The internet has “super-charged” hate speech, allowing perpetrators to spread their “lies, conspiracies and threats,” the United Nations warned, hours after an anti-Islam activist burned copies of the Muslim holy book near a Copenhagen mosque facing the Turkish embassy in Denmark.
“Around the world, we see a groundswell of xenophobia, racism and intolerance, violent misogyny, anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in one of the eight podcasts highlighted on Saturday.
The podcasts are part of a UN campaign — ‘UNiting Against Hate’, which looks at the effects, and possible solutions, to this growing problem.
Mr Guterres noted that in both liberal democracies and authoritarian regimes, “some political leaders are bringing the hate-fueled ideas and language of these groups into the mainstream, normalising them.”
Rasmus Paludan, a far-right activist who burned the holy book in Denmark on Friday, is also using the internet to “amplify his hateful views,” as the UN chief said about people behind such moves.
Paludan, who holds both Danish and Swedish citizenship, began his hate campaign by staging a Quran-burning protest in Sweden on January 21. He replicated the stunt on Friday in front of a mosque as well as the Turkish embassy in Copenhagen, and promised to continue every Friday until Sweden is admitted into Nato.
Sweden and neighbouring Finland are seeking to join Nato amid the war in Ukraine, in a historic departure from their non-aligned policies. But their accession requires approval from all Nato members, and Turkiye has indicated it will block Sweden’s bid — in part due to Paludan’s initial stunt.
Even before the burning, Ankara was pressing the two countries to crack down on militant Turkish groups that operate from there.
On Friday, protests were held in several predominantly Muslim countries to denounce Paludan’s actions and a similar incident in the Netherlands. Protests were also held in Pakistan, Iraq, and Lebanon, although all rallies ended peacefully. In Islamabad, police stopped demonstrators trying to march towards the Swedish Embassy.
Last week, the United States also condemned the burning of the holy book in Sweden. “I’m certainly not refraining from condemning this particular action. It’s repugnant. It … is vile,” said the US State Department’s spokesperson Ned Price.
He pointed out that a similar incident happened in the United States as well several years ago and that was “equally repugnant and vile.”
BDST: 1112 HRS, JAN 29, 2023