• Joelle Fiss

Is Denmark set to repeal its anti-blasphemy law?

I was interviewed in the Danish paper Kristeligt Dagblad to comment on the repeal of Denmark’s anti-blasphemy law.

There is a reason to explain the trend of European states repealing their anti- blasphemy laws. Across the Islamic world, anti-blasphemy activists fuel political tensions and instability. For example, the Governor of Jakarta, a Christian of Chinese heritage, was recently imprisoned for committing the alleged crime of blasphemy; in reality he quoted a verse of the Koran calling for greater religious pluralism. Accusations against him were instrumentalised by Islamists. Heated accusations of blasphemy have created turmoil, in place such as Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt and Nigeria. Crowds have descended on towns, attacked minorities and burned places of worship.

European governments are aware of this phenomenon and do not want to be associated to it. Contrary to European hate speech laws, anti-blasphemy laws do not focus on how incitement to hatred against an individual can lead to an imminent attack against that person. Rather, they serve to protect the state-sponsored religion, not the human rights of its citizens”.

Since the incident of the “Danish Cartoons”, Denmark is very well placed to understand how blasphemy allegations can unleash violence and serious diplomatic tensions between states.

Some Muslim-majority states argue that “criticism of Islam” is a variant of hate speech and western states are accused of “ double standards”. It’s important to respond to this argument. Laws serve to protect individuals, not religions. If someone incites to hatred against Muslims in Denmark, and as a result Muslim citizens feel threatened of being attacked, then state authorities must enforce their hate speech laws to protect their citizens. But that is not equivalent to protecting Islam.

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