The Organization for Islamic Cooperation urged its member nations Monday to take action against countries that permit public burning or desecration of the Quran, including the recalling of ambassadors.
The Saudi Arabia-based group made the call in a statement following an emergency online meeting of its foreign ministers to discuss recent incidents in which the Islamic holy book was burned or otherwise defaced at officially permitted protests in Sweden and Denmark.
The organization’s 57 member countries should “consider taking any necessary decisions and actions that they deem appropriate in their relations” with Sweden, Denmark and other countries that allow such incidents, including recalling their ambassadors, the statement said.
It encouraged civil society organizations in the member states to work with counterparts in countries where the Quran has been burned or desecrated to file local lawsuits “before taking their cases to international judicial bodies, where applicable.”
It also called for more efforts at outreach to combat Islamophobia, praising Kuwait for commissioning the printing of 100,000 copies of the Quran translated into Swedish for distribution in Sweden.
Many of the points in the final statement echoed recommendations made by Iraq’s Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein, who also called on the United Nations to “take measures to prevent these incidents.”
Ahead of the meeting, two men who had previously burned a copy of the Quran in Sweden did so once again, in front of a crowd of a few dozen onlookers and about 20 counterprotesters.
In both Sweden and Denmark, there is no law against blasphemy, and freedom of expression is generally held in high regard.
But as the recent Quran burnings have sparked angry demonstrations and diplomatic backlash in Muslim countries, officials in the Scandinavian countries have begun to consider whether there should be curbs on public defacement of holy books or other religious symbols.
Danish Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said Sunday in an interview with Danish public broadcaster DR that the government is seeking a “legal tool” to prohibit such inflammatory acts without compromising freedom of expression.
In Sweden, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said Sunday on Instagram that his government is analyzing the legal situation regarding desecration of the Quran and other holy books, given the animosity such acts are stirring up against Sweden.
Before Monday’s meeting, the OIC had already suspended the status of Sweden’s special envoy over the Quran burnings.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said in a statement that he spoke in recent days with counterparts in OIC countries to explain how Sweden’s freedom of expression works and that police make independent decisions on protest applications. He added that “the government is very clear in its distance from the Islamophobic acts carried out by individuals at demonstrations in Sweden.”
The Danish foreign minister said his “government condemned and denounced the insult” to the Quran and “that it is studying this issue with great interest.”