For Immediate Release: February 22, 2017
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
firstname.lastname@example.org - (207) 358-9785
The Center for Inquiry unequivocally condemned the charge of blasphemy brought by Danish prosecutors against a man for burning a copy of the Quran in an online video. CFI blasted the charge as an affront to the fundamental rights to freedom of belief and expression, and called upon Denmark to repeal its blasphemy law.
“The fundamental rights that allow a religious believer to freely profess the divinity of a holy book also allow someone else to defile that book, and still others to censure such an action,” said Michael De Dora, CFI’s main representative to the United Nations. “While the actions of the accused may be offensive and his sentiments ugly, real democracy is only possible with the freedom to criticize even the most deeply held beliefs.”
An outlier among Western nations in maintaining a law against blasphemy, Denmark has not prosecuted anyone under the law since 1971. In 2013, the European Union issued guidelines stating that the “right to freedom of religion or belief, as enshrined in relevant international standards, does not include the right to have a religion or a belief that is free from criticism or ridicule.” Two years later, the Danish parliament ordered a review of the country’s blasphemy law, but decided to keep it in place.
Denmark was the flashpoint for violent protests over alleged blasphemy in 2005 when the newspaper Jyllands-Posten published the now-infamous “Danish cartoons” of the Prophet Mohammed. The Center for Inquiry, in its magazine Free Inquiry, was the first publisher to print the cartoons in the United States, which resulted in the magazine being temporarily banned from booksellers. CFI established International Blasphemy Rights Day in 2009.
“Criminalizing displays critical of religions and other belief systems is incompatible with fundamental international human rights norms. We call upon the government of Denmark to drop these charges, repeal its blasphemy law, and set an example for other countries around the world,” said De Dora.
De Dora will represent the Center for Inquiry at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland March 1-24.
CFI also operates the Secular Rescue project, which seeks to bring to safety activists and writers whose lives are in danger in countries such as Bangladesh, where secularists and reformers are marked for death by religious militants. Since its founding, Secular Rescue has safely relocated 29 targeted individuals.