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Denmark parliament adopts bill prohibiting Quran burnings

December 7, 2023

The burning of the Islamic holy book in Denmark has stirred outrage in Muslim-majority nations. Critics of the Quran burning law say it would undermine liberal freedoms in the Scandinavian country.

Protests in Iraq against the burning of the Quran in Denmark
The burning of the Quran in Denmark has triggered backlash from countries in the Islamic world, such as IraqImage: Murtadha Al-Sudani/AA/picture alliance

The Danish parliament on Thursday approved legislation that would effectively prohibit Quran burnings in the northern European country.

Lawbreakers could face up to two years in jail

The law criminalizes the "inappropriate treatment of writings with significant importance for a recognized religious community."

The bill was passed with 94 votes in favor by the 179-member Danish parliament, also known as the Folketing. Seventy-seven votes were cast against the legislation.

Burning, tearing, or defiling religious texts in public could land people with a fine or up to two years behind bars. Destroying a holy text on video and disseminating the footage online could also put offenders in jail.  

The Danish Justice Ministry has said the law aims to combat the "systematic mockery" that raises terror threat levels in Denmark.  

"We must protect the security of Denmark and Danes," Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard said. "That is why it is important that we now get better protection against the systemic descretations we have seen for a long time." 

Denmark's Minister of Justice speaks to the media after the passage of a Quran burning law
Denmark's Minister of Justice has argued that the law is needed to preserve Danish national security Image: Mads Claus Rasmussen/AFP

Quran burnings in Denmark and Sweden this summer triggered outrage in the Muslim world. In late July, Iraqis tried to march to the Danish Embassy in Baghdad's Green Zone after Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr urged action due to a Danish Quran burning.   

Critics of the bill passed by the parliament on Thursday say it restricts freedom of expression in the Scandinavian nation.  

Right-wing politician: 'History will judge us harshly for this'

"History will judge us harshly for this and with good reason," Inger Stojberg of the right-wing anti-immigration Denmark Democrats party said in response to the bill's passage. "What it all comes down to is whether a restriction on freedom of speech is determined by us, or whether it is dictated from the outside."

Danish lawmakers on the left side of the political spectrum also criticized the bill.

"Does Iran change its legislation because Denmark feels offended by something an Iranian would do? Does Pakistan? Does Saudi Arabia?" Karina Lorentzen of the leftist Socialist People's Party said. "The answer is no."     

The bill, backed by Denmark's center-right coalition government, was originally introduced in August and then amended in an attempt to address freedom of speech concerns.   

Before the latest version of the bill goes into law, it needs to be signed by Danish monarch Queen Margrethe. That will likely occur later this month. 

wd/sms (Reuters, AFP)