Denmark’s parliament on Thursday passed a law criminalizing the “improper handling” of religious texts and the burning of the Quran, after a series of desecrations of Islam’s holy book sparked outrage in Muslim countries over the summer. Punishment was effectively prohibited.
The bill, which bans “inappropriate handling of documents of religious significance to recognized religious communities,” was passed by a Folketing vote of 179, with 94 in favor and 77 against.
“We must protect the safety of Denmark and Danes, so it is important that we have better protection against the systemic indignities we have seen for many years,” Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard said in a statement. Stated.
As a practical matter, it is prohibited to burn, tear, or otherwise desecrate holy scriptures in public or in videos intended to be widely disseminated.
Violations of the law, which will be assessed after three years, risk fines or up to two years in prison.
Over the summer, a spate of protests in Denmark and neighboring Sweden involved the burning and desecration of the Quran, making it the focus of anger in several Muslim countries.
See moreAttack on Swedish embassy in Iraq: Protesters outraged over Quran burning in Sweden
In late July, nearly 1,000 protesters attempted to march to the Danish embassy in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, following a call from fire brigade cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
The Scandinavian country temporarily tightened border controls due to the deteriorating security situation, but things returned to normal on August 22.
According to National Police statistics, from July 21 to October 24 this year, 483 book-burnings or flag-burnings were recorded in Denmark.
The bill was originally announced at the end of August, but was amended after criticism that the first draft restricted freedom of expression and was difficult to implement.
Initially, it was planned to focus on subjects of religious importance.
The first draft was also criticized by some, including politicians, artists, media and free speech experts, as a return to Denmark’s blasphemy laws, which it abolished in 2017.
During a lengthy debate in parliament ahead of the vote, opposition members accused the government of sacrificing freedom of expression.
“This is a betrayal. This is a huge failure on the part of the government,” Inger Støjberg, leader of the far-right Danish Democratic Party, told parliament.
In 2006, the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad sparked a wave of anti-Danish anger and violence across the Muslim world.
“Imagine that we are becoming a generation that restricts free speech. I actually never thought this would happen, certainly not after the Muhammad Crisis. At the time, We were resolute,” Stoiberg said.
In neighboring Sweden, the government condemned Koran desecration at protests, while upholding constitutionally protected freedom of speech and assembly laws.
The government has vowed to consider legal measures to prevent holy book-burning protests under certain circumstances.
Denmark is not the only European country to ban the burning of the Koran.
According to Denmark’s Ministry of Justice, eight European countries have taken similar measures to varying degrees: Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Italy, Poland and Romania.
In Greece, for example, the burning of holy books could be prohibited if the act took place at or near a religious site.