Iraqi security forces fired tear gas to repel hundreds of protesters as they tried to get to the Danish Embassy in Baghdad early on Saturday after reports a Koran was burned in Denmark, according to a government source and videos on social media.
The incident at Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone happened two days after demonstrators stormed and set alight the Swedish Embassy in protest at a planned burning of the Koran in Stockholm.
Iraq condemned the attack on the Swedish Embassy but also expelled the Swedish ambassador in protest at the planned burning of the Koran, the central text of Islam which Muslims believe to be a revelation from God.
On Friday in Denmark, a man set fire to a book purported to be the Koran on a square across from the Iraqi Embassy in Copenhagen.
The event was livestreamed 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.
During Thursday’s anti-Islam demonstration in Stockholm, protesters kicked and partially destroyed a book they said was the Koran but left the area after an hour without setting it alight.
The incident prompted Middle Eastern states including Saudi Arabia and Iran to summon Swedish diplomats in protest.
Iran on Saturday urged Denmark and Sweden to take measures to end repeated attacks on the Koran in the Nordic countries, saying Muslims around the world expected the desecration to be stopped.
Koran burnings are permitted in Sweden, Denmark and Norway, which all have legal protections for freedom of speech.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday that people who burned the Koran deserved the “most severe punishment” and demanded Sweden hand them over to “perpetrator to the judicial systems of Islamic countries”.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said: “Iran believes that the Danish government is responsible for preventing insults to the Holy Koran 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.
The Danish foreign ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.
Iran, which has delayed the posting of a new ambassador to Sweden, also said it was reciprocally not accepting a new Swedish envoy over the attacks on the Koran.
“In line with the directive of the president (Ebrahim Raisi), their (Sweden) new ambassador will not be accepted and our new ambassador will not be sent to Sweden until effective action is taken by them,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told state TV.
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.
In a statement, the Iraqi presidency called on international organisations and Western governments “to stop incitement and hate practices, whatever their pretexts”.
It also warned Iraqis against being drawn into what it described as a “plot of sedition” which it said aimed to show Iraq was unsafe for foreign missions.