Muslim pressure forces Denmark to criminalise Quran burning

25 August 2023
Muslim pressure forces Denmark to criminalise Quran burning

After pressure from Muslims around the world who were outraged at the Danish and Swedish governments for allowing citizens to hold provocative Quran burnings, the government of Denmark has presented a proposal to prohibit the public burning of the Quran.

Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard stated that such acts of burning harm Denmark's image and it is likely that the backlash would have impacted the Danish economy. The envisaged legislation seeks to classify improper treatment of the Quran as a criminal offence, carrying penalties of fines and imprisonment for up to two years.

The center-right administration has underlined its intention to send a global signal through this proposed law. Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen highlighted that Denmark experienced approximately 170 demonstrations recently, some involving the burning of Quran copies in front of foreign embassies. The Danish intelligence service, PET, has cautioned that these incidents have escalated the fear of retaliation. Neighbouring Sweden has also encountered a series of Quran burnings, prompting its security service to raise concerns about deteriorating security conditions. Notably, Sweden abandoned its blasphemy laws during the 1970s.

Both Denmark and Sweden have shown hesitation in responding to these burnings, largely due to their culture and laws which supposedly champion freedom of expression. However, Copenhagen has chosen to take action after more Quran burnings occurred in July within Denmark and Sweden. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) urged its member nations to respond appropriately to countries where Quran desecration was happening.

The justice minister clarified that the proposed legal amendment is not aimed at curtailing verbal or written expressions, but after several incidents, which have outraged muslims around the world, it still doesn't affect blasphemous drawings. He emphasised that burning religious texts serves no purpose beyond fostering division and hatred. Deputy Prime Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen emphasised that while freedom of expression is a cornerstone of democracy, responsible behaviour is also crucial. He further asserted that Denmark cannot remain passive when such actions have adverse security implications.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson announced that Stockholm would not follow Denmark's lead due to potential constitutional amendments required. Justice Minister Gunnar Strommer concurred that revisiting the public order law was a necessary step. The Swedish government seeks to modify the law to prevent gatherings that endanger public security.

Danish ministers plan to propose amendments on September 1, aiming for parliamentary approval by year's end. The anticipated ban is likely to be incorporated into a section of the criminal code that already prohibits public insults towards foreign states, their flags, or other symbols.