2010s was an important decade in defining Europe’s commitment to free speech, it saw many countries repealing their largely unused blasphemy laws. Norway, Iceland, the Netherlands, Ireland, and in 2017 Denmark. But Denmark is now taking a step back and reintroducing a Blasphemy Law.
The proposed Danish Bill L65 seeks to punish “improper treatment of religious objects held sacred by religious communities” with 2 years imprisonment. The bill, which aligns with OIC’s (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) demands for an international Blasphemy Law, will be voted on the 7th of December and is largely tipped to be passed.
If this bill is passed and introduced, it will leave Denmark no different from Iran and Pakistan, arguably two of the most stringent regimes when it comes to free speech and civil liberties especially the right to blaspheme. The Danish proposal might differ in the severity of the punishment, blasphemy is punished by death in Iran and Pakistan but the wording of the bill is similar to that of Pakistan and Iran’s.
It is extremely concerning that The Danish government is claiming “National Security” to be the motivation behind drafting this bill. It is not hidden that there have been many protests and even riots in response to blasphemy committed against Islam in the recent past. It wouldn’t be wrong to question if this bill is being introduced to protect Islam from blasphemy in particular. Is the Danish government going to criminalise a basic human right by giving in to terrorism?
Whatever the reasons might be, the principle stands. The right to blaspheme is a fundamental aspect of one’s right to freedom of thought, expression, speech, and consciousness.
We, at CEMB, strongly condemn the Danish government’s effort to introduce a blasphemy law and urge them to withdraw this bill to ensure their commitment to freedom of expression.
Founder and Co-Spokesperson CEMB