Denmark still largely in support of ‘blasphemy’ law


A recent survey has shown that Danish citizens still largely back the country’s ‘blasphemy’ law. The law, which makes it illegal to “mock legal religions and faiths in Denmark”, is supported by around 66 percent of Danish voters, according to a recent survey conducted by the liberal group CEPOS.

Speaking about the report, religious expert Tim Jensen from the University of Southern Denmark said, “Danes may see the blasphemy law as helping integration because it promotes the acceptance of a multicultural and multi-faith society. But it can also be problematic if it reflects a belief that the feelings of religious people have a special status and require special protection,” the Berlingske news agency reports.

Meanwhile, Jacob Mchangama, legal affairs director for CEPOS, said, “Blasphemy laws legitimise a culture of offence that leads to violence and dissatisfaction in parts of the world. If Denmark is to have credibility when we criticise blasphemy laws in Pakistan, for example, or we act in disbelief toward people that react violently to a film on YouTube that is critical of Islam, then we have to repeal our own blasphemy law,” the Copenhagen Post reports.

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  1. The solution is simple: We must create a Religion of Blasphemy where the core beliefs include the necessity to mock other religions (because God commands it) and considers any laws or efforts to stifle such mockery as blasphemy against it. I wonder what they’d do with that.

    Specifically, we could base the religion on 1 John 4:1 :

    “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. “

  2. Accepting Jesus as your personal savior is a blasphemy for Muslims, whereas meaning that Muhammad is the only prophet is blasphemy for Christians. So they’ll have to ban all religions. Isn’t that fun, now ?

  3. Quick quick quick, an ideal opportunity for the “absolute free speech” advocates. Or perhaps a more considered middle ground and better education. It sounds like a good idea at the time when the Danes were surrounded by christians and whities but it’s time has come.

  4. This is a rather messy piece.
    Obviously a top muslim figurehead (Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri) did not participate in the shaping of the Danish blasphemy law which originates in 1866. This must be a reference to the shaping of the Pakistani sharia and blasphemy law, in which Tahir ul-Qadri played a major part.
    The last Danish conviction btw, was in 1938, and no indictments has been made since 1971.
    Here is a much more coherent article:

  5. I dunno, I think they’re enacted with the best of intentions. Like political correctness, another bugbear of many on this site, blasphemy laws are put there to protect people, particularly minority groups, and keep them from being persecuted.

    “Danes may see the blasphemy law as helping integration because it promotes the acceptance of a multicultural and multi-faith society…”

    This doesn’t exactly sound evil, immoral and loathsome. 

  6. This is very disconcerting coming from an otherwise intelligent country like Denmark.

    I can only blame it on a widespread ignorance of what blasphemy laws actually entail, accompanied by a hyperextended and indiscriminate urge to show respect. Second thoughts might surface amongst those polled were they introduced to the recently unfolding events in Pakistan.

  7. Actually, no. Except to say that you cannot separate the concept of blasphemy and the blasphemy laws from all the unspeakable horror committed in the name of religion. Modern nations, like Denmark,have laws protecting the individual. That’s all we need.

  8. I guess Denmark will  no longer be airing any animated sitcoms created by the likes of Matt Groening, Mike Judge, Parker & Stone or Seth McFarlane (assuming they were ever aired there in the first place). Large chunks of all those programs are devoted to mocking organized religions (at least all the better episodes are!)

  9.  @Katy – too much Shakespeare for you, methinks. As for ‘best of intentions’, you might be right, but the end result will be that, rather than protect minority groups, the laws will be used against minority groups such as this herd of atheist cats. Nobody should be entitled to have protection for their imaginary friends. Imagine not being able to see the Jesus and Mo cartoons! (Highly recommended, by the way). jesusandmo dot net.

  10. Hi alaskansee,

    What is “absolute free speech” please, and how is it different to free speech?


    This entry may not appear in the right place because Apple devices break the Net.

  11. The main article (linked) points to an oxymoronic mode of thought that is common in liberal societies, viz.:

    “Danes may see the blasphemy law as helping integration because it promotes the acceptance of a multi-cultural and multi-faith society.”


    “Blasphemy laws legitimise a culture of offence that leads to violence and dissatisfaction”

    Meanwhile, as Alaskansee has already pointed out, Denmark probably also has a reactionary constituency that thinks in terms of tradition.

    We need to target messages at progressives that highlight the weakness in their thinking. The most common problem being that they are thinking of multi-cultural-ism as an ism.

    For a society to be truly multi-cultural requires that all voices are heard. Yet so many people have bought into the idea that multi-cultural-ism is part of a doctrine that must include State-backed policing of minority points of view. Minorities are automatically oppressed, their thinking goes, because they are not as we’ll represented in the overall culture.

    Therefore, they build defences for minorities that include defending their point of view. The most common starting point for this is ‘political correctness’ (a.k.a. thought crime). Expressing any thought that might be even remotely counter to that of the minority becomes verboten. Though well-meaning, political correctness quickly becomes an anti-free-expression stick to beat people with.

    There is a certain class of Progressive that is sanguine about all this. They are too impatient to use consciousness-raising techniques and to work that raised social conscience into a new liberal politics. Rather, they see political correctness as a fast track to a multi-cultural society.

    The problem we need to expose is that these policies are actually working in the opposite way to that intended – while simultaneously undermining our democracies at the same time.

    The fact that political correctness is a stick – applied enthusiastically, because it is so hard to resist – means that societies become regressive as most in the majority begin to harbour resentment against all minorities.

    In addition, the minorities themselves are not slow to latch on to the fact that an ism gives them the opportunity to develop the doctrine in their favour. Profanity can be banned? How can I use this to my advantage? How do I express what it is that my Group can’t stomach? Ahh, I know, I’ll point to them and say we’re offended.

    Thus, the envelope of multi-cultural-ism is constantly expanding.

    Many of us live in countries which have new laws that are the direct result of this wooly thinking combined with overweening ambition and a new, insidious, political activity has emerged: banning political thoughts. This includes, on occasion, banning entire political parties. This has, of course, become necessary in order to silence the more extreme voices of that resentment engendered by multi-cultural-ism.

    That’s enough about the problem. What is the solution?

    Our first task must be to show people with liberal leanings they are throwing the baby out with the bath water. They will respond with: What do we do instead? The obvious answer is that there was nothing wrong with the way things were – that free expression can support a multi-cultural society.

    However, this seems unlikely to win over many who are enjoying wielding that stick. They will say, with some justification, that societies, pre-ism, were showing signs of resisting multiple cultures living in harmony.

    It seems to me that the argument needs to progress on several fronts. One is that media voices are concentrated in too few hands, thus reducing the possibility of some new cultural influences from being seen and heard. Another is that we need to take the argument back to basics; how can we claim to be multi-cultural if we cannot discuss our differences openly? Another is to ask why multi-cultural society is important, and does it deserve its pre-eminence, or are there other things which should take precedence (here is where the sub-category problem of blasphemy sits)?

    Is favouring minority cultures actually helpful? In the end, multi-cultural or not, all societies need to support integration to some degree or they will become unstable. Belonging to a society means accepting that you live by that societies rules. Clearly, on the evidence, the current use of the phrase multi-cultural is a misnomer – it should be called the policy of split-culture? How is split-culture supportive of integration. Note, that last one is a rhetorical question.


  12. Stephen, I agree in general with what you say, but must quibble with one thing. You say – ” Belonging to a society means accepting that you live by that societies rules. ” – and it’s obvious that you are aiming that at those who want to protect themselves and their imaginary friends with blasphemy laws. But if such laws are introduced, they will then constitute the society’s rules to which you refer, and I think it will be incumbent upon us NOT to accept them.

  13. Don’t the British need to repeal their blasphemy laws too.

    Would someone please explain ‘what’s all this then?’ Is this British laws, mentality? A constructive precedent overturning antiquated attitudes? The test of new political correctness? My understanding from the Encyclopedia Dramatica is that he was not ultimately prosecuted, so how does this even happen?

  14. It’s a genuine case of political correctness gone mad. It’s the Police thinking they are doing the right thing, but not understanding the difference between the right to express an opinion, and intimidation or libel. The Police (both as an organisation and as individuals) need to be better trained on this issue, although it doesn’t help that the law is vague and needs to be amended.

    I understand this case was thrown out of court, as have other similar cases.

  15. This is a strange article as it is hard to believe an obviously sensible country like Denmark would allow such woolly religious thinking, the only thing a blasphemy law does is to outlaw any religious criticism.

  16.  Ah, thank you. That’s what I hoped.

    I understand the kid earned +6 internets for his work. A 16 year old knew exercising free speech would result in arrest, and he did it. That’s pretty awesome.

  17. Not only does support remain, after a little searching it appears the trend for passing these Islamic (by proxy) blasphemy laws is increasing. That’s troubling.

    I hadn’t heard of this until now, but the US is involved in a project called The Istanbul Process.

    The goal of the Istanbul Process is to produce a list of best practices for preventing religious discrimination and violence.

    Evidently this project is meant to circumvent the perceived need for blasphemy laws. Seems encouraging but I admit I haven’t fully examined it.

  18.  That’s brilliant except for the part about the devil twisting the bible’s words to his own ends but then the devil could have put that there to keep people from really following the bible. It’s like division by zero deity style.

  19. Thanks AtheistButt, That’s a good point.

    Of course one of the important aspects of democracy is that it doesn’t pretend to be perfect – we get to change the old rules at any time.

    My personal view is that we (meaning: society at large, the police and courts) should take a very relaxed view of those who break the rules ThisIsNotAMeme’s link is inspirational on that point.


    This entry may appear in the wrong place because Apple devices break the Net.

  20. Of all the strange “crimes” that human beings have legislated out of
    nothing, “blasphemy”is the most amazing — with “obscenity” and “indecent
    exposure” fighting it out for second and third place.  L. Long

  21. Odd that there should be such different attitudes among the Scandinavians. Here in Norway, the Parliament decided three years ago to abolish the old blasphemy laws, which in any case had largely laid dormant for over a century (one notable exception being the ban on Life of Brian, which however was soon lifted). Only a handful of fundies protested, and the Christian Party — which I’m happy to report is becoming ever more marginalized — was alone among political parties in wanting the laws retained.

  22. Not to mention that nothing is ” blasphemy “, but a law like this makes criminal culpability dependent on any individuals’ state of mind.  I may make a statement that 99.99 % of Muslims do not find offensive.  But if .001% does, according to Danish law, I am a criminal?  Utter nonsense!

  23. > Of course one of the important aspects of democracy is that it doesn’t
    pretend to be perfect – we get to change the old rules at any time.

    So they don’t have democracy in the US?

    There are other interpretations of the survey, supposing it was comprised of the simple question “should the Danish blasphemy law be repealed?”: it may be that they think there are more pressing matters and that repeal would be a waste of time. It could even be that it was a bad survey… It’s hard to tell since Googling “ blasphemy” doesn’t bring up anything related. Are there any Danes round here who could do a search or two on CEPOS’ site?

    I have to say, their policy statement makes them sound more like neoliberals than liberals as claimed in the article:

    “CEPOS wishes to contribute to more personal and economic freedom, rule of law and democracy as well as a limited government sustained by healthy civil institutions such as family, civil associations and cultural life.

    CEPOS wishes to reform and limit direct and indirect economic support from the public authorities to the population. Government support shall benefit only the disadvantaged and will be abolished for people who can support themselves.”

  24. No, I do not agree.  Speech is free – or it is censored.  We should, rather, talk of levels of censorship, but the existence of censorship in any forum means that free speech does not exist there.

    The reason for this is simple: Free Speech is not a good to be traded, or a rule book, or a dogma, or a process by which we reach some goal, or a cultural norm, or a social good like charity.

    Free speech is an ideal – like justice, equality and freedom.

    Furthermore, Free Speech is an aspirational ideal.  Because free speech is so easily undermined it comes under constant, consistent and crushing pressure.

    The way this fits with something like the press freedom index would depend on the relationship between personal freedom of expression and media freedoms in any particular country.

    The fact is that access to resources reduces the number of pitches in the public square – so the media have political clout, up to a point.

    But, apparently, this is not enough.  Publishers are given the right to wield imprimatur and, thus, the very existence of a press freedom index is oppressive in an era when free speech is available to us all – right here, right now.


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