LAHORE - Pakistan on Sunday condemned recent incidents involving desecration of the Holy Quran in Sweden and Norway, calling for respect of religious beliefs as “critical for global peace and prosperity.” “Pakistan strongly condemns the recent incidents of desecration of Holy Quran in Malmo, Sweden and Oslo, Norway. The rise of such Islamophobic occurrences goes against the spirit of any religion. Freedom of speech can’t justify religious hatred,” Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said in a post on Twitter. He further said, “Ensuring respect for religious beliefs of others is a collective responsibility and is absolutely critical for global peace and prosperity.”

Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Pir Noor-ul-Haq Qadri on Monday strongly condemned the incidents of desecration of the Holy Quran in Norway and Sweden. In a statement, he said such provocative activities against Islam were a conspiracy against world peace. He asked Norwegian and Swedish authorities to play their role in preventing such disrespectful and shameful acts against the sacred book. “Maintaining close liaison between religious scholars and Muslim Ummah to forestall such incidents was need of the hour,” Qadri said.

At least 10 people were arrested and several police officers were injured on Friday after clashes broke out at an anti-Muslim protest in Malmo, Sweeden, according to AFP. The demonstration of hundreds of people was connected to the incident of protesters burning a copy of the Holy Quran. Rasmus Paludan, leader of the far-right Danish anti-immigration party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), was due to travel to Malmo to speak at Friday’s event, however, authorities pre-empted his arrival by announcing he had been banned from entering Sweden for two years. Police later arrested him near Malmo.

Across the border in Norway, a group held an anti-Muslim demonstration Saturday during which one woman tore pages from the Holy Quran. Paludan, last year, attracted media attention for burning a copy of the Holy Quran.