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Afghanistan bans Swedish NGOs from charitable work over Quran burning incident

The Taliban has suspended charitable work by Sweden over Quran burning (Photo: @samanthaleaning/Twitter)

Annoyed by the burning of the Quran in front of a mosque in Sweden on the Muslim festival of Eid, the Taliban government suspended all Swedish activities on Tuesday in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said that in reaction to the burning of the Holy Quran in Sweden, Afghanistan has stopped the activities of all Swedish institutions in the country and till Sweden apologises to Muslims, its activities in Afghanistan will remain stopped.

Afghanistan, which has 15 provinces, has at least one Swedish institution that works in the fields of education, health, child welfare, or other social sectors, reports Tolo News.

The Voice of America reports that: “Last year, SCA-run medical centers received 2.5 million patients in the Afghan provinces of Wardak and Nuristan. Its schools provided education to 133,000 children, and the organization supported more than 20,000 persons with disabilities”.

The suspension of Swedish charity and social work in Afghanistan is more likely to damage poor and marginalised Afghan people than impact the Taliban regime.

Bilal Karimi, deputy spokesperson for the Islamic Emirate, said: “Sweden allowed and insulted the Holy Quran; the Islamic Emirate condemns the evil and insolent acts and suspends all of Sweden’s activities in Afghanistan until Sweden begs for pardon from the Muslims”.

On the other end, the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan issued in a statement seeking clarity from the Taliban: “The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, SCA, is seeking dialogue with the de facto authorities of Afghanistan to clarify if the directive of July 11 to suspend all Sweden’s activities in Afghanistan will affect our organization”.

The burning of the Quran by an Irani refugee in Sweden has caused much embarrassment to the Swedish government, which has been offering apologies to the Islamic world. The reaction among the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) as well as the South Asian nations of Afghanistan and Pakistan has been severely critical.

Iraqi protesters in Baghdad stormed into the Swedish Embassy compound forcing the staff to flee.

Pakistan held a special joint session of the parliament to debate the burning of the Quran and asked Sweden to formally apologise to Islamabad. The Shehbaz Sharif government also organised a national day of protests against the Swedish government.

Islamabad closed its eyes to the kidnappings, murders and conversions of minor Hindu and Christian girls in the country during the days it was venting fury against the West over Quran burning. Even as the government was marshelling the faithful to protest, rabid Sunni groups had launched an attack on Shias in the Parachinar area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Hindu girls had been kidnapped and married to old Muslim men and a Christian woman was brually killed for not converting to Islam.

In the latest, Pakistan moved a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Tuesday, seeking action over Quran burning incidents in Sweden, saying that it incites ‘religious hatred’.

Responding in the special session, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said: “Speech and inflammatory acts against Muslims, Islamophobia, antisemitism, and actions and speech that target Christians — or minority groups such as Ahmadis, Baha’is or Yazidis — are manifestations of utter disrespect. They are offensive, irresponsible and wrong”.

He added that hate speech must be combated through awareness, dialogue, education and interfaith engagement.