News / Europe

    UN Official: Blasphemy Laws Must Be Repealed

    FILE - Pakistanis rally in support of Mumtaz Qadri who was convicted and executed for a blasphemy-motivated killing of a former governor, in Lahore, Pakistan, Feb. 29, 2016.
    FILE - Pakistanis rally in support of Mumtaz Qadri who was convicted and executed for a blasphemy-motivated killing of a former governor, in Lahore, Pakistan, Feb. 29, 2016.
    Lisa Schlein

    The special U.N. investigator on freedom of religion or belief is calling for the universal repeal of blasphemy laws, saying they restrict freedom of expression and promote hatred of and intolerance toward minority religions.

    In a report submitted Thursday to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Heiner Bielefeldt said freedom of religion and freedom of expression are mutually reinforcing, allowing both rights to flourish, but that blasphemy laws cast a pall over these basic rights.  He said religious minorities suffer most from the chilling effects the laws create.

    Bielefeldt said Pakistan is known for its draconian blasphemy laws that even carry the death penalty.  Although the ultimate sentence has never been carried out, he said many people accused of blasphemy are on death row.  

    The investigator said studies show that religious minorities in Pakistan who suffer disproportionally from the laws include Shi’ites, Christians and Ahmadis, who are accused of not being true Muslims; but, he noted numerous countries - in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Central Asia and even Europe - have blasphemy laws on the books.

    Bielefeldt said Germany, Denmark, Poland and Greece either have laws that hark back to the old colonial period or, what he calls, post-blasphemy laws.  These, he said, are not meant to honor God, but to protect religious feelings.  He told VOA that Russia also has tightened its blasphemy laws.

    FILE - Believers take part in a rally in support of the Russian Orthodox Church, in Moscow, Russia, July 22, 2012. Their banner reads "Jail for blasphemy!"
    FILE - Believers take part in a rally in support of the Russian Orthodox Church, in Moscow, Russia, July 22, 2012. Their banner reads "Jail for blasphemy!"


    “Russia, also in the U.N. Human Rights Council now, really has taken over the torch from Pakistan to argue for the protection of the feelings of ordinary believers, which means mainly, of course, Orthodox believers.  So, usually these blasphemy laws protect majorities... the feelings of majorities, while minorities pay the price,” Bielefeldt said.  

    In the interest of clarity and credibility, Bielefeldt said European countries should clean up the old-fashioned blasphemy laws or post-blasphemy laws as the Parliamentarian Assembly of the Council of Europe has demanded.  

    While the laws are largely associated with Muslim countries, he said they also exist within Hindu, Buddhist and Christian societies. He said they often are used to stifle critical voices and breed intolerance, discrimination and hatred against people based on religious belief.

    In Central Asian countries and Russia, Bielefeldt said religious minorities increasingly are being targeted and arrested in the name of fighting extremism.  While fighting extremism is a legitimate concern, he said this must not be done at the expense of restricting people’s basic human rights.

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    Comments
         
    by: ali hidayah from: usa
    March 12, 2016 12:40 PM
    Blasphemy Laws Must Be Repealed.
    I urge, all good Muslim around the world, especially Muslim Ahmadiyah to speak out loudly to support UN for repealing the Blaspheme, apostasy, and Gay_lesbian law in Islamic countries.
    This law was ancient Arab tradition laws, but not Islamic law.

    Was salam

    by: RS from: Canada
    March 11, 2016 11:02 AM
    We need Saudi Arabia to reform its own koranic laws and spread the new message to all muslim countries. Europe with its Inquisition also had its own harsh tortuous criminal laws, but that was in the 12th century.

    by: Tauseef
    March 11, 2016 6:31 AM
    I think there is a need to document more instances from the lives of minorities living in the countries to bring the point home that blasphemy laws do hurt people's right to express themselves.

    I think it will help to make the message clearer to the majorities living in these countries that they are doing injustice to the minorities.

    by: Bill Webb
    March 11, 2016 5:28 AM
    Freedom of speech is absolutely necessary in a free country. The entire world looks to the US as a beacon of freedom.

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