Prior to the January 21 Quran burning incident, rabid anti-Muslim Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan received a public dressing down in the city of Sodertalje, where he tried to set the holy book alight.
Rasmus Paludan, leader of the Danish far-right party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), has a history of burning the holy Quran in different parts of Sweden.
In one small town, Sodertalje, however, he failed to pull this rabid Muslim-hating stunt, thanks to the intervention of one Swedish-Assyrian.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Swedish-Assyrian TV journalist Dikran Ego explained how his friend Ozcan Kaldoyo had stopped Paludan from staging his provocative act in the town with an Assyrian community of about 40,000.
Recalling one of Paludan's previous demonstrations, where he burned copies of the Quran, including one on January 21 outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm, Ego said Sodertalje was the only place where the far-right extremist failed to carry out the hateful act. The town has a population of 73,000, with Assyrians being the majority.
"Of course, they didn't threaten him. They indulged in a conversation with him. Ozcan had told him: 'You brag about tolerance and pluralism, and respect to people, you claim to have no prejudice against religions, but how are you going to prove this to us? If you're really sincere in your words, don't burn this Quran today and we'll see your sincerity.' He was kind of cornered, and said 'Alright, I’m not burning it here,' and then left the scene."
Christians are also impacted
The incident, which took place over the summer, was streamed live on social media. In the video, Ozcan can be seen talking to him for a long time before Paludan left the scene.
The town of Sodertalje is known for being home to the largest Assyrian community in Europe. When asked, members of the community told Anadolu that they always expressed their solidarity with Muslims in the country when they became the target of extremists.
He said the bar for freedom of expression laws was so high in the country, also impacting Christians.
Swedish authorities could 'prevent provocations'
In an incident that took place 15 years ago, Ego noted, Jesus Christ was portrayed as a homosexual in an art exhibition that took place in a church. While many were upset and staged a protest to condemn it, there was nothing much they could do.
"A freedom of expression that allows Jesus Christ to be portrayed as a homosexual person cannot do anything on the Quran being burned as the laws are designed in this way," said Ego.
Critics of the Swedish government say that such provocative hate crimes could easily have been prevented by the authorities had they wanted to.
Just over a year ago, Paludan embarked on a Quran burning "tour" in Sweden during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, triggering major riots in the country where many took to the streets to protest the Swedish authorities' decision to allow the plans by his far-right group.
Swedish police at the time said they would no longer permit Quran burning to take place in the country as the societal costs were too high. But, Paludan was still allowed to carry out his actions in front of the Turkish Embassy last weekend.