While we see blasphemy laws used in Muslim countries (and a few predominately Christian ones as well) to destroy lives and silence criticism of religion, some Western nations still such laws on the books even if they’re never actually used. One such country, Norway, has repealed its blasphemy law to send a message:
Back in 1933, Norwegian writer Arnulf Øverland – pictured above addressing Christian students in 1962 – was the last person to be prosecuted under Norway’s blasphemy law for giving a lecture titled ‘Christianity, the tenth plague’. He was acquitted.
However, blasphemy remained a “crime” in Norway – until this week, when it was reported here that Norway had scrapped the law in a direct response to January’s brutal attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The proposal to rush through the change was made by Conservative MP Anders B Werp and Progress Party MP Jan Arild Ellingsen, who argued that the law:
Underpins a perception that religious expressions and symbols are entitled to a special protection. This is very unfortunate signal to send, and it is time that society clearly stands up for freedom of speech.
The decision to push through the change was attacked as “cultural suicide” by Finn Jarle Sæle, editor of the Norwegian Christian weekly, Norge IDAG.
Of course it was. And let’s not kid ourselves that this is unique to Muslim countries. While the worst abuse happens there, we have also seen in recent years the use of blasphemy laws to censor speech or art critical of Christianity in Greece, Russia and other countries.