This July the Irish Parliament shocked the world by passing a law that imposes criminal penalties and heavy fines for the "crime" of blasphemy. That law also allows government authorities to forcibly enter and search suspected premises for copies of "blasphemous" statements. Now Pakistan and a group of Islamic states (the Organization of Islamic Conference, or "OIC") is using the language of the Irish blasphemy law to press the UN Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards to recognize the so-called "defamation of religions" as a new normative principle of international law.
Pakistan and the OIC’s submission to the UN Ad Hoc Committee lifts verbatim the Irish defamation law’s definition of blasphemy. Pakistan’s submission urges that UN member states prohibit by law "the uttering of matters that are grossly abusinve or insulting in relation to matter held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage to a substantial number of adherents to that religion." Clearly, the Irish blasphemy legislation is being used to legitimize the "defamation of religions" movement, a dangerous threat to international freedom of expression.
This demonstrates yet again the importance of exposing blasphemy laws as real threats to the rights of religious minorities, religious dissidents, and atheists and agnostics. If Free Inquiry magazine or Prometheus Books titles were published in Ireland, they would be subject to heavy fines (€25,000 per offense) that could shut them down. Pakistan and its OIC allies would like the same standards to apply across the globe. Every reader of Free Inquiry magazine, and every member of the Center for Inquiry, should express their outrage at the Irish government’s and the OIC’s assaults on freedom of expression and religious liberty.