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'Fired a bullet into heart...': Quran-burning protester Salwan Momika breaks silence on his death reports

The 37-year-old Iraqi man sparked intense outrage in Muslim countries by burning pages of the Quran, leading to riots and unrest in several areas. He was reported dead earlier this month after he went to Norway when Sweden rejected his asylum bid.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Stockholm (Sweden) Updated on: April 12, 2024 13:41 IST
Salwan Momika, Quran burnings, Sweden, death reports
Image Source : SALWAN MOMIKA (X) Salwan Momika, an Iraqi refugee involved in several Quran burnings in Sweden.

Stockholm: Iraqi refugee Salwan Momika, who carried out several Quran burnings in Sweden as part of his anti-Islam protests, made headlines after several media outlets reported that he was found dead in Norway. However, the controversial anti-Islam protester has revealed that he is alive and was imprisoned in Norway after being considered a threat to "national security" due to his strong stance against Islamic traditions.

Momika broke his silence on the death reports in a series of tweets on X. "My friends, I'm not okay. I pay the price of freedom and the price of the word truth. The whole world is against me and Norway fired a bullet into the heart of freedom," he said on April 11 (Thursday). Momika had reportedly travelled to Norway after he was denied an asylum bid by Sweden.

What happened to Salwan Momika?

The 37-year-old man said he was arrested the moment he entered Norway and the false death reports were circulated to intimidate people who criticised or doubted Islam. "The newspapers and news sites that published the news of my death in Norway are false and their goal is to intimidate everyone who doubts or criticizes Islam. Therefore, I say, your rumors and false media will not scare us. I am alive and will not surrender despite the injustice I was subjected to by the Norwegian authorities," he said in a separate post.

"Where I arrived, they arrested me immediately and stripped me of my phones. They prevented me from communicating with anyone, then they took me to court, where the court charged me with the following: “You are detained because you pose a threat to Norwegian national security.” The foolish old judge seemed fond of Islam, so I told him that neither your imprisonment nor your courts will frighten me," Momika further wrote.

According to Momika, he was taken outside the court and put in a "secret prison" that was outside the supervision of human rights organisations and away from media scrutiny. He later said that the ordeal reminded him of the "oppressive dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein". He also said Norway is "ruled by fools and idiots who are in love with Islam - something he will mention in his new book.

Reactions to Momika's Quran burnings

Momika describes himself as a "liberal atheist critic and thinker" and has become one of the most vociferous critics of Islam. His actions sparked widespread outrage in Muslim countries, leading to riots and unrest in several nations. He was perceived as a security threat to Sweden, and officials feared his Quran burnings could make the European country a target of Islamist terrorists.

According to Expressen, Momika is one of the reasons why Sweden’s NATO membership, which was finalised earlier this month, got delayed by months. Among other countries, his actions got wide publicity in NATO member Turkey, which vetoed Stockholm’s bid to join the military alliance for a lengthy period. The Swedish police had allowed his actions citing freedom of speech, which was criticised by other countries.

The burnings also led to attacks on Swedish diplomatic missions and threats from Islamic extremists. Muslim leaders in Sweden have called on the government to find ways to stop the Quran burnings, prompting Denmark to make desecration of religious books illegal. However, Momika said that his protests target Islam as a religion and not the Muslim people.

Sweden’s migration authorities revoked Momika’s residence permit in October, saying he had provided incorrect information on his application and he would be deported to Iraq. But his deportation had been on hold for security reasons because according to Momika, his life could be in danger if he were returned to his native country. Swedish media reported that Momika was granted a residence permit in 2021. In connection with last year’s deportation decision, Momika was granted a new temporary residence permit that expires on April 16, according to Expressen.

ALSO READ | Sweden joins NATO two years after Russia's invasion of Ukraine forced it to end post-World War II neutrality



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