In an effort to ease tensions with Muslim nations following a wave of demonstrations in Denmark that saw the burning of Islam’s holy book, which incited anger, the Danish parliament on Thursday passed a measure outlawing the burning of the Quran in public areas.
This year, anti-Islamic demonstrators burned or otherwise damaged copies of the Quran in a number of public demonstrations in Denmark and Sweden, sparking calls for the Nordic governments to outlaw the practice.
According to Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard, more than 500 demonstrations that included burnings of the Koran or flags were registered since July.
“Such demonstrations can hurt Denmark’s relations to other nations, our interests and ultimately our safety,” Hummelgaard said.
Domestic critics in Sweden and Denmark have argued that any limitations on criticising religion, including by burning Qurans, undermine hard-fought liberal freedoms in the region.
“History will judge us harshly for this, and with good reason,” said Inger Stojberg, leader of the anti-immigration Denmark Democrats party. “What it all comes down to is whether a restriction on freedom of speech is determined by us, or whether it is dictated from the outside.”
Denmark’s centrist coalition government has argued that the new rules will have only a marginal impact on free speech and that criticising religion in other ways remains legal.
The vote followed a five hour debate in parliament and 94 members voted in favour, 77 against.
Breaking the new law will be punishable by fines or up to two years in prison, the government has said.
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