USCIRF Releases Report on Blasphemy Laws

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has released a new report that examines the blasphemy laws in every country where they exist today. It includes both countries that have such laws on the books but never enforce them, and countries where such laws are used to justify totalitarian barbarism.

Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/whateverjamesinstitches/6249798371
Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/whateverjamesinstitches/6249798371

“Religious freedom includes the right to express a full range of thoughts and beliefs, including those that others might find blasphemous,” noted USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark. “Advocates for blasphemy laws may argue that they are needed in order to protect religious freedom, but these laws do no such thing. Blasphemy laws are wrong in principle, and they often invite abuse and lead to assaults, murders, and mob attacks. Wherever they exist, they should be repealed.”

The report compared the text of blasphemy laws against such indicators as freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, vagueness of the law, severity of penalty, discrimination against groups, and state religion protections. Most laws in the study failed to protect freedom of expression, were vaguely worded, and carried unduly harsh penalties for violators.

In all five of the worst-scoring countries (Iran, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Qatar), the blasphemy laws aim to protect the state religion of Islam in a way that impermissibly discriminates among different groups. When societies wish to defend people of faith from speech that offends them, private citizens must act, not the government, and they must act peacefully, never with violence. In such cases, solidarity across faiths can be a powerful tool for promoting tolerance and mutual respect.

“Though implementation varies, countries from Switzerland to Sudan persist in outlawing expression of views deemed ‘blasphemous’,” said Chairman Mark. “Some countries, including Canada, have such laws but do not actively enforce them. We call upon those countries to set an example for the others and repeal their blasphemy laws. And we call upon all countries to repeal any such laws and to free those detained or convicted for blasphemy.”

Hear, hear. Get rid of every single one of them, whether they’re commonly enforced or not. Set the standard and stick to it. The notion that one can be arrested for offending religious sensibilities is totalitarian and barbaric and must be ended, everywhere. And right on cue, Pakistan arrests a Christian for “blasphemy” against Islam.

Pakistani police say a Christian youth was arrested on blasphemy charges after he allegedly desecrated the Quran, Islam’s holy book, in eastern Punjab province.

Police chief Pervez Iqbal says the teen, about 18 years of age, was seized by a mob on Aug. 12 near the town of Wazirabad. The mob wanted to “punish” him for blasphemy.

Iqbal said on Monday that the police acted swiftly and probably saved the youth from being lynched. He says the man is now awaiting trial.

Saved him from the mob only to likely be put to death by the state for the “crime” of insulting someone’s religion. Absolutely horrifying.

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