Sweden plans to step up border controls as security situation worsens during Quran burning crisis

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Sweden plans to step up border controls and identity checks at crossing points as its security situation deteriorates during a Quran burning crisis that has shaken the country as well as neighboring Denmark in recent weeks.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said the measure is expected to be approved by his government on Thursday.

It is meant to prevent “people with very weak connections to Sweden” to come to the country “to commit crimes or to act in conflict with Swedish security interests,” he said at a news conference in Stockholm on Tuesday.

A recent string of public Quran desecrations in Sweden and Denmark conducted by a handful of anti-Islam activists has sparked angry demonstrations in Muslim countries. Among other incidents, protesters attacked the Swedish Embassy in Iraq and set it on fire in July.

Last week, Sweden’s domestic security service warned that the security situation has worsened after the recent Quran burnings in the country and protests in the Muslim world, both of which negatively impacted the Nordic nation’s image.

“I think it’s a serious situation where national Swedish interests are being threatened,” Kristersson said, adding that he remains in close contact with his Danish counterpart Mette Frederiksen on how “to stand up for the values of Denmark and Sweden.”

“Everything that is legal is not appropriate. It can be lawful but still awful,” Kristersson said in reference to legislation in Sweden, which does not have a law specifically prohibiting the burning or desecration of the Quran or other religious texts.

The Swedish Security Service said in its assessment that the burning and desecration of religious books, and ongoing disinformation campaigns on social media and elsewhere, have negatively affected Sweden’s profile.

The agency said the country’s current reputation could fuel threats against Sweden “from individuals within the violent Islamist milieu.”

Hence, it is “extremely important” to stop people perceived as potential threats from entering Sweden, Kristersson said.

A previously decided amendment to legislation gives Swedish police increased powers to carry out identity checks and vehicle and body searches at border points, said Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer, who appeared with Kristersson at the news conference.

On Monday, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation held an emergency online meeting of its foreign ministers to discuss recent incidents in which the Islamic holy book was burned or otherwise defaced at protests in Sweden and Denmark.

The Saudi Arabia-based organization group urged its 57 member states to downgrade ties with countries that allow Quran burnings, including the recalling of ambassadors.

Also Tuesday, Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah criticized the OIC statement, calling it weak, as it left the door up for each country to take action or not. He told “Muslim youth” that there “is no longer any sense in waiting for anyone,” and urged them to take matters into their own hands.

He did not specify how they should take action.

Nasrallah had told his followers Saturday, in another speech, that if governments of Muslim-majority nations did not act against countries that allow the desecration of the Quran, Muslims should “punish” those who facilitate attacks on Islam’s holy book. He did not elaborate.

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