Is Sweden going to follow Denmark in banning Quran-burnings?

TT/The Local
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Is Sweden going to follow Denmark in banning Quran-burnings?
Iraqi activist Salwan Momika burns a copy of the Quran in June. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

At the beginning of December, Denmark passed legislation criminalising the "inappropriate treatment" of religious texts, effectively banning Quran burnings. How likely is it that Sweden will do the same?


Quran-burning “demonstrations” have taken place in both Sweden and Denmark over the last year, with Islam’s holy book desecrated multiple times outside Sweden's parliament, outside the coutnry's mosques and in areas with large Muslim populations.

This sparked anger in Muslim countries over the summer and possibly even delayed Sweden’s Nato application from being approved.

However, Sweden’s justice minister, Gunnar Strömmer, still does not see any reason to follow the same route as Denmark, arguing that protecting free speech is more important.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate, or that there is any kind of broad support for going the Danish route,” Strömmer told Sweden's TT newswire after the Danish parliament passed its law. 

In Sweden, the issue is being investigated by a parliamentary group led by the head of the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå), Mattias Larsson.

The group will look into whether applications for demonstrations with planned Quran-burnings could be rejected on the grounds that they present a threat to national security and the results of the investigation will be presented next summer.

The government’s view is that it may be necessary to change the Public Order Act, but that a flat-out ban is unnecessary.

Strömmer said that Denmark’s decision to pass new legislation would not change the government's approach, 

“No, it doesn’t. It’s been well known for some time now that they are considering introducing this kind of ban. Our standpoint is based on strong protection of free speech," he said. 

He also highlighted the fact that Sweden already had laws against hate speech, and that some Quran-burning protests are currently being prosecuted under these laws.

The opposition Social Democrats have accused the government of passivity, with the party’s justice spokesperson Ardalan Shekarabi arguing that Sweden could see knoc.


“It puts us in a more vulnerable position considering that we are already in a very serious situation, with the security police mentioning yesterday that the security situation has worsened,” he said.

His party agrees that the government’s investigation into changing the law is necessary, but argues that the government should seek to tighten laws around hate crime or disorderly conduct, rather than rely only on changing the public order act.

“We believe that change to legislation is necessary,” Shekarabi said. “The government is investigating a completely different issue which also lacks parliamentary support.

The Centre Party, also part of the opposition, is against any changes to Swedish law to criminalise Quran-burnings.

“Freedom of speech often comes with a price,” the party’s justice spokesperson Ulrika Liljeberg said. “If you have freedoms which are so narrow that no one is offended when you exercise your freedoms, then they’re not really worth having."

The Sweden Democrats, who support the government but are not part of it, are also critical of Denmark’s decision on freedom of speech grounds.

“In many respects Denmark is a pioneering country, but they’ve really lost their way here,” Jessica Stegrud, member of the Sweden Democrat party leadership, told TT in a written comment.


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