Sweden Secures  First Hate Speech Conviction After Koran Burning

For the first time, a Swedish man has been convicted of hate speech for a Koran-burning related offense.

(Bloomberg) — For the first time, a Swedish man has been convicted of hate speech for a Koran-burning related offense.

The verdict comes after a series of such demonstrations caused furor in the Muslim world and added to Turkey’s reticence on accepting Sweden’s bid of becoming a member of defense alliance NATO. The actions have also fueled a debate on legal options to block people from desecrating Islam’s holy book in public.

The district court in Linkoping concluded that while the act of burning a Koran in itself is not illegal, the 27-year-old intended to threaten Muslims when he posted a video of himself burning Islam’s holy book. On Thursday, he was convicted of “agitation against an ethnic or national group” and handed a suspended sentence, meaning a two-year probation period during which he faces a different sanction if he’s sentenced again.

The video was posted Sept. 11, 2020, on Twitter, the social media platform currently known as X. It showed a Koran being burnt alongside bacon — meat many Muslims abstain from eating — on a barbecue grill and was set to music that according to the court is “closely associated” with the 2019 terror attack on mosques in New Zealand, in which 51 people were killed.

“The court has found that the video targeted Muslims, and not Islam as a religion,” it said in a statement. “The contents of the video, and the way in which it was published, makes it clear that the defendants’ primary purpose couldn’t have been anything other than to threaten and express disregard.”

While the conviction could help smooth the way for Turkey’s parliament to ratify Sweden’s accession to NATO — after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July agreed to support the bid — it may prove to be inadequate as Ankara vies with Washington over F-16 fighter jets.

Read More: Turkey Agrees to Back Sweden’s NATO Bid in Boost to Alliance

Sweden has announced an increased level of terrorist threat after the incendiary demonstrations, and its government has launched an inquiry into potential legal changes that would allow police to block such events on national security grounds.

Read More: Sweden Raises Terror Threat Level After Koran Burnings

An Iraqi man who is responsible for the majority of Koran burnings across Sweden this year is currently under investigation for the same crime as Thursday’s conviction.  

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