Yemenite Torah scrolls, Feb. 25, 2018. Photo: David Bena via Wikimedia Commons.
In a last-minute about-face, a Muslim activist who received permission from Swedish police to burn the Bible outside the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm on Saturday decided not to do so.
The man, a resident of western Sweden in his 30s, had previously said that he wanted to set the Torah and the Christian Bible on fire in response to last month’s burning of the Koran outside a Stockholm mosque by a Christian Iraqi immigrant.
But in a one-man demonstration outside the shuttered embassy on Saturday, he said such an action would be “against the Koran,” and instead threw a lighter to the ground.
The protester also said that “no one should do that,” according to a report by the Swedish news agency TT.
“I’m a Muslim, we don’t burn (books). I want to show that we have to respect each other,” the man said, according to Swedish public broadcaster SVT, adding that he had no intention of realizing his original plan.
It was not immediately clear what made him change his mind or whether the whole incident was intended as a publicity stunt.
Israeli officials had called on the Swedish government to stop the protest and the burning of the holy books, which was set for Saturday afternoon outside the diplomatic mission, but their requests were met with polite refusals, with the government citing laws protecting freedom of speech.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog had condemned the action in advance, as did Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and Israel’s Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.
A recent public opinion poll in Sweden found that the majority of citizens now support a ban on the public burning of religious texts. The head of the Swedish Jewish community has come out against such a ban.