Lazy eyes listen
Following a contentious discussion, Denmark’s parliament passed a measure forbidding the burning of holy writings such as the Quran, Torah, and Bible on Thursday. Infringers face up to two years in prison or fines.
The legislation makes it a crime “to inappropriately treat, publicly or with the intention of dissemination in a wider circle, a writing with significant religious significance for a religious community or an object that appears as such,” including by burning, soiling, trampling on, or cutting up such scripture. It gives an exception for artworks in case the degradation is “minor.”
Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard lauded the legislation as a much-needed “protection against the systematic desecrations we have seen for a long time,” stating, “We must protect the rights of the people.”
Lawmakers from both left- and right-wing parties came together to demand a referendum on the matter, excoriating both the measure and the three-party coalition that had introduced it while insisting the “cowards” behind the legislation step up to defend it during the four-hour debate that preceded the 94-77 vote.
“Does Iran change its legislation because Denmark feels offended by something an Iranian could do? Does Pakistan? Does Saudi Arabia? The answer is no,” leftist Socialist People’s Party representative Karina Lorentzen asked rhetorically in a statement following the bill’s passage.
Inger Stojberg, a spokesperson of the right-wing Denmark Democrats, agreed that the law was a capitulation to Islam and countries that “do not share [our] set of values,” warning that “history will judge us harshly for this and with good reason.”
To take effect, the new legislation must be signed by Queen Margrethe, which is expected later this month.
According to Hummelgaard, Danish police recorded approximately 500 protests involving some form of Quran destruction between July and November. Protests were held in front of mosques, embassies of Muslim countries, and immigrant neighbourhoods, sparking an international outpouring of anger and diplomatic fallout.
In January, Turkey summoned Denmark’s ambassador, accusing Copenhagen of allowing a “provocative act which clearly constitutes a hate crime” and calling its attitude as “unacceptable.” It cautioned that previous rallies in neighbouring Sweden had jeopardised that country’s chances of joining NATO.
The contentious prohibition on Quran-burning, formerly seen as a legally protected form of speech, was first mooted in July as an extension of an existing ban on burning foreign flags.
While the government emphasised that it had no intention of restricting free expression, it did warn that the demonstrators’ activities could have “significant consequences” for Danish security. PET, the intelligence service, said that the provocative protests had heightened the threat of terrorism.