Bahrain

Blasphemy with prison sentencesAmid prolonged political unrest, with pro-democracy protesters and the government opposed along sectarian lines, the blasphemy law can only be used a tool to further entrench division and punish reformists.

In 2011 protesters, predominantly from the majority Shia community, demanded political reform and an end to the political hegemony of the Sunni minority. The sectarian dimension of the political uprising resulted in substantial intra-Muslim conflict and violent oppression by the state and severe restrictions on freedom of expression, in particular freedom of the press.

Against this background, articles 309 and 310 of the penal code outlaw ‘blasphemy’, stating:

“a punishment for a period not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding BD 100 shall be inflicted upon any person who commits an offence by any method of expression against one of the recognized religious communities or ridicules the rituals thereof”.

In August, 2012, a Bahraini court sentenced an unnamed man to two years in prison for making insulting comments about one of the Prophet Mohammad’s wives. The man reportedly insulted Aisha in comments online.