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The South Asian Insider

No official word on Quran-burner Salwan Momika's death rumours

Even hours after reports first emerged that Salwan Momika, a former Iraqi militia leader who became a fierce critic of Islam, had been found dead, there was no official reaction from Norway. Momika, who gained global prominence and notoriety for championing "free speech" and the public burning of the Quran, had recently moved to Norway from Sweden.
A far-Right website, Document, quoted the Norwegian Police's Immigration Unit as saying that it wasn't aware that Salwan Momika had been found dead in Norway."The police's immigration unit is not aware that someone with the above name [Salwan Momika] has died in Norway recently," the communications department of the police unit said.However, there was no official public statement issued by the Norwegian government.
A Christian who turned atheist, Momika described himself as "a liberal atheist critic and thinker".
On Eid, in June 2023, Salwan Momika stunned the world as he stomped on a copy of the Quran, the holy book of Muslims, and then burnt it in front of Stockholm’s largest mosque. A friend of his filmed this act of defiance.
Radio Genoa on Tuesday reported that the 37-year-old had been found dead, only to inform some moments later that further confirmation was awaited.
The news of his death was making waves on social media all through Tuesday, but there was no confirmation or denial from Norwegian authorities for hours.
Those who announced Momika's death with over 1 million impressions deleted the tweet. We are waiting for further confirmation," Radio Genoa posted on X.
Earlier it said: "The lifeless body of Iraqi refugee and Islamic critic Salwan Sabah Matti Momika has been found in Norway. Momika was known for organizing demonstrations in Sweden where he publicly burned the Koran several times."
Even after 12 hours of the reports by RadioGenoa and a couple of other outlets, there was no official word from Norway.
A Community Note on X, later flagged the RadioGenoa posts and said the "rumours" had "been debunked". There were also inputs that multiple attempts had been made to update Momika's Wikipedia page since April 1.
Salwan Momika has been in the news after he shifted to Norway from Sweden. He was granted a Swedish residency permit in 2021.
Momika moved out of Iraq in 2018, seeking asylum. Though a Christian who turned atheist, Momika behaved like an extreme Ex-Muslim.
Ex-Muslims are individuals who identified as Muslims once, left the religion due to personal reasons, differing beliefs, or disillusionment with its teachings, practices, or community norms.
Facilitated by the internet, a movement of Ex-Muslims has gained ground across the world."Today I left Sweden and am now in Norway under the protection of the Norwegian authorities," Salwan Momika posted on March 27.
"I applied for asylum and international protection in Norway because Sweden does not accept asylum for philosophers and thinkers, but only accepts asylum for terrorists. My love and respect for the Swedish people will remain the same, but the persecution I was subjected to by the Swedish authorities does not represent the Swedes," he added in the post.
Sweden had faced the anger of Islamic countries for hosting Salwan Momika, the well known and vociferous critic of Islam.
He called the Quran, the holy book of the Muslims, the "most dangerous book of the world".
"I will continue my struggle against Islamic ideology. Since I started the struggle against Islam, I have paid and continue to pay the price, and I am ready for that, whatever the cost," Salwan Momika said in the March 27 update, stressing his resolve.
Sweden withdrew Momika's residence permit but put his deportation on hold, saying his life would be in danger if he were returned to Iraq, according to an Associated Press report.
Momika had staged a series of public desecrations of the Quran in 2023.
Clashes broke out in Malmo, Sweden's third-largest city, in September last year after an angry mob tried to prevent Momika from burning a copy of the Quran.
Sweden allowed his protests on the aegis of free speech. But questions were also asked if the Swedish authorities had gone too far by allowing Momkia to burn the Quran.Momika's burning of the Quran was termed "Islamophobia" by the Swedish foreign minister. Police had denied him permission for the act, but a court gave him the go ahead based on the principles of free speech.
Swedish police, however, filed preliminary hate speech charges against him.
Sweden’s Migration Agency decided to revoke Momika's residence permit after finding out that the Iraqi asylum-seeker had provided false information in his application for asylum, according to Swedish broadcaster TV4.
Unlike other religions, apostacy (leaving the faith) is punishable by death in Islam. Those who renounce Islam mostly don't reveal their decision, fearing attacks.
His anti-Islam stance and burning of the Quran was also perceived as a security threat to Sweden. Officials thought his actions could make the European nation a target of Islamist terrorists.