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Denmark to ban burning of holy texts, Sweden to follow?

Danish Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard (pictured) told reporters:”The proposal will thus make it punishable to, for example, in public burn a Quran, bible or Torah. I fundamentally believe there are more civilized ways to express one’s views than burning things.” Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Chairman of the European Jewish Association, applauded Denmark’s move and urged “all European Countries, especially Sweden, to follow Denmark’s example and ban such flagrant abuses of constitutional rights and privileges by those who want to provoke, insult and divide”, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

The government has rejected objections put forward by Danish opposition parties saying such a prohibition would infringe on free speech. The Danish  government plans to criminalize the public burning of holy texts, including the Quran, the Bible or the Torah, the country’s Justice Minister said on Friday.

A bill that is to be presented would “prohibit the inappropriate treatment of objects of significant religious importance to a religious community,” Justice Minister Peter Hummelgaard told reporters.

He added that the legislation principally concerned burnings and other desecrations carried out in public places.

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“The proposal will thus make it punishable to, for example, in public burn a Quran, bible or Torah,” he said, adding: “I fundamentally believe there are more civilized ways to express one’s views than burning things.”

The government has rejected objections put forward by Danish opposition parties saying such a prohibition would infringe on free speech.

The Danish move follows numerous incidents in recent months during which people have publicly burned or damaged copies of the Quran in both Denmark and Sweden in apparent hostility to the Islamic faith. In Sweden, a Torah burning was also scheduled to take place twice earlier this year.

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The acts have fueled outrage in several Muslim countries and from Jewish groups and prompted calls for the Nordic countries to ban the practice.

The European Jewish Association (EJA),  which represents hundreds of Jewish communities across the Continent, applauded the Danish minister’s move.

In a letter to the minister, EJA Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin wrote: “That you have taken such resolute action in Denmark will be a huge source of relief and comfort not just to Danish Jews and Muslims, but to Jews and Muslims all over Europe, who, in looking at the action taken by the Danish government and your Ministry in particular, now have a red and white flag to rally around as we seek other States to follow your example.”

He added: “Where Denmark had led, others must now follow. We look particularly to Sweden where serious damage to the reputation of the country was done after a spate of Koran Burnings and attempts to burn the Torah were, in effect, green-lighted. The outrage and hurt is real amongst European Jews, for whom book burnings are a chilling reminder of Europe’s darkest days.”

Rabbi Margolin urged “all European Countries, especially Sweden, to follow Denmark’s example and ban such flagrant abuses of constitutional rights and privileges by those who want to provoke, insult and divide”.

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