Turkey Issues ‘Terror Alert’ To Its Citizens Traveling In West After Quran Burnings
Turkey issued an alert to its citizens traveling abroad in the West on Saturday, describing “possible Islamophobic, xenophobic and racist attacks” in the United States and Europe due to increases in “anti-Islam and racist'” acts.
Turkey’s foreign ministry over the weekend issued no less than two separate travel advisories, coming in the wake of Quran-burning incidents in Sweden – which have set tensions between Ankara and Stockholm to boiling point.
The Turkish government alert instructed its citizens in the United States and European countries to “act calmly in the face of possible xenophobic and racist harassment and attacks” and to “stay away from areas where demonstrations may intensify.”
Within the last week, there have been two Quran-burning demonstrations in Sweden, the first one provocatively carried out in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, which Turkey’s President Erdogan and his top officials angrily condemned.
Erdogan went so far as to say Sweden should no longer expect to join NATO. What especially enraged Turkey was that the far-right activist who conducted the public burning of the Islamic ‘holy book’ had police protection in the face of counter-demonstrations. Al Jazeera detailed the scene of the first burning as follows:
The Quran burning was carried out by Rasmus Paludan, leader of Danish far-right political party Hard Line. In April last year, Paludan’s announcement of a Quran burning “tour” during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan sparked riots across Sweden.
Surrounded by police, Paludan set fire to the holy book with a lighter following a long diatribe of almost an hour, in which he attacked Islam and immigration in Sweden. About 100 people gathered nearby for a peaceful counterdemonstration.
“If you don’t think there should be freedom of expression, you have to live somewhere else,” he said.
And days ago the same man did it again – this time under even heavier police protection:
According to Reuters, there’s been a spate of other Quran burnings in northern Europe: “Similar Koran-burning acts in the Netherlands and Denmark also drew strong condemnation from Ankara.” There have since been multiple large demonstrations reacting to the burnings in major cities in Turkey, and in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa.
Ankara has taken firm action, indefinitely suspending high-level talks with Swedish officials which were geared toward overcoming obstacles to NATO membership. Swedish leaders themselves condemned the Quran burnings, yet acknowledged according to Swedish laws such acts are protected free speech.
Turkish media has lately claimed that Swedish authorities shut down an attempt to burn the Torah, setting off accusations of a double standard:
Meanwhile, Politico has absurdly suggested the Quran-burning incidents were all part of a Kremlin plot to sabotage Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession. “Unfortunately, various activists in Sweden, some Kremlin-linked, then decided to exploit this highly fraught situation, and by aggravating Erdoğan and Turkey, they’ve now helped turn the country’s NATO accession from virtually guaranteed to one that’s now in serious jeopardy — and other countries should learn from this mess,” a Saturday report reads.