Monday, June 04, 2012

Religious Law is Blasphemous

Among the varying laws meant to protect or push religion are the blasphemy laws. It might sound quaint to you, but these are ever present in our world.

You may not know this, but in the United Kingdom these laws were on the books up to 2008. And there was wailing and teeth gnashing at the effort to end them. So, no, this was not some old forgotten law on the book. Back in the day, these laws were held over the heads of iconoclasts, like Monty Python. So, again, this was considered vital law. But, as of 2007, when a British teacher in Sudan mistaken let kids name a teddy bear Mohammed and was arrested, suddenly the importance of blasphemy in the U.K. went down. It was hard for them to complain about someone else's stupid laws, when they were still using similar laws.

Moohammad - Atheist Experience
But there has been change. Positive change. So it is easier to turn now and look at how these laws are maintained and applied around the world without that stench of hypocrisy.

So let's see a close example, in Turkey. A Turkish pianist made the mistake of having a twitter account where he made jokes (Twitter is only for sober dialogue.), including about the government and about Islamic beliefs.

Say, 42, who is also a composer, is accused of ''publicly insulting religious values that are adopted by a part of the nation'', the semi-official Anatolian news agency said. 

He will be tried in the Fall, and could go to prison for up to a year and a half. FOR RETWEETING jokes on twitter. Not even iffy    or  material. And Turkey is one of the more balanced Islamic nations, between religion and secularism. But also it is trying to garner trust among fellow European nations. Turkey, this isn't helping your case.

In Afghanistan, back in 2008, Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh was tried for blasphemy for writing an online article about the treatment of women in the Quran. He was convicted and sentenced to death. Then that was commuted to 20 years in prison (and appeals process followed that's proved to be a joke.). And he's the one of a number that have faced prison time or death in Afghanistan, for ideas.

In Pakistan, the most powerful governor in the nation, and longtime critic of religious extremist, Salman Taseer, was gunned down for calling for an end to blasphemy laws, in Pakistan.

For the Saudi, it has been an intense and sometimes unternational effort, having a Hamza Kashgari, a journalist who tweeted a joke (Tweeting does seem to be more dangerous than I thought.) was grabbed in Malaysia for the Saudi government. At present he is back in Saudi Arabia. And it is being said, he has gone through some repentance process to be freed from prison. But the facts of this, or if it has happen is not clear for me yet. We can only hope he will be freed.

An Australian man was only partially that lucky in Saudi Arabia. While on a Hajj (pilgramage) to Medina, Mansor Almaribe, was arrested for:
... Family members told Australian media that Saudi officials accused him of insulting the companions of the prophet Muhammad, a violation of Saudi Arabia's blasphemy laws. ...
He was convicted and sentenced to 500 lashes (whipping) and a 2 year in jail (Not to worry, the jail time was reduced.). After fighting over his health issues, it was decided to just whip him 75 times, then send him home. Happy ending? ...He is still alive, at least.

Just so you don't think Turkey is alone in Europe, we have Ireland. In 2009 they passed new blasphemy laws. Old ideas made new again. Hallelujah!

That's right Father Ted is now a crime.


But there is talk of a constitutional action. And, last year, a new government promised action.


But this belies further continuation of blasphemy laws in Europe. To be honest, it's not that rare.

Other European Nations with blasphemy, or similar (like Religious Insult), laws:

  • Andorra
  • Austria
  • Cyprus
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway (on books, but defunct)
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Russia
  • San Marino
  • Slovakia
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • Ukraine

Things may have changed this information was first compiled. But it is worth learning about countries of interest. Their is also some merit in debating the line between blasphemy, hate speech, incitement, and the free speech.

I always appreciate the line:
"Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man's nose begins."
Tweeting a joke about your vision of a god lands NO WHERE NEAR your nose. Does it?

Nor, does a satirical play, or an expressed negative opinion.

The opinion may be horrible, the play may be "obscene," and the joke may fall flat. You may see, read, or hear of any of them, and be offended. You may say they are blasphemous.

But that shouldn't make them crimes.

No comments: