Danish Government set to criminalise improper treatment of objects of significant religious importance to religious communities
The Danish Government has today presented a model for criminalising improper treatment of objects of significant religious importance to a religious community. For example, the bill intends to make it a criminal offense to publicly burn the Bible or the Quran.
As a result of recent Quran burnings, Denmark is increasingly seen in large parts of the world as a country that facilitates insulting and denigrating actions against other countries and religions. It can only be assumed that the primary objective of these actions has been to taunt and provoke reactions. These actions can have substantial consequences that fundamentally harm the interests of Denmark and our like-minded allies. As the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) has stated, the recent Quran burnings have impacted the overall threat situation, and the threat of terrorism against Denmark has increased from an already high level.
The Danish Government therefore intends to criminalise improper treatment of objects of significant religious importance to a religious community. For example, the bill will make it a criminal offense to publicly burn the Bible or the Quran. The bill will not cover verbal or written expressions, including drawings. The bill targets actions that are performed in a public place or with the purpose of wider distribution.
Minister of Justice Peter Hummelgaard says:
“We have recently seen many Quran burnings in Denmark. These insulting and disparaging actions negatively impact the security of Danes, both abroad and at home in Denmark. Therefore, the Government today presents a bill which will criminalise this type of behaviour. Specifically, this means that it will be a punishable criminal offense to publicly burn for instance the Bible or the Quran.
Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of Danish democracy, and the freedom to express oneself is a core value in Danish society. The Government’s proposal is a targeted measure and does not change the fact that we must maintain very broad freedom of expression in Denmark.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Economic Affairs Jakob Ellemann-Jensen says:
“The Government is taking responsibility in a difficult and unsafe situation. Burning, damaging or otherwise destroying the holy scriptures of others serves no other purpose than to provoke for the sake of provocation. It has put Denmark in a difficult situation abroad. The Government cannot sit idly by. Books are not to be burned – they are to be read.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Lars Løkke Rasmussen says:
“The Quran burnings in Denmark have reached a level where Denmark in large parts of the world is seen as a country that supports the insult and denigration of other countries and religions. It creates division at a time, which, more than ever, calls for the opposite: unity and alliances. Therefore, I am pleased that we now have a model on the table that will allow us to put a stop to the kind of insult and denigration we are currently witnessing in Denmark.”
The bill will now undergo a four-week public consultation process, whereby it is expected to be ready for introduction during the opening week of the forthcoming parliamentary session. As there is a risk that the situation may quickly change, the Government wishes to introduce the bill on 1 September 2023 so that, if necessary, it can be considered and adopted before the end of the current parliamentary session.
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