December was eventful for blasphemy and blasphemers – here are some highlights from around the world.
Earlier in the month, 66-year-old lecturer Jon Dowling was stabbed to death outside a university in France in his last year before retirement. The murderer claimed that the lecturer’s jokes about Islam in part motivated his actions.
Atheist refugees seeking asylum in Germany shared some of the threats they continue to receive from conservative Muslims in the West. One ex-Muslim biologist, now under police protection, recounts a recent phone call she received: “We will come by in half an hour and kill you.”
Iran ended the year in typical authoritarian fashion, as it sentenced two human rights lawyers to six years in prison for taking part in “illegal gatherings” and dissent.
Another Iranian activist died after a 60-day hunger strike, protesting the “conditions of his imprisonment and his lack of access to a lawyer.”
The Pakistani courts, meanwhile, have decided that imprisonment is not enough. The court recently sentenced two Christian brothers to death for online blasphemy.
In Indonesia, the mobs have become tech savvy. The “Heresy App,” allows users to report minority faiths, blacklist organizations, and file blasphemy complaints. The Indonesian prosecutor’s office states that the goal of the app is “to educate the public and prevent them from following doctrines from an individual or group that are not in line with regulations.”
There has been, however, some good news. While most of the world took two steps back, Canada has taken a step forward. The repeal of Bill C-51 amended the country’s rarely used blasphemy law – a move humanist groups hoped would encourage the developing world to uphold freedom of speech.