Denmark's proposed bill to stop Quran burnings will not prohibit all criticism of Islam

By: Nikolaj Kristensen
September 1 2023

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Denmark's proposed bill to stop Quran burnings will not prohibit all criticism of Islam


The Verdict False

The proposed legislation does not prohibit all criticism of Islam or the burning of headscarves. It gives Islam no special legal protection.

Claim ID 0789716b


Following backlash from several countries in the aftermath of demonstrations involving the burning of the Quran in Denmark in recent months, the Danish government, on August 25, presented a bill that sought to criminalize "improper treatment of objects of significant religious importance to a religious community." 

In the wake of the move, several claims regarding the proposed bill are circulating online. Many social media users claim that once passed by the Danish parliament, the bill will prohibit all criticism of Islam, while some claim the legislation will give special legal standing to Islam that other religions don't enjoy. According to another popular narrative online, the bill will also prevent people from burning headscarves in solidarity with Mahsa Amini, an Iranian woman who died last year allegedly in police custody after being detained by the morality police in Tehran. 

However, these claims are inaccurate and misinterpret the provisions of the proposed bill. 

In fact

The current provisions of the bill, a copy of which is available online, do not seem to make any distinction between religions. 

In a statement on the proposed bill, Denmark's Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted: "...The Danish Government therefore intends to criminalise improper treatment of objects of significant religious importance to a religious community. For example, the bill will make it a criminal offense to publicly burn the Bible or the Quran." 

The statement or the bill makes no mention of any special protection for Islam.

While social media claim that the proposed bill will prohibit any criticism of Islam, experts on the subject believe that the bill only concerns itself with religious objects. 

Reacting to an opinion piece— published on the website Indblik and shared by several social media users—that claimed the bill could even "include calling the prophet Muhammad a bigamist or bandit, the argument goes," Sten Schaumburg-Müller, a professor of human rights law at University of Southern Denmark, said such an argument was "nonsense." "The bill aims to target precisely the inappropriate handling of objects, not religious doctrines and the like," he asserted.

Additionally, the statement by the foreign affairs ministry explicitly states, "The bill will not cover verbal or written expressions, including drawings."

While social media users claim that burning of headscarves in protest against the Iranian government will also be prohibited under the new legislation, the bill clearly states that clothing, including headscarves, is exempted. "The provision will not include for example pieces of clothing, such as head scarves, skullcaps or sikh turbans, even though they can hold religious significance," the bill reads. 

Some claims on Islam allegedly being given special relaxations are based on a statement reportedly made by Peter Hummelgaard, Danish Minister of Justice. Hummelgaard supposedly said that it would be legal to burn a cross, but not the Quran. 

Schaumburg-Müller said he won't rule out that the bill's provision might cover the burning of a cross, depending on circumstances. He said, however, in the end, it will depend on how the bill is received in the Danish parliament. 

According to the ministry's statement, Hummelgaard said, "...Specifically, this means that it will be a punishable criminal offense to publicly burn for instance the Bible or the Quran."

The verdict 

The claim that the new bill by the Danish government will prohibit all criticism of Islam is false. While the bill is yet to be passed by the parliament in its current form, the bill's provisions do not differentiate between religions. Articles of clothing, including head scarves, are also not covered under the bill.


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