There are strong signs that Denmark and Sweden could be considering bans on Quran burnings following a furious popular and diplomatic reaction from across the Muslim world.
In a statement yesterday, Denmark said it was considering measures against “cultural and religious-based attacks,” and said Quran burnings in the country aim to provoking and causing harm to Denmark and other nations.
Copenhagen added that 15 countries had condemned Denmark due to the Quran burnings, which it described as “extremely aggressive and reckless” and not representative of Danish society.
Denmark will explore the possibility of intervening in situations where other countries, cultures and religions are demeaned to prevent negative consequences for its security, it said.
Here is the statement in full:
“Freedom of expression is one of the most important values in the Danish society. In our view, it must be so in an open democratic society, and there should never be any doubt that freedom of expression must have a broad scope in Denmark.
“Denmark works to promote cooperation between the countries of the world. With a tense security situation in Europe, it is time to build partnerships; not sow discord among nations.
“We are currently facing a situation where the burnings of the holy Quran in Denmark have reached a level where Denmark, in many parts of the world across continents, is being viewed as a country that facilitates insult and denigration of the cultures, religions, and traditions of other countries. 15 governments have issued condemnations of Denmark. Our ambassadors have been summoned for discussions. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is meeting on Monday in response to the burnings of the holy Quran in Denmark and Sweden.
“Some of the actions we have witnessed have had as their primary purpose to insult and provoke reactions in and from other countries. This could have significant consequences. Consequences that fundamentally harm Denmark and the interests of like-minded nations. It could also have major security implications in Denmark.
“The Danish government has clearly distanced itself from and condemned the burnings of the holy Quran. The burnings are deeply offensive and reckless acts committed by few individuals. These few individuals do not represent the values the Danish society is built on.
“These actions play into the hands of extremists. They sow division at a time when we need to stand together, and they benefit the countries that want to drive a wedge between the West and the Global South.
“The Danish government will therefore explore the possibility of intervening in special situations where, for instance, other countries, cultures, and religions are being insulted, and where this could have significant negative consequences for Denmark, not least with regard to security. This must of course 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.”
In a separate statement, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said a similar process was already underway.
Writing on social media, he added: “Sweden is currently being exposed to influence campaigns supported by states and state-like players, whose very purpose is to hurt Sweden and Swedish interests. The recent burning of copies of Holy Scriptures coincides with a more difficult security policy situation. These events are then repeated incorrectly, sometimes along with direct calls to harm our country…
“Sweden really has no tradition of burning books or writings just because it is legal. On the contrary, we have a tradition of protecting books – and reading them. In addition, Sweden is a country with a strong tradition of respect for different religious practices – and for each other. Religious freedom is a Swedish cornerstone.
“Therefore, there are strong reasons to believe that the recent sudden increase in burnings is happening with the intention of dividing and scattering and in different ways diminishing our country’s position internationally.
“A crucial part of our democratic social contract is for the state to secure and guarantee the right to our constitutional rights. Another part of the social contract is that the state should extremely protect Swedish national security and the safety of Swedish citizens both in and outside the state’s borders.
“The coordinated disinformation campaigns that Sweden is now exposed to worsen the situation for Swedish citizens and companies abroad, and weaken the security within the country. It increases the risk of brutal terrorist attacks.”
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.