Nordic governments seek to de-escalate tension as more Korans are burned

The Danish government said on Sunday it would seek to find a "legal tool" that could enable authorities to intervene in such protests

July 31, 2023 06:45 pm | Updated 06:45 pm IST - COPENHAGEN/STOCKHOLM

Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs Lars Loekke Rasmussen, surrounded by Minister of Justice Peter Hummelgaard and acting Minister of Defense Troels Lund Poulsen, speaks to journalists on the day of a briefing by members of the Danish Parliament on the international reactions to the Koran burnings in Copenhagen, Denmark on July 31, 2023.

Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs Lars Loekke Rasmussen, surrounded by Minister of Justice Peter Hummelgaard and acting Minister of Defense Troels Lund Poulsen, speaks to journalists on the day of a briefing by members of the Danish Parliament on the international reactions to the Koran burnings in Copenhagen, Denmark on July 31, 2023. | Photo Credit: Reuters

More Koran burnings took place in Sweden and Denmark on July 31 as the governments of the two Nordic countries said they were examining ways to legally limit such acts in a bid to de-escalate growing tensions with several Muslim countries.

Denmark and Sweden have seen several protests in recent weeks where copies of the Koran have been burned, or otherwise damaged, prompting outrage in Muslim countries, which have demanded the Nordic governments put a stop to the burnings.

Also read | Organisation of Islamic Cooperation suspends Sweden's special envoy over desecration of Quran

The Danish government said on Sunday it would seek to find a "legal tool" that could enable authorities to intervene in such protests, if deemed to entail "significant negative consequences for Denmark, not least with regard to security".

"The fact that we are signalling both in Denmark and abroad that we are working on it will hopefully help de-escalate the problems we are facing," Rasmussen told journalists following a meeting with foreign policy speakers of parliament on Monday.

"It is not because we feel pressured to do so, but it is our political analysis that it is in the best interest of all of us," Rasmussen said, adding: "We shouldn't just sit and wait for this to explode."

Even so, Koran burnings took place in both countries on Monday. In Stockholm an Iraqi refugee behind several protests in recent weeks appeared to burn a copy of the Koran outside the Swedish parliament. In Denmark, anti-Muslim protesters burned the Koran outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in Copenhagen, with several more planned for later in the day.

The Nordic countries have deplored the burnings of the Koran but cannot prevent it under constitutional laws protecting freedom of speech.

However, both governments have now said they are considering legal changes that would allow authorities to prevent further burnings in special situations.

The Swedish government said this month it is examining a similar solution but right-wing parties in both countries have denounced the initiatives, with some saying freedom of speech cannot be compromised.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said on Monday that he had sent letters to all 57 countries in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to explain Sweden's right to assembly and condemned islamophobic acts.

OIC foreign ministers will convene in an extraordinary session on Monday to discuss the recent developments.

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