Giving hope to persecuted Christians since 1995
Select Page

ICC Note:
Blasphemy and defamation of religion laws continue to repress the Christian faith in countries across the world. Known for inciting violence, accusations and prosecutions on the basis of blasphemy or religious defamation have proven detrimental to the free exercise of religion and harmful to minority Christian communities throughout the world. Social hostilities, advanced by cultures of impunity, continue to pose a serious threat to Christians worldwide.
7/10/2013 Tanzania (HuffPost) — As a Christian, there is one thing I dislike even more than blasphemy, and that is legislation that prohibits it. Such laws invariably contribute to increasing intolerance, violence and injustice, and are widely open to misuse. And the key point is, if your God needs man-made laws to protect him from insult, he must be a pretty small and weak deity.
Yet laws criminalising blasphemy, defamation of religion or insulting religious belief are included in the criminal code of several countries, with Russia becoming the latest. On 26 June, Russia’s State Duma passed a bill on “causing offence to the sentiments of religious believers”, with punishment of up to three years in prison. Countries such as Pakistan, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Turkey and Indonesia have had such laws for many years and in some cases it carries the death penalty. The UK repealed its blasphemy law in 2008
In Pakistan, for example, at least 79 people have been arrested for blasphemy. Some have been jailed for life, or sentenced to death, and while to date no one has actually been executed for blasphemy by the State in Pakistan, even if acquitted or released from prison eventually, a person accused of blasphemy is in danger of being murdered by extremists. Two prominent Pakistani politicians, the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, and Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs and someone I was privileged to call a friend, were assassinated because they called for reform of the law.
In Indonesia, three people are currently in jail for blasphemy: two are Shia, and one is a Christian. In May, I visited one of them, a Shia cleric called Tajul Muluk. I also returned to see Alexander Aan, an atheist charged under both the blasphemy law and the Electronic Information and Transactions Law because he declared himself an atheist on Facebook. He was eventually sentenced to two years under the Electronic Information and Transactions Law.
There are several problems with blasphemy laws. In most cases the ‘crime’ is very poorly defined. Often there is a very low requirement for evidence – sometimes, as in Pakistan, a reliance simply on the accusation of one person. As a result, many blasphemy charges turn out to be completely false. The law is used to settle personal or commercial scores that have nothing to do with religion. The accused never even said or did anything offensive – the blasphemy law is simply used as a convenient tool for a vindictive adversary.
There is typically no proof of intent. In Pakistan, people have been charged and jailed for inadvertently throwing into the rubbish a newspaper containing a verse from the Qur’an. In many cases false accusations of blasphemy have led to mass violence.

[Full Story]