Blasphemy Laws Exposed: The Consequences of Criminalizing “Defamation of Religions”


FOR OVER A DECADE, efforts have been made in several venues at the United Nations to promote the concept that States have an obligation to adopt and enforce laws against the “defamation of religions.” Some of the countries that support these efforts already have such legislation in place in the form of blasphemy or similar laws that prohibit injuring religious sentiments or insulting religious figures and leaders. Those who support the concept of “defamation of religions” argue that prohibitions such as these are necessary to fight incitement to discrimination, hostility, and violence, as well as to protect freedom of religion. But the facts tell a very different story.

Such laws risk promoting an atmosphere of intolerance by providing a context in which governments can restrict freedom of expression, thought, and religion, and can result in devastating consequences for those holding religious views that differ from the majority religion, as well as for adherents to minority faiths. The loose and unclear language of these laws empowers majorities against dissenters and the state against individuals. Governments and individuals frequently abuse national blasphemy laws not only to stifle dissent and debate, but to harass rivals, legitimize violence, and settle petty disputes.

It was thus a much welcomed step when in March 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution by consensus entitled “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons based on religion or belief.” Resolution 16/18 ceases to provide cover for national blasphemy laws and charts a new course. The resolution omits any reference to “defamation of religions” and—in accordance with international standards—focuses on the protection of individuals, rather than the protection of abstract ideas and religions. Recognizing the positive role that the “open, constructive and respectful debate of ideas can play in combating religious hatred, incitement and violence,” it calls for “strengthened international efforts to promote tolerance and peace based on respect for human rights and the diversity of religions and beliefs.” The resolution further recognizes the importance of leaders speaking out against intolerance and values expanding human rights education and interfaith and intercultural efforts to raise awareness. The United Nations General Assembly endorsed the approach of the Human Rights Council in December 2011, and then in March 2012 the Human Rights Council once again adopted a similar text.

Written By: human rights first
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  1. Criminalizing blasphemy? So be it. 

    Your god is a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak, vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. 

    Bring it on tyrants , we are ready for you.

  2. Which century were we living in again?
    Again, I have said this before, the people that attack blasphemers can’t really believe in the all powerful properties of their deity who ever “he” is. Wouldn’t Allah or God for that matter punish these sinful souls when they enter the afterlife? Why do it for him? Are they really that afraid that they themselves will get punished in stead if they don’t punish the blasphemer? Well, if “he” might not punish the blasphemer, why would the deity punish them in stead? None of this makes sense at all.
    It’s a marketing trick and it has worked perfectly for the spread of Islam hasn’t it? Scare people into believing – like Christianity did as well by the way – that eternal damnation awaits you when ever you do anything – depending on who decides what that anything is – to upset your God. This will make you walk on your toes for the rest of your life, especially when your fellow believers will narc on you and already start punishing you when ever you go astray – in their eyes -.

  3. What a catalogue of woe!

    These cases demonstrate the ease with which authoritarian regimes seize power and keep it. No matter where you are in the world, it seems there are always hundreds if not thousands of people happy to do the authority’s dirty work.

    The second point is that these cases are not about the individuals at the centre – they are designed to induce fear and panic amongst ordinary citizens. In fact the crazier the case, the more fear they engender.

  4.  “people happy to do the authority’s dirty work”
    I call people like this “power leeches”. They will follow anyone with power (or that they perceive to have power), regardless of the leaders beliefs or agenda. I guess they hope some of the power/authority will “rub off” on them…?

  5. I’m honestly not certain what’s worse: That anyone could even think to justify such horrific actions (outright violations of the rights of other people, often under ridiculous circumstances) for any reason much less faith, or that any country would embolden such vitriol and vehemence for people in the name of what is supposed to be peaceful and perfect worship in their eyes.

    Religious mob rule at its absolute worst.Absolute and utter contradiction doesn’t put it in strong enough language. This is a moral travesty in every regard. At least the UN isn’t trying to give the perpetrators any more power.

  6. The term “god” doesn’t merit a capital letter… unless it starts a sentence, I guess.

  7. So let me get this straight.  The great, almighty, all knowing, all powerfull, supernatural, beyond space and time, etc etc, Mega-God of the entire freakin hyperverse…….sits down and sobs and wails incoherently when some infinitesimally tiny creature on a poxy little rock in the darkest recess of the back of beyond says something untoward about him ??

    And this great, almighty, etc etc, megabeing is SO powerful and commanding…..that he has to get the most degenerate species on the planet……..sexually repressed, Neanderthal brained mullahs with the IQ of a wombat……to admonish and even kill the ‘blasphemers’ for him ?

    This insane state of affairs is crazier than anything Douglas Adams could have dreamed up, and it has the added bonus insanity of being believed in by millions.

  8. Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari has called for a
    report after an 11-year-old Christian girl with Down’s syndrome was
    arrested on blasphemy charges.

    Police say the girl, known as
    Rimsha, was arrested after she was allegedly found holding a bag
    containing burnt pages with verses from the Koran written on them.

    A mob threatened to burn her family’s home down unless she was arrested for blasphemy.
    Pakistani police say the girl was taken to a police station in Islamabad, where she has been detained since.

    say that when they interviewed Rimsha, she could not answer their
    questions and she had no concept of what she was carrying.

    It is believed she was holding a bag of waste containing pieces of paper which had texts from the Koran written on them.


  9. ShadowMind re power leeches:

    What’s interesting is that these power leeches come from all different classes and backgrounds. Just last night, I was the sole voice down the pub defending Julian Assange. Now none of us really know the rights and wrongs of his case, but there were comments like “well the Americans will get him sometime and a good thing too” and “I’d just let him rot in the embassy” etc.

    People complain about the government all the time, but seem happy to see it take more and more power to itself.

  10. Your god is a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak, vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully………

    …..who doesn’t exist.

  11. While we’re at it, don’t you even think about insulting Sauron, Harry Potter or Yoda! 

  12. Blasphemy is a victimless crime.

    According to this report being accused of blasphemy is a rather different matter.  God moving in mysterious ways to act through his tools, er, ‘instruments’ on Earth … perhaps.  The religion meme demonstrating its murderous, bloodthirsty, narcissistic ‘phenotypic’ propensities more like.

    The report manages to hide the truly insidious nature of the danger posed by blasphemy (or ‘hate speech’, according to your country) in flowery language on the bottom corner of page 3:

    By restricting … essential freedoms in the name of protecting religion from defamation, governments are able to stifle … healthy debate and discussion of ideas … [many people] have suffered prosecution under … blasphemy … laws for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

    Let us be in no doubt; religions are pushing hard at the U.N. for restrictions on free speech – because they’re losing the argument.

    Free speech is the first fundamental right of every human being.  Without it we can only be oppressed.

    See them mewling, as they wail about:

    hurting religious sentiment

    It gives the game away: “I’ve come over all maudlin and sad because you have a different opinion.  You therefore have no right to burst my bubble, because sentimental mush always trumps truth, light and vitality.”

    Will your political representative read this report?

    Sending them a copy will at least give them a chance.


  13. Spoiler…..Seems the word ‘Jehovah’ is a medieval Latin translation of the tetragrammaton and some vowels from another of the multitude of names for the big cheese. So never was a stoning offence in Brian’s time, but then the truth doesn’t jive with what folk think is in the scriptures. }80)~

  14. …not like the old days, when the book says “the great, almighty, all knowing, all powerfull, supernatural, beyond space and time, etc etc, Mega-God of the entire freakin hyperverse” had a set of cajones and would smite ya where ya stood in the flash of a second. I guess we all mellow over time and delegate responsibility accordingly.

  15. That list is pathetically shameful in this day and age for sure. The funniest one I read about in recent times was that of a physician in Pakistan who was investigated for blasphemy. His misstep? He tossed away a business card of a pharm sales rep who happened to be named Mohammad (imagine that in a Muslim majority country!) Of course the sales rep, rather than growing a pair and moving on to the next potential client, decided to file a case against the doc and accuse him of blasphemy. Naturally the police had to waste time and effort to follow-up and take seriously the charge. Truly sickening!

  16.  “sexually repressed, Neanderthal brained mullahs”

    I think you are being rather unkind to Neanderthals there.

  17. Now all down on your knees to respect the mighty power of the UN! That great paper tiger which has the power to reward its upper echelon employees with impressive lifestyles, but yet has no power to stop the various conflicts currently going on in the world.

    I can just imagine in, say, Britain, Cameron’s government suddenly deciding: “look, we’d better send in Special Branch to arrest this Dawkins chap, he’s upset the Sultans of Stealing.”

  18. To quote Salman Rushdie: 
    “The moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire derision or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible” jcw

  19. This is all to do with political power. 

    But, it would appear, that they lack the capabilities to seek power for the laudable purposes of rendering advancement and well-being to others, and so instead, resort to the tactics of the mafia by employing intimidation and extortion to gain their ends; with a sprinkling of emotional blackmail for good measure.
    This should never have been allowed to drag on for so long; when are our present crop of spineless political prats going to stop kowtowing to media moguls in order to further their personal ends, and start standing up to these bullying village idiots?

    Atheists aren’t the intolerant ones. It’s the religious themselves who persecute people of a diffrerent blind faith to their own dogmatically held views.
    I for one don’t give a toss about the credulity of other adults; they can believe what ever they like; what I find “offensive” is their intimidation of children.

    But unlike the faithful, I have no expectations what so ever of going through life without ever being offended. 


  20.  Blasphemy laws have always worked this way. It is hardly a philosophical breakthrough to say so. The revision of these clauses may indicate the development of a vertebrate body-plan (with male mammalian characters) by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Let’s hope so.

    So often is the defiling of the Koran the subject that I find myself musing whether copies of that publication could be used as a social weapon. For instance, by delivering free stacks of perhaps a few tens of thousands to the homes of key bigots in a place like Pakistan. Tell their illiterate followers about the gift.

    Remember, they should not be touched by unclean hands, thrown away, destroyed, spoken ill of or allowed to decay.

    Include two editions of which one is a different version of Islam, though only say 5% of the total, and mix them randomly. Keep their appearance the same.

    Tell them, and their followers, about the ‘mistake’.

    Then watch.

  21. To convict an individual of any crime including blasphemy you must first establish beyond reasonable doubt that the victim exists. If you can first do that, then and only then can you  consider whether or not the feelings of said entity have been hurt.
    Habeas corpus: “present the body”

  22.  You’re actually just rambling on nonsense.’ Are they really that afraid that they themselves will get punished in stead if they don’t punish the blasphemer?’ No they are not, thats not why they attack people like you, its only because you seem to be getting carried away with ‘freedom of speech’.. Abit like the PussyRiot I guess.

  23. Often, blasphemy becomes the foremost tool in either reforming corrupted religions or eliminate corrupted religions altogether. It’s the brightest form of “civil disobedience” in religious states. By inciting blasphemy law (under the cover or morals or/and tolerance), the state is forming a new layer of protection around its political decisions so that every time a political decision which is inhumane and hurtful needs to be made, it can be wrapped up in GOD and presented to the people where objecting to it will expose them to legal questioning. 

  24. It seems that the UN Security Council is not aware that it supports freedom of speech:

    Briefing on Libya by Mr. Jeffrey Feltman Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs
    Meeting of the Security Council 12 September 2012

    “The United Nations rejects defamation of religion in all forms, but there is no justification for violence such as occurred in Benghazi yesterday.”

    I find this statement disturbing, coming from a top UN official.

  25. So if my ‘belief’ is that all religions are daft, can I apply for any criticism of my ideas to be defamatory and have people locked up or killed for insulting my ‘deeply held belief’.

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