Blasphemy! It’s a cry as old as freethought, perhaps as old as religion. It’s also a crime wherever religion can get enough control of government to impose it.
And now blasphemy is making a comeback, at the UN of all places!
If the Organization of the Islamic Conference has its way, the UN will impose a global blasphemy law under the guise of combating “defamation of religions.”
Defined as disrespecting God, blasphemy may seem to be the ultimate victimless crime. But all too often the real victims of blasphemy laws are Humanists who dare to speak out. Just ask Dr. Younus Shaikh, the Humanist leader in Pakistan who spent more than three years on death row after being charged with blasphemy in 2000. Or Dr. Taslima Nasrin, the Humanist writer from Bangladesh who listened to a mob of 300,000 people demand that she be hanged for blasphemy. In response, her government issued an arrest warrant against her for “hurting religious feelings.”
In both cases, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) successfully campaigned to save the lives of these courageous Humanists. Yet both must still live in hiding, fearing for their lives, even in the West.
“Even in the West.” It’s a phrase I find myself using a lot these days to puncture a certain complacency among Humanists confident that secular progress will take care of itself. Progress never happens unless we work for it. Religion always fights back.
If you don’t believe me, check out the new blasphemy law that Ireland introduced this year. Or consider the Danish cartoonists, editors and publishers living in fear of their lives because they dared to poke fun at the Prophet Mohammed. Now a Jordanian court has summoned these Danes on charges of blasphemy. Jordanian prosecutors say that they hope the case “will help establish an international law against slandering religion.”
IHEU has been leading the campaign against the blasphemy push at the UN. Our teams in New York and Geneva have pushed back with policy papers, briefings and lobbying within the UN. And IHEU has also made sure this issue gets media attention. All this work has produced results. For example, attempts to include language against “religious defamation” in the UN’s “Durban II” anti-racism agreement were a complete and unexpected failure.
But we need your help to continue and strengthen our campaign. It’s not too late to stop the blasphemy measure becoming international law.
Please, take a moment right now to give as generously as you can by making a credit card payment here: https://www.iheu.org/payment.php
To learn about other options for donating, please go here: https://humanists.international/donate
Even without a global blasphemy law, our friends have been silenced and our colleagues killed for daring to criticize religion. It’s time for us to fight back before things get worse. Please help us protect freedom of conscience by donating today.
IHEU International Representative
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