Moscow: Respecting religious beliefs is a duty, not an option

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Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova criticized on Tuesday the comments of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on the incident of burning a copy of the Holy Quran in the Swedish capital, Stockholm.

Zakharova said on Telegram that respecting people’s religious opinions and beliefs was “a duty, not an option”.

She pointed out that her statements amounted to criticism of Stoltenberg for considering the burning of a copy of the Qur’an merely “an indecent and illegal act.”

The Russian spokeswoman cited several international documents that oblige the signatory countries to confront acts of intolerance and discrimination.

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“These documents expressly state that the right to freedom of expression does not mean the right to make critical statements or even to disparage any religion or religious practice,” she added.

She also stressed that the West is “simply obligated to respect the right of hundreds of millions of people to their sacred beliefs.”

And on Saturday, the leader of the Danish far-right “hard line” party, Rasmus Paludan, burned a copy of the Holy Qur’an near the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, amid tight protection from the police, who prevented anyone from approaching him while he was committing the provocative act.