Article 473 of the Penal Code of Lebanon says people can be sentenced for a maximum of 1 year for blaspheming or otherwise insulting a religion. While there appear to have been no cases successfully prosecuted, in 2014 a blasphemy accusation resulted in the burning down of a large Christian library.
“A huge library of books collected by a 72-year-old Greek Orthodox priest, but used by the whole community, was torched in Lebanon on Friday (January 3) after he was accused of insulting Islam.
There have been different reports regarding the source of the accusations against Father Ibrahim Sarrouj, who has managed the Al-Saeh (Travellers’ or Pilgrims’) Library in Tripoli, near Lebanon’s northern border with Syria, since 1972.
Lebanon’s Daily Star reports that a fatwa was issued against Fr. Sarrouj because of an article allegedly published by the priest on a Danish website in 2010. However, AFP reports that a pamphlet was discovered inside one of the library’s books, which was considered blasphemous, and that a “sectarian scuffle followed” which ended in the torching of the library.”
Attacks such as this highlight the danger of validating or legitimizing “blasphemy” accusations, even through laws which are rarely or never used.
Freedom of expression is generally protected and respected, but with a few important (and many minor) caveats. It is illegal to criticise religious leaders and the president.