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The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is today among the founding partners heading a new, unified campaign for the abolition of “blasphemy” laws worldwide.

The End Blasphemy Laws campaign is being run by a new International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws bringing together organizations that share the same goal: campaigning to repeal “blasphemy” and related laws worldwide.

In addition to IHEU, the founding partners are European Humanist Federation (EHF) and Atheist Alliance International (AAI), and a growing list list of national organizations, in particular those in countries with extant “blasphemy” laws.

Supporters can already sign up to the dedicated End Blasphemy Laws Action List for news, updates, action alerts and opportunities! You can also follow the campaign on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.

The End Blasphemy Laws Campaign begins today

The End Blasphemy Laws Campaign begins today

The campaign has three strategic goals:

Blasphemy out of Europe, out of “western” states: We want to see the remaining laws against blasphemy and religious insult in Europe, Canada, and New Zealand repealed. Despite the clear international human rights consensus against blasphemy laws, there is an obvious double-standard at work when, for example, the European Union has taken a clear stand against blasphemy laws internationally, but some of its Members States cling on to existing anti-“blasphemy” legislation. It must be abolished, and although there’s no reason in principle that western states must repeal such laws first, there is a clear historical direction of travel, and in abolishing “blasphemy” in Europe and the “west”, promoting the international human rights consensus against “blasphemy” laws will become significantly more achievable.

Defending and promoting the international human rights consensus against “blasphemy” laws: We want to increase understanding of the already-agreed international human rights treaties and other instruments among the public, and lawmakers themselves. We are calling on international bodies and world leaders to look on “blasphemy” laws as they might look on laws restricting press freedom: as a clear restriction on free expression and an indicator of wider social harm.

A mutually supporting and robust international network: We want to see all advocates for freedom of expression against “blasphemy” laws around the world networked together, supporting each other, including secular, religious and human rights groups, human rights lawyers, and progressive lawmakers.  Part of the problem of opposing “blasphemy” laws is that precisely where restrictions are most severe, advocates for free expression face the biggest challenges in speaking out. In Pakistan, calling for repeal of “blasphemy” laws has been declared “blasphemous”. In Saudi Arabia, for writing about unjust religious institutions, you can be jailed and flogged. In Mauritania, criticising the religious justification of modern slavery has earned a blogger a death sentence. Those of us in the most hard hit parts of the world need the most help. As a coalition we aim to make the most of our shared contacts and memberships to connect and support groups and individuals around the world.

There’s more about how the campaign will operate on the website as well as the campaign launch announcement and a growing list of coalition partners.

A history with blasphemy


Recent worldwide attention has been focused on Raif Badawi, jailed and lashed in Saudi Arabia for “insulting Islam”

IHEU’s work on “blasphemy” laws goes back a long way. IHEU has long-campaigned on the issue at the United Nations, in New York and Geneva. Our delegations have been at the centre of resistance to calls by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to ban “defamation of religion”. Our Member Organizations have variously resisted and been part of successful campaigns to repeal national “blasphemy” laws for example in the UK and the Netherlands.

IHEU’s work around the accusations and exile of Taslima Nasreen, and more recently Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia, have helped draw attention to the plight of those accused of blasphemy and similar so-called crimes. In addition, the IHEU Freedom of Thought Report has drawn international attention to issues of freedom of thought and expression especially relating to discrimination against the non-religious.

A future of unified action

IHEU’s Director of Communications Bob Churchill said today, “Last year, IHEU began planning for a joint campaign on “blasphemy” laws with our colleagues at the European Humanist Federation. Then, following the events surrounding the Charlie Hebdo killings and the carrying out of Raif Badawi’s flogging sentence in recent weeks, we brought forward our plans.

“Suddenly, the world is waking up to the fact that laws against “blasphemy” lend legitimacy to violence; whether that violence is carried out by gunmen against satirists in Paris, by mobs targeting Christians at the merest breath of a ‘blasphemy’ accusation in Islamabad, or by the state itself jailing and flogging a young writer in Jeddah, for nothing more than writing about secularism and calling for freedom.

“Many people and organizations have begun talking once again about the dangers and detriments of “blasphemy” laws, and reiterating calls for their abolition. We felt the time was right to bring forward and renew our efforts, to unite and lead a worldwide campaign. We soon found that other humanist and secular organizations had been similarly galvanized, and this new, huge coalition was born.

“The End Blasphemy Laws Campaign is a joint initiative, we are inviting all potential partner organizations to take part in the campaign. In countries with remaining “blasphemy” and “insult to religion” laws there is the most work to be done – but all humanist groups and other organizations can join the rallying cry to End Blasphemy Laws!

The website opens today, and supporters can sign up to an “Action List” for future updates, campaign actions, news alerts and opportunities. The website will function as an ongoing hub for work by all the coalition partners on the subject of “blasphemy” laws around the world.

The International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws is open to all organizations — whether religious or secular, human rights-based or otherwise advocating freedom of expression — supporting the aims and strategy of the End Blasphemy Law Campaign. Email for more information.

More News from IHEU

16 Responses to End Blasphemy Laws – a new campaign

  1. Salar Bapir says:

    Indeed it is about time we raise our voice and tell the whole world that humanity is in a grave danger because of faith. For years we’ve been forced to believe that anti blasphemy laws are right and are the will of the majority! While in fact it is entirely the opposite.
    As a Kurd, I know how degrading blasphemy laws are, that is why I am so proud of my sisters and brothers courageously fighting back against ISIS and their backers in Kobani and elsewhere. I am so pleased because I was thinking “I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one”.

    Salar Bapir
    Darlington, UK
    Je Suis Charlie ( )

  2. Wishing you the best of luck with your campaign. It’s time to break the toxic stranglehold of these outdated laws that are used not so much to prevent insult but to promote intolerance, hatred and oppression.

  3. I would like to support your campaign and I wish it every success.
    (I will click on the link above.)

  4. Gary says:

    Blasphemy is a victimless crime.

  5. Dutch Dekkers says:

    CORRECTED COMMENT: As I failed to complete the closing sentence in the third paragraph. My apologies.

    Dear Madam/Sir:

    Your campaign strikes me as very odd. The Oxford Dictionary defines Blasphemy as “The action or offence of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things; profane talk.”

    In most Western Nations we have Hate Crime legislation. Rather than abolishing laws on blasphemy, would it not be much more appropriate and consistent to lobby for inclusion of blasphemy under Hate Crime legislation? Why would a Charlie Hebdo be allowed to indiscriminately deeply hurt and insult a certain demographic of millions upon millions, whilst a single individual making a distasteful remark on political hyper-sensitive topics such as euthanasia, or sexual orientation instantly faces the risk of legal persecution under Hate Crime legislation.

    Your homepage states QUOTE The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is the sole global umbrella organisation embracing Humanist, atheist, rationalist, secularist, skeptic, laique, ethical cultural, freethought and similar organisations worldwide. UNQUOTE. People of Faith are clearly not “in.” True humane perspectives and true ethics should have respect for all positions, as long as those positions do not marginalize and endanger “the other.” The only consistent humane and ethical campaign to pursue here is not to abolish Blasphemy Laws, but rather to have the act of verbally insulting and marginalizing people groups holding deep convictions be included in Hate Crime legislation.

    Don’t dismiss this too quickly. Just have your director tweet something profoundly hateful towards sexual minorities and see how long it will take before this gets legal attention. People of faith deserve equal protection. Be humane and ethical please.


    • IHEU Admin says:

      Hi Dutch Dekkers, some countries have, as you suggest, incorporated “blasphemy”-type elements into anti-hate legislation. This is problematic to the extent that those “blasphemy”-type elements exceed the limits of anti-hate/violence law proper, and essentially just re-package and camouflage a law against “blasphemy” under provisions in a law against incitement to hatred. To be clear, neither IHEU nor the End Blasphemy Laws campaign has a policy against laws that aim to prohibit incitement to hatred and violence in itself. However we object to laws which prevent free expression on religion including expression of criticism or ridicule that some people might find offensive. This objection pertains even when laws like this are attached to genuine anti-hatred/anti-violence laws. That’s not to say that expressing an anti-religious view (that some might call ‘blasphemous’) can’t constitute incitement to hatred or violence in some contexts (to give an unambiguously clear example, if someone was reading even very inoffensive and high-minded philosophical criticism of religion, but doing so through a loudspeaker from the door of a church during a service, then there may be a case to answer!). But by including “blasphemy” and “insult” alone under hate crime legislation as a distinct topic what happens in practice as seen in many countries is that what should be legitimate free speech, about ideas and beliefs, can be curtailed and even prosecuted, even when the context is clearly not aimed at inciting hatred or violence against a person or group. Re your last point, we are not for expressing hate! We are for speaking freely about ideas, including people’s deeply held beliefs, including our own, and including satire and ridicule.

  6. Muhammad says:

    A very commendable effort.

  7. Simon Preston says:

    this isnt enough…complete seperation of church and state and an extensive re-education program is just the start

    • IHEU Admin says:

      Hi Simon, if you mean the campaign isn’t enough, well no single campaign can achieve everything. Our broader policy agenda includes secularism and many other ethical issues, and we pursue a wider vision in many ways. But there is great value in campaigns that focus on specifics, too; it means you can unite all those who agree on that issue, to concentrate efforts.

  8. Andy says:

    Whether it is the delusion of the few or of the masses, any law that furthers such untruths and protects them from scrutiny, hinders or prevents the process of progress and understanding

  9. Herbert Peters says: Religions demand people looking up at them, not looking down which shows a birds eye view of what is happening. To ensure this, they use blasphemy laws to ensure people do not look down on them. Besides getting rid of Blasphemy laws, what is more important is DEVELOPMENT OF LEADERSHIP QUALITIES THROUGH MASS EDUCATION – this must be another urgent campaign. Leadership development will have to break away from all following and teaching – Leadership lies beyond where teaching reaches.

  10. Muhammad says:

    Untill people learn to appreciate value of living beings over dead it would be hard to get blasphemy laws repealed.

  11. Tom says:

    Where do I sign a petition or pledge support?

    And to Dutch Dekkers: “The only consistent humane and ethical campaign to pursue here is not to abolish Blasphemy Laws, but rather to have the act of verbally insulting and marginalizing people groups holding deep convictions be included in Hate Crime legislation.”

    Sorry Dutch. The right thing is for Religious people to grow thicker skins, and to put up with their faith being “insulted”. It is after all only a reciprocal right, as I see no restraint by believers of any faith in exercising their right to vilify whichever non-religious group they happen to dislike.

    As my mother used to say “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but WORDS will never hurt me”. Such a pity that so many religions enshrine the opposite of that good sense in their dogmas.

  12. I, as an ex-muslim and as a secular humanist, feminist and business owner think we should ask all faith based institutions to think for a moment that Faith is a creation of human kind as a great business model, a way of life, that united all under one platform back in the days when people did not think about driving a car for an emergency in Saudi Arabia when dad is at work and mom is home alone with a child with sickness, or injury. Now women cant vote or drive a car, so how they will go to vote? What if their male loved one refuse to give them right to travel alone? If human right is more than religious rights, which we human created for our convenience, than why for the same benefits we are not allowing our citizens to think creatively and create millions of new innovative faith as they desire, rather than state dictates what faith will be the successor? Faith is totally useless for today. It can freeze many open and free thinkers mind who could create a better religion than the ones we have. Blasphemy is a state imposed oppression of one faith on all, rather than respecting human right over all.

  13. Isa says:

    People who aim to truly support this campaign are the same people who have no purpose in this world, where by their only purpose is to discriminate against people who have faith and a real purpose. Get on with your lives and we will get on with ours, how does that sound. Mind boggled as to why you want to support this campaign

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