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Sweden Allows Public Burning of the Torah Outside Israeli Embassy

In a deeply controversial decision that has shocked religious communities, Swedish authorities have given permission for a public burning of sacred Jewish and Christian texts, scheduled to occur outside Israel’s embassy in Stockholm this Saturday, July 15th. 

Upon hearing the news, the umbrella organization of Jewish communities in Sweden released a poignant statement on Friday expressing their profound consternation and sadness. “As a people of the book, the Torah is our most sacred treasure of moral codes and ethics that have changed the world we live in,” the statement read.

Jewish Watchdog organization, StopAntisemitism shared the history of Sweden’s past dealings with Nazi Germany.

It further highlighted the painful echoes of Jewish history in Europe, where the burning of Jewish books has often heralded times of extreme persecution, such as pogroms, expulsions, inquisitions, and the Holocaust.

The Jewish Central Council joined in, voicing their strong condemnation of this misuse of freedom of expression, framing it as a tool to sow seeds of hatred within society. In a remarkable gesture of solidarity, the Council also declared its support for the Muslim community in Sweden, following previous instances of Quran burnings that had caused outrage and distress.

This shocking development follows reports earlier this month about three applications to burn religious scriptures – including the Quran, the Torah, and the New Testament – submitted to the Swedish police. These plans, two in Stockholm and one in Helsingborg, sparked serious concerns and drew widespread condemnation.

In one particularly concerning case, the organizer of a proposed Quran burning outside a mosque in Stockholm expressed the intention to carry out the act “as soon as possible”. The recent burning of a Quran outside a Stockholm mosque had already sparked widespread anger and criticism, and has potentially detrimental political ramifications for Sweden’s NATO accession process.

With the approval of these public burnings, Sweden finds itself at the intersection of freedom of speech and respect for religious beliefs. How the nation will navigate this delicate balance in the face of such a controversial decision remains to be seen. The call from religious communities for an end to these acts of desecration is clear, as they stress the need for unity, respect, and harmony in our diverse global society.

The European Jewish Congress (EJC)  said in a statement that they “strongly condemn the decision of Swedish authorities to allow the provocative burning of holy books and texts by extremists in the country.”

EJC president Dr. Ariel Muzicant said that “provocative, racist, antisemitic and sickening acts such as these have no place in any civilised society. 

“Stamping on the deepest religious and cultural sensibilities of people is the clearest expression possible to send a message that minorities are unwelcome and unrespected,” Muzicant added. “These actions, based on contorted and specious free speech arguments, are a disgrace to Sweden and any democratic government worthy of the name should prevent it.”

“All religions and all peoples of good faith and basic decency should come together to condemn these horrific acts,” Muzicant concluded. “What starts with words and books, always ends with trampling upon the basic rights of people. So it was in the darkest days of Europe, so it is now. “  

Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yitzhak Yosef, wrote to Prime Minister Olaf Kristerton of Sweden on Friday: “Desecration of Israel’s sanctuaries is anti-Semitism, not freedom of expression.”

In his letter, Yosef expressed his deep concern regarding the planned demonstration by Swedish citizens in front of the Israeli embassy in Stockholm, involving the burning of a Torah. He emphasized that the act of burning sacred texts was a grave offense and could not be justified under the guise of freedom of expression.

The Rabbi urged the Prime Minister to prevent such incidents, highlighting that the damage caused to Israel’s sanctuaries was an expression of anti-Semitism rather than freedom. He expressed his belief that people worldwide understood the seriousness of these acts and condemned them.

President Herzog and Minister Chikli’s had comments regarding the planned Torah burning.

“I unequivocally condemn the permission granted in Sweden to burn holy books. As the President of the State of Israel, I condemned the burning of the Quran, sacred to Muslims world over, and I am now heartbroken that the same fate awaits a Jewish Bible, the eternal book of the Jewish people,” Herzog said. “Permitting the defacement of sacred texts is not an exercise in freedom of expression, it is blatant incitement and an act of pure hate. The whole world must join together in clearly condemning this repulsive act.”

Minister Chikli said something similar.

“Such explicit acts of bigotry and hatred against the Jewish People is as much revolting as it is reprehensible and has no place amongst the liberal democracies of the world,” said Chikli. “My Ministry is continuing to work closely with the local Jewish community and is in dialogue with local Swedish authorities regarding this reprehensible act.”

One of the figures involved is Rabbi Moshe David HaCohen, who serves as the rabbi of the Judiska Församlingen in Malmö as well as co-directs Amanah: The Muslim and Jewish Trust and Faith Project with Imam Salahuddin Barakat.

The project fosters bonding between the Jewish and Muslim communities in Malmö. He told The Jerusalem Post on Friday that “this isn’t an anti-Jewish or antisemitic event, rather a long-lasting debate in Sweden about the extent of the Freedom of Expression.”

Yaakov Hagoel, chairman of the World Zionist Organization said on Friday: “The permit to burn a Torah in front of the Israeli embassy is not freedom of expression but antisemitism.  80 years since the holocaust and the signs we wanted to forget remind us again to stand guard.  I strongly condemn the burning of the Koran and call on Sweden to cancel the anti-Semitic decision to burn a Bible book. Enough of the hate!”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also responded to the intended burning of holy scriptures in Sweden.

“I strongly condemn the decision of the authorities in Sweden to allow the burning of a Torah book in front of the Israeli embassy,” Netanyahu said. “The State of Israel takes this shameful decision that damages the Holy of Holies of the Jewish people very seriously.  The holy books of all religions must be respected.”

Also chiming into the conversation was Yaakov Hagoel, the chairman of the World Zionist Organization.

“The permit to burn a Torah in front of the Israeli embassy is not freedom of expression but antisemitism.  80 years since the holocaust and the signs we wanted to forget remind us again to stand guard,” said Hagoel. “I strongly condemn the burning of the Koran and call on Sweden to cancel the anti-Semitic decision to burn a Bible book. Enough of the hate!”

Source: https://www.jpost.com/diaspora/antisemitism/article-750097