Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newspaper known for being targeted by two Islamist terrorists that saw 12 people killed and 11 injured in January 2015, criticized the Danish government after it proposed a new law banning religious books such as the Quran from being desecrated.
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The proposal came after a series of protests in Denmark and neighboring Sweden, where anti-Islam activists burned copies of the Quran in front of the public. The protests angered the Muslim world and resulted in counter-demonstrations, riots, and even the burning of the Swedish Embassy in Iraq.
The Danish government said these protests made other countries view Denmark as a place of insults and desecration of other nations' cultures, traditions, and religions. The government also added that they plan to extend the current ban on burning foreign flags by “prohibiting improper treatment of objects of significant religious significance to a religious community,” according to Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard.
“The bill will make it punishable, for example, to burn the Quran or the Bible in public. It will only aim at actions in a public place or with the intention of spreading in a wider circle,” Hummelgaard said, adding that such acts would be punishable by fines or a two-year prison term.
French satirical newspaper 'Charlie Hebdo' blasts proposed Danish 334-year-old blasphemy law
Although the center-right Danish government is serious in its attempt to legally prevent future burnings of the Quran or other religious scriptures, not everyone is convinced. The French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, targeted by a deadly terrorist attack in January 2015, is criticizing this recent move by the Danish government, and they featured the subject on the front page of the publication’s September 6 issue.
The newspaper is launching an appeal to “warn citizens committed to democratic values" alongside eight Scandinavian media outlets, which included one Danish media outlet and seven Norwegian newspapers and online sites. They are wary of what they see as a comeback of the 334-year-old blasphemy law in Denmark that was repealed in 2017.
The editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo described the "ad hoc legislation" being proposed by the Danish government as worrying.
"It's serious that a European country should decide to reinstate a medieval offense," Riss, the publication’s director, warned regarding the proposal.
"We're not trying to export French-style secularism but to support freedom of expression, which is threatened by this law. Everyone has the right to practice their religion; it's not about the Quran; it's about fighting religious fundamentalism," Riss also added.
"In doing this, the Danish government is bowing to pressure from Muslim countries," Gérard Biard, the weekly’s editor-in-chief, complained. "With this scandalous law, the Danish government is being dictated to by authoritarian regimes such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Taliban Afghanistan. The vagueness surrounding this bill, which in reality concerns only the Quran, leaves the door open to all interpretations and therefore all penalties."
The Danish government has repeatedly insisted that freedom of expression is one of the most important values of Danish society, even though it distanced itself from the Quran-burning protests in Sweden and Denmark.
Charlie Hebdo's appeal against the Danish bill to reinstate the crime of blasphemy. 5/09/2023
Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard assured that freedom of expression remains “a cornerstone of Danish democracy and the freedom to express oneself is a central value in Danish society,” adding that the proposed bill is “a targeted intervention which does not change the fact that freedom of expression must have a very broad framework in Denmark.”