Rasmus Paludan, burned Koran and Islamophobia… Three things about the violent riots that are rocking the country

The series of violent riots almost passed under the radar. For almost a week, Sweden has been the scene of violent confrontations between the police and rioters. The reason ? The arrival of a controversial figure in the country, the far-right leader Rasmus Paludan. Wanting to “burn the Koran” in Muslim neighborhoods, the Danish-Swedish has drawn the wrath of some civilians. 20 minutes takes stock of violence stemming from far-right protests in Sweden

Why are there violent riots in Sweden?

Since Thursday April 14, Norrköping and Linköping, two cities southwest of Stockholm, have been the scene of clashes every night between the police and rioters. Twenty-six people suspected of having taken part have been arrested, Swedish police announced on Monday. Forty people were also injured, including 26 police officers and 14 civilians. The Swedish police, in which around twenty vehicles were burned or damaged, consider that they were the main target of what they described as “violent riots”.

The reason ? Demonstrators protest against a gathering of the anti-immigration and anti-Islam group dubbed “Hard Line” [«Stram Kurs »], led by Danish-Swedish Rasmus Paludan. The latter planned to start a “tour” in Sweden on Thursday, targeting neighborhoods with large Muslim populations to burn the Koran there.

Who is Rasmus Paludan, the rising figure of the far right?

Very little is known about Rasmus Paludan. But his notoriety comes from Youtube, the platform on which he launched his YouTube channel, “The voice of freedom”, whose videos have been viewed more than 25 million times. It was on Youtube that he was more than noticed after burning a Koran surrounded by bacon in 2019 because, according to him, the text “spreads principles incompatible with Danish values”. Last year, the 40-year-old man who defines himself as “Denmark’s most threatened man”, reiterated by posting a photo conflating immigration and criminality which will lead to him being blocked for a month by Facebook.

Rasmus Paludan.
Rasmus Paludan. – Henning Bagger/AP/SIPA

The Danish lawyer, naturalized Danish in 2020 and who often wears a bulletproof vest, is almost unknown in France. However, he is listed as S and forbidden to stay, according to information from our colleagues from Release. On November 11, 2020, Rasmus Paludan had indeed been arrested in Paris when he intended to burn a Koran near the Arc de Triomphe on the occasion of the commemorations of the Armistice.

Are we witnessing a rise in Islamophobia in Sweden?

Sweden, a rich Scandinavian country of 10.3 million inhabitants, welcomed more than 400,000 immigrants between 2010 and 2019, according to statistics from the Migration Office. But many experts note that the country has struggled to integrate many of these newcomers, with thousands failing to learn Swedish and find jobs in a highly skilled job market. The far right has since gained ground, becoming the country’s third largest political party

In this context, in Denmark, Belgium, France and obviously in Sweden, Rasmus Paludan has multiplied in recent years the projects to burn copies of the Koran, generally in neighborhoods with a large immigrant and Muslim population. And, in Sweden, he attracts followers of the far right and manages to collect in 2019 the 20,000 signatures required to participate with his party in the legislative elections. In June of the same year, he won 1.8% of the vote, “nearly missing his entry into Parliament where 2% of the votes were necessary to sit there”, let it be known. Point.

But even more than this ambient Islamophobic climate, if the riot is such today in Sweden it is indeed because Rasmus Paludan’s tour was not banned by the authorities. Indeed, the police maintained that, despite the burnings, these “tours” fell under the freedom of expression, a constitutional right obliging them to grant authorizations to demonstrate.

The management of this anti-Islam tour has drawn condemnation from several Muslim countries. After Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Turkish diplomacy deplored “the hesitation to prevent provocative and Islamophobic acts (…) under the guise of freedom of expression”, while a demonstration took place in front of the embassy. from Sweden to Iran.

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