Denmark considers legal means to stop Quran-burning protests

Government concerned Denmark is being seen as allowing denigration of cultures, religion and traditions of other countries

A woman holds a copy of the Quran during a protest outside the Swedish consulate in Istanbul on Sunday. Getty Images
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The Danish government on Sunday said security concerns after the backlash over Quran burnings has led it to explore legal means to stop protests involving the desecration of holy texts in certain circumstances.

The government said such protests played into the hands of extremists and it wanted to "explore" intervening in situations where "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," it said.

The government stressed that freedom of expression is still one of the country's most important values.

Several recent protests involving desecrations of the Quran have raised diplomatic tension throughout the Middle East, and in Denmark and Sweden.

The Danish government said the protests had "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."

It said the "primary purpose" of some of the actions had been to provoke and "could have significant consequences".

Danish and Swedish envoys have been summoned in several Middle Eastern nations.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said he had been in close contact with Danish premier Mette Frederiksen, and that a similar process was already under way in Sweden.

"We have also started to analyse the legal situation already … in order to consider measures to strengthen our national security and the security of Swedes in Sweden and around the world," Mr Kristersson said in a post to Instagram.

Protests in region against desecration of Quran in Sweden - in pictures

On Thursday, Sweden's government ordered 15 government bodies – including the armed forces, law enforcement and the tax agency – to strengthen the country's ability to prevent terrorism in response to a worsened security situation.

The announcement came a day after the government said the country had become the target of disinformation campaigns.

Saudi Arabia and Iraq have called for a meeting, expected to be held on Monday, of the Jeddah-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to address Quran desecration in Sweden and Denmark.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan on Sunday urged Sweden to take concrete steps to prevent burnings of the Quran, a Turkish Foreign Ministry source said.

In a phone call, Mr Fidan told Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom that continuation of such "vile actions" under the guise of freedom of expression was unacceptable, the source said.

Mr Fidan and Mr Billstrom also discussed Sweden's Nato military alliance membership application, the source said.

Updated: July 31, 2023, 9:03 AM