Pressure On For Blasphemy Laws – Nationally And Internationally

A Bill criminalising blasphemy has been proposed in the French Parliament by an MP from the ruling Union for Popular Movement party (UMP).

When announcing the Bill, Marc Bouraud, the party’s MP for the Lez Avignon Villeneuve district in southeast France, said that free speech should not be “exploited to blaspheme against a certain religion”. He told reporters that France should not tolerate those who incite hatred and it should criminalise any speech and caricatures blasphemous to any religion.

The MP said his Bill was prompted by the Danish cartoons crisis, which “exposed the fragile link between freedom of expression and freedom of belief and thought.” The motion says that “any speech, yelling, written or printed threat, or drawings attacking a [particular] religion is considered blasphemy that must be punished.”

It needs the approval of 15 deputies to be debated by parliament. Bouraud has come under mounting pressure from his UMP colleagues to withdraw the motion. The MP has already received letters of protest, demanding him to withdraw his statements.

A recent French poll found that 54% of respondents believed that the two French papers which reprinted the cartoons, were wrong to do so and 72% said that they understood the indignation the cartoons prompted among Muslims. Earlier this month, French Muslim leaders lodged a protest with the European Court of Human Rights over the publication by the two French papers of the cartoons.

The Muslim world’s two main political bodies — the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Arab League — are seeking a UN resolution, backed by possible sanctions, to protect religions in response to the furore. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and European External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner have further suggested that the EU and the OIC could draft a joint UN resolution calling for religious tolerance.

Danish Muslims said they are now planning to take their complaint about publication of the blasphemous cartoons to the UN. The move comes after Denmark’s State Prosecutor Henning Fode turned down the charges against the Jyllands-Posten newspaper over its publication of the Prophet cartoons.

See also:IHEU in last gasp bid to protect free speech at UN