Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday that persons desecrating the Holy Quran should face the “most severe punishment” and demanded Sweden hand them over for prosecution in Islamic countries, Iran’s state media reported.
“All Islamic scholars agree that those who desecrate the Quran deserved the most severe punishment… The duty of that (Swedish) government is to hand over the perpetrator to the judicial systems of Islamic countries,” Khamenei said in a statement carried by state media.
Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters as they tried to get to the Danish Embassy in Baghdad early on Saturday after reports emerged that a Quran was burned in Denmark.
The Baghdad incident came two days after protesters stormed and set fire to the Swedish Embassy in protest over a planned burning of the Quran in Stockholm.
Iraq condemned the attack on the Swedish Embassy but also expelled the Swedish ambassador in protest over the planned burning of the Quran.
On Friday in Denmark, a man set fire to a book purported to be the Quran on a square across from the Iraqi Embassy in Copenhagen.
Reuters reported the event was live streamed on the Facebook platform of a group that calls itself “Danish Patriots”. The video shows the book burning in a tin foil tray next to the Iraqi flag on the ground, with two onlookers standing and talking next to it.
Danish Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen condemned it as an act of “stupidity” by a few individuals, telling national broadcaster DR: “It is a disgraceful act to insult the religion of others”.
“This applies to the burning of Korans and other religious symbols. It has no other purpose than to provoke and create division,” he said. He noted however that burning religious books was not a crime in Denmark.
Iran on Saturday urged Denmark and Sweden to take measures to end repeated attacks on the Quran in the Nordic countries, saying Muslims around the world expected the desecration to be stopped.
Quran burnings are permitted in Sweden, Denmark and Norway, which all have legal protections for freedom of speech.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani meanwhile said Saturday: “Iran believes that the Danish government is responsible for preventing insults to the Holy Quran and Islamic sanctities, as well as prosecuting and punishing those committing the insults.”
Public opinion in the Islamic world was waiting for “practical action” by the Danish government, Kanaani said in a statement carried by state media.
A Swedish government spokesperson said there was a phone conversation on Friday between the Swedish and Iranian foreign ministers, but declined to give details of what they discussed.