burqa niqab
A demonstrator wears a niqab during a protest outside the French embassy in London April 11, 2011. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth/File Photo

The prime minister of Pakistan, Shehbaz Sharif, has called for a protest against the desecration of the Holy Quran in Sweden.

The Pakistan government will observe Yaum-e-Taqaddus-e-Quran (the day to uphold the Holy Quran's sanctity) on Friday, and all members of the government and political parties have been urged to take part in the protest.

The government will also hold a joint session of parliament on July 6 to pass a resolution denouncing the Holy Quran's desecration.

"The sentiments and feelings of the nation should be fully expressed through the forum of Parliament. A joint resolution should be passed in the joint session of the Parliament," The Dawn quoted the prime minister as saying.

"Honouring the Holy Quran is part of our faith, [and] we are all united for it," he added. "Misguided minds are following a nefarious agenda by spreading the negative trend of Islamophobia.

"Peace-loving nations and leaders around the world who believe in co-existence should block the path of violent forces victim to Islamophobia and religious prejudices."

This comes after a man tore up and burned a copy of the Holy Quran outside Stockholm's central mosque on June 28, on the auspicious Eid al-Adha holiday. The act led to public outrage, and several countries, including Pakistan, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Iraq, Iran, and the European Union, have condemned the act.

Meanwhile, Sweden has issued a statement condemning the act and saying that it does not reflect the views of the Swedish government. The statement from the government came after the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) called for collective action to prevent such incidents in the future.

"The burning of the Quran, or any other holy text, is an offensive and disrespectful act and a clear provocation. Expressions of racism, xenophobia, and related intolerance have no place in Sweden or in Europe," the Swedish government said.

At the same time, it added that the country has a "constitutionally protected right to freedom of assembly, expression, and demonstration."

This is not the first time that such an incident has been reported in Sweden. The country has seen attacks on several Muslim institutions over the years. In 2016, an Arab school was set on fire by unknown perpetrators in the Swedish city of Malmo.

Like Gothenburg and Stockholm, Malmö is Sweden's third largest city and home to sizable immigrant populations, including those from Muslim countries. There have been several arson attacks against schools and refugee centres in Sweden in recent years.

The United Nations Human Rights Council is also set to hold an urgent meeting on the issue. Morocco has recalled its ambassador as a sign of protest against the burning of the Holy Quran.

In 2021, a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief found that Islamophobia had risen to "epidemic proportions."

The report highlighted how Muslims are facing increased restrictions in several countries. At least 11 States in Europe, Africa, and South Asia have imposed bans on women wearing hijab or burqas in public.

It also revealed that British Muslim women are 71 per cent more likely to be unemployed than white Christian women, despite having the same educational level and language skills.

According to a study conducted by the Muslim Engagement and Development Group (MEND) in the UK, almost half of mosques across the UK have been attacked in the last three years. The researchers studied data from over 100 mosques across the country and found that there has been an increase in Islamophobic hate crimes in the UK as well.

According to the European Islamophobia Report 2021, Islamophobia is becoming a growing threat in several European countries. It blamed it on countries that have "institutionalised it" by adopting policies that encourage Islamophobia. The report is published every year since 2015 by a consortium of civil society NGOs.