Thank God, the Dutch parliament wants to ban the Blasphemy clause from its legal books. After all, nobody has been sentenced here for Blasphemy since 1968. That makes the law completely irrelevant, doesn’t it?
Actually, in quite a number of countries blasphemy, that is, remarks or actions considered to be contemptuous of God, is considered an offence. There are 32 throughout the whole world that prohibit it, eight in Europe alone. A distinction is to be made between those acts and the defamation of religion. The latter is prosecuted, at least in theory, in more countries. 36 European states have a law, rule or policy that penalizes the defamation of religion, 87 states in total.
2005. The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten publishes cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Mohammed. The violence following this incident causes the death of at least 100 people. 2006. In Germany a 62-year old man is taken to court for distributing toilet paper roles with “Koran – The Holy Koran” on it to Muslim communities in reaction to the London terrorist attacks. He is charged with a five year suspended sentence and a few hundred hours of social work. 2012. The Muslim world is appalled by an amateur film made in the USA, that depicts the prophet Mohammed in an insulting way to Muslims. Outraged Muslims went on the street to protest in several countries all over the world. Some demonstrations got out of hand and turned into violence. 30 people died. But not only members of Islam react to defamations of their God and Prophet. Also 2012. The Russian Band Pussy Riot receives worldwide media attention for their scandalous performance of a prayer demanding the end of the Putin era and the stricter division between Church and State on sacred premises. Their sentence – labour camp.
What all of these incidents show is that the line between political motivations and people actually being offended remains thin – and that blasphemy is anything but a topic of the past.