International Blasphemy Day

International Blasphemy Day Takes place annually on 30 September Blasphemy Day is celebrated on September 30 to coincide with the anniversary of the publication of satirical drawings of Muhammad in one of Denmark’s newspapers, which resulted in the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy among Danish Muslims, and became a widespread furor after Muslim imams in several countries stirred up violent protests in which Danish embassies were firebombed and over 100 people were killed in subsequent protests concerning the cartoons.

Blasphemy is the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence toward a deity, to religious or holy persons or sacred things, or toward something considered sacred or inviolable. Some religions consider blasphemy to be a religious crime. International Blasphemy Day is designed to encourage individuals and groups to openly express criticism of religion and blasphemy laws.International Blasphemy Day was founded in 2009 by the Center for Inquiry. A student contacted the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, New York, to present the idea, which CFI then supported. Ronald Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, said, regarding Blasphemy Day, “We think religious beliefs should be subject to examination and criticism just as political beliefs are, but we have a taboo on religion”, in an interview with CNN. Events worldwide on the first annual Blasphemy Day in 2009 included an art exhibit in Washington, D.C. and a free speech festival in Los Angeles. According to USA Today’s interview with Justin Trottier, a Toronto coordinator of Blasphemy Day, “We’re not seeking to offend, but if in the course of dialogue and debate, people become offended, that’s not an issue for us. There is no human right not to be offended.”

As of 2012, anti-blasphemy laws existed in 32 countries, while 87 nations had hate speech laws that covered defamation of religion and public expression of hate against a religious group. Anti-blasphemy laws are particularly common in Muslim-majority nations, such as those in the Middle East and North Africa, although they are also present in some Asian and European countries. In some countries, blasphemy is punishable by death, such as in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Saudi Arabia. As of 2015, at least fourteen member states of the European Union maintain criminal blasphemy or religious insult laws. These are Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France (Alsace-Moselle region only), Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland only) Turkey also has similar laws. As of 2009 six U.S. states still had anti-blasphemy laws on their books: Massachusetts, Michigan, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming, but these are unenforceable.

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