Contemporary and Social Issues

Qur’an Burning in Sweden – Is This Really Freedom of Speech?


Farrukh Tahir, Canada

Freedom of speech is burning issue in many parts of the world, literally. In the name of freedom of religion, many people have taken the path of ignorance and have disregarded the most basic of morals toward their fellow human beings, including mutual respect and tolerance. 

Just recently, a Qur’an was burned and desecrated outside a mosque in Sweden, and even that on one of the holiest days of Islam, Eid Al-Adha. The Qur’an was torn apart, burnt, and the individuals responsible went as far as stomping bacon onto its pages. Is this really an act of freedom of expression, or has this devolved into hate? 

What is even more regretful is that this demonstration of the desecration of the Holy Qur’an – the most beloved and sacred book in Islam which outlines all its divine teachings and commandments – was an act carried out under the protection and permission of the police. 

In his most recent Friday Sermon, the Fifth Caliph and Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmed (aba) states:

In Sweden and in some other countries, the wrongdoers have been given the permission to do whatever they wish in the name of “freedom of speech and religion”. Through this, day in day out, they are perpetrating acts that hurt the sentiments of Muslims.

Their actions are absolutely despicable; they dishonour the Holy Qur’an or use abusive language against the Holy Prophet (sa). Allah the Almighty is the one Who can seize them.[1]

Truly, when policies made by secular lawmakers allow for such demonstrations to take place, it is only Allah the Almighty who can hold these perpetrators accountable. 

Indeed, Islam is the greatest advocate for freedom of speech and conscience, but not at the cost of the sentiments of others. And a Muslim is expected to embody this teaching of tolerance. 

Islam has been falsely portrayed by so-called Muslims around the world, and it is unfortunate that such people tarnish the name of Islam by attributing their terrorist and extremist acts to this peaceful religion. But what these small groups of extremist demonstrate is unequivocally opposed to the true teachings of Islam.

Whilst explaining this ignorance of what Islam truly is, His Holiness (aba) states at another instance:

‘The truth is that most people in Sweden and other Western countries remain unaware of the true teachings of Islam and this enables extremists to take individual verses of the Holy Quran completely out of context for the sake of their false propaganda. People who conduct such hateful acts have no knowledge of Islam or what the actual conditions laid down in the Holy Quran are for Jihad. They ignore the fact that the Bible has many more verses that can be taken out of context and used to justify the use of force.’[2]

It is ironic that the very book that these people lay blame upon teaches tolerance and religious freedom of the highest order. Regardless of whether a Muslim disagrees with the beliefs of another, the Holy Qur’an clearly instructs that a Muslim should never slander what others hold sacred, including their gods and religious figures. Allah states:

‘And revile not those whom they call upon beside Allah, lest they, out of spite, revile Allah in their ignorance.’[3]

If Muslims respond to such slander with slander, it will only create more chaos. Guiding the Muslim world, under the same pretext of the recent desecration of the Holy Qur’an, His Holiness (aba) states:

‘Even for this, the Muslim governments are at fault, because owing to their disunity and quarrels, the anti-Islamic organisations carry out these wrongful acts. If there is a response from the Muslims, it is only temporary and even then it is ineffective… Nothing will be achieved through disorder and violence. The Muslims need to act in accordance to the Islamic teachings. When their words and deeds are in accordance to the Islamic teachings only then will they attain any kind of success.’[4]

Thus, in light of the teachings of Islam, Muslims must remain patient against such attacks and demonstrate – through their words and actions – that Islam and the teachings found in the Holy Qur’an are of peace and harmony and wish to eradicate disorder. 

So, what does universal peace and harmony require? His Holiness (aba) states: 

‘If we truly desire peace in the world, we need to think of the consequences of our words and deeds. We need to be respectful of the beliefs and values of others. This is the way to break down barriers and to knock down the walls of enmity and resentment that have been erected in so many parts of the world. Certainly, establishing peace is the most critical and urgent need of the time. This should be our foremost ambition and objective.’[5]

About the Author: Farrukh Tahir is an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Canada, serving in the Review of Religions.


[1]Friday Sermon, 7 July 2023 


[3] The Holy Qur’an, 6:109

[4] Friday Sermon, 7 July 2023