Agence France-Presse reported last Saturday that “protesters threw stones at police and burned tyres in southern Sweden late on Friday, authorities said, hours after an anti-Muslim Danish politician was blocked from attending a Quran-burning rally nearby.” Were the “anti-Muslim Danish politician” or the participants at the “Quran-burning rally” throwing stones at police or burning tires? No, but as far as Swedish authorities were concerned, they were the problem, not the Muslim rioters.
According to AFP, “about 300 people were on the streets of Malmo with violence escalating as the evening wore on….The demonstration was connected to an incident earlier in the day in which protesters burned a copy of the Islamic holy book,” according to police spokesman Rickard Lundqvist.
The Danish politician Rasmus Paludan, who has burned the Qur’an before, was planning to go to Malmo to speak at the event, but Swedish authorities moved quickly to prevent that, barring him from entering Sweden until at least 2022. Apparently Paludan entered Sweden anyway, as AFP notes that he “was later arrested near Malmo.”
Malmo Police spokesman Calle Persson explained: “We suspect that he was going to break the law in Sweden. There was also a risk that his behaviour would pose a threat to society.” Police also swooped into the Qur’an-burning rally and arrested three people there for “inciting racial hatred.”
Paludan was, understandably, disgusted by all this, and pointed out, quite correctly, that there was a glaring official double standard at play. “Sent back and banned from Sweden for two years,” he wrote on Facebook (where he is, apparently, not banned yet, but that is certainly coming given the social media giant’s repeatedly affirmed commitment to enforcing Sharia blasphemy laws under the spurious guise of “hate speech”). “However,” Paludin added, “rapists and murderers are always welcome!” he wrote.
Yes, that’s quite right. Swedish authorities have made it clear who they think is the real threat: not criminal Muslim migrants, but those who dare offend them. I’m not in favor of burning the Qur’an. I believe people should read it and understand its contents rather than burn it. But in a free society, book-burning is not or should not be illegal. It is part of the freedom of expression; we may dislike it, but to outlaw it would restrict the freedom of expression in ways that would have negative consequences for society in other ways: the group that was prevented by law from being criticized or insulted, including having its holy book burned, would be free from all restraints and able to work its will unchallenged and unopposed.
If Rasmus Paludin had intended to travel to Sweden to burn a Bible, would anyone have cared? Would he have been banned from the country or arrested? When that police spokesman, Calle Persson, said “We suspect that he was going to break the law in Sweden,” to what law was he referring? Is burning a Qur’an against the law in Sweden? Is Sweden under Sharia now?
And when Persson added that “there was also a risk that his behaviour would pose a threat to society,” note that this is the same sleight-of-hand British officials employed when they banned Pamela Geller and me from entering that country. Just as in our case, Paludin does not actually pose a threat to society. The people who were going to react violently and irrationally to his behavior pose a threat to society, and the Swedes lack the will to act against them, so they act against Paludin instead.
And now Muslims are rioting despite the Swedish authorities’ best efforts to prevent it from happening. The police did not burn the Qur’an, but they’re the ones getting stones thrown at them. The property destroyed and people injured in the riots likely had nothing to do with the people responsible for the Qur’an burning, but that is the deadly illogic of riots everywhere. We’re seeing the same thing now all over the United States.
The rioters were, of course, screaming “Allahu akbar.” For them, Allah is greater than the gods of Sweden, be they the God of Christianity, or the gods of secularism, hedonism, the welfare state, what have you. Will Sweden acquiesce to their declarations of superiority and supremacism? Does it, at this late date, have the will not to do so?
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 21 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.