In a context of confusion and flashy journalism, rigour becomes a precious value.
The first 5 countries of the list are all Muslim-majority lands. Italy ranks 7. “Religious freedom includes the right to express a full range of beliefs”, USCIRF report says.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has released a report called “Respecting Rights? Measuring the World’s Blasphemy Laws”, that examines and compares the content of laws prohibiting blasphemy worldwide.
The countries were assessed on the basis of the harshness of their penalties, the vagueness or precision of the offence, and the degree to which the blasphemy laws underpinned discrimination against some religious groups.
The report catalogues the offending laws found in a wide range of countries. In some countries, blasphemy laws are enforced weakly, if at all, yet such laws, “in both theory and practice, harm individuals and societies.”
“RELIGIOUS FREEDOM INCLUDES THE RIGHT TO EXPRESS YOUR BELIEFS”
It also details laws spanning the globe from countries such as Canada and Switzerland to Iran and Indonesia with penalties ranging from fines to death. Surprisingly, more than one-third of the world’s nations have blasphemy laws today.
According to USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark, “religious freedom includes the right to express a full range of thoughts and beliefs, including those that others might find blasphemous.”
“Advocates for blasphemy laws may argue that they are needed in order to protect religious freedom, but these laws do no such thing. Blasphemy laws are wrong in principle, and they often invite abuse and lead to assaults, murders, and mob attacks. Wherever they exist, they should be repealed”, he added.
SEVENTY-ONE COUNTRIES HAVE BLASPHEMY LAWS
Blasphemy laws are astonishingly widespread. Seventy-one countries, spread out across many regions, maintain such statutes.
At the other extreme came Ireland, which introduced a new blasphemy law in 2009 on the grounds that the constitution required such legislation.
Many European states have blasphemy laws on the statute book, designed to protect established or privileged churches, but they are hardly ever invoked.
ITALY RANKS 7TH
Russia, Kazakhstan, Poland and Montenegro are on the list, but most other ex-communist countries seem to have retained a relatively secular ethos in their constitutions and therefore have no blasphemy law.
The research delivers a surprisingly harsh verdict on Italy, deemed to be seventh worst infringer of international norms.
“Though implementation varies, countries from Switzerland to Sudan persist in outlawing expression of views deemed ‘blasphemous’” said Mark .
Some countries,“including Canada, have such laws but do not actively enforce them. We call upon those countries to set an example for the others and repeal their blasphemy laws. And we call upon all countries to repeal any such laws and to free those detained or convicted for blasphemy.”