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  • Writer's pictureStewart Yarlett

CFCF Professional Practitioner Webinar

Overcoming Tensions and Building Harmony: Response to the Burning of Sacred Books in Sweden & Denmark

FEBRUARY 1, 2023

On January 21st the Danish-Swedish right-wing extremist, Rasmus Paludan burned a copy of the Qu'ran near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm causing criticism and anger across the Muslim world. A week later he burned another copy of the Qu'ran in front of the Turkish embassy and a mosque in Copenhagen. Meanwhile plans to burn a scroll of the Torah outside Stockholm's Israeli Embassy were prevented.

Cities, Faith, and Community Forum (CFCF) brought leaders together during World Inter Faith Harmony Week to reflect on these events.

How do we respond to far-right agitation? How do we remain united? These were the questions our speakers were asked, and the questions the CFCF will continue to act upon against prejudice, discrimination, and hate crime.

This event was intended for professional practitioners engaged with the subject, as well as those engaged with interfaith and charitable organisations; counter-radicalisation; promoting dialogue and communal cohesion.

Imam Salahuddin Barakat (The Malmo Muslim Network, Co-Director of Amanah: The Jewish and Muslim partnership Trust & Faith Project in Malmo) on how to respond to the burning of Sacred Books and hate crimes

  • We need to adopt a long-term effort of working collaboratively, patience and courage - clearly demonstrated by the “stepping-up” of the Jewish community

  • The severity of hate crime MUST be acknowledged; this is not a simple provocation

  • Within a context of burning Qu’rans, burning mosques and shootings, this is a clear threat. Muslims fear that the next steps after burning books and mosques, is the ‘burning‘ of the Muslims

  • There is an increasing standard of what is considered ‘hatred’ against a community - we must prevent this, in order to prevent the normalisation of Islamophobia and hatred

  • Acts of hatred are harmful to the whole of society, not solely minorities as hate crimes against minorities will undoubtedly lead to hate crimes against all people

  • Burning sacred books, closing down of schools, obstacles to religious observances/practises, and challenges to Kosher and Halal meats demonstrate problematic implications for the Freedom of Religion - leading to an evident inequality of rights

  • We must work together and not hurt minorities who are in difficulty; through trust-building and mutual understanding

Peter Loov Roos (Uppsala, Sweden, Co-Ordinator for Interfaith Issues in The Church of Sweden) on the responsibilities of the Church of Sweden and majority religions

  • It is imperative that churches, on a local and national level, should NOT be silent

  • Working on making joint statements

  • The majority of the population is not targeted, and they should recognise their privilege and use it to support minorities in explaining their experience to other majority members

  • Practical support in gathering communities for prayers to establish solidarity with minority faith communities

Rabbi Moshe David HaCohen (Rabbi of The Judiska Forsamlingen, in Malmo,

Co-Director of Amanah: The Jewish and Muslim Trust & Faith Project) on steps to tackle hate crime and build harmony in Swedish society

  • We must build courage and cultivate solidarity, by stepping outside our comfort zone Courage comes from leadership - political and religious leadership has not had a proper debate about the limitations of Swedish society

  • A healthy society involves politicians who have the welfare of the entire Swedish society in their minds - Sweden is therefore “unhealthy“, seen by the promotion of hatred and normalisation of prejudice

  • Importance of schools and educational institutions: school children and teachers must have the proper facilities to educate children, on how to deal with harmful situations that arise (in schools, there has been a rise of jokes against Jewish people)

  • Sweden needs to be open to criticism of its own systems; compared to EU Countries like Finland, which have freedom of speech and flourishing democracy, have clear laws and parameters regarding Sacred Books - unlike Sweden

  • Sweden needs to reflect - “looking in the mirror at a political level” The social majority has a responsibility towards the welfare of minority communities

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