Tunisia Moves to Outlaw Blasphemy

Last week, Tunisia’s ruling Islamic party introduced a bill that would criminalize blasphemy in the country. If passed, anyone convicted could receive two to four years in prison.

Oh good. This is going to turn out well for everyone.

According to Agence France-Presse, the bill actually lists subjects sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This list includes God, the Prophet Mohammed, and holy books. Because, you know, those three are the only religions that matter.

Lest you think that this bill would only be used in matters of hate speech, consider this: in May, the head of Nessma television, a private TV station in Tunisia, was fined for showing “Persepolis” because the film offends Islam by depicting God.

Blasphemy laws are incredibly disconcerting. These laws privilege one type of belief over others. Why should someone be free to criticize another person’s use of snake oil to cure cancer — a practice not based in fact — but not allowed to criticize religion, which is also not based in fact? It’s almost instinctive to put a religious belief over belief in anything else, but why? Who should decide what is out of bounds?

And that’s ultimately the problem with content-based speech restrictions. It’s hard to decide what to prohibit and what to allow. When you add something as sensitive as religion, you have a recipe for free speech on ice.

I’m not alone in my concern for this blasphemy bill. Human Rights Watch has also spoken out against it. According to the AFP:

“The draft bill would provide prison terms and fines for broadly worded offenses such as insulting or mocking the ‘sanctity of religion,’” the rights group said.

“If passed, this draft law would introduce a new form of censorship in a country that suffered from so much censorship under the ousted president” Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, HRW deputy regional director Eric Goldstein said.

I’m not suggesting that there aren’t serious issues to consider when defining the parameters of free speech and freedom of expression, but any limitations need to be narrow and specific. It’s unclear when this bill will be debated, but hopefully cooler heads will prevail.

Related posts:

Quebec Attempts to Quash Students’ Free Speech with New Law

Atheist Jailed in Indonesia Over Facebook Posts

‘How to Cook Christ’ Artist Tried for ‘Offending Religious Feelings’

Image credit: whateverjames


Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra4 years ago

Thank you Mindy, for Sharing this!

In other words, Blasphemy against Islam.....

Abbe A.
Azaima A5 years ago

it's that simple, eh?

Lee H.
.5 years ago

Please make sure to note the C2NN article:

Florida Muslim Who Set Wife on Fire Gets Life in Prison (Video)



Thank you.

Patricia Martin
Patricia Martin5 years ago

AbdulAziz A. on 10:54AM PDT on Aug 11, 2012 writes:

"I **intake** no notice of rubbish being spewed out...

This is a matter for a country and it's citizens, you don't like it, don't go thre or support them but otherwise shut up and mind your own business."

Well Abdul Aziz, you sound like you should be the first one here to take your own moronic advice. You should work on your English, too.

Keith R.
Keith R.5 years ago

So, the Arab Spring, widely pushed in the West as a good thing has shown only that the wrong people get into and wield power.

ROLF P5 years ago

Here is my dirty deed for the day, ALL RELIGION SUCKS!

Eric Dd
Eric D5 years ago

BTW Since David (the presumed religionist) brought up Hitler, let's take a look at what other good (tm) Christian English-speaking nations did when Hitler started persecuting Jews.

And, let's not forget that's a favourite pastime of Christians in many places!

During WW II...
... Great Britain did its best to thwart the influx of Jewish refugees.
... the US kept them shamefully shut.
... Canada turned its back on refugees

Any attempts to pretend that Christianity isn't as evil as is Islam is historical revisionism of the worst kind! Religious belief is what facilitates such acts of evil. If you don't train people to believe in things that aren't real (faith) you also can't create these artificial divisions that allow you to dehumanize others!

Eric Dd
Eric D5 years ago

David is nuts if he thinks that Hitler and Stalin weren't religious. They were devout followers of their own religions and their followers were solid believers. Stalin was perhaps an atheistic religionist but make no mistake that he was religious.

As for Hitler, a good Christian that lead a good Christian nation that ultimately ended up exterminating another ethic-religious group, the Jews.

And, more recently, you simply have to look at the civil war waged by rather large elements of modern American Christianity on modern civil society. Christianity is evil. Faith is evil.

The fact that Christianity is no less a proselytizing religion than is Islam seems to escape David--the number of obnoxious Christians trying to peddle their mental illness on streetcorners in North America outnumbers the number of obnoxious Muslims doing the same by a factor of 10 000 to 1!

But, then again, Christians seem to be quite happy to live in the delusion that everyone should behave the same way they should.

AbdulAziz A.
AbdulAziz A5 years ago

Beth S is on board so the ends the matter, she is the master of ceremony and answer to all the questions and ills of the world.

I intake no notice of rubbish being spewed out...

This is a matter for a country and it's citizens, you don't like it, don't go thre or support them but otherwise shut up and mind your own business.

David E.
David E5 years ago

The problem with Islam is that in addition to being a religion it is a proselytizing ideology whose believers feel it should be forced upon everyone.

For those contributors who have a problem with religion, the aetheistic ideologies of the 20th century were much worse that any religion - Hitler and Stalin who were both aetheists and in the name of their ideologies 120 million people died or were murdered.

So it has nothing to do with religion itself,but with those who are mis-using it in the name of religion.