And according to Advocated International, on April 2, 2013, Pakistani Christian Martha Bibi reportedly will face a judge on blasphemy charges, which may carry the death sentence.
These are part of a string of incidents in 2012 that have drawn international attention to laws and policies prohibiting blasphemy (remarks or actions considered to be contemptuous of God or the divine) and apostasy (abandoning one’s faith). Taken together, 43 countries (22%) have such laws, according to a 2012 report by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion Public Life.
Some incidents from 2012:
- In a highly publicized case last summer, Rimsha Masiha, a 14-year-old Christian girl in Pakistan, was arrested and detained for several weeks after she was accused of burning pages from the Quran. In December, a Pakistani crowd killed a man and then burned his body, apparently for desecrating the Quran.
- In Greece, a man was arrested and charged with blasphemy after he posted satirical references to an Orthodox Christian monk on Facebook.
- Amnesty International reported that in December a court in Saudi Arabia proceeded with the prosecution of Raif Badawi for apostasy, a charge which carries the death penalty. Badawi – who founded “Saudi Arabian Liberals”, a website for political and social debate – has been in detention since June 2012. (This broadened application of apostasy laws is discussed by the late Indonesian President Wahid** in a foreword to Silenced, by Paul Marshall and Nina Shea, Oxford University Press, 2011.)
- However, the Netherlands - one of eight European countries that had a law against blasphemy in 2012 - took steps to repeal its law. The other seven European countries currently with blasphemy laws named by the Pew study are Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta and Poland. The United Kingdom abolished its blasphemy law in 2008.
Previous blogs on blasphemy and apostasy:
- In the 20 countries penalizing apostasy, social hostilities are more than twice as high as other countries.
- 47% of countries have laws against blasphemy, apostasy OR defamation of religion.
- Solid majority (59%) of countries with anti-blasphemy laws already have high restrictions on religion.
- Among 44 countries enforcing anti-blasphemy laws: Restrictions up in 10, down in only 1.
For all related Weekly Number blog posts, see blasphemy category at right.
* Read the full Pew Forum report. (Photo, Pew Forum: Pakistani Christians hold crosses during a September 2012 protest against an Islamic cleric who accused a Christian teenager of blasphemy.)
** Wahid observed that coercively applied blasphemy laws "narrow the bounds of acceptable discourse ... not only about religion, but about vast spheres of life, literature, science and culture in general."