At least 10 people were arrested and several police officers injured during clashes in southern Sweden after an anti-Muslim Danish politician was blocked from attending a Koran-burning rally, police said Saturday.
Protesters threw stones at police and burned tyres on the streets of Malmo late Friday, with the violence escalating as the evening wore on, according to police and local media.
The demonstration of about 300 people was connected to an incident earlier in the day in which protesters burned a copy of the Islamic holy book, police spokesman Rickard Lundqvist told Swedish tabloid Expressen.
Between 10 and 20 protesters were arrested late Friday but were all subsequently released, police spokesman Patric Fors told AFP. Several police officers were slightly injured, he added.
The violence had subsided by Saturday morning.
“Those who act like this have nothing to do with Islam,” Samir Muric, an imam, said on Facebook.
“It’s not right,” Malmo resident Shahed told the SVT public broadcaster. “But it wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t burnt the Koran,” he added.
Rasmus Paludan, leader of the far-right Danish anti-immigration party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), was due to travel to Malmo to speak at Friday’s event, which is the same day as the main weekly prayers for Muslims.
But authorities pre-empted Paludan’s arrival by announcing he had been banned from entering Sweden for two years. Police later arrested him near Malmo.
– Demos in Sweden, Norway –
“We suspect that he was going to break the law in Sweden,” Calle Persson, spokesman for the police in Malmo told AFP.
“There was also a risk that his behaviour… would pose a threat to society.”
His supporters went ahead with the rally, during which six people were arrested for inciting racial hatred.
“It hurts,” Salim Mohammed Ali, a Muslim resident of Malmo for over 20 years, told SVT on Saturday.
“People get angry and I understand that, but there are other ways of doing things,” he added.
Lawyer Paludan later put up a scathing message on Facebook. He is also active on YouTube.
“Sent back and banned from Sweden for two years. However, rapists and murderers are always welcome!” he wrote.
Across the border in Norway meanwhile, a group held an anti-Muslim demonstration Saturday during which one woman tore pages from the Koran and spat on it.
Paludan last year attracted media attention for burning a Koran wrapped in bacon — a meat that is anathema for Muslims.
Malmo is the third largest city in Sweden and around 40 percent of its 320,000 inhabitants have foreign roots.