Denmark is moving to introduce new laws that will ban the burning of the Quran in public, a crime that would be punishable with up to two years in prison.
The new law has been proposed by the Danish government, citing “national security” concerns.
However, the move to ban the desecration of the Islamic religious text is provoking a backlash over concerns that blasphemy laws are returning to Europe.
Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard said such burnings harmed Denmark and risked the safety of Danes, according to the BBC.
The planned law will make improper treatment of the Quran or Bible a criminal offense punishable by a fine and jail sentence of up to two years.
But many argue that it hasn’t been a crime to burn a Bible for decades and that the laws are now only being introduced to protect the Quran.
In defense of the move, the Danish government insists that it wants to send a signal to the world.
Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said Denmark had witnessed 170 demonstrations in recent weeks.
These protests have included the burning of copies of the Quran in front of foreign embassies.
Denmark’s PET intelligence service has warned that the latest incidents have intensified the terrorist threat.
Meanwhile, neighboring Sweden has also seen a series of Quran burnings.
The Swedish security service has warned of a worsening situation in recent years following an unprecedented influx of Mulsim migrants.
In July, the Swedish embassy in Iraq was set alight by protesters.
But both Denmark and Sweden have hesitated to respond to the burnings as they have been protected under laws on freedom of expression.
Sweden scrapped its blasphemy laws in the 1970s.
Copenhagen decided to move after further Quran burnings at the end of July in Denmark and Sweden.
The Danish government acted in response to pressure from radical Islamic groups.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) called on its members to take appropriate action against countries where the Quran was being desecrated.
The Justice Minister was adamant the proposed change in the law was not targeting verbal or written expressions or satirical drawings.
However, Hummelgaard argues that burning religious texts serves no other purpose than creating “division and hatred.”
“It is a cornerstone of our democracy that you have the right to express yourself,” said Deputy Prime Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen.
“You also have to behave properly.”
Denmark could not stand idly by when such actions had negative consequences for its security, he claimed.
Sweden’s Prime Minister, Ulf Kristersson, said Stockholm would not take the same step as its neighbor.
Kristersson noted that such action would require amending the nation’s constitution.