Blasphemy Laws

Blasphemy laws are found around the world. The strictest are found in Muslim countries, some of which are pushing for a UN worldwide ban on blasphemy. according to a Pew Forum Study released in 2012, 94 countries have laws against blasphemy, apostasy, and/or defamation of religion. This comprises 47% of the 198 countries included in the study.

In calendar year 2011, a total of 32 countries (16%) had laws penalizing blasphemy (remarks or actions considered to be contemptuous of God). Anti-blasphemy laws are particularly common in the Middle East and North Africa; 13 of the 20 countries in that region (65%) make blasphemy a crime. In the Asia-Pacific region, nine of the 50 countries (18%) had anti-blasphemy laws in 2011, while in Europe such laws were found in eight out of 45 countries (18%). Just two of the 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa – Nigeria and Somalia – had such laws as of 2011. (See table for a list of countries in each region that had anti-blasphemy laws.)

In 2011, a total of 20 countries across the globe prohibited apostasy (abandoning one’s faith, including by converting to another religion). Such measures were in effect in more than half the countries in the Middle East-North Africa region (11 of 20, or 55%) as well as in five of the 50 countries in the Asia-Pacific region (10%) and four of the 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa (8%). Laws against apostasy were not present in any country in Europe or the Americas.

Laws against defamation of religion were far more common worldwide than laws against blasphemy and apostasy. As of 2011, 87 countries (44%) had a law, rule or policy at some level of government forbidding defamation of religion or hate speech against members of religious groups.

Laws against the defamation of religion were most common in Europe, where 36 of the region’s 45 countries (80%) had such laws or policies in 2011. In most of these countries, these laws tended to penalize religious hate speech rather than defamation of religion. In the Middle East and North Africa, by contrast,15 of the 20 countries (75%) had such laws and most tended to penalize defamation of religion while relatively few penalized religious hate speech directed at specific persons or groups.

Of course, these laws only make sense in a situation where one religion holds all the power, as is so eloquently explained by Jesus and Mo.

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One Response to Blasphemy Laws

  1. Jasmine Everett says:

    IFLA, certainly since the passing of a Resolution on Freedom of Expression, Censorship and Libraries in 1989, and then through its Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (FAIFE) Committee, set up in 1997, has promoted a view of the library as a vehicle for freedom of expression. It is therefore important that FAIFE monitors and speaks out on threats to freedom of expression that might curtail the rights of library users by limiting the scope of the content that can be offered. Blasphemy laws present a real curtailment of content in many parts of the world and the defamation of religions resolutions threatened to smuggle in further restraint. They sought to do this by an unjustifiable adjustment of the protection of the freedoms of individuals and communities to express their ideas and opinions on any topic so as to exempt religious ideas and opinions from such freedom. Although a kind of victory against this seems to have been achieved in March 2011, blasphemy laws, some of them outrageously unjust and oppressive still remain in many countries and need to be opposed as strenuously as possible.

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