sweden riots

Around 300 people on Friday night gathered to protest against anti-Islam activities in Malmo city in southern Sweden, where right-wing extremists had set fire to a copy of the Quran earlier in the day.

Viral videos on social media showed that the mob which gathered in the Muslim-majority neighbourhood of Malmo, torched cars while chanting "Allahu Akbar" and threw stones at the police officers, who tried to ease the tensions.

"We have ongoing and violent riots right now that we have no control over", police spokesman Rickard Lundqvist told Sputnik on Saturday.

The city police was further quoted as saying that Rasmus Paludan, a Danish lawyer and head of the "Hard Line" political group was arrested near Malmo and expelled from the country by Swedish authorities.

According to the police, Paludan, who had previously burned Koran, wrapped in slices of bacon, planned to perform another burning of the book during the mass event. "He was going to break the law", the police said, noting that his behaviour posed danger to the society.

Who is Rasmus Paludan?

Paludan is a far-right Danish politician who leads the anti-immigration party Hard Line, also called Stram Kurs, which is relatively new. It was founded in 2017 and is known for its openly anti-Islam stance. Much of the party's agenda focuses on building an anti-Islam narrative and engaging in acts that are provocative and offensive towards Islam and Muslims.

Paludan's party also seeks a ban on Islam and particularly singles out Muslims in Denmark. Last year, he was close to winning the 2019 Danish elections. But due to its anti-Islamic and anti-immigration rhetoric, Stram Kurs only secured 1.8 per cent of the vote, falling short of the 2 per cent mark needed to win the elections.

Last year, Paludan also attracted media attention for burning a Quran wrapped in bacon - a meat that is abhorrent for Muslims.

In June this year, he was convicted of posting anti-Islam videos on his party's social media channels. He faced 14 charges, including racism, defamation, and dangerous driving.

The politician, who is also a former lawyer, was due to speak at the rally where a copy of the Quran was being burned following his arrest.

Rise of the Far-Right in Europe

Sweden protest
Smoke billows from the burning tyres, pallets and fireworks during a riot in the Rosengard neighbourhood of Malmo, Sweden August 28, 2020.Reuters

Various anti-Islamic activities took place in Malmo on Friday. A local newspaper, Daily Aftonbladet, reported that three men were seen kicking a copy of the Quran between them in a public square.

For decades, Sweden and Denmark stood out for being one the few politically stable countries in the region. However, the course has changed over the past few years, particularly since the migration crisis in Europe that started in earnest in 2015, which further led to fears of Islamization of Nordic countries and Western Europe.

An Al Jazeera news report from 2019 indicates that anti-Muslim extremism has taken a severe stance in Denmark over the past few years, and far-right parties like Paludan's 'Hard Line' have further contributed to the rhetoric.