The Hague (AFP): A Dutch far-right activist trampled on and tore up a copy of the Holy Quran at a demonstration outside the Turkish embassy in The Hague on Friday, infuriating dozens of counter-protesters.
The Dutch government had already condemned the holding of the demonstration ahead of the event, but said it had no legal powers to prevent it.
Edwin Wagensveld, who leads the Dutch branch of the far-right group Pegida, damaged a copy of the Quran, AFP correspondents witnessed. He was accompanied by two other people.
Police had sealed off access to the street where the Turkish embassy is located and there were around fifty counter-protesters also present.
Some of them began throwing stones at Wagensveld when he tore up pages from the Quran, the holy book of Islam.
Around 20 police equipped with shields and batons intervened when some of the crowd tried to chase after him as he left.
On Friday morning Dilan Yesilgoz, the Netherlands’ Turkish-born justice minister, described the plan to destroy the holy book as “fairly primitive and pathetic”.
But the country’s laws authorised such a demonstration, she added.
Wagensveld nevertheless faces trial for comments he made during a similar demonstration in January, when he tore up a copy of the Quran outside parliament while likening the book to Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”.
A T-shirt he wore at Friday’s demonstration made a similar claim.
Geert Wilders, the leader of another far-right party, the PVV, posted a message online supporting Friday’s demonstration by Pegida.
Similar attacks on the Quran have taken place in other European countries recently.
In late July, two men set fire to a copy of the Quran in front of the Swedish parliament, and similar incidents have taken place in Denmark this year.
Such demonstrations have provoked anger and sometimes unrest in several Muslim countries.
On Thursday, Sweden’s intelligence agency heightened its terror alert level to four on a scale of five in response to the angry reactions in the Muslim world to Quran burnings.