By Philissa Crame
(JTA) — The Swedish man who applied for and received a permit to burn Hebrew and Christian Bibles near the Israeli embassy in Stockholm announced on Saturday that he had never planned to carry out the act.
Ahmad Alush told people who had assembled for the planned burning that he had applied for the permit to call attention to the harms and dangers of desecrating holy books, according to local media reports. His stunt was a response to a public burning of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, by a Christian Iraqi immigrant to Sweden earlier this month.
“I never thought I would burn any books. I’m a Muslim, we don’t burn,” Alush told the assembled crowd after throwing a lighter to the ground, according to SVT, a Swedish news outlet. “I want to show that we have to respect each other.”
Israeli and Jewish leaders — including Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. antisemitism envoy Deborah Lipstadt and the World Jewish Congress — had condemned the planned burning, saying that it would inhibit the ability of Jews to practice without fear in Sweden. Swedish officials said the demonstration as planned was protected under the country’s freedom-of-speech laws.