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Updated Aug 25, 2023, 7:18am EDT
Europe
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Semafor Signals

Denmark to ban Quran burnings

Danish Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen and Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard speak to journalists outside the foreign ministry in Copenhagen, Denmark, July 31, 2023. REUTERS/Tom Little
REUTERS/Tom Little
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The Danish government announced plans to ban Quran burnings, alongside other holy texts, after a series of recent protests where copies of Islam’s holy book were burned.

The ban would apply to burnings taking place in public spaces, Denmark’s Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard said Friday. Burning the Bible or the Torah would also be prohibited.

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The point of burning holy books is to incite a reaction. Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Chris Allen, an expert in hate studies at the U.K.‘s University of Leicester, said that many people who burn Qurans are hoping to see a reaction from Muslims who hold fringe, extreme views. “The hope that those who are much more on the fringe will actually respond, at which point this reinforces their argument that all Muslims, by default, are exactly the same as those responding in a particular way,” Allen said.1

Incidents of Quran burnings in Denmark and Sweden have ticked up since the beginning of this year, and follow a stunt by Rasmus Paludan, a far-right political leader. The book-burners represent a small group of people, but they’re having an outsized impact on Nordic countries: Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said the country is facing “the most serious security situation since the Second World War” as a result of the protests.2

Danish politicians have hit back at concerns that such a ban would be a degradation of free speech. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said she did not consider it a slippery slope, and added that she doesn’t “consider it a restriction on freedom of expression that you can’t burn other people’s books.”3 Critics disagree. In Time magazine, Jacob Mchangama, CEO of the Future of Free Speech Project, wrote that the book burners are “private individuals whose non-violent symbolic expressions are intended to convey a message, which however, offensive to those who disprove, is part and parcel of free expression.”4

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