Where Is It Illegal To Insult Religion?

In January 2016, an Egyptian woman was sentenced to three years in prison for blasphemy after criticizing an Islamic tradition on Facebook Despite Egypt’s secular government, the country has been cracking down on religious insults

So what other countries are enforcing laws against blasphemy? Well, by definition, blasphemy is any act that undermines God or the sacredness of religion It could be anything from drawing offensive cartoons or wearing improper clothes, to disrespecting religious scripture This idea can be traced back to all three Western religions, where the act is not only condemned, but represented as a just cause for death Consequently, these passages have been used to justify capital punishment for Christians, Jews, and Muslims for centuries One of the most famous blasphemy cases was when the Supreme religious leader of Iran issued a “fatwa” or “order” to kill British-Indian Novelist Salman Rushdie

Rushdie was accused of committing blasphemy in his 1988 book The Satanic Verses The title itself refers to the disputed legend that several of the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings were mistakenly taken from the Devil According to a 2012 Pew Report, nearly a quarter of the world’s countries and territories have anti-blasphemy laws, with punishments ranging from a fine to a death sentence These laws are most common in the Middle East and North Africa, where 70 percent of countries still criminalize the act In general, those who commit blasphemy are arrested, charged and face prison time

However in some countries, the offense is punishable by death One example is Pakistan, which inherited its anti-blasphemy laws from British rule, before the country gained independence in 1947 The laws were strengthened in the 1980s, in an attempt to ostracize the country’s non-Muslim community Since then, over a thousand Pakistanis have been accused or convicted of blasphemy, many of whom are Muslims themselves In the country today, just one blasphemy accusation, with little or no evidence, can lead to an arrest

And, anti-blasphemy laws are not unique to Islamic governments Secular nations like Canada and New Zealand still outlaw blasphemous libel, which in their case, is any published material that disrespects Christianity And while the United States doesn’t have a federal anti-blasphemy law, several states do In Michigan, wilfully blaspheming the holy name of God is actually a misdemeanor However these laws are nearly impossible to enforce, as the US constitution and the UN’s International Covenant on Civil Rights protect free speech

In the end, many of the West’s outdated anti-blasphemy laws are pretty much dormant One such law in the Netherlands went unenforced for half a century before it was eventually dissolved But for many in the Middle East and North Africa, blasphemy carries enormous weight, as offenders face life in prison, exile or death And despite public opposition in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan, the abusive laws will likely live on Saudi Arabia is one country where committing blasphemy can get you executed — publicly

You can learn more about Saudi Arabia’s controversial capital punishment in our video at the top As the Muslim population rapidly grows, so does the population of the religiously unaffiliated Check out our video at the bottom to find out how this will affect the future of religion Thanks for watching Seeker Daily! Don’t forget to like and subscribe for more videos every day

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