Denmark Passes Law to Protect Quran and Other Holy Books from Desecration

Denmark has enacted a landmark law that makes it a crime to publicly burn, tear, or defile the Quran or any other holy book of a recognised religious community. The law, which was approved by the parliament with 94 votes in favour and 77 against, aims to address the protests and anger in Muslim countries over the desecration of the Quran by some anti-Islam activists in Denmark and Sweden earlier this year.

The law, which will come into force after the formal approval by Queen Margrethe later this month, imposes fines or up to two years in prison for anyone who violates it. The law also applies to the dissemination of videos or images of such acts. The Ministry of Justice said that the law was necessary to counteract “systematic mockery” of religious texts, which could increase the terrorism threat in Denmark and endanger the security and safety of its citizens.

The law extends the existing ban on burning foreign flags to include the “inappropriate treatment of writings with significant religious importance for a recognised religious community”. The law does not affect other forms of criticism or expression of religion, which are still protected by the freedom of speech, one of the most important values in Danish society, according to the government.

The government said that the law was a “targeted intervention” that did not change the fact that freedom of expression must have a very broad framework in Denmark. The government also said that the law was an “important political signal” that Denmark wanted to send out to the world, especially to the Muslim countries that have been outraged by the Quran burnings.

Between July 21 and October 24, Denmark recorded 483 incidents of book burnings or flag burnings, which prompted the introduction of the bill in August. Some of these incidents involved the burning of the Quran in front of the embassies of Muslim countries, which sparked protests and condemnations from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Morocco, Qatar, Yemen, and others. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) also called on its members to take appropriate action against countries where the Quran was being desecrated.

The law follows Denmark’s historical controversy in 2006 when a newspaper published cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, which led to widespread anger and violence in the Muslim world. The government said that it wanted to avoid a repetition of such a situation and to maintain good relations with the Muslim countries.

Meanwhile, Sweden, which has also seen a series of Quran burnings and a worsening security situation, is exploring alternative approaches to address the issue, such as changing the public order law to ban gatherings that threaten Sweden’s public security. Sweden said that it would not follow Denmark’s example, as that would require amending the constitution. Sweden abolished its blasphemy laws in the 1970s.

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