Posts Tagged ‘blasphemy’

Imran Anjum in Pakistan called a ‘blasphemer’ for caring about brick makers

June 2, 2016

imran_anjum

Imran Anjum is a human rights defender from the city of Sahiwal, Punjab province in Pakistan. He is the Founder and the Executive Director of Peaceful & Active Center for Humanity (PEACH), a non-governmental organisation working on the social and economic development of some of the most disadvantaged communities in Pakistan. Imran Anjum is directly involved in the provision of legal aid to people from these communities and carries out advocacy work on the rights of bonded labourers, including child labourers and brick kiln workers. Currently, PEACH is running a campaign across the Punjab province aimed at raising awareness among brick kiln workers about their rights.

On 20 May 2016, a group of brick kiln owners displayed banners around the city of Gojra, Punjab province, calling human rights defender Mr Imran Anjum ‘a blasphemer‘ and insisting on his execution. These threats follow an attack on 9 May 2016, when Imran Anjum, along with two of his colleagues, was travelling home to Sahiwal from a conference in Gojra devoted to the protection of the rights of brick kiln workers. Two people on motorbikes chased his car, forcibly stopped him, dragged him and his colleagues out of the vehicle and threatened them at gunpoint. They said that they would kill the human rights defender and his colleagues if they did not stop their labour rights work or if they went back to Gojra.Frontline NEWlogo-2 full version - cropped

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-imran-anjum

Campaign to abolish blasphemy laws publishes interactive map

June 6, 2015

The International Humanistic and Ethical Union and the European Humanist Federation published this interactive map.

Go to the website below where you can then click a country to see a summary and then click “Read more” to see detailed information on that country’s “blasphemy” laws and accusations, and similar restrictions on free expression.

End Blasphemy Laws | The campaign to abolish all blasphemy laws, worldwide.

Charlie Hebdo and PEN: free speech deserves protection, not necessarily an award

May 6, 2015

Last night two members of Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine, received – under thundering applause –  the “James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award” from American PEN. It followed a raging 10-day debate over free speech, blasphemy and Islamophobia in the social media and op-ed pages worldwide. It started when six prominent writers, including Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje and Francine Prose, pulled out from the gala dinner to protest what they saw as Charlie Hebdo’s racist and Islamophobic content.  Some 200 PEN members signed a letter of protest saying that the award crossed a line between “staunchly supporting expression that violates the acceptable, and enthusiastically rewarding such expression.” [“To the section of the French population that is already marginalized, embattled, and victimized,” they wrote, “Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons of the Prophet must be seen as being intended to cause further humiliation and suffering.”]

Others, such as Salman Rushdie,vigorously defended Charlie Hebdo and the prize. PEN quickly found new table hosts, including the cartoonist Art Spiegelman, and the writers Azar Nafisi and Neil Gaiman.

Even The Economist on 5 May stepped into the debate with a historical analysis of Charlie Hebdo [“Since it was founded in 1970, with its roots firmly on the political left, Charlie Hebdohas prided itself on a defiant spirit of irreverent provocation. This fits a long tradition of savage French satire, dating back to the bawdy anti-royalist pre-revolutionary cartoons mocking Marie-Antoinette and King Louis XVI. Many of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons are tasteless, silly and offensive. So silly, in fact, that its circulation had dropped to just 45,000 or so before the terrorist attacks. Most of its targets are political. It gave Nicolas Sarkozy, a former centre-right president, a particularly hard time. These days, Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, is a favourite figure of ridicule. Indeed, an analysis by Le Monde newspaper shows that, between 2005 and 2015, 336 of their 523 covers were political, and only 38 religious. Of the latter, 21 concerned Christianity, including an image of a toothy Virgin Mary, her legs apart, giving birth to baby Jesus. Just seven portrayed only Islam.”]

But I think that is not really the issue here. We all (well 99%) agree with the statement of Charlie Hebdo editor Gérard Biard: Being shocked is part of democratic debate ..Being shot is not. SoI stand by my ‘Je suis Charlie’ position [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/charlie-hebdo-attack-intolerance-extreme/], but this does not mean that the magazine should get an award. Many (dead) journalists do not get awards. Awards normally have a bit of ‘role model’ function (in addition to recognizing courage and giving support). The lone protester in front of the building where the ceremony took place held a handwritten sign that in my view captures the issue well: “Free speech does not deserve death / Abusive speech does not deserve an award.”

It is pity that the controversy overshadowed the PEN’s Freedom to Write Award 2015, given to the Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who has been imprisoned since early December after writing about corruption allegations against the family of Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev. [http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/freedom-write-award]

among the many sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/06/nyregion/after-protests-charlie-hebdo-members-receive-standing-ovation-at-pen-gala.html?_r=0

The Economist explains: The new Charlie Hebdo controversy | The Economist.

http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/paris-magazine-attack/award-french-magazine-charlie-hebdo-divides-prominent-writers-n353901

Interview with Karim Lahidji on the 36th anniversary of the Islamic regime in Iran

February 18, 2015

11 February 2015 marks the 36th anniversary of the Islamic regime in Iran. Karim Lahidji, President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), answers questions about freedoms and liberties in Iran today. The very experienced and well-respected Iranian exile recalls briefly the historical background and states the record on freedom of religion in Iran: Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook bad for your health in Iran

May 29, 2014

Facebook

(Photograph: Dave Thompson/PA)

The Guardian reports that eight people have been jailed in Iran on charges including blasphemy and insulting the country’s supreme leader on Facebook. The opposition website Kaleme reported that two of the eight, identified as Roya Saberinejad Nobakht, 47, from Stockport (Iranian/UK national), and Amir Golestani, each received 20 years in prison and the remaining six – Masoud Ghasemkhani, Fariborz Kardarfar, Seyed Masoud Seyed Talebi, Amin Akramipour, Mehdi Reyshahri and Naghmeh Shahisavandi Shirazi – between seven and 19 years. They were variously found guilty of blasphemy, propaganda against the ruling system, spreading lies and insulting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

[The relevant backdrop is that there is a growing row between President Hassan Rouhani’s administration, which favours internet freedom, and hardliners wary of relaxing online censorship. Last week, Iran’s national TV paraded six young Iranians arrested for performing a version of Pharrell William’s hit song Happy and posting a video of it on the internet. The arrests caused global outrage and prompted Rouhani to react in their support. The performers were soon released, but the video’s director, Sassan Soleimani, remains in jail. The arrests highlighted the challenges Rouhani faces in delivering his promise of allowing people greater access to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, which remain blocked in Iran….In recent weeks Rouhani has stepped up his rhetoric in support of internet freedom. “The era of the one-sided pulpit is over,” he said recently at a conference in Tehran, endorsing social networks and asking his communications minister to improve bandwidth in the country. He intervened when the authorities blocked access to the mobile messaging service WhatsApp, ordering the ban to be lifted. Iran’s judiciary, which is a political institution independent of the government, has since moved to challenge Rouhani’s intervention and orderered WhatsApp to be banned. Until two years ago, Iran’s ministry of information and communications technology was in charge of policing the country’s online community, but in 2012 Khamenei ordered officials to set up the supreme council of virtual space, a body that is closer to the supreme leader than to the government. This means Rouhani is not the sole decision-maker in the future of Iranian web. With help from Iran’s cyberpolice, the judiciary and the Revolutionary Guards have identified and arrested Iranians because of web-related issues, including several employees of the Iranian gadget news website Narenji, who have been in jail since December.]

via Briton among eight jailed in Iran for web insults | World news | The Guardian.

Killing of human rights lawyer Rehman in Pakistan leads to low level response

May 17, 2014

The recent killing of the lawyer Rashid Rehman (or Rahman) in a case of blasphemy in Pakistan has created a lot of media attention. This report from the local newspaper The News International of 17 May throws an interesting light on the follow up within the police and alleges that two lower level policemen have been made the scapegoats:

“Police bosses have held their subordinates responsible for their incompetence and negligence in the murder of human rights activist Rashid Rahman. The Multan CPO has transferred Chyllyak SHO Ghulam Abbas and Shah Shamas SHO Akbar Kamboh for their negligence in providing security to Rashid Rahman. On the other hand, a senior police official has contradicted receiving any sort of application from Rashid Rahman for security protection. The official said the government could not provide security to each citizen on demand. The government only provides security to the accused and complainant in all cases, including in blasphemy cases, instead of providing security to counsels. Rashid Rehman was gunned down in his chamber on May 7 evening just a month after he had been threatened by the prosecution during a court hearing. No progress could be made on his murder after eight days of the high profile assassination, which had been condemned across the world. The UN and the US have urged the government to ensure the arrest of killers. Sources in the CPO office disclosed that the route of providing security shelter passed through the SSP Operations. “When someone seeks security, he submits his request to the CPO office who forwards it to the SSP Operation for looking into the matter whether the applicant is deserved for security or not,” they added. They said the HRCP Task Force had informed the Multan CPO office on receiving life threats. The CPO office directed Cantonment SP Mehmoodul Hassan to ensure security to Rashid Rehman. The SP asked Shah Shamas SHO Akram Kamboh to ensure security in jail while Chyllyak SHO Ghulam Abbas was directed to ensure security in his chamber at District Courts. They said that both the SHOs had been suspended in this regard. On the other hand, the Punjab IGP office had directed the Multan CPO to ensure security for Rashid Rahman at any cost on the report submitted by Punjab Special Branch on April 21. However, the CPO office did not comply with the IGP office order and assigned a task to SSP Operation to provide security to rights activist. The sources said that the senior officers had suspended two SHOs to save their skin. CPO Sultan Ahmed Chaudhry was repeatedly contacted on Friday, but his gunman Abdur Razaaq promised every time to ring back, but to no avail. Multan SSP Operations Shaukat Abbas, however, denied that the application was sent to the police by the slain for security. “The government does not provide security to everyone in blasphemy cases. The government only provides security to the complainant and the accused,” he said. The government cannot provide security to the defence counsel even in blasphemy cases, he added. Meanwhile, human rights activists criticised the police for adopting dual standards. The police did not provide security to Rashid Rahman despite his application, but security was provided to a Muhammad Latif Ansar Sial alias Prof Lajpal. He is not an academician but always shows himself as professor. Lajpal had contested in all general elections or local bodies held in the past. He participated in the 2013 elections from NA-151 and PP-198, securing only 59 and 9 votes as an independent candidate. He contested the 2008 elections from NA-151 and secured 183 votes. Rights activists observed police were not taking one of the valuable assassinations seriously and using delaying tactics. The United Nations declared it a cold-blooded murder and strongly condemned it on May 9, right after the second assassination. They urged the government to ensure prompt investigation into the matter so that lawyers, human rights defenders and journalists could work without any fear. The spokesperson for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Colville in Geneva said the murder of Rashid Rahman had “brought into stark focus the climate of intimidation and threats that permeates the work of human rights defenders and journalists in the country.“ The UN had urged the government last month to investigate the threats and ensure security for Rehman. “We condemn the killing of Rehman and urge the government to ensure a prompt investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice,” the UN spokesman said.

via MULTAN City News – thenews.com.pk.

Human rights defender Rashid Rehman killed in Pakistan

May 8, 2014

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped reports that yesterday, 7 May 2014, human rights defender Mr Rashid Rehman was shot and killed in an attack on his office in Kutchery Square, Multan, Pakistan. Two other people were injured in the shooting, which was carried out by two unknown men. Rashid Rehman was a human rights lawyer and a coordinator of the Punjab office of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in Multan. The human rights defender advocated against the misuse of blasphemy laws in Pakistan and, since February 2014, had been working on the case of Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer at Bahauddin Zakariya University who is accused of blasphemy. It is reported that no lawyer was willing to take the case for a year because of fear of reprisals from extremist religious groups. The human rights defender was shot several times and pronounced dead on arrival at Nishtar Hospital. Read the rest of this entry »

Pussy Riot freed in Russia but the bigger issue is blasphemy laws everywhere

December 24, 2013

Demonstrators wear "Free Pussy Riot" balaclavas as they protest at the security fence surrounding the G8 Summit at Lough Erne in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland June 17, 2013

(Pussy Riot’s members with their distinctive coloured balaclavas)

The two remaining members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot, whose incarceration sparked a global outcry, have been released under an amnesty law, but Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina dismissed the amnesty as a publicity stunt before the Sochi Winter Olympics in February.They both promised to continue their vocal opposition to the government. The women were jailed in August 2012 after performing a protest song in Moscow’s main cathedral. Alyokhina’s first words and actions after being freed serve as a sign that this fight is likely to go on. The case divided Russia with many feeling the women were being too harshly treated and made examples of as part of attempts to clamp down on opposition to the government. But others felt their actions were a gross offence to the Orthodox faith. The act was seen as blasphemous by many others e.g. in Greece here and was condemned by several Orthodox Churches. However, their conviction for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” was criticised by rights groups [AI declared them prisoners of conscience], celebrities [such as Sting, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Madonna and Yoko Ono ], anti-Putin activists and foreign governments.

This should make us look again a the issue of blasphemy in general. The crime of criticizing a religion is not always called blasphemy; sometimes it is categorized as hate speech (even when it falls well below any sensible standard of actually inciting hatred or violence) because it supposedly insults the followers of a religion. These crimes—of expressing ‘blasphemy’ or offending religious feelings—are still a crime in 55 countries, can mean prison in 39 of those countries, and are punishable by death in six countries.

Recently, Ireland and the Netherlands started the process of removing some or part of their blasphemy laws. The arguments in these debates have universal validity.

Human Rights First and other NGOs have reported on human rights abuses caused by the use of blasphemy laws around the world.  These laws are often vague and can be subject to abuse, either by the authorities or citizens who can accuse a fellow citizen of blasphemy with a personal complaint to the prosecutor. The concept is inconsistent with universal human rights standards, which protect the rights of individuals rather than abstract ideas or religions. Those accused of blasphemy are frequently threatened or attacked even before any investigation. People take to the streets and violence stoked by religious extremists ensues. Blasphemy laws have been used to justify violence and oppression against minorities. Blasphemy laws enable governments to restrict freedom of expression, thought, and religion. Application of the laws can result in devastating consequences for religious minorities. This has been the case for Christians in Pakistan and Egypt, Ahmadi followers in Indonesia, and non-believers in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. In many instances, officials fail to condemn abuses or to hold the perpetrators of violence accountable. And the police often fail to stop violence against religious minorities or to protect those endangered on account of such laws.

In the past few years, several bodies of the United Nations have examined the relationship between freedom of expression and hate speech, especially in relation to religious issues. After extensive consultation with governments and civil society, the Rabat Plan of Action was published by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in October 2012. This document outlines how blasphemy laws are problematic.  Since 2011, a new process dubbed the Istanbul Process was launched as a result of resolutions adopted at the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. The idea is to combat religious intolerance without restricting freedom of speech but whether that is possible is a big question.

Lessons of the Debate Over Ireland’s Blasphemy Law | Human Rights First

http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/Blasphemy_Cases.pdf.

http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2013/12/netherlands-scraps-blasphemy-law–but-seeks-a-way-to-replace-it

BBC News – Pussy Riot: Russia frees jailed punk band members.

Pakistan: Christians, Muslims HRDs join against human rights violations

August 19, 2013

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Joseph DeCaro of Worthy Christian News reports on 19 August 2013 how human rights defenders could play a role in preventing the escalation of religious conflict in PakistanRead the rest of this entry »

UN RAPPORTEUR ON HRDs about IRELAND

November 23, 2012

DUBLIN (23 November 2012)  “The overall environment in which defenders operate in Ireland is in general conducive, although more should be done domestically to raise awareness about the profile and role of defenders,” the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, said today at the end of her first fact-finding mission to the country.

The expert expressed concern about the challenges faced by certain groups of defenders, notably those working on environmental rights and who try to exercise their legitimate right to protest. She also drew attention to the plight of sexual and reproductive rights defenders who are victims of smear campaigns, and those working for the rights of the Traveller community who are excluded from policy making bodies, as well as ‘whistle-blowers’ who are not properly protected.……


The Special Rapporteur also stressed that “blasphemy is currently a criminal offence in Irish legal framework but its codification seems vague, unclear and no longer appropriate,” and welcomed the Government’s initiative to convene a Constitutional Convention which will contemplate the removal of the offence of blasphemy from the current legal framework.  …………….

Ms. Sekaggya recognized that Ireland has been a champion in the protection of defenders at risk in other countries under the European Union Guidelines on human rights defenders. She also acknowledged the Government’s efforts in integrating and promoting the protection of defenders through its development aid.

“Ireland has a unique opportunity to bring human right issues forward now that it has been elected to the UN Human Rights Council and will have the Presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2013,” she said. “In this context, I suggest a first assessment of the implementation of the EU Guidelines on human rights defenders.”
 

for the full end-of-mission statement by the Special Rapporteur: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12823&LangID=E

The United Nations in the Heart of Europe | News & Media | IRELAND IS A SUPPORTER OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS DESPITE CERTAIN CHALLENGES, SAYS UN EXPERT ON RIGHTS DEFENDERS.