The Danish authorities presented a bill on Friday 25th August to ban the “burnings and other desecrations of sacred books in public places”, inserting this ban into the legislation which currently prohibits the desecration of foreign flags (article 11 in chapter 12 of the Danish Criminal Code which provides for a fine or up to two years' imprisonment). This move by the Danish authorities helps to ensure both internal security from possible threats, and to limit individuals who use this distorted effect to fuel hatred and provoke violent reactions.
The bill, presented by the Danish government represents an important step to protect religious freedom and respect for religious beliefs, as well as to prevent violence and discrimination against religious minorities. Indeed, it aims to "prevent radicalisation and counter incitement to hatred and terrorism". Furthermore, this law sends a loud and clear message that Denmark will not tolerate incitement to hatred and violence on a religious basis.
The desecration of sacred objects is an act of extreme insensitivity and lack of respect for the other religious beliefs. This can lead to violent reactions and social strife, especially in a multicultural society like that of Denmark. The bill aims to prevent such situations, promoting peaceful coexistence and mutual respect between the different religious communities
The law was first proposed following the incident in Nørrebro, a district of Copenhagen, where a man burned a copy of the Quran during an anti-Islam demonstration in 2019. In recent months, several copies of the Quran were burned by far-right activists in front of some mosques in Denmark, causing strong protests from the Islamic community not only locally, but also internationally. In response, the governments of Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Jordan and Turkey have expressed their concern and condemned these actions. The question has therefore arisen again with greater urgency.
Danish Justice Minister Peter Hummulgaard, said the bill was introduced to protect religious freedom and ensure that all Danish citizens can exercise their right to pray and practice their religion without fear of reprisal or discrimination.
The proposed law has been welcomed by Danish religious organisations, including the Church of Denmark and the Danish Islamic Association. However, some critics argue that the law limits freedom of expression and is contrary to the principles of democracy.
In any case, the proposed law represents an important step to promote tolerance and mutual respect between the different religious communities in Denmark, as well as to prevent violence and discrimination on religious basis.