- Changes to law to be made only if they threaten national security.
- Sweden’s freedom of speech laws protect insults towards religions.
- Minister says commission would look into giving police wider powers.
After the recent incidents of Islamophobia in Stockholm, the Swedish government is considering legal amendments to allow police to deny permission for acts of hate against religions, such as burning the Holy Quran, as per a report by Reuters.
However, the said changes to the Public Order Act will be made only if they threaten national security, the government said on Friday.
Sweden raised its terrorist alert to the second highest level on Thursday, saying it had thwarted “attacks” after Quran burnings and other acts against Islam’s holiest text outraged Muslims and triggered threats from extremists.
Insults towards public figures or against religions are protected by Sweden’s far-reaching freedom of speech laws and the government rules out changing them.
However, Minister of Justice Gunnar Strommer said on Friday he would appoint a commission to look into giving police wider powers to deny acts such as Quran burnings.
“Of course, general international dissatisfaction or vague threat should not be enough — it must be about serious and qualified threats,” Strommer told a news conference.
He added it could give police the power to select a different location for a protest or to dissolve it.
An Iraqi living in Sweden has desecrated Quran in recent months triggering an international outcry.
A media outlet linked to the militant group al Qaeda has urged violent retribution against Sweden.
The decision to appoint a commission met with immediate scepticism from several political parties, including the government’s support party, the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats.
Sweden Democrats’ party leader Jimmie Akesson said Sweden Democrats “will never accept that we adapt to threats and pressure” from extremists and dictatorships, even if different values always need to be weighed against each other.
Earlier on Friday, the government said it had tightened security at embassies and other missions due to an increase in threats against Swedish interests abroad.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom told TT that Sweden has increased security at embassies and other missions, without giving detail for security reasons.
“But the safety of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ staff is the highest priority,” he said, adding that the safety of families of diplomats and local staff was also taken into account.
“So there are different categories that are affected by this security work that is now being intensified,” he said.
Billstrom did not reply to a request for comment.