Officials of the Swedish and Danish governments have begun to consider possible legal solutions to address the issue of publicly defacing the Quran and other religious books and symbols.
Denmark Seeks to Legally Prevent Burnings of Quran, Other Religious Scriptures https://t.co/cSGSXyMoZs
— Clear View (@Bestraight2020) August 1, 2023
This move comes after a series of protests where the Islamic holy book was burned in both countries, resulting in diplomatic backlash and hostile protests that saw the Swedish Embassy in Iraq being stormed and burned down last July.
Danish Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen announced on July 30th during an interview that the Danish government under Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen is seeking a “legal tool” that will prevent inflammatory acts such as burning the Quran or other religious books in front of foreign embassies without compromising freedom of expression in the Nordic country, a move he admitted will not be easy.
“There must be room for religious criticism, and we have no thoughts of reintroducing a blasphemy clause,” Rasmussen told Danish public broadcaster DR. “But when you stand up in front of a foreign embassy and burn a Quran or burn the Torah scroll in front of the Israeli embassy, it serves no other purpose than to mock.”
“There must be room for religious criticism... But when you stand up in front of a foreign embassy and burn a Quran or burn the Torah... it serves no other purpose than to mock," says Danish Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussenhttps://t.co/elqY5RzmzW #denmark #religion
— Andrew Crecelius (@aacrecelius) July 31, 2023
He also said during the interview that burning holy scriptures in front of foreign embassies “only serves the purpose of creating division in a world that actually needs unity.”
“That is why we have decided in the government that we will look at how, in very special situations, we can put an end to mockery of other countries, which is in direct conflict with Danish interests and the safety of the Danes,” Rasmussen said.
Freedom of expression is highly valued in the Nordic country, and the Danish government reiterated its support for that right through a statement released on July 30th, saying that freedom of expression is one of Danish society’s most important values.
A woman tried to prevent the Quran from being burned by two men in front of the Iraqi embassy in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, on Monday.
The police intervened and returned the Quran to the man trying to burn it pic.twitter.com/OheIH6PbIa
— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) July 26, 2023
But the statement added that the desecration of the Quran in Denmark resulted in many countries perceiving it "as a country that facilitates insult and denigration of the cultures, religions, and traditions of other countries.”
The Danish foreign minister added that his “government condemned and denounced the insult” to the Islamic holy book and “that it is studying this issue with great interest.”
Neighboring Sweden is also analyzing the legal situation regarding the recent string of Quran-burning incidents that took place in the country, considering the animosity they stir up against Sweden, with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson saying that “we are in the most serious security policy situation since the Second World War,”
Many Arabs cannot distinguish between the man who burned the Quran and the government, because they are used to their governments controlling everything, even their breathing. It is difficult for them to understand that the man who burned the Koran is not supported by the…
— هند الإرياني Hind Al-Eryani (@HindAleryani) July 27, 2023
In a statement, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said he held a discussion in recent days with his counterparts from the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to explain how freedom of expression works in Sweden and how the Swedish police make decisions independently on protest applications.
Billström also added that “the government is very clear in its distance from the Islamophobic acts carried out by individuals at demonstrations in Sweden.”
The OIC also conducted an emergency remote meeting on July 31st, urging member states to take action against countries that allow the Quran to be publicly desecrated or burned, which includes downgrading relations with such members and recalling ambassadors.