‘Blasphemy’ Criminalized Around the World

‘Blasphemy’ Criminalized Around the World


Religious and spiritual practices are evolving in the United States and abroad. Yet as beliefs and practices change, many nations continue to criminalize anti-religious behavior, according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Pew’s analysis, released Wednesday, reported that 32 countries “had laws penalizing blasphemy (remarks or actions considered to be contemptuous of God)” in calendar year 2011. The research showed that anti-blasphemy laws are commonplace in Middle Eastern and North African nations.

While 13 of the 20 nations in North Africa and the Middle East criminalized blasphemy, 9 of the 50 Asian-Pacific countries had anti-blasphemy laws in 2011. In Europe, eight of  the 45 nations had such laws.

In the United States, religious views and expressions are changing. Pew previously reported that 20 percent of Americans today are not religious. As Americans redefine tradition in varied ways, the social taboos of yesteryear (sex, politics and religion) increasingly become modern talking points.

And citizens who are of the opinion that their religious beliefs are the lone and best route remain. Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Fla. made headlines in 2010 when he planned to burn Qurans at Dove World Outreach Center for the anniversary of 9/11 to protest the construction of an Islamic community center near Ground Zero.

Jones also said that the congregation found the holy text “guilty” during a church-held “trial” that year. While he and his congregation received significant pushback from this nation’s leaders for the plan, the international community pushed back against religious hate speech.

By 2011 nearly 90 countries had a policy, law or rule “at some level of government forbidding defamation of religion or hate speech against members of religious groups” Pew reported.

European practice is of note, as 36 of the 45 countries forbade religious hate speech through law or policy in 2011. Conversely, in the Middle East and North Africa, 15 of the 20 nations outlawed religious hate speech.

Most Middle Eastern and North African laws combatted religious defamation in general as opposed to individual or group specific hate speech.

As practices and legislation transform, with hope, belief diversification and hate won’t be mutually dependent.




  1. People should have a right to “hate speech”. Some things are worthy of hate. Hate is a natural response to unbearable people or situations. And what is innocent observation to one person, may be hate to another. How about these backwards countries require accuracy in public claims instead?