Outlawing ‘Division and Hatred’

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Denmark plans to ban the public desecration of the Quran after a series of book burnings in recent weeks prompted outrage from the Muslim world and raised concerns about the country’s security situation, the BBC reported.

The government proposed a bill that would make the improper treatment of Islam’s holy book and other religious texts a criminal offense. Penalties will include a fine and jail sentences of up to two years.

Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard explained that the draft law will not affect freedom of expression in the country, saying it is “a cornerstone of Danish democracy,” the Associated Press added.

But Hummelgaard said the burning of religious texts only creates division and hatred.

The bill will be added to a section of the criminal code that bans public insults of a foreign state, its flag or other symbols. The government will present it to parliament next month.

The proposal follows Quran burnings in Denmark and neighboring Sweden of late: Danish officials said the country has witnessed 70 demonstrations in recent weeks, including the burning of copies of the Quran in front of foreign embassies.

The issue has caused an uproar in Muslim-majority nations, with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation urging its members to take appropriate action against countries where the Quran was being desecrated.

The two Scandinavian countries initially hesitated to respond to the burnings because of their strong protections of freedom of expression. But that stance shifted after intelligence officials from both nations warned that the Quran burnings were compromising public security.

Sweden earlier this month raised its terror alert to the second-highest level of “high” after intelligence officials reported heightened threats from militant groups, the Associated Press reported.

While Sweden does not plan a similar bill, officials are considering amending a law that bans gatherings threatening the country’s security to forbid such protests.

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