Denmark has passed a new law that makes it illegal to publicly burn or defile holy texts, including the Quran. The law was passed in response to protests in Muslim nations over the desecration of the Quran, which raised security concerns.
The bill was approved with 94 votes in favor and 77 opposed in the 179-seat Folketing. It prohibits the inappropriate treatment of writings with significant religious importance for a recognized religious community. This means that burning, tearing, or otherwise defiling holy texts in public or in widely disseminated videos is now forbidden.
Those who break the law risk a fine or up to two years in prison. Before it takes effect, Queen Margrethe needs to formally sign it, which is expected to happen this month. The purpose of the law is to counter the systematic mockery that has contributed to intensifying the threat of terrorism in Denmark, according to the Ministry of Justice.
The decision to pass this law comes after Denmark and Sweden experienced a series of public protests this year in which anti-Islam activists burned or damaged copies of the Quran. This sparked tensions with Muslims and led to demands for the governments to ban the practice.
In response to the protests, the Scandinavian country temporarily tightened border controls. From July 21 to October 24, 483 book burnings or flag burnings were recorded in Denmark, according to national police figures.
The bill was initially announced at the end of August and was later amended after criticism that its first draft limited freedom of expression and would be difficult to enforce. It was originally planned to cover objects of significant religious importance.
Critics in Sweden and Denmark have argued that any limitations on criticizing religion, including by burning Qurans, undermine hard-fought liberal freedoms in the region. The leader of the anti-immigration Denmark Democrats party, Inger Stojberg, opposed the ban, stating that history will judge harshly for this and that a restriction on freedom of speech should not be dictated from the outside.
Denmark’s centrist coalition government has argued that the new rules will have only a marginal impact on free speech and that criticizing religion in other ways remains legal. In 2006, Denmark was at the center of widespread anger in the Muslim world after a Danish newspaper posted 12 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, which escalated into violent anti-Denmark protests by Muslims worldwide.
Sweden is also considering ways to legally limit Quran desecrations but is taking a different approach than Denmark. They are looking into whether police should factor in national security when deciding on applications for public protests.
World, Politics, Religion