Turkey's Erdoğan Threatens to Block Sweden's NATO Bid After Quran Burning

    Turkey's Erdoğan Threatens to Block Sweden's NATO Bid After Quran Burning
    Last updated Jan 24, 2023
    Image credit: AA/Getty Images [via The Guardian]


    • Speaking in televised remarks after a cabinet meeting on Monday, Turkey's Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned Sweden that it cannot expect his backing to join NATO after a Quran was burnt in Stockholm over the weekend.[1]
    • This comes after protests gathering pro-Kurdish groups and anti-Islam activist Rasmus Paludan took place outside the Turkish Embassy in the Swedish capital, with the latter setting fire to a copy of the Islamic holy book and the former waving flags of Kurdish groups that Ankara considers terrorist organizations.[2]
    • Turkey immediately denounced the act, as well as Swedish authorities for allowing the demonstration. The nation has also canceled a visit from Sweden's defense minister that would have facilitated discussion of its NATO membership, as Turks rallied in front of the Swedish Embassy in Ankara.[3]
    • Saturday's protests in Stockholm had been given prior approval, however, the burning of the book was not anticipated. Sweden's Foreign Minister Tobias Billström argued that the country's comprehensive free speech laws do not imply that the government supported the opinions expressed at the demonstrations.[4]
    • Sweden, along with Finland, applied last year to join NATO, but Ankara has demanded Stockholm in particular take a clearer stance against groups it sees as terrorists before it endorses the application — all 30 member states of the alliance must give approval for NATO membership to be granted.[5]
    • Turkey is, together with Hungary, the only NATO ally not to have ratified Sweden's decision to break their tradition of military non-alignment in response to the Ukraine war. Hungary's parliament is expected to approve the two bids next month.[6]


    Establishment-critical narrative

    It would be unacceptable for Ankara to give Sweden the thumbs up to its NATO membership while Stockholm allows terrorist sympathizers to spout anti-Islam hate speech and blatantly carry out provocations against Turkey and Muslims. Turkey has already made its terms for supporting Swedish entry into the alliance clear, so the nation must decide whether joining the bloc in opposition to Russian aggression is more important than supporting terrorists and Islamophobes.

    Pro-establishment narrative

    While the burning of a copy of the Quran is obviously a grossly disrespectful act against Islam, it is not illegal under Swedish law which values freedom of expression as a fundamental part of democracy. If Turkey bases its decision over Sweden's NATO bid on this disgusting but unrepresentative incident, it will be doing exactly what the minority responsible wanted and giving in to Islamophobic hate.

    Nerd narrative

    There's a 75% chance that Sweden will join NATO before 2024, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

    Establishment split



    Sign up to our newsletter!