A coalition of international human rights activists, who have all faced accusations of blasphemy in jurisdictions where it is a serious crime, are urging the people of Ireland to make a strong global stand by abolishing their own blasphemy laws in the referendum scheduled for 26 October.
In an open letter published in The Sunday Times Irish edition, the signatories have urged voters to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Irish constitution and guarantee the right to freedom of thought and expression.
The 23 signatories, from 12 countries including Bangladesh, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Greece, India, and Egypt, have all been threatened with fines, imprisonment, torture, or death for ‘blasphemy’ in their countries and some have even seen their family members and colleagues brutally murdered.
‘We know that our plight may seem distant to your daily concerns but it is linked. The existence of blasphemy laws in European democracies like yours gives cover and support to the laws under which we are persecuted around the world,’ they wrote.
The letter was organised by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), of which Humanists UK is a member. Humanists UK is also part of the IHEU-led End Blasphemy Laws campaign.
Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said: ‘Blasphemy laws prevent legitimate and necessary criticism of religious beliefs, leaders, and institutions from the public sphere and have resulted in extreme human rights abuses across the world where people have been murdered, tortured, or jailed just for expressing opinions about religion.
‘The people of Ireland have the opportunity to send a strong message around the globe on 26 October that these barbaric laws have no place in any country and that they represent a fundamental threat to human rights and freedom of expression.
‘While the Irish law has not been used for a long time, other countries have cited it to justify keeping their own blasphemy laws and their extreme punishment for people accused of blasphemy.
‘We welcome this courageous and globally-minded initiative and hope the people of Ireland will follow in the footsteps of France, Malta, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark which have all recently repealed their blasphemy laws.’
For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07815 589636.
Read more about Humanists UK’s international campaign work: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/international-campaigns/
At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.