Europe Denmark prohibits the burning of the Koran by law so as not to anger the Muslim world

Freedom of expression in Denmark, the country where the Muhammad cartoon crisis originated in 2005 that caused a serious conflict between the West and the Muslim world, will no longer protect the burning of the Koran or other holy books

Europe Denmark prohibits the burning of the Koran by law so as not to anger the Muslim world

Freedom of expression in Denmark, the country where the Muhammad cartoon crisis originated in 2005 that caused a serious conflict between the West and the Muslim world, will no longer protect the burning of the Koran or other holy books. With 94 votes in favor and 77 against, the Danish Parliament has adopted the so-called "law against improper treatment of objects that have important religious significance for a recognized religious community", popularly called 'Koranloven' (the law of the Koran).

The approval occurred after a tough debate in which practically only the opponents of the controversial law intervened. It is no secret that it is not a dish to anyone's taste and that its main objective is to avoid confrontations with Islamic countries. It was very revealing that the Government, led by the Social Democrats in coalition with two centre-right parties, opted for total silence and did not intervene in the discussion.

Criticism came from almost the entire opposition, both from the center, the right and the left. "The peace of cowards is brief and full of fear," proclaimed Steffen Larsen, spokesperson for Justice of the Liberal Alliance. "We see the confirmation that violence and threats work. It is a new and disturbing step backwards for free societies."

For Inger Støjberg, leader of the anti-immigration Democrats of Denmark and former Minister of Integration, the law represents "kneeling before Islam, as well as the recognition of a failure on the part of the Executive." Karina Lorentzen, spokesperson for Justice of the Popular Socialist Party, denounced that it leads to "bowing down to countries that place the Koran above the rights of all individuals in their societies."

From now on, publicly burning, desecrating, trampling on or kicking sacred writings will be prohibited. As well as destroying them by tearing them into pieces, cutting them or stabbing them with a knife. The Government, however, has softened the law in several points after the wave of strong criticism received in recent months.

The ban has been narrowed to only include writings and objects with significant religious meaning, and not also objects that "look like such" (for example, representations of the Quran that are not actually exemplars of the book). Furthermore, only recognized religious communities are protected by law. In the original project, all religious communities were. The penalties are a fine or imprisonment of up to two years.

The law has also been relaxed so that there is less likelihood of sanctions for breaking it in artistic contexts. Those works of art where the "improper treatment" is a minor part of a larger work will not be covered by the ban.

Religious communities will not have the power to determine whether a specific treatment of a sacred text is inappropriate or not. Assessments will be based on social considerations. For example, it will be permitted to wrap a Koran or a Bible in a rainbow flag. Instead, wrapping them in bacon will be prohibited, regardless of religious affiliation. "Improper treatment" will only be punished if it is physical. It will still be allowed to express any opinion about the books.

In any case, the objective of the law remains the same: to act against the systematic burning of Korans that took place during the summer and which caused large protests in several Muslim-majority countries. These burnings were carried out mainly by a small but very active far-right group in front of embassies in Copenhagen. According to the Government, they have had "significant negative consequences for Denmark" and have contributed to increasing the terrorist threat.

With the new law, which will be re-evaluated in three years, the Danes join the eight other European Union countries that have introduced a similar ban: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Poland and Romania.