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An Open Letter to the Swedish National Police Commissioner Anders Thornberg

An Open Letter to the Swedish National Police Commissioner Anders Thornberg

An Open Letter to the Swedish National Police Commissioner Anders Thornberg

 

February 10, 2023

Commissioner Anders Thornberg

National Police Commissioner of the Swedish Police Authority

Kungsholmsgatan 43,

106 75 Stockholm, Sweden

 

Dear Commissioner Thornberg,

I visited your beautiful country, Sweden for two weeks, from January 17th, 2023, to January 29th, 2023. I had visited your country once before in the year 2022, and I fell in love with its lush green landscape, its citizens who seemed happier and calm, and the general peace and tranquility I found while roaming the streets of Stockholm and the countryside.

During my earlier visit (in 2022), I left your country inspired and motivated, given your country’s economic strengths, innovation brewing right in the heart of Stockholm, and how your country has been progressing over the years. I felt, and admittedly, I still feel, that Sweden is a model for many developing nations, and as I tell my friends in California post visits, we must learn many things from Sweden. It is just that perfect of a country!

As I was just starting to believe what a model country looked like, I discovered during my recent visit that Rasmus Paludan, leader of the Danish far-right political party, had been given the permission to burn the Holy Quran on January 21st. To know the Holy Quran that I, along with 1.9 billion followers of Islam, take to be divine words of God, Almighty, was being burned was a great shock; however, the greater shock to me was that Swedish police had granted Paludan the permit to carry out such an offensive, hateful, and a vile act.

While I found this to be deeply disturbing and saddening that a mere act of an offense to 1.9 billion was just allowed for 320 Swedish krona (£25, $31), I also reflected on the fact that the cost of getting a driver’s license in Sweden is more than the cost (about 4,000 SEK to 15,000 SEK - translates to approximately $444.40 to $1666.50 ) of allowing acts that are a far more offensive, hurtful, and damaging than the act of driving and traffic violations. 1.9 billion Muslims take Quran as a source of worship and guidance for all matters of life, and the majority live a peaceful life.

As I was processing this news, the world protesting against Paludan’s offense, another piece of news came about that Norway was next that would allow Quran burning. This leads me to the question that perhaps, it is so that many Western nations do not really understand what it really means to have freedom of expression because there is no line defined based on moral and ethical considerations, and people in the West are afraid to define a line. Norway eventually had to define its line and withdrew the Quran burning.

Dear Commissioner Thornberg, freedom without responsibility is chaos. Freedom does not mean that laws and governing bodies of a nation permit act from any group to offend the religious sentiments of a group that places religion at the core of its culture and civilization. I recall an author who made a great point in a book I read. He stated that non-religious beliefs, which the West calls as secular beliefs, are also a set of beliefs just like religious beliefs. For Paludan to act on his set of beliefs, whether you call them his freedom of expression or his secular beliefs, he is, nonetheless, preferring and endorsing a particular set of beliefs over other beliefs. His belief set is as problematic morally, ethically, and politically as the belief set of any extremist organization that kills and commits massacres, and their starting point is spreading an ideology. An ideology that has no religious, moral, or ethical justification.

Paludan’s belief sets are extremely provocative, given the act of the Quran burning deeply hurt the sentiments of the Muslim community, not just in Sweden but around the globe. Voices like Paludan, who take their views to an extreme level, are no different than voices like ISIS members, white nationalist/extremist groups, or Hindutva groups who start with their propaganda, provocative acts, and violence. Why grant permission to those whose views are designed to provoke and hurt the sentiments of 1.9 billion followers or any other groups?

Paludan’s objective is to give fuel to people who will react violently and end up hurting innocent civilians. His agenda is to get Muslims to react, and if and when they do react in violent or non-violent ways, he will say, “see, I told you, they are violent. They do not belong in our countries.” Paludan is merely scripting and setting up the stage to validate his false beliefs.

The reactionary group will also act on certain beliefs, but does their set of beliefs have any religious, ethical, or moral considerations? Absolutely not; hence, such people cannot be allowed to act. People like Paludan continue to provoke under the disguise of freedom of expression and police who stands by him to protect him while he commits a crime against a group from whom religion is an important component of life. Police standing to protect him becomes an accomplice in this vile act.

Let us assume for once. If Osama bin Laden tomorrow walked in the Sergel Torg and wanted to preach his set of beliefs, wanted to burn Sweden’s flag, and engage in any other provocative act, would you or Sweden’s government give him the permit under the same principles that you gave a permit to Paludan?

This is a sincere appeal to you and Sweden’s government not further to allow Paludan and individuals like him to disturb the peace that I saw in Sweden, not to create an anti-immigrant, anti-religious sentiment, and engage in acts that are provocative. Giving a stage to people who just want to light the world on fire means unrest and violence for innocent civilians who want to contribute to Sweden’s prosperity, and Sweden must remain prosperous.

Sincerely,

Ahsan Qazi

 

 

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