Petition – Abolish Denmark’s blasphemy ban

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We the undersigned respectfully urge the Danish Parliament to vote in favour of bill L 170 repealing the blasphemy ban in section 140 of the Danish criminal code, punishing “Any person who, in public, ridicules or insults the dogmas or worship of any lawfully existing religious community”.

Denmark is recognized as a global leader when it comes to the protection of human rights and freedom of expression. However, Denmark’s blasphemy ban is manifestly inconsistent with the Danish tradition for frank and open debate, and puts Denmark in the same category as illiberal states where blasphemy laws are being used to silence dissent and persecute minorities. The recent decision to charge a man – who had burned the Quran – for violating section 140 for the first time since 1971, demonstrates that the blasphemy ban is not merely of symbolic value. It represents a significant retrograde step in the protection of freedom of expression in Denmark.

The Danish blasphemy ban is incompatible with both freedom of expression and equality before the law. There is no compelling reason why the feelings of religious believers should receive special protection against offense. In a vibrant and pluralistic democracy, all issues must be open to even harsh and scathing debate, criticism and satire. While the burning of holy books may be grossly offensive to religious believers it is nonetheless a peaceful form of symbolic expression that must be protected by free speech.

Numerous Danes have offended the religious feelings of both Christians and Muslims without being charged under section 140. This includes a film detailing the supposed erotic life of Jesus Christ, the burning of the Bible on national TV and the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammed. The Cartoon affair landed Denmark in a storm of controversy and years of ongoing terrorist threats against journalists, editors and cartoonists. When terror struck in February 2015 the venue was a public debate on blasphemy and free speech.

In this environment Denmark, must maintain that in a liberal democracy, laws protect those who offend from threats, not those who threaten from being offended.

Retaining the blasphemy ban is also incompatible with Denmark’s human rights obligations. In April 2017 Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagtland emphasized that “blasphemy should not be deemed a criminal offence as the freedom of conscience forms part of freedom of expression”. This position is shared by the UN’s Human Rights Committee and The EU.

Since 2014,The Netherlands, Norway, Iceland and Malta have all abolished blasphemy bans. By going against this trend Denmark will undermine the crucial European and international efforts to repeal blasphemy bans globally.

This has real consequences for human beings, religious and secular, around the globe. In countries like Pakistan, Mauretania, Iran, Indonesia and Russia blasphemy bans are being used against minorities and dissenters.  Denmark’s blasphemy ban can be used to legitimize such laws. In 2016 the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief pointed out that “During a conference held in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) last year, the Danish blasphemy provision was cited by one presenter as an example allegedly indicating an emerging international customary law on “combating defamation of religions”.

Blasphemy laws often serve to legitimize violence and terror. In Pakistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh free thinkers, members of religious minorities and atheists have been killed by extremists. In a world where freedom of expression is in retreat and extremism on the rise, democracies like Denmark must forcefully demonstrate that inclusive, pluralistic and tolerant societies are built on the right to think, believe and speak freely. By voting to repeal the blasphemy ban Denmark will send a clear signal that it stands in solidarity with the victims and not the enforcers of blasphemy laws.

  • Jacob Mchangama, Direktør, Justitia

  • Steven Pinker, Professor Harvard University

  • Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury, Eksileret redaktør af Shuddhashar, 2016 vinder af the International Writer of Courage Award

  • Pascal Bruckner, Forfatter

  • Dr. Elham Manea, Akedemiker og menneskerettighedsaktivist

  • Ayaan, Hirsi Ali, Menneskerettighedsaktivist, stifter af AHA Foundation

  • Leena Krohn, Forfatter

  • Sultana Kamal, Forperson, Centre for Social Activism Bangladesh

  • Deeyah Khan, Direktør @Fuuse & stifter af @sister_hood_mag

  • Elisabeth Badinter, Forfatter og historiker

  • William Nygaard, Forlagschef

  • Flemming Rose, Forfatter og journalist

  • Fatou Sow, Direktør Women Living Under Muslim Laws

  • Jodie Ginsberg, Direktør, Index on Censorship

  • Kenan Malik, Forfatter

  • Pragna Patel – Direktør, Southall Black Sisters

  • Maryam Namazie, Talsperson, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain

  • Fariborz Pooya, Vært for Bread and Roses TV

  • Frederik Stjernfelt, Professor, Aalborg Universitet, København

  • Marieme Helie Lucas, Secularism Is A Women’s Issue

  • Sarah Haider, Direktør, Council of Ex-Muslims in North America

  • Andrew Copson, ‎Præsident International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU)

  • Nani Jansen, Menneskerettighedsadvokat

  • Michael De Dora, Director of Government Affairs, Center for Inquiry

  • Robyn Blumner, Præsident & direktør, Center for Inquiry

  • Nina Sankari, Kazimierz Lyszczynski Foundation (Poland)

  • James Lindsay, Forfatter

  • Mahal Mali, Udgiver og redaktør, Areo Magazine

  • Douglas Murray, Forfatter og journalist

  • Julie Lenarz – Administrerende Direktør, Human Security Centre, London

  • Terry Sanderson Præsident, National Secular Society

  • Sonja Biserko, Præsident Helsinki Komiteen for Menneskerettigheder, Beograd

  • Greg Lukianoff, Administrerende direktør, FIRE

  • Ivan Hare, QC Blackstone Chambers

  • Thomas Cushman, Professor Wellesley College

  • Nadine Strossen, John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law, New York Law School

  • Suzanne Nossel, Administrerende direktør PEN America

  • Simon Cottee, Freedom Project, Wellesley College

  • Paul Cliteur, Professor i retsvidenskab Leiden University

  • Lino Veljak, University of Zagreb, Kroatien

  • Lalia Ducos, Women’s Initiative for Citizenship and Universals Rights , WICUR

  • Lepa Mladjenovic, LC, Belgrade

  • Elsa Antonioni, Casa per non subire violenza, Bologna

  • Bobana Macanovic, Direktør, Autonomos Women’s Center, Beograd

  • Mehdi Mozaffari, Professor emeritus Aarhus Universitet

  • Øystein Rian, Professor emeritus Oslo Universitet

  • Øystein Sørensen, Professor, Oslo Universitet

  • Kjetil Jakobsen, Nord universitet i Bodø

  • Harsh Kapoor, Redaktør, South Asia Citzens Web

  • Dr Rumana Hashem, Sociolog og sekulær kvinderettighedsforkæmper fra Bangladesh

  • Scott Griffen, Direktør for Mediefrihed, International Press Institute

  • Henryk Broder, Journalist

  • David Rand, direktør, Libres penseurs athées — Atheist Freethinkers

  • Tom Herrenberg, Lektor Leiden Universitet

  • Simone Castagno, Coordinamento Liguria Rainbow

  • Laura Caille, Generalsekretær Libres Mariannes

  • Andy Heintz, forfatter

  • Bernice Dubois, Conseil Européen des Fédérations WIZO,

  • Jean Lassègue, CNRS senior researcher – EHESS, Paris

  • Steve Simpson, Director of Legal Studies, Ayn Rand Institute

  • Göran Adamson, Ph.D., LSE, Associate Prof. in Sociology, Center for European Studies, Chulalongkorn University

  • Kim Hundevadt, Forlagschef, Politikens Forlag

  • Ivan Hare, Lawyer

  • Rumy Hasan, Senior Lecturer, University of Sussex

Read the coverage by Politiken here.

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Louise Stenstrup

Kommunikations- og sekretariatschef / Head of Communications and COO

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