To the point, blasphemy laws intrude on the right of free speech and reflect a religious affectation meant to control what others say about theologically based matters. The idea of offending religious sensibilities to the point of punishment is in and of itself disgusting and distasteful, but there are venues where such regulations attempt to control any defamation of religion.
Such censorship goes against the entire concept of free speech and by doing so seeks to control the thoughts, actions and speech of others free from such constraints. In December of 2010, the Organization of the Islamic Conference’s resolution against "defamation of religion" passed in the United Nations General Assembly. Defamation of religion is an issue repeatedly addressed by some member states of the U.N. since 1998. Up to now, the resolution is nonbinding on U.N. member states.
The Pakistani led OIC want the United Nations to recognize "blasphemy" as a principle of international law, thus limiting free speech rights of more than half of the planet’s population. Free speech is on the line as blasphemy laws base themselves on levels of outrage meaning that a simple statement like “God is Not Great,” may offend slightly or outrageously. Such a rule tramples free speech because it is based on emotional response in levels of anger, the variance that may range between 0% offensiveness to 100%, making it difficult if not impossible to measure.
Levels of anger include, annoyance, irritation, aggravation, displeasure, fury, and rage to name just a few. How does one go about selecting the proper level for inflicting punishment? In Ireland blasphemy is defined as any statements that are "grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion," and punishable by a $36,081 fine.
That seems a little harsh for a victimless crime. Hurt feelings, injured egos, and bruised beliefs come with life and living. If the worst thing that ever happens in this world is to have one’s feelings abused, whoever it is should consider themselves fortunate. Although Ireland’s law seems a bit harsh, it is kid stuff when compared with the Pakistani Penal Code.
According to Section 295-C of the Penal Code, “Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.”
Conversely, many of those pushing for such laws feel no conflict when criticizing entire groups of people that actually exist in the flesh and can be offended and angered by “imputation, innuendo, or insinuation.” For instance, “Great Satan and nigger” are terms I find especially offensive, but under the rule of free speech as odious as I find them, I cannot limit the speaker without limiting myself.
For true freedom, it is necessary for tolerance of others views, beliefs or words. Proposed blasphemy laws are not only intrusive to the rights of others rights, they intrude unnecessarily into the lives of others and encourage despotism. Perhaps, in the prosecution of such cases it should be required that the primary stakeholder or master be required to show up as the plaintiff with no proxy’s, stand-ins or substitutes. Any punishment handed out must follow the same rule.
The idea of blasphemy law is not only offensive it is unreasonable and dictatorial in nature. A relic of the Middle Ages, blasphemy laws allows mob rule and political sabotage especially in third world counties. When considering the benefits of free speech vs. blasphemy laws, I am required by reason to side with free speech. Prosecution of thoughts, ideas and speech based on religious doctrine is nothing short of The Inquisition revisited.
Update: According to a World Public Opinion poll 13 or 20 nations support the right to criticize religion. Support for the right to criticize religion was strongest in the United States at 89 percent (and only nine percent in support of government restrictions). Interestingly, one-third of respondents felt that governments "should have the right to fine or imprison people who publicly criticize a religion because such criticism could defame the religion." Of course, the strongest supporters of restrictions on criticism of religions are in Muslim countries. Additionally, those supporting restrictions are among the most impoverished countries in the world.