Advocacy statements

Blasphemy cases

  • Date / 2019
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 9: Follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

International Humanist and Ethical Union

42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council (9th – 27th September 2019)

General Debate on Item 9

The Durban Declaration recognizes the role religion and belief can play in “the eradication of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” 

Unfortunately, Blasphemy laws hinder and prevent religion from playing this positive role, in which instead of it being a factor in promoting tolerance and the values of equality and justice, it becomes a means of justifying the persecution of individuals and violating their basic human rights, including sometimes the right to life.

For many years we have been campaigning for the abolition of blasphemy laws. We have also explained and demonstrated, be it here at this council or via our international campaign End Blasphemy Laws how governments and religious groups are using blasphemy laws as a tool of terror and persecution in order to immune themselves from criticism and deny the individual liberties and freedom of speech to their citizens.

And because the time doesn’t allow us to highlight all the cases of those individuals who have been victims of blasphemy laws, we would like draw your attention to the following recent cases:

About two weeks ago blogger Sherif Gaber was reported to be sentenced to three years in prison. for contempt of Islam and his support to LGBTI rights. In Kuwait, the feminist activist Karima Karam has been a victim of numerous threats after she said in a that “she doesn’t want to be in a paradise that closes its door to her because she does not wear the hijab.” The Kuwaiti Interior Ministry accused Ms. Karam via a tweet of Infringement on the Divine Self and said also that the activist was referred for investigation

Blasphemy laws as these examples show, often target those peaceful humanists and activists who aspire to promote tolerance and combat discrimination in all its forms. Such laws target mainly the individual right to freedom of speech and thought. And we all know, that we cannot end discrimination based on religion if we do not guarantee freedom of speech as we cannot guarantee freedom of speech of we do not end blasphemy laws.

Therefore, in line with their commitments under the Durban Declaration and Resolution 16/18, Humanists International urges the Council to condemn the use blasphemy laws, and for those members with them to repeal them with urgency. 

Therefore, in line with their commitments under the Durban Declaration and Resolution 16/18, Humanists International urges the Council to condemn the use blasphemy laws, with particular sensitivity towards feminists, secular Muslims, bloggers and dissenters, and for those members with such laws to repeal them with urgency.

Suggested academic reference

'Blasphemy cases', Humanists International

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