The Swedish police have intervened in plans by a controversial street artist to burn a copy of the Quran outside a mosque in Malmö’s notorious Rosengård district, present on Sweden's list of “vulnerable areas” and often referred to as a no-go area.
Swedish street artist Dan Park was set to burn the holy book of Islam on 28 August, in the company of Danish lawyer and Hard Line party leader Rasmus Paludan, who has a history of Quran burnings in Muslim areas, which he sees as a celebration of freedom of speech. Paludan described his action as “standing up for his brotherly people” in Sweden.
According to Dan Park himself, the police denied him a permit for his stunt, referring to security reasons.
“We applied for permission outside the mosque in Rosengård, or elsewhere in Rosengård. They denied that, for security reasons. They claimed there would be too much violence, too much provocation”, Park told the news outlet Nyheter Idag.
According to the artist, the police instead proposed a square in a much quieter area with fewer Muslim immigrants.
By Park's own admission, the police emphasised that 28 August is a Friday, which is why Muslims gathering for a traditional Friday prayer could see the Quran burning as a deliberate provocation.
“I told the police, you’re bowing to the violence. You are afraid that there will be violence, so you give in. The violent ones get to decide on freedom of expression”, Park told Nyheter Idag.
Rasmus Paludan, who leads the Danish anti-immigration party Hard Line, which identifies as “ethno-nationalist utilitarian” and seeks a complete ban on Islam, minced no words about the police decision.
“The Swedish police obviously love Muslims and dare not do their duty. A shameful chapter in Sweden's history, the day when the Swedish state rejected freedom of expression and freedom of assembly”, Paludan told the news outlet Samhällsnytt.
Neither Paludan, nor Park are strangers to controversy. Paludan, whose party barely missed the parliamentary threshold in the 2019 election, has survived a series of attacks and murder attempts for his Quran torchings and lives under constant police protection. He has faced several legal controversies and was convicted of expressing racist views. Last year, Paludan's actions in a Copenhagen suburb sparked civil unrest and riots and led to dozens of arrests.
Dan Park has been repeatedly arrested, fined, and jailed for hate speech for his art. Some of Park's works include a collage depicting a notable Afro-Swedish student activist in chains with the caption “Our Negro slave has run away” and placing a jar labelled Zyklon B and a swastika outside the premises of a Jewish congregation in Malmö.
While coming from a left-wing background, Park insists that his works are not displays of racism or hate, but rather caustic social commentary on current events and a protest against political correctness in Sweden. Park called himself a believer in free speech and a contrarian who always goes right if society goes left, and vice versa.