17.07.2023 Author: Veniamin Popov

The West sees itself as superior to other civilizations

The West sees itself as superior to other civilizations

On June 28, on the last day of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, a demonstrator burned a copy of the Koran outside the Central Mosque in Stockholm. During this demonstration, which the Swedish police allowed to go ahead, a man tore pages out of the Koran, wiped his shoes on them, placed a piece of bacon in the book, and then burned it. About 200 onlookers were present.

The Swedish Prime Minister stated that the protest was lawful, but not appropriate.

This was not the first time that an incident of this type has triggered discussions on the problems posed by free speech and democracy.

Almost all Muslim countries condemned this act of vandalism as an instance of flagrant Islamophobia, and many protests were addressed to the Swedish authorities. The President of Turkey referred to the burning of the Koran as “vile,”  and the Egyptian authorities called it “shameful.”

The Iranian Foreign Ministry equated the demonstration to an insult directed against Islam’s holiest saints.

Iraq described the act as racist and irresponsible, adding that it condemned the Koran burning – of which the latest incident is just one example – as calculated at propagating violence and hatred.

In January 2023, in a similar incident, the far-right politician Rasmus Paludan burned a copy of the Koran outside Turkey’s embassy in Stockholm.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation called an extraordinary meeting of its Executive Committee in Jeddah, which called on member states to unite and take firm measures to prevent similar incidents occurring in the future. And the UN recently passed a resolution declaring March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia.

Many media publications in Muslim states gave front-page coverage to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statement, made during an official visit to Derbent, in Dagestan, that desecration of the holy Koran constitutes a criminal offence in Russia and will be punished. After being presented with a copy of the Holy Book during a visit to a historic mosque in the city, Vladimir Putin said, “The Koran is sacred for Muslims, and should be for others as well, and we will always observe these principles.”

In a special declaration issued in relation to this issue, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that the international community had a duty to oppose such shameful infringements of believers’ rights. As readers may remember, on June 14, this year the UN Security Council issued Resolution 2686, in which it expressed deep concern at instances of discrimination, intolerance and extremism… motivated by Islamophobia, antisemitism or Christianophobia, and called on states and international and regional organizations to publicly condemn violence, hate speech and extremism.

The actions of the Swedish authorities, which were approved of by a number of other countries, represent a clear declaration of the Golden Billion’s attitude to other civilizations. The West considers others to be less important than itself.

Sweden has stated that it wishes to join NATO, and the main barrier preventing it from joining that bloc is Turkey’s opposition. One would have thought that Stockholm, in view of its bid to join NATO, should refrain from antagonizing Turkey. But the Western nations look down on the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and believe that they can do whatever they want and that everyone else should just accept what the West does without protest.

In this, Sweden is following the lead of its “big brother,” America. Recently, for example, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Beijing in an attempt to normalize relations with China, but just a couple of days after the end of his trip, President Joe Biden referred to Xi Jinping as a “dictator,” provoking a harsh response from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

A recent report on the situation of Muslims in Germany published in the German media notes that at least 1/3 of Germany’s five and a half million Muslims have experienced racism and discrimination.

The internal political crisis in France, which was provoked by the killing of a 17-year-old teenager of Algerian origin, provides yet another example of the West’s arrogance. According to the victim’s mother, the policeman “saw an Arab face” and did not hesitate to shoot.

Even the US media admitted that the killing of the teenager looked more like an extrajudicial execution, and a demonstration of the extreme police violence that has long afflicted France’s non-white communities. The killing has also served as a catalyst, provoking a nationwide eruption of discontent.

The Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has blamed the rioting that has engulfed France since the killing on France’s “institutional racism and colonial past.”

Donald Earl Collins, US writer and commentator on Afro-American issues, published an article on July 4, US Independence Day, in which he described Washington’s American Dream as a “narcissistic lie.” In the article he describes xenophobia, anti-Latino racism and Islamophobia as inherent elements of US policies, adding that “the reality of the US as a racist, xenophobic, isolationist, and narcissistic society” is now becoming obvious. Many migrants are killed by lies and empty promises, “all while millions of Americans shrug their shoulders in denial about their nation-state’s massive hypocrisy.”

The myth of American exceptionalism is in reality a reflection of America’s conviction that all other civilizations are inferior and should therefore listen to what Washington says. All this is reminiscent of the Colonial-era mantra – that it was the “White Man’s burden” to educate the natives.

It is highly significant that the police in Stockholm recently received three new applications to hold Koran-burning demonstrations.

Still obsessed with dominating others, and intent on pursuing their old policies of forcibly imposing their will on the rest of the world, the Western powers do not want to accept the uncomfortable fact that the balance of global power has now shifted to the developing nations.


Veniamin Popov, Director of the “Center for Partnership of Civilizations” in MGIMO (U) MFA of Russia, Candidate of Historical Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Related articles: