A week in blasphemy

The IHEU provides a great roundup of blasphemy and anti-blasphemy news, The week in blasphemy.

One item I haven’t yet flagged up here –

In Egypt, a student Sherif Gaber, was sentenced on Monday to a year in prison for making “atheist” Facebook posts in 2013 on the charge of “contempt of religion”.

“Sherif Gaber, 22, was studying at Suez Canal University in 2013, when teaching staff and fellow students reported him via a petition to the institution’s President. They said he had made posts supporting atheism on Facebook, and suspected him of being behind a page called ‘The Atheists’.

Subsequently, the university’s then-president Mohamed A. Mohamedein personally filed a legal complaint against the student to the local prosecution on the grounds of contempt of religion.”

Gaber is out on bail pending an appeal against the sentence.

An asylum case, if you ask me.

Unfortunately, some news we reported last week with cautious optimism as “good” news, has begun to crumble. It concerns the state government decision to review and, hopefully, work toward true justice for numerous people languishing in jail having been convicted of “blasphemy” in Punjab state. This week it emerged that the list of cases to be reviewed excludes any Christians and other minorities!

Oh great! They’re only the ones who are most vulnerable to charges of blasphemy, so it totally makes sense to exclude them – saves the trouble and expense of doing anything.

They quote an anonymous government source who says they’re afraid of the Islamists and that’s why the chief victims are excluded.

Revealingly, the anonymous government source put the exclusion of Christian and other “blasphemy” convicts from the lists in terms of a practical necessity, putting the threat of violence before the principles of justice, and in a sense proving his own point about the authorities being terrorised by “blasphemy” law proponents:

“”We know that most of the cases registered under blasphemy laws are fabricated,” the official said, “but unfortunately our police and justice system is weak and cannot withstand Islamists’ pressure.” He acknowledged that several Christians “have fallen victim to the extremist mindset and were killed during or after their trials.”

Sounds like a failed state.

Also in Pakistan, the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami made new calls for an international death penalty for blasphemy at an all-party conference, which apparently agreed to its terms:

“They demanded of the government to hold an Islamic summit in Islamabad against the publication of blasphemous sketches by the West and decide a common line of action by the Muslim Ummah to discourage this trend.

They said Islamabad should have convened an OIC [Organisation of Islamic Cooperation] moot after the repeated publication of sketches and raised the issue at the UN to calm down the feelings of one-and-a-half billion Muslims in the world. However, they said the government had not fulfilled its responsibility under the fear of the US and Europe.

If only Jamaat-e-Islami could take a time-travel ship back to the 8th century. They’d be so much happier, and so would we.

In Bangladesh, a publisher has received death threats for publishing a book by an Iranian author which reportedly calls for putting freethought ahead of blind faith and may also criticise specifically Shiite traditions:

“Hardline religious groups, mainly Hefazat-e-Islam, have called on authorities to prosecute publishing house Rodela Prokashoni over the translation of “23 Years: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Muhammad.” Rodela Prokashoni’s website appeared to be hacked on February 14, 2015, and their office in Banglabazar was attacked on Sunday, according to a report in the Bangla Tribune. No one was injured.

Following the uproar, the publishing house pulled the book from the shelves at the Ekushey Book Fair and from their website, and publisher Riaz Khan reportedly apologized, saying he wasn’t aware that the book was considered offensive.”

Thy hand, Great Anarch…

Reporters Without Borders, which responded rightly and decisively to the Charlie Hebdo killings, proved themselves excellent allies in our vision of a world without “blasphemy” laws. The organisation released its annual report which headlined a marked decline in press freedoms across the globe, and on “blasphemy” and related laws stressed that:

“Stretching sacrilege prohibitions in order to protect a political system is an extremely effective way of censuring criticism of the government in countries where religion shapes the law.”

Censuring it and shutting it down completely.

Last item –

And in the same week as the Copenhagen shooting, the satirical cartoon strip Jesus and Mo has been published in Denmark, in Danish translation, for the first time.

So there.


  1. shadow says

    Wouldn’t the plaintiffs in the blasphemy cases also be subject to retaliatory suits since, by the beliefs/religions of the defendants, the plaintiffs are blasphemous as well.

    Sauce for the goose…….

  2. shadow says

    Of course, the cowardly ‘authorities’ that are afraid of backlash would probably not press the case anyway……..

  3. Al Dente says

    Also in Pakistan, the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami made new calls for an international death penalty for blasphemy

    I find this idea blasphemous but I doubt the Jamaat-e-Islami leadership will submit to execution.

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