Europe

Sweden protest after three mosque fires in one week

  • 2 January 2015
  • From the section Europe
Protesters at Stockholm rally, 2 Jan 15 Image copyright AP
Image caption A spate of mosque attacks has alarmed Sweden's Muslim community

Swedish anti-racism campaigners have staged a big rally in central Stockholm after three arson attacks on mosques.

Demonstrators held leaflets saying "Don't touch my mosque" at the 1,000-strong rally outside parliament.

A petrol bomb was thrown at a mosque in Uppsala, eastern Sweden, on Thursday. The building did not catch fire.

In late December a mosque was set ablaze at Esloev in the south, and earlier an arson attack on a mosque in Eskilstuna injured five people.

Anti-racism rallies also took place in the cities of Malmo and Gothenburg on Friday.

In Stockholm Sweden's Culture Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke said the government would launch a national strategy to counter Islamophobia. The idea is to educate people about Islam and curb prejudice, she said.

In a mark of solidarity well-wishers plastered the entrance to the Uppsala mosque with red love hearts after Thursday's attack.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Uppsala mosque was "love-bombed" with red heart stickers
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Swedish police have been told to boost security at mosques

So far the police investigation has not led to any arrests following the arson attacks.

The government has pledged to step up security at places of worship.

Culture Minister Bah Kuhnke told the Stockholm rally that the attacks were "aimed at intimidating and diminishing" people.

"That's why one of the most important things we can do is to not let ourselves be intimidated," AFP news agency quoted her as saying.

Immigration has become a hot topic of debate in Sweden, which accepts more asylum seekers per capita than any other European country.

The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, who got 13% in elections last September, want a 90% cut in the number of asylum seekers allowed into Sweden. Last month the party nearly brought down the new coalition government, in a protest against its asylum policy.

About 16% of Sweden's population are foreign-born, many of them from war-torn Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria - all Muslim-majority countries.

Update 7 April 2015: A police investigation into the fire at the Eskilstuna mosque found no evidence of an arson attack and the case was closed.

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