Laws Penalizing Blasphemy, Apostasy and Defamation of Religion are Widespread

December 1, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead, Persecution

Pakistani Christians hold crosses during a September 2012 protest against an Islamic cleric who accused a Christian teenager of blasphemy.

Pakistani Christians hold crosses during a September 2012 protest against an Islamic cleric who accused a Christian teenager of blasphemy.

USA, November 21, 2012: Several recent incidents have drawn international attention to laws and policies prohibiting blasphemy – remarks or actions considered to be contemptuous of God or the divine. In a highly publicized case last summer, for example, a 14-year-old Christian girl in Pakistan was arrested and detained for several weeks after she was accused of burning pages from the Quran.1In neighboring India, a man reputed to be a religious skeptic is facing blasphemy charges because he claimed a statue of Jesus venerated by Mumbai’s Catholic community for its miraculous qualities is a fake.2 The man reportedly is staying in Europe to avoid prosecution.3 In Greece, a man was arrested and charged with blasphemy after he posted satirical references to an Orthodox Christian monk on Facebook.4

Pakistan, India and Greece are not alone in actively pursuing blasphemy prosecutions. A new analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that as of 2011 nearly half of the countries and territories in the world (47%) have laws or policies that penalize blasphemy, apostasy (abandoning one’s faith) or defamation (disparagement or criticism of particular religions or religion in general). Of the 198 countries studied, 32 (16%) have anti-blasphemy laws, 20 (10%) have laws penalizing apostasy and 87 (44%) have laws against the defamation of religion, including hate speech against members of religious groups.

Laws against Blasphemy, Apostasy or Defamation of religion, 2011As an extension of its continuing research on restrictions on religion around the world, the Pew Forum counted and categorized (“coded”) reports of the presence of these laws in 2011.5 The coding relied on 19 widely cited, publicly available sources from groups such as the U.S. State Department, the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Crisis Group.6 Although it is possible that more laws penalizing blasphemy, apostasy or defamation of religion exist than are reported by the 19 primary sources, taken together the sources are sufficiently comprehensive to provide a good estimate of the presence of these laws in almost all countries.7

This is the second time the Pew Forum has analyzed laws against blasphemy, apostasy and defamation of religion as part of its ongoing study of global restrictions on religion.8 However, the original study, which covered the period from mid-2006 to mid-2009, looked only at the number of countries that had laws against blasphemy, apostasy or defamation; it did not look at each type of law separately. In addition, the first study did not include hate speech laws. By contrast, this analysis uses a broader definition of defamation that includes laws against hate speech aimed at religious groups. Laws against the defamation of religion and religious hate speech overlap to some extent, but, in general, defamation refers to the disparagement or criticism of a religion while hate speech refers to words or actions that vilify, disparage or intimidate a person or group based on religion.

The previous study found that countries that have laws against blasphemy, apostasy or defamation also are more likely to have high government restrictions on religion or high social hostilities involving religion than countries that do not have such laws. This does not mean that laws against blasphemy, apostasy and defamation of religion necessarily cause higher restrictions on religion. But they do suggest that the two phenomena often go hand-in-hand: countries with laws against blasphemy, apostasy or defamation of religion also tend to have higher government restrictions on religion and higher social hostilities involving religion.

– pew forum

 

Enter Google AdSense Code Here

Comments are closed.