The Volokh Conspiracy

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Free Speech

"Denmark and Sweden's Commitment to Free Speech Is Wilting in the Face of Quran Burnings"


Here's an excerpt from the article, by free speech historian Jacob Mchangama, writing in Time:

On July 30, Danish Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen announced that the government will seek to enact legislation for "special situations where other countries, cultures, and religions could be insulted, potentially resulting in significant negative consequences for Denmark." Sweden is mulling over similar actions….

The next day after the Danish government´s promise to explore legal remedies against Quran burnings, the OIC [Organization of Islamic Cooperation] released a strongly worded statement admonishing Denmark and Sweden for failing to immediately criminalize them and pledging to continue to pursue the matter…. [O]nce democracies yield from principle, authoritarian states will not respond with gratitude and conciliatory attitudes but demand that the self-imposed restrictions on free speech be expanded more broadly. …

Earlier this month, the OIC managed to secure a crucial win at the U.N.'s Human Rights Council with a resolution that calls on member states to, among other things, "address, prevent and prosecute acts and advocacy of religious hatred" as a direct response to the Scandinavian Quran burnings. The OIC argues that defamation of religious ideas and symbols constitutes incitement to religious hatred—a category of speech prohibited under international human rights law and in most European democracies. This would not just legitimize but also give legal teeth to the suppression of religious dissent, and would remove the stigma from countries where blasphemy and apostasy is severely punished.

This marks a radical departure from back in 2011, when the Obama Administration rallied democracies around the world and spearheaded a pivotal Human Rights Council Resolution to halt the OIC´s long-standing efforts to internationalize blasphemy laws….