The Danish government is proposing a law that would make it illegal to destroy or desecrate any holy book in Denmark. The law comes on the heels of a string of recent public burnings of the Quran by anti-Islamic activists which sparked diplomatic protests and violent demonstrations in Muslim countries.
On the face of it, it could seem like a good idea. On the other hand, I could see where it could all go horribly wrong. (Which I suppose is more or less what you're saying...)
c) I don’t know. Is the short answer. For the reasons you’ve just clearly outlined.
While I very much appreciate the goals and value of promoting tolerance and protecting diversity of thought, I’ll say that as a Christian, I think it’s a bad law, for the following reasons:
1 - where does it stop? Is it possible to define a clear and finite set of sacred objects that are protected? There are an awful lot of objects considered sacred by various faiths - scriptures, relics, prayer beads, rosaries, etc. Ditto for religions - an endless number. Who decides which religious objects are worthy of protection and prosecution?
2 - As a Christian, the clear call is for us to never be offended by others’ attempts to desecrate and disrespect us or our sacred texts or venerated objects. That’s literally part of our faith - Jesus went to his death being mocked and his body desecrated. If “turn the other cheek”and “love your enemies” applies to what people do to our bodies, even more so inanimate objects, no matter how sacred or beloved we may consider them. How odd to want to prosecute someone for desecrating a crucifix of the one who said “father forgive them” as he died on the original crucifix.
3 - governments job in a liberal democracy is to protect the freedom of thought and expression for all. And secondary to that, encouraging all to be as tolerant of each other as possible and slow to offense. In return, religions of all kinds must accept that they are one of many options in such societies and they can’t force others to love and respect the things they love and respect.
4 - One caveat - weak vs strong: underneath all this is really the clash of majority and minority religions. As a highly secular society, Denmark, I presume doesn’t have a strong majority religion at this point - or rather the majority religion is secularism - so it’s got a lot of minority religions who all easily feel disrespected or marginalized by the secular majority. There is something to be said for the majority religion (in this case secularism) to take steps to specifically protect the rights and sensitivities of minority religions. So from that standpoint, it’s nice to see a majority religion try to protect - rather than stamp out or subtly oppress - minority religions. Would any of those minority religions do likewise if the situations were reversed?
The best form of regulation is self regulation. The best form of censorship is self censorship.
Is also true that there are certain situations when passionate protest and even confrontation are called for. eg (Martin Luther King)
That said, I think the Danes are being wise and pragmatic on this. If you want good relationships with large Arab nations- (eg,Turkey), It might be best not to desecrate their Holy Book. The Swedes have learned this in order to get Turkeys approval for NATO membership. Our Islamic brothers and sisters find the burning of the Quaran and the public mockery of their Prophet deeply distressing - how could they not?? Its Hopelessly ill informed and idealistic of us to assume they will perceive such things as legitimate forms of protest.