There’s good news and bad this week, as Iceland, parliamentarians yesterday abolished the country’s antiquated blasphemy law, and in Pakistan there was some rare positive and timely police intervention saving a Christian couple from being “beaten to death” by a blasphemy mob. But Nigeria has confirmed 9 “blasphemy” death sentences, and New Zealand has a suspiciously broadly-worded new law…
Iceland’s parliament agreed today to abolish the blasphemy provision of the Criminal Code. The Pirate Party’s parliamentarians submitted the proposal in January, which received broad support from all other political parties in Parliament and the matter was unanimously supported by the committee examining the proposal. Icelanders have now taken an important step in guaranteeing human rights and joined other nations which respect freedom of speech and expression.
Violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of speech have dramatically increased over the past few years in Bangladesh. This year, four secular and humanist bloggers were hacked to death, apparently for “insulting Islam”. Niladri Chatterjee (Niloy Neel), Ananta Bijoy Das, Md Washiqur Rahman Babu and Avijit Roy were murdered on 7 August, 12 May, 30 March and 27 February 2015 respectively, by Islamist radicals.
Raif Badawi’s third year imprisoned for “insulting religion” begins in Saudi Arabia.
There’s movement, but worrying signs, in the trial of four Coptic Christian teenagers accused of “mimicking Islam” in Egypt.
Pakistan is, maybe, edging toward reform, but Islamic clerics are fighting to preserve Pakistan’s blasphemy laws in no uncertain terms (“those who insult the Muslim prophet Muhammad deserve to be killed”).
And following a concerted effort by Christians offended by cat-based religious imagery, heretical “Virgin Meowy” socks have been clawed from sale by their online retailer, PacSun.com.
Anti-Christian violence in Egypt as well as in Pakistan, a children’s book about the Koran is cancelled due to death-for-blasphemy fears, there’s a woman in a fake beard in Russia, and again in Pakistan the health of death row inmate Asia Bibi – sentenced to hang back in 2010 – is reportedly seriously deteriorating.
Saudi Arabia confirms Raif Badawi’s sentence – let’s increase the pressure, this is the only action left. Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin relocated in the US after serious threats to her safety. Pakistan blasphemy laws could soon be modified to combat increasing “misuse”. But is that a real progress? New charges of “blasphemy” and “insult to religion” in Egypt and Myanmar against a TV presenter and a writer. Last but not least, a new resolution calling for the repeal of “blasphemy” laws worldwide is on track at the US House of Representatives.
In Pakistan, alleged “blasphemy” results in anti-Christian violence and in calls to repeal blasphemy laws. Washinghton DC subway decides to ban political ads on the Metro after controversy over a cartoon proposed by US anti-Muslim group.
In Bangladesh, another secular blogger fears for his life and the government bans Islamist group accused of blogger attacks. In India, Punjab language department relaunches a “blasphemy” book and hurriedly withdraws the order. Hundreds of youths protest in Kano, Nigeria against a Muslim cleric accused of “blasphemy”.
In the UK, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams defends “blasphemy” as ‘the language of protest’.
Authors call for justice in Bangladesh. Further sentencing in Afghanistan lynch mob case, but is it justice? Cartoonists face injustice in many parts of the world. In Pakistan there’s limited justice for a couple burnt to death last year, and the assassin of politician Salman Taseer appeals justice on the highly legally sophisticated grounds that he thought his victim was a blasphemer so murder’s fine then isn’t it?
This is our sixteenth round-up of “blasphemy” news and views from the past seven days.
In yet another Pakistan blasphemy case, this time dragged out over multiple years, a young woman known by the pseudonym Esha has been languishing in jail since 2012 after being accused of “desecrating” the Koran by a friend following an argument. Maryam Namazie and others have been highlighting this case against recently, and there is a fundraising appeal for Esha’s legal fees.