Nations Criminalizing Blasphemy Blasted in NEW Report

Nations Criminalizing Blasphemy Blasted in NEW Report November 16, 2019

This is from the American Humanist Association:

A report on the human rights of nonreligious people warns “the world is divided” on blasphemy and apostasy laws, “with many states still enforcing these laws, and several states tightening or introducing new blasphemy legislation in the past few years.”

The Freedom of Thought Report, published by Humanists International and in its eighth annual edition, examines the legal and human rights situation for humanists, atheists, and the nonreligious around the world.

The 2019 edition celebrates the fact that eight countries have actually abolished anti-blasphemy laws in the past five years. But it also warns that 69 countries still retain such laws, and that their penalties and prosecution are hardening in a number of states. States such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are noted as “perennial” blasphemy prosecutors. Despite the well-publicized release of Christian farmworker Asia Bibi, the report condemns the ongoing imprisonment of several accused atheists and many others in Pakistan, as well as extrajudicial violence against both humanists and religious minorities related to blasphemy accusations.

The report also highlights a deterioration in other countries. Both Brunei and Mauritania have increased the penalties for blasphemy and apostasy in the past two years, making the crimes punishable by death. High-profile blasphemy prosecutions are cited as cause for concern in Indonesia, as is the backlash against demonstrators protesting forced wearing of the hijab in Iran. Despite the overall positive trend in Europe, the region does not escape criticism, with Italy and Spain singled out for prosecutions against artists and protesters in recent years.

Andrew Copson, president of Humanists International, noted,

“Blasphemy and apostasy laws are an injustice in themselves, but they also lend a false legitimacy to those who commit acts of murder and terrorism in their name. As our report notes, when governments prosecute under these laws it only exacerbates the problems of religious extremism. Repealing these laws as per the human rights treaty obligations that nearly all countries are signed up to must be a priority. It will not solve all the various other forms of discrimination against humanists and other religion or belief minorities that our report documents. But it will begin to delegitimize the religious extremism that threatens so many societies across so much of the planet.”

Leaders at the American Humanist Association were pleased to note that some countries, including Norway, Iceland, Malta, the Alsace-Moselle region of France, Denmark, Canada, New Zealand and Greece, have repealed anti-blasphemy laws in the past five years. Meanwhile, legislation is pending in Ireland, following a referendum last year, to remove the requirement for an anti-blasphemy law from the constitution.

Find the report in full here.

Find the data behind the report here.


The American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming worldview of humanism, which—without beliefs in gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

Humanists International is the global representative body of the humanist movement, uniting a diversity of non-religious organizations and individuals. HI wants everyone to live a life of dignity in a world where universal human rights are respected and protected, and where states uphold secularism. Humanists International works to build, support and represent the global humanist movement, defending human rights, particularly those of non-religious people, and promoting humanist values world-wide.

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