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If you would like to take up blasphemy as an inexpensive but very rewarding hobby, see our beginner's guide to blasphemy.

Blasphemy is an impious utterance or action concerning God, gods, goddesses, or sacred things. (The very definition of "sacred" implies that jokes against it are entirely off-limits, hence the massive taboo and the special term known as "blasphemy.") One remorseful Pakistani boy made amends for unintentional blasphemy by cutting his own hand off.[1] [2] [3] Frequently, the definition is extended to include anything which would be regarded as "bad language."

Blasphemy is considered by some, namely its practitioners, to be nothing more than a thought-crime committed against a non-existent entity. In places with strong religion -based law however, blasphemy laws can be, and are, used against those who don't even subscribe to the beliefs being blasphemed against.


[edit] Blasphemy in modern law

In the times of the Old Testament, blasphemy was punishable by death, and it used to be a criminal offense in many Western states. Although many of these laws may still exist on the statute books as technicalities, they are not now enforced, or at least not with any real punishment, in most western countries.[4] In the UK the obsolete blasphemy law was repealed in 2008,[5]. Some [6] feel that the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 was put in place to replace it but, importantly, the new act focusses on offences against people, not offences against god. This may be attributed to the actions of Stephen Green, who attempted to use the blasphemy laws against Jerry Springer: The Opera and brought attention to the fact that the UK had such an arcane law still on its books.

However, blasphemy prosecutions do still occur throughout the world:

  • The Austrian artist Gerhard Haderer created and published a satirical book about a cannabis-smoking, surfing Jesus. The book was published in Austria. He was subsequently tried in absentia for blasphemy in Greece and received a six month sentence.[7] (The sentence was revoked on appeal.)
  • The death penalty for blasphemy still exists in a number of Muslim countries such as Iran [8], Pakistan[9] and Saudi Arabia.[10] That's if you can even make it to a courtroom; a man in Pakistan was burned to death by a lynch mob for allegedly burning the Qur'an.[11] In a classic episode of one act of vicious stupidity possibly following another, a girl from the country's Christian minority was similarly threatened by a mob for burning pages of the Qur'an in order to start a cooking fire; the girl may also suffer from Down syndrome.[12] It turns out, however, that she was framed by a local Imam for the crime;[13] this eventually resulted in the Imam's arrest and the blasphemy charges being dropped.[14]
  • Even in the "new" Afghanistan, blasphemy remains a capital offense. In January 2008, Sayed Pervez Kambaksh was sentenced to death for blasphemy after a five minute trial. This followed reports he had downloaded from the internet un-Islamic material on women's rights.[15]
  • Indonesia is a little more liberal: you only get a four year jail sentence there.[16]
  • Ireland, not wanting to be seen as being backward, criminalised blasphemy in 2009.[18]. A referendum is expected over whether to keep the law. [19]
  • In Russia, three members of the punk band Pussy Riot were arrested and charged with "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility" when their performance of a profanity-laced anti-Putin song inside Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow angered both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Putin government. The band was subsequently sentenced to two years in a prison colony for this "crime."[20] Eventually, band member Yekaterina Samutsevich was released on appeal after serving six months; the other two members remain behind bars.[21]
  • In Mumbai, India, skeptic Sanal Edamaruku faces blasphemy charges after he debunked a "weeping crucifix" phenomenon at the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni.[22] He is temporarily living in Finland while his lawyers file appeals concerning various aspects of the case.[23]
  • In Greece, Greek blogger Filippos Loizos received a 10 month jail sentence suspended for three years for running a satirical Facebook page called "Elder Pastitsios". The page name was a pun using a known Greek pasta dish "pastitsio" -a reference to Pastafarianism- and a -now deceased- Greek-Orthodox Athos monk's name "Elder Paisios", considered by some as a "miracle worker" and a "prophet". The authorities arrested Loizos at his house in 2012 on charges of “malicious blasphemy and insulting religion” through Facebook, after Christos Pappas, an MP for the Greek neo-nazi party Golden Dawn tabled a question in Parliament complaining about the Facebook page where the administrator insults, mocks and tries to humiliate the "sacred figure of Greek Orthodoxy", Elder Paisios. [24]

The majority of countries in Latin America and Central America never had any form blasphemy law. The same is true for a few Western European countries such as Portugal, Belgium and Luxembourg, the United States and the majority of Eastern and Central Europe. The Netherlands, Great Britain and Iceland had blasphemy up in the books, but the laws were successfully repealed. Blasphemers may still get into trouble due to other laws over desecrating venerated objects (USA) or inciting religious hatred (UK).[25]

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] References

  1. 15-Year-Old Pakistani Boy Chops Off Own Hand to Prove He Really Loves God
  2. Pakistani boy cuts off own hand after blasphemy mistake: police
  3. Teen Cuts Off Own Hand, Mistakenly Thought He Committed Blasphemy (Video)
  4. Review of European blasphemy laws
  5. UK repeal Blasphemy law
  7. Greece sentence artist to six months for blasphemy
  8. Iranian Christian pastor released from jail Guardian, Saturday 8 September 2012 10.59 EDT
  9. Pakistan death sentence for blasphemy against the prophet
  10. Saudi Arabian death sentence for blasphemy
  11. Pakistan mob burns man to death for 'blasphemy',] BBC News
  12. Girl held in Pakistan, accused of burning Quran,
  13. Imam Arrested for Framing Girl for Blasphemy, Dispatches from the Culture Wars
  14. Pakistan Drops Blasphemy Case Against Rimsha, Dispatches from the Culture Wars
  15. Afghanistan blasphemy death sentence
  16. Indonesia - four years in jail for blasphemy
  17. Turkey silences Dawkins
  18. Irish Times: Blasphemy law a return to middle ages - Dawkins
  19. Ireland set to call referendum on blasphemy laws
  20. Pussy Riot sentenced to two years in prison colony over anti-Putin protest, The Guardian
  21. Pussy Riot member freed after Moscow court appeal, The Guardian online
  22. Indian skeptic charged with "blasphemy" for revealing secret behind "miracle" of weeping cross, Boing Boing
  23. Sanal Edamaruku: an update, New Humanist Blog
  24. Blasphemy laws alive and well in Greece: satirical Facebook page leads to 10 month sentence for 27-year-oldThe Press Project
  25. See the Wikipedia article on Blasphemy law.
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