Denmark plans law against desecration of holy books amid Quran burning incidents

Denmark plans law against desecration of holy books amid Quran burning incidents


On Friday (25 August), the Danish government announced that it would propose a law that would make it illegal to desecrate or burn any holy book in Denmark. The government said that Denmark has been viewed as a country that facilitates insults and denigration of the cultures, religions, and traditions of other countries. 

Addressing a press conference, Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard said that their government is planning to extend Denmark’s existing ban on burning foreign flags. For this, they will also “prohibit improper treatment of objects of significant religious significance to a religious community.” 

The prime objective of this draft bill is to make it punishable to burn the Quran in public. Notably, Sweden and Denmark have seen a spree of public burning of the Quran which has irked Muslim nations and strained their ties with these European nations. 

Justice Minister Hummelgaard said, “The bill will make it punishable, for example, to burn the Quran or the Bible in public. It will only aim at actions in a public place or with the intention of spreading in a wider circle.” 

He emphasised that the acts of burning the Quran in public would be made punishable by fines or up to two years in prison. He stated that the recent protests were “senseless taunts that have no other purpose than to create discord and hatred.”

However, he held that Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of Danish democracy, and the freedom to express oneself is a central value in Danish society. He said, “The proposal is a targeted intervention which does not change the fact that freedom of expression must have a very broad framework in Denmark.” 

Denmark’s Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and Deputy Prime Minister Jakob Ellemann were also present along with Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard.  FM Rasmussen highlighted that there have been more than 170 protests which include many with Quran burnings, in front of the embassies of Muslim countries. 

In fact, on 14 August, the Algerian Foreign Ministry had claimed that Denmark’s FM Rasmussen apologised to them during his interaction with his Algerian counterpart for these rampant acts of desecration of the Quran. 

Additionally, as per Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, their Foreign Ministry has summoned Denmark’s charge d’affaires around five times in the past week to register their strong protest against the desecration and public burning of the Quran in Denmark.

Interestingly, during the press conference, the Danish Foreign Minister added that the proposed change is “an important political signal that Denmark wants to send out to the world.” However, he has been maintaining that there must “be room for religious criticism” and that there were no plans to reintroduce a blasphemy clause that was repealed in 2017.

Similarly, the Danish government stated that the bill would not cover verbal or written statements, including drawings. 

Further, the Justice Ministry said that the bill will be presented to lawmakers on the 1st of September and will be “dealt with if necessary before the end of the parliamentary year” which is before Christmas. 

Meanwhile, Sweden’s prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, maintained that Stockholm would not take the same step as its neighbour as that would probably require amending the constitution.

In the 179-seat Folketing (Parliament of Denmark), the governing coalition of three parties controls 88 seats and four more lawmakers representing the semi-independent Danish territories of Greenland and the Faeroe Islands are also supportive of the draft law. 

However, this is not the first time when Denmark has been in the eye of the storm. Earlier, in 2006, Denmark infuriated the Muslim world after a newspaper posted 12 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, including one wearing a bomb as a turban, reported AP. It is pertinent to note that Muslims consider images of the prophet to be sacrilegious and encouraging idolatry. 


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