The Dutch leader of the far-right group, Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA), desecrated a copy of the Quran in the Netherlands, threatening to escalate the already tense situation following a similar anti-Muslim incident in Sweden.
A video posted on social media on Monday showed anti-Muslim provocateur Edwin Wagensveld tearing apart Islam's holy book before showing it being set on fire.
After he was arrested on two previous occasions because of his anti-Muslim activities, Wagensveld claimed in the video that he received permission from the city of The Hague for the "destruction of the Quran."
A separate post on his Instagram account showed a letter, signed by Mayor of The Hague Jan van Zanen allowing him to use "objects" in his protest, but prohibiting him from burning it due to public safety.
"The right to protest and the right to freedom of expression are constitutionally and treaty-protected human rights and freedoms," the letter said.
But it added that "in principle burning objects is not permitted, because this can cause danger."
As Wagensveld tore a page out of the holy book and scrunched it up, he said:
"Soon, there will be registrations for similar actions in several cities, time to answer disrespect from Islam with disrespect."
He then continued to tear apart the Quran, throwing pages to the floor before saying: "After having a nice bite to eat and a drink with our group, it was then time to burn the Quran's remains."
The video clip then shows the Quran and its torn-out pages burning in a fire in an object resembling a frying pan placed on a floor.
"People who know and follow us know that we never give up, we do not let ourselves be intimidated by violence and death threats," he said.
The destruction of a copy of Quran comes just days after another burning incident in Sweden on Saturday, which ignited condemnation and protests around the Muslim world.
The anti-Muslim leader Rasmus Paludan had burned the Quran in front of the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm after receiving permission from the Swedish government.
Detained several times
Two months ago, Wagensveld had been detained by the police for insulting the Prophet Muhammad using a megaphone, according to local news and a written statement made by the Dutch Prosecutor's Office.
The prosecutor's office decided, based on the existing case, that the statement made by Wagensveld could be considered as an insult to the religion of Islam.
But it was ultimately decided that he had not committed any crime and therefore he would not be prosecuted for the act.
Wagensveld was also detained a month prior for failing to comply with demonstration rules and warnings in accordance with a planned event to burn a copy of Quran.
The PEGIDA movement had planned to burn the Quran opposite the temporary Dutch Parliament building but the event was cancelled, according to a statement from the city of The Hague, which said the demonstrators wanted to use the Quran in a "provocative" way.
"It was decided that the demonstration could only be held without the Quran in order to prevent chaos. The demonstrators refused, after which the show was cancelled,” the statement said.
The PEGIDA movement, in its social media account, argued that Wagensveld was detained on the grounds that he refused to give the Quran to the police.
A counter-demonstration had also gathered in the region but dispersed after the police announced that the PEGIDA demonstration was cancelled.
Source: TRT World