UN Blasphemy Law Would Make Religious Disagreements a Crime
The United Nations is in danger of creating a global blasphemy law that would make religious criticism a crime, charges a new report from the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). “Speaking Freely About Religion: Religious Freedom, Defamation and Blasphemy” has been issued as the UN General Assembly begins to consider a new resolution against “defamation of religions.”

“We all commit blasphemy according to some religion or other,” says the report’s author, Matt Cherry. “Whether you criticize abuses by religious leaders, crack a religious joke, or simply share your religious views, you are offending someone else’s religious feelings. Blasphemy laws, like the one being pushed at the UN, just give powerful religions the legal cover to punish anyone who dares disagree with them.” Cherry leads the IHEU delegation to the United Nations headquarters, and is a former president, and current vice president, of the NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief at the United Nations.

Rebutting claims that freedom of expression must be restricted to protect freedom of religion, the 15-page report details how outlawing “defamation of religions” would violate many long-established principles of international law.

The IHEU report suggests that the concept of outlawing “defamation of religions” is derived from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan’s own laws against blasphemy. In examining the impact of these blasphemy laws, the report highlights the experience of M. Younus Shaikh, founder of IHEU’s member group in Pakistan, who spent years on death row in Pakistan before his blasphemy conviction was overturned. The report notes Dr. Shaikh’s testimony to the UN that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are “nothing less than religious terrorism through the abuse of the state apparatus and the civil law.”

Since 1999, a series of resolutions against “defamation of religions” have been submitted to the UN on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), an inter-governmental organization of 56 countries with significant Muslim populations. So far they have only passed as non-binding resolutions, but the OIC says that its goal is to create an international law against “defamation of religions.”

IHEU is the global union for Humanist, Ethical Culture, Atheist and other freethinking groups. With more than 100 member organizations in 40 countries, IHEU has Special Consultative Status with the United Nations.

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“Speaking Freely About Religion: Religious Freedom, Defamation and Blasphemy” is available for download at: www.iheu.org/UN-blasphemy-report

For more information contact Matt Cherry at or on +1 518 632 1040.

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