Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard has proposed legislation making it illegal to maltreat objects of religious significance
The Danish government is preparing a law that would make it illegal to publicly mistreat or destroy items of religious importance, Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard has announced. A series of recent Quran burnings in Denmark have strained relations between Copenhagen and several Muslim countries.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, the minister said the government would soon propose legislation prohibiting “the inappropriate handling of objects with essential religious significance.” He explained that the bill would make it punishable to burn the Quran, Bible or Torah in public, as examples.
Hummelgaard said that a recent spate of Quran burnings meant that Denmark was “increasingly seen” as a country that “facilitates insult and denigration of other countries and religions” and that such actions put the safety of Danes at risk, both at home and abroad.
According to the minister, if the law is passed, it would make acts of public burning of sacred texts or other devotional objects punishable by fines or up to two years in prison. However, he did not specify when parliament was expected to vote on the bill.
The proposal has received some pushback from Danish opposition parties, which argue that a ban on Quran burnings would constitute an infringement on free speech. Hummelgaard, however, has responded to the criticism by stating that he “fundamentally believes” there are “more civilized ways to express one’s views than burning things.”
Back in July, Danish Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen also hinted that the government was looking for a “legal tool” that would enable authorities to prevent the burning of the Quran in front of other countries’ embassies.
Rasmussen stressed that such “deeply offensive and reckless acts” did not represent the “values that Danish society is built on.”
He noted, however, that any measures designed to halt such acts in the future must nevertheless be constrained by the existing framework of constitutionally protected freedom of expression.
Neighboring Sweden has also seen a series of Quran-burning episodes in recent weeks. Stockholm is also now looking to outlaw the desecration of holy texts without violating its constitutionally protected right to freedom of speech.
“Not everything that is legal is appropriate,” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kirstersson said earlier this month. He added that the country would impose stricter border measures to prevent people with “very weak connections to Sweden” from entering to commit crimes or acts in contravention of the nation’s security interests.
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