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Denmark considers banning protests burning Quran and other religious texts

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Far-right anti-Islam protesters in Copenhagen, 24 Jul 23Image source, Reuters

Denmark is considering banning protests involving burning the Quran or other religious texts over security and diplomatic concerns.

The Danish foreign ministry said whilst protecting freedom of expression is crucial, such protests benefit extremists and pose a security threat.

Copenhagen is looking at legal means to intervene in some circumstances, including protests outside embassies.

Sweden’s prime minister also said work on a similar process has begun there.

Both Scandinavian countries have come under pressure in recent weeks, after authorities gave permission for a series of controversial protests where Islam’s holy book was destroyed, stoking diplomatic tensions with several Muslim-majority nations.

In its statement, Denmark’s foreign ministry said it wants to explore intervening in some protests where “other countries, cultures, and religions are being insulted, and where this could have significant negative consequences for Denmark” – including security concerns.

But the Danish government emphasised free speech was a fundamental value and any change must be done “within the framework of the constitutionally protected freedom of expression and in a manner that does not change the fact that freedom of expression in Denmark has very broad scope”.

The statement also specifically acknowledged the impact these controversial protests have had on Denmark’s international reputation, repeating the government’s earlier condemnation of burning religious texts.

These protests have reached a level where Denmark “is being viewed as a country that facilitates insult and denigration of the cultures, religions, and traditions of other countries” in many parts of the world, it added.

In a separate statement, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said a similar process was already underway and confirmed he had been in close contact with his Danish counterpart Mette Frederiksen.

“We have also started to analyse the legal situation already… in order to consider measures to strengthen our national security and the security of Swedes in Sweden and around the world,” he wrote on Instagram.

Both statements followed several high-profile incidents where the Quran was burned or stamped on in recent weeks.

In June, an Iraqi Christian refugee living in Sweden, burned a copy of the religious text outside Stockholm’s central mosque.

The man was then given permission to destroy a Quran for a second time last week, which led to Sweden evacuating its embassy staff from Baghdad after the building was stormed and set fire to by protesters

Following this, last week two Danish far-right activists stamped on a Quran and set it alight in a tin foil tray next to an Iraqi flag on the ground outside Iraq’s embassy in Copenhagen.

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