In about-face, Swedish woman burns paper instead of Torah outside Israeli embassy

Woman is 2nd in recent weeks to threaten to burn the holy book only to walk it back; Israel warned Stockholm that allowing demonstration would harm bilateral relations

A woman burns a piece of paper in front of the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm on July 28, 2023. (Screen capture/Hedlund Media TV, used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)
A woman burns a piece of paper in front of the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm on July 28, 2023. (Screen capture/Hedlund Media TV, used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

A Swedish woman who received permission from local authorities to burn a Torah book outside Israel’s embassy in Stockholm aborted the act on Friday.

The 50-year-old woman, who is believed to have a history of mental health problems, burned a blank piece of paper instead and declared that it was a “symbol of the Swedish system that is empty of content.”

When she submitted a request to Stockholm police to hold her protest, the woman had said it was about the “systematic violation of children’s rights in Sweden.” It was unclear why she had chosen to make a Torah book the prop in her protest.

It was the second planned Torah book burning in recent weeks that was canceled at the last minute.

Hours before the woman’s about-face, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen called his Swedish counterpart Tobias Billström and told her that the planned burning would harm relations between the two countries.

Swedish officials have come under criticism in recent weeks for repeatedly approving various protest events at which holy books have been defiled — particularly Qurans. The latter acts have sparked an angry backlash across the Muslim world. Sweden has said that while it does not approve of the actions, it holds freedom of expression and protest as sacrosanct.

In a statement Friday, Cohen said he was “horrified by the additional threat to burn a Torah book in Sweden,” urging an end to the threats to damage holy books.

Billström told Cohen that such acts contravened Swedish values and that he would look into constitutional changes that could prevent such incidents, the Ynet news site reported.

A previous plan earlier this month was approved by cops, and also attracted backlash from Israel and European Jewry.

However, the activist behind the stunt did not go through with it, telling gathered reporters on the day that it had never been his intention to burn Jewish or Christian holy books, only to protest the recent burning of the Quran.

According to a Kan report, earlier this month, senior Swedish officials told their Israeli counterparts they were working to outlaw the burning of religious texts but stressed any such change would take time to implement.

In June, Swedish police allowed a Quran burning in front of a mosque in Stockholm to go ahead, citing freedom of speech after a court overturned a ban on Quran burning.

A Muslim activist outside the Israeli embassy in Sweden where he had been granted permission to burn a Torah. (Screen capture/used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Sweden’s government condemned the burning, calling it an “Islamophobic” act after a call for collective measures to avoid future Quran burnings was issued by the Saudi-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

The 57-member body met at its Jeddah headquarters to respond to the incident, during which an Iraqi citizen living in Sweden, Salwan Momika, 37, stomped on the Islamic holy book, filled some pages with bacon and set several others alight.

Authorities later said they had opened an investigation over “agitation against an ethnic group,” noting that Momika had burnt pages from the Islamic holy book very close to Stockholm’s largest mosque.

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