Monday, 10 September 2012

Blasphemy Law - I promise I'm not just late to the party

Cast your minds back to January 2010 when Dermot Ahern brought us back to the Middle Ages with the introduction of a new blasphemy law which gave the Gardaí the power to seize blasphemous material from the home or any other premises used by a person convicted of blasphemy. It also came with a hefty €25,000 fine. Ahern said he had three options: to abandon the old bill; to hold a single-issue referendum to remove the constitutional reference to blasphemy; or to update the references in the 1961 Defamation Act. Opting for reform, he said he had removed the seven-year jail sentence from the old legislation - how generous of him! Just the year previously Ireland  had voted at the UN against an attempt by Islamic states to make ‘defamation of religion’ a crime. And yet the Minister for Justice sought to revive this anachronistic medieval crime in modern Ireland. The proposed law flew in the face of a recommendation by the Law Reform Commission which said that there was no place for such an offence in a society which respects freedom of speech.
Speak no evil!
So where are we now?
As far as I know no one has, as yet, been convicted of the crime of blasphemy in Ireland. Which comes as somewhat of a surprise to me as we Irish are generally quite blasphemous by nature even on a day-to-day basis. I mean if the government wanted to whip up money for the Troika, the fines taken from any open pub on any Friday night should set us up to pay back a good chunk of the money (better shut up or they might take that idea on board!). Outside of Ireland it has had huge ramifications. Our introduction of the blasphemy law led to Islamic states such as Indonesia and Pakistan praising us, using us as an example and a defence for their own backward laws. Unlike Ireland, Indonesia and Pakistan have not been so slow out of the traps to bring down the full force of their might on people they deem guilty of blasphemy.

Alexander Aan is an Indonesian atheist and former Muslim. He was imprisoned this year for posting comments and images to Facebook that were judged to be "disseminating information aimed at inciting religious hatred or hostility" by the Muaro Sijunjung district court. The sentence sparked national debate and caused Amnesty International to designate him a prisoner of conscience. The sentence sparked debate over here. Senator Ivana Bacik and Senator Jillian van Turnhout have both asked the Irish Government to support Alexander Aan, with Ivana Bacik going as far as to say the law needed to be repealed. Bacik saying in a Seanad debate "We need to examine our blasphemy law because it is clearly having a repressive effect in Indonesia, Pakistan and other countries. I know the matter will be reviewed as part of the constitutional convention, but I believe the law should be repealed. Perhaps progress can be made more quickly in this regard." It is worth mentioning that in countries such as Pakistan members of government have been murdered for speaking out against their Blasphemy laws.

Ireland is having a repressive effect. Even more callous than the imprisonment of Alexander Aan in Indonesia was the imprisonment of a fourteen year old girl with Down's Syndrome in Pakistan. She was arrested after a mob (always the voice of reason) accused her of burning pages from the Koran. It has since emerged that an Islamic mullah has been accused of deliberately framing the girl by planting burnt Islamic texts. The mullah Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti insisted it was the only way to get rid of Christians in the area. Speaking to Western newspapers Chishti said he is not sorry that Christians have not left the area in the aftermath of the girl's arrest.
The girl in question has since been release on a $10,500 bail fee under the condition that she turn up in court for her trial. The girl, and remember here she is of diminished mental capacity, had to be taken from the prison in an armoured vehicle and whisked to a waiting helicopter while covered with a sheet to protect her identity in order to protect her from outside mobs. Amnesty International are hoping that the girl will be granted asylum in another country to ensure she need not be brought to trial in Pakistan. If  she is brought to trial and found guilty, Pakistan can go as far as condemning an intellectually disabled teenager to death for a crime she was most likely framed for, and even if she wasn't, could not have had the capacity to understand the consequences of her actions.

So here we are. No one in our country has been convicted of blasphemy, and believe me Atheism Ireland have tried. No one is going to arrest us for watching Father Ted and no one will arrest you if you feel like using a copy of the Koran to start your barbecue of an evening. However Dermot Ahern can not have been so blind sided as to not even imagine the consequence of his actions. As long as our country, the pimple on the arse of Europe, continues with the charade of this archaic law other people in the world will suffer. Dermot Ahern has blood on his hands. The blood of people who stand up for the value of free speech and the blood of  innocent children who are framed by manipulative entities. And before anyone asks what would Jesus do? Christ himself was condemned to death for blasphemy. Me? I believe more in Robert Green Ingersoll's words that “This crime called blasphemy was invented by priests for the purpose of defending doctrines not able to take care of themselves”

As an aside on the case of the girl in Pakistan, a British newspaper published a photo of the girl as she was being brought to safety. I can't even describe how disgusted I am that a Western publication would compromise the safety of this girl any further.


  1. Why the hell would they print a picture of her! You may as well just pull the trigger yourself! WTF!

    The blasphemy law is absolutely nuts and should go.

    1. Couldn't believe it when I saw it myself. Completely irresponsible journalism (not that it should be credited as journalism at all) in my opinion! Not only does it pose a threat to the girl herself, it also poses a threat to any teenage girl who looks vaguely like her.
      Also since Ahern amended the law we've had three referendums and a presidential election so I see no reason why we couldn't have added a referendum to remove the blasphemy law to one of them.