sacred to many is a profoundly disrespectful act. I would like to express my sympathy for all Muslims who are offended by what happened in Stockholm today,” said Kristersson.

Mustafa Demircan, one of the people protesting in Istanbul on Sunday, said that burning the Koran should not be considered an act protected by the right to freedom of expression.

The protesters also gathered for the second day in front of the Swedish embassy in Ankara. In the southeastern province of Sanliurfa, men held up the Koran after prayers in a mosque and chanted “God is great” in videos shared online. More protests were planned for Sunday evening.

The Associated Press

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