The Danish government announced on Friday that it would put out a law making it unlawful to damage any sacred book in Denmark after a recent spate of public Quran desecrations by a small group of anti-Islam activists provoked irate protests in Muslim nations.
The government claimed that Denmark has a reputation for encouraging insults and vilification of other nations’ cultures, faiths, and customs.
The center-right government seeks to extend Denmark’s existing ban on burning foreign flags by also “prohibiting improper treatment of objects of significant religious significance to a religious community,” Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard said.
“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. He said such acts would be punishable by fines or up to two years in prison.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry has summoned the charge d’affaires of the Danish Embassy five times in the past week to protest the desecration of the Quran in Denmark, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.
Hummelgaard told a news conference that the recent protests were “senseless taunts that have no other purpose than to create discord and hatred.”
Denmark’s government has repeatedly distanced itself from the desecrations, but has insisted that freedom of expression is one of the most important values in Danish society. It said that would not be affected by the proposed law.
Freedom of expression is “a cornerstone of Danish democracy, and the freedom to express oneself is a central value in Danish society,” Hummelgaard said. The proposal is “a targeted intervention which does not change the fact that freedom of expression must have a very broad framework in Denmark,” he said.