The Danish Parliament building at Christiansborg, with multi-storey stone wings and a central spire.

Our CEO talks Danish blasphemy laws on BBC Scotland

September 11, 2023

Our CEO Fraser Sutherland talked about the danger of “back-door blasphemy laws” when he joined Cathy MacDonald on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Morning show last week (9 September). Discussing the issue alongside him were Aman De Sondy, Head of Religious Studies at University College Cork, and Rev. Stella Campbell, a Minister at Kingshill Parish Church in Aberdeenshire.

The panel were reacting to proposals for new laws in Denmark that would make Quran-burning punishable by fines or prison. They also talked about France’s new ban on wearing the abaya in schools. Humanists are deeply opposed to incendiary gestures such as Quran burnings. However, Fraser pointed out that blasphemy laws around the world are used to deny people’s basic human rights. He also explained how such laws could be used to prevent criticism of authoritarian governments.

Fraser added that Denmark’s proposed laws were vague, outlawing “improper treatment of objects with religious significance for a religious community.” This kind of wording has been used in different contexts to persecute so-called religious apostates. Ironically, it has also been used to persecute minorities like those the Danish government is seeking to protect.

On France’s abaya bans, our CEO took a different slant, describing the language of the ban as authoritarian. He compared the banning of religious clothing to attempts in Iran to enforce hijab-wearing, calling the respective infringements on personal freedoms “two sides of the same coin.”

If you would like to hear the whole discussion, please click below and listen from one hour eight minutes.

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