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.

Articles 309 and 310 of the penal code criminalize “any method of expression” against a religious community, or ridiculing religious beliefs:

“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”.

The press and publications law prohibits anti-Islamic media, and mandates imprisonment for “exposing the state’s official religion for offense and criticism.” The law states that “any publication that prejudices the ruling system of the country and its official religion, public morals or any faith in a manner likely to disturb the peace, can be banned from publication by a ministerial order.” The law allows the production and distribution of religious media and publications of minority groups, under condition that they do not criticize Islam.

In August, 2012, a Bahraini court sentenced a man (name unknown) 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.