On Thursday, the Folketing, the Danish unicameral Parliament, was full. All the deputies, even those suffering from Covid, were present to vote on one of the most controversial laws in the country's history, commonly called “Koranloven”. At the end of an intense debate, during which the government remained strangely silent, the parties of the ruling coalition (social democrats, liberals and centrists) and the radicals (in opposition) voted by a large margin. majority (94 to 77) the bill "prohibiting the inappropriate treatment of objects of significant religious significance" for state-recognized religious communities.
This controversial text has been revised since its first version in August, considered extreme to respond to massive criticism from opposition parties, the media and experts, accusing the government of giving in in the face of Islamist threats. “It is above all about the security of the Danes,” admitted the Social Democratic Minister of Justice, Peter Hummelgaard, defending this “necessary law”, after the series of burnings of the Koran since the start of the year, which provoked demonstrations in several Muslim countries and an outcry from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
“We must put an end,” he pleaded, “to this type of provocation which has the sole aim of causing negative consequences, such as that observed in October 2023 during this tragic event in Brussels where two Swedes were killed” by a Tunisian, protesting against the burning of the Koran in Sweden. “The terrorist threat must be taken seriously,” he says. This is why the government is taking action against these systematic insults to the holy books which aim only to sow discord and which have consequences for the security of Denmark and the Danes.” 528 protests around religious books or flag burning were reported between July 21 and November 28 in Denmark, according to police.
Listening to criticism, the government made adjustments to the initial text. Thus, artistic creations featuring religious symbols will be exempt from prosecution, as will “verbal and written” blasphemy, including caricatures. Without convincing the nine opposition parties (right and left) who denounce this complete attack on freedom of expression, a pillar of Danish democracy, severely tested during the Mohammed caricature crisis in 2005 -2006.
Still skeptical, the president of the Danish Democrats (populist), Inger Stojberg, insists that it is “wrong to limit freedoms in a modern and enlightened society”. “We place the Koran above the Constitution,” she is indignant, noting that “we will henceforth be the only Nordic country which has bowed to the mullahs, to protests and to pressure in the Middle East” .
The population is equally divided on the law, with 51% of respondents in favor of it, according to a Megafon poll, while 39% are opposed. At the same time, a very large majority (84%) of respondents strongly support freedom of expression. For their part, lawyers and experts have expressed their concerns about this law which will allow more limitations on freedom of expression, as soon as pressure is exerted from Middle Eastern countries.
In a column published on November 9 in the daily Information, Jakob Holtermann, lecturer at the University of Copenhagen, wonders "whether Denmark can become a safer country in the long term by giving in to Islamist threats." the demands of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (to put an end to the burning of the Koran, Editor's note), we are increasing its possibility of putting pressure on Sweden (...) which finds itself in a much more exposed security situation than Denmark », he observes.
Also read: “By banning the burning of the Koran, Denmark reestablishes the “crime of sacrilege””
Indeed, the Swedish neighbor, in the crosshairs of the Islamists after the numerous burnings of the Koran, did not go that far, refusing to follow the Danish path. Sweden has “proved,” notes the jurist, “that it is possible for a small state to defy the veto of the caliphate (OCI) and maintain the broadest possible freedom of expression, including the right to the ultimate blasphemous insult ".