Al-Azhar University in Cairo is considered the most important and influential institution in the Sunni community. Its leadership is now calling for a boycott of all Swedish products because Sweden has not banned Koran burnings.
The university has long been a center for Islamic studies. Established in the 10th century, it has long worked to combat what it considers to be attempts to liberalize or reform Islam – and it has harshly criticized mosques and Islamic communities that it considers not to be sufficiently pure.
Now they are very upset that Sweden still allows the burning of the Muslims’ holy book and are calling on all followers to boycott all Swedish products and brands.
– This is a sensitive situation, says Johan Trouvé, CEO of the West Sweden Chamber of Commerce, to TT.
This is also not the first time the university has called for action against Sweden – back in January it called for a global boycott of Swedish products after Rasmus Paludan burned a Koran in Stockholm.
Trouvé believes that the focus right now should not be on protecting and loudly defending Swedish freedom of expression – but rather on condemning the Koran burnings and trying to appease the outraged Muslims.
– I think it is important for us in Sweden to condemn and say that the majority of the Swedish people think it is stupid to burn holy texts. That is the first thing I think we should emphasize – and condemn.
– It is a sensitive situation and it can be made worse by making statements. One wrong word can be enough to turn this into a major issue. I think we need to keep a cool head and ‘sit tight’ as they say, he continues.
According to Trouvé, it is “difficult to say how big the consequences of the Muslim boycotts will be for Sweden” – but he points out that if the demands for a boycott spread in the Muslim world, the Swedish construction and infrastructure sector, for example, could be affected.
– I don’t think we should make too much of this. It’s serious and then I think we have to deal with this issue diplomatically – observing and describing the situation from Swedish politicians. They have a great responsibility there. It is the politicians’ responsibility, from the government and our embassies in each country, to explain the situation.