Denmark bans Quran burnings as parliament enacts divisive new law

AFP/Ritzau/The Local
AFP/Ritzau/The Local - [email protected]
Denmark bans Quran burnings as parliament enacts divisive new law
The screen in the Danish Parliament, Folketinget, shows the result after a vote for a new law against inappropriate treatment of writings of importance to religious communities. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark's parliament on Thursday adopted a law criminalising the "inappropriate treatment" of religious texts, effectively banning Quran burnings after a series of desecrations of Islam's holy book sparked anger in Muslim countries over the summer.


The bill, which prohibits "inappropriate treatment of writings with significant religious importance for a recognised religious community", was passed with 94 votes in favour and 77 opposed in the 179-seat Folketing parliament.

The legislation will also apply to desecrations of other religious scriptures such as the Bible or the Torah.

In practical terms, it will be forbidden to burn, tear, or otherwise defile holy texts publicly or in videos intended to be disseminated widely.

Those who break the law risk a fine or up to two years in prison.

The law was voted through after heated criticism of the government from opposition parties, with no lawmakers from the the coalition taking the speaker's stand to respond to questions during the debate.

"Large parts of parliament want to discuss this. The government is not showing up for debate at all. I think it's very unusual. It's a lack of respect," Conservative party MP Rasmus Jarlov said during the debate.

Several other parties called for Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard to take the speaker's stand, but Hummelgaard remained seated.

Only one lawmaker -- independent Jon Stephensen -- defended the law during the hours-long session. The only opposition party to vote in favour of the bill, the Social Liberals (Radikale Venstre) also chose not to speak during the final debate.


Summer protests

Over the summer, Denmark and neighbouring Sweden became the focus of anger across several Muslim countries after a slew of protests involving burnings and desecrations of the Quran.

Nearly a thousand protesters attempted to march to the Danish embassy in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone in late July following a call by firebrand cleric Moqtada Sadr.

In response to the worsened security situation, Denmark temporarily tightened border controls, but returned to normal on August 22nd.

Between July 21st and October 24th this year, 483 book burnings or flag burnings were recorded in Denmark, according to national police figures.

READ ALSO: TIMELINE: The July Quran burnings in Denmark

At the end of July, the government said it would explore legal means of stopping protests involving the burning of holy texts in certain circumstances.

The new law was proposed in August after the burnings led to concerns over Denmark’s security threat level and diplomatic relations with Muslim-majority countries.

When the government presented the bill, Hummelgaard said Quran burnings were a "fundamentally contemptuous and unsympathetic act" that "harm Denmark and its interests".


Hummelgaard said that national security was the main "motivation" for the ban.

"We can't continue to stand by with our arms crossed while several individuals do everything they can to provoke violent reactions," he said.

The bill was modified in October to “specifically target improper treatment of scriptures of significant religious importance," the justice ministry said at the time.

The first draft of the bill, which banned mistreatment of “objects”, rather than scriptures, was criticised by some -- including politicians, artists, media and freedom of speech experts -- who saw it as a return to a blasphemy law that Denmark abolished in 2017.

Several opposition parties still view it as an encroachment on free speech and voted against it during Thursday’s debate.

Hummelgaard has previously said that the coalition government has no plans to enact more laws "of the same character".


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God_doesn't_care 2023/12/07 15:58
Punishment for Blasphemy from is returning in Europe. Back to middle age..!

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