07/06/2023, 16.44
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Islamic extremists threaten Christians in Pakistan over Qurʾān burning in Sweden

by Shafique Khokhar

The terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Jhangvi announces that "no church will be safe" in Pakistan, while in Bangladesh Muslim groups call for the boycott of Swedish products. According to the Catholic National Commission for Justice and Peace in Pakistan, the “This declaration should not be ignored”. Pakistani and Bangladeshi Catholics condemn the act in Stockholm.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – The burning of a copy of the Qurʾān in Sweden has caused outrage and promises of retaliation by extremist organisations in Pakistan.

The terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) has announced that it will attack Christians and churches to avenge the act. Its spokesman, Nasser Raisani, said that "no church or Christian will remain safe in Pakistan”, adding that his group will join others in the region against Christians, who are an already persecuted minority in Pakistan and South Asia.

Salwan Sabah Metti Momika, an Iraqi-born resident of Sweden, naturalised according to some sources, set fire to a copy of the Qurʾān in front of Stockholm's main mosque on 28 June, at the start of Eid al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice, claiming that the book incites violence.

Reacting to the incident, Pope Francis expressed his indignation over the burning, while the European Union called the desecration "offensive" and disrespectful, noting that "Manifestations of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance have no place in Europe".

For Muslims, the Qurʾān holds greater importance than the Torah, the Gospels or the sacred texts of other religions, because they believe that it was authored by God himself, while they consider prophets as mere vessels for the divine Word.

The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), which advocates for human rights on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan (CBCP), strongly condemned the incident.

NCJP Chairman Bishop Samson Shukardin, CBCP president Archbishop Joseph Arshad, NCJP National Director Fr Emmanuel Yousaf, and NCJP Executive Director Naeem Yousaf Gill issued a joint statement calling the burning of the Qurʾān a “blatant provocation, disrespectful and an act of racism and intolerance.”

Expressing solidarity with Muslims, they called on Sweden to take proper steps to ensure respect for all religions. “The government should take measures to avoid such incidents that can fuel tensions among citizens on the basis of faith and religion”, while “Respecting every religion and confronting hatred and extremism is our divine responsibility.

Meanwhile, “In Pakistan, an extremist Islamic organisation has declared that it wants to attack Churches and Christians.” This is “making life miserable for them as revenge for this incident,” said NCJP coordinator Ata-ur-Rehman Saman speaking to AsiaNews.

“Such groups have been allowed to operate unchecked by the state. This declaration should not be ignored and the community left at their mercy.” Indeed, “a picture has gone viral on social media showing some [Islamic] clerics desecrating a cross on the ground with their feet. To soothe one’s sentiments is no reason to insult others’ religion.”

Criticism has come from several other Muslim-majority countries. In Bangladesh, the foreign minister summoned the Swedish Ambassador. Cardinal Patrick D'Rozario, former archbishop of Dhaka, also spoke on the matter.

“In the name of freedom, one cannot hurt the religious sentiments of the people of any religion. I am one with Pope Francis in expressing deep objection and annoyance over the burning of the [Islamic] holy book in Sweden. Let us be religious in respecting other religions.”

In Bangladesh, Muslim organisations also protested and called for a boycott of Swedish products.

Islami Andonon, an Islamist party, has called for a rally tomorrow in front of the Baitul Mukarram National Mosque, with thousands of people expected.

“Muslim countries should teach a lesson by removing their embassies from Sweden,” party secretary Maulana Imtiaz Alam, "

For the National Teachers' Forum, “the Swedish government should apologise to the Muslim world and publicly hang the guilty person. The audacity shown by burning the Holy Qurʾān is in no way forgivable.”

(Sumon Corraya contributed to this article from Bangladesh)

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