Blasphemy, Defamation of Religions & Human Rights Law
Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Erasmus School of Law & Editor-in-Chief of Religion & Human Rights: An International Journal
April 17, 2012
26(4) Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights (2008), pp. 517–545
Blasphemy is a serious wrongdoing in all monotheistic world religions. Blasphemy prohibitions have been brought into being and enforced so as to protect the dominant religion specifically. Religions as such, however, are not protected by international human rights law. Human rights law protects and empowers people: every person has the right to freedom of religion or belief. Human rights law does not recognize a right to have one’s religion or belief at all times exempted from criticism, ridicule or insult, or a right, in other words, to respect for one’s religious feelings. The right to freedom of expression is not an absolute right as it carries with it special duties and responsibilities. This right can be restricted on the basis of certain grounds for limitation; however, the interest of ‘religion’ as such is not among those grounds. In this article it is argued that contrary to popular belief the two rights, though very much interdependent, do not in abstracto ‘clash’. Moreover, with a view toward optimally guaranteeing human rights law in actual practice, the two rights do as a rule not need to be balanced – for it is precisely when the two rights are balanced without a legal necessity to do so that human rights law is undermined. The broader intent of this article is to present a human rights based assessment of blasphemy prohibitions and counter-defamation (of religions) initiatives. Rather than focusing on strategies to counter defamation of religions, we should concentrate on and deal with practices that actually threaten individual human rights; that is to say, we should more effectively tackle the issue of advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 29
Keywords: Blasphemy, Defamation of Religions, Human Rights, Human Rights Law, Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Speech, Extreme SpeechAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: April 18, 2012
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