Threat looms over Sweden and Denmark as Hezbollah warns of retaliation for Koran burning.

By Elijah J. Magnier:

In an unprecedented move reminiscent of actions taken in the late eighties, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah, has issued a stern warning to Sweden and Denmark. Drawing parallels with historical events such as the kidnapping of foreign hostages in Lebanon and Ayatollah Khomeini’s ‘Hokm’ calling for the death of the writer Salman Rushdie, Nasrallah addressed his message to the ‘Organisation of Islamic Cooperation meeting. He urged Islamic nations to take responsibility and punish the two European countries for burning the Holy Qur’an – a sacred act to Muslims – or “courageous young men will sacrifice their lives to punish the aggressors”.

The ominous nature of the warning raises the question of whether Hezbollah’s retaliation will occur in Lebanon, against Sweden and Denmark, or in Europe. This chilling prospect brings back memories of Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie, issued to deter future offences. Despite the outrage of billions of Muslims worldwide, Sweden and Denmark have defied the sentiments of the Muslim population by treating the burning of the Koran as a matter of freedom of expression rather than respect for religious sanctities. This act of defiance flies in the face of Islamic teachings, which make such insults punishable by death when committed in Muslim countries.

In his sermon last week on the tenth of Muharram, Sayyed Nasrallah – who leads over 150,000 men – declared that ‘zealous and brave Muslim youth around the world will take it upon themselves to punish those who desecrate or burn the Qur’an’. He stressed the urgency for Islamic countries to shoulder their responsibilities and end the offensive against Islam. The incendiary remarks come after Sweden and Denmark allowed citizens to burn the Holy Qur’an, sparking outrage among Islamic nations and even attracting the attention and displeasure of the European Community based in Brussels, Belgium. Despite diplomatic protests and Iraq’s expulsion of the ambassadors concerned, the Swedish and Danish governments have shown no inclination to reverse their stance.

The gravity of Nasrallah’s appeal lies in his decades of credibility in carrying out threats, especially those directed at Israel. The Hezbollah leader confidently declared that the world would “witness the courage, zeal and determination of these young people who are ready to defend their prophet, their holy book and the Koran with their lives”. 

However, his remarks left much room for speculation, as Nasrallah did not elaborate on the specific actions or practical steps Hezbollah intends to take. This ambiguity raises concerns that the situation could escalate into a violent confrontation if the organisation deems the responses from Islamic countries insufficient.

Drawing parallels with the Lebanese civil war, Nasrallah’s warning is reminiscent of the 1980s, when several jihadist organisations linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards emerged and took hostages of various nationalities, making Lebanon a dangerous territory for the international community.

The timing of Hezbollah’s response remains uncertain. It is unclear whether Nasrallah’s threat is linked to a specific deadline or an open invitation, depending on the success of the organisation’s actions against the burning of the Koran. The Islamic countries meeting this week may need more decisive measures to limit their response beyond verbal denunciations and condemnations. Nevertheless, Nasrallah remains firm in his decision and is prepared to implement it without adhering to a specific timetable. This, in turn, will undoubtedly increase security precautions for both Sweden and Denmark as they face potential threats to their nationals and interests at home and abroad, including the possibility that “Hezbollah” may target some of their institutions or representatives.

Since the 1990s, there has been no known case of a prominent Iranian official issuing an ultimatum to Western countries, threatening to attack their interests or citizens. Western countries take threats seriously as a precautionary measure to avoid unwanted incidents. However, whether Nasrallah’s warning will come true or be averted by the decision of the eighteenth meeting of the ‘Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’ remains to be determined. The decisions taken at this summit may determine whether the fuse for potential hostilities is defused or whether Hezbollah perceives them as sufficient or insufficient action against Sweden and Finland. The international community is watching the situation with bated breath, awaiting the outcome of this precarious standoff.