For Immediate Release: May 12, 2017
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
press@centerforinquiry.net - 207-358-9785

Blasphemy Laws: Free Inquiry Magazine on a Crime in Search of Victims

FI JJFree Inquiry magazine presents a powerful and sobering feature on the so-called crime of blasphemy, just as people in parts of the Muslim world are being slaughtered by angry mobs for expressing religious dissent on social media, and even western democracies are leveling charges of blasphemy, with humorist Stephen Fry having been placed under investigation in Ireland this month over his allegedly offensive statements about God.

Few have more direct experience with blasphemy than the author of Free Inquiry’s cover feature, Flemming Rose, former cultural editor at Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten, and the man responsible for commissioning the famous “Danish cartoons” of the Prophet Mohammed in 2005 that sparked violent protests across the Muslim world. Free Inquiry was the first U.S. publication of national circulation to reproduce a selection of the cartoons in solidarity, which led major North American booksellers to boycott the magazine.

Rose calls blasphemy laws “an act of discrimination against nonbelievers,” and warns that strictures against blasphemy cannot be contained within a nation’s borders. “Religious fanatics in the Muslim world now have the power to trigger blasphemy charges in Denmark in order to demonstrate to the outside world that the government accepts their threats and violence as the most serious argument for upholding the rule of law,” he writes.

Ostensibly intended to protect religious feelings and avoid conflict, Rose explains that these laws have the opposite effect. “When the government communicates to the public that blasphemy is more or less as evil as killing hundreds of innocent people, it should not come as a surprise that a lot of people are willing to take the law into their own hands.”

Mirjam van Schaik of the Netherlands’ Leiden University focuses on the promotion of anti-blasphemy measures in the diplomatic arena by the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Van Schaik shows how the OIC abuses the west’s embrace of religious freedom and tolerance in order to make anti-blasphemy measures a globally enforced norm.

PLUS: Free Inquiry Editor Tom Flynn takes on bestselling scholar Yuval Harari for gross mischaracterization of humanism in his book Sapiens. “If I’d found material like [Harari’s] in some hectoring religious-Right publication or on one of Alex Jones’s conspiracy-theory websites, it might be unremarkable,” writes Flynn, but given Harari’s international stature as an “academic superstar,” he warns that humanists risk new levels of undeserved vilification.

Also in this issue: Leah Mickens explores the roots of Catholicism’s prohibition on women priests; Gregory Paul discusses contemporary hunter-gatherer societies with no theistic religious beliefs; Edward Tabash examines the political stigma against atheists from the liberal and conservative perspectives; and so much more, now in the June/July issue of Free Inquiry. Subscribe in print or on the web at secularhumanism.org/fi.

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Free Inquiry is a bimonthly magazine, published by the Center for Inquiry in association with the Council for Secular Humanism, featuring thoughtful and provocative commentary from such leading political and social commentators as Ophelia Benson, Greta Christina, Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, and Russell Blackford. Launched in 1980, Free Inquiry has a paid circulation of approximately 34,000 worldwide.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at www.centerforinquiry.net.