On January 30 2015, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) launched a campaign aimed at abolishing “blasphemy laws” worldwide. The campaign is gaining momentum across Europe and beyond. But there is still no significant support from groups in Africa. Meanwhile Africa is a continent where this campaign is urgently needed.
The campaign focuses on getting world leaders to understand that blasphemy laws are incompatible with human rights and democratic values in this 21st century. Campaigners plan to get states to repeal legislations that criminalize “insult to religion”, hurting religious sentiments, or any laws that restrict questions, criticism, or ridicule of religion or religious concepts. Blasphemy laws exist in many states across Africa. They are used as tools to oppress and discriminate against religious minorities.
The places that most need to get rid of blasphemy laws are the least likely to do so.
Unfortunately, many people across Africa may regard this campaign as a western issue, that has no social or cultural significance for the region. No, this is not the case. The abolition of blasphemy laws is in the interest of Africa and African emancipation. The campaign will be of immense benefit to the cause of African renewal. In fact, this campaign could become one of the defining moments of African intellectual awakening and rebirth, if only African humanist and human rights groups can seize the opportunity.