For the first time in decades, a Danish prosecutor—with the approval of the country’s attorney general—has brought a blasphemy charge, against a man who made a video recording of himself burning a Quran in his backyard and posted it to Facebook. Mark Movsesian writes:
For a European government to bring a blasphemy prosecution in 2017 . . . is incongruous, to say the least. And Denmark is one of the least religious places on the planet. True, it has a state church, to which the large majority of Danes belong. But that is mostly a formal thing. Religious belief and observance are quite low. . . . And Danish authorities have turned a blind eye to blasphemy in the past. In 1997, for example, someone burned a copy of the Bible on a news broadcast on state television. The government did not file charges.
And here’s [the great] irony: the prosecution of the Quran burner is supported by Denmark’s progressive, left-wing Social Democrats, whom one might have expected to take a hard line on secularism and a dim view of blasphemy laws. . . .
What explains these ironies? . . . Perhaps [the prosecutor] worries that public mockery of Muslim beliefs could create an atmosphere conducive to acts of intimidation and violence against Muslim believers. . . . But if he is concerned about this video’s potential to create a climate of intimidation against Danish Muslims, he could have brought a hate-speech charge, which he declined to do.
Or perhaps the authorities worry that this incident will cause a violent backlash from some Muslims around the world, as occurred in 2006 during the infamous Prophet Muhammad cartoon controversy, when mobs attacked Danish embassies in the Mideast. . . . But this particular Quran burning seems to have gone unnoticed; no one was complaining. In fact, the prosecution itself seems likely to draw attention to the incident and spark protests.
Something very puzzling is going on here. . . . [I]t’s worth asking . . . why, in a secular, progressive, enlightened society like 21st-century Denmark, it’s legal to burn a Bible, but not to burn a Quran.