Sunday, July 8, 2012
Blasphemy Law Proposed in Iraqi Kurdistan after Muslim Protests
By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
IRAQ (ANS) -- A “blasphemy law” has been drafted by MPs in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan following violent protests by Muslims against a magazine article deemed insulting to Islam.
According to a story by Barnabas Aid, the Draft Law to Protect Sanctities prescribes up to ten years in prison and fines of up to 50,000,000 dinars (US$43,029) for vaguely worded offences including “swearing at and mocking God” and “swearing at, mocking, insulting and portraying prophets inappropriately.”
Any media outlet that publishes or broadcasts material deemed blasphemous could be closed for up to a year and fined.
Barnabas Aid said the move follows the enraged Muslim reaction to a piece in an Erbil-based magazine, Chrpa (Whisper) May 2. It reprinted a 2010 Facebook post entitled “Me and God,” an imaginary dialogue condemned as blasphemous by some local imams and insulting to Islam by government officials.
Chrpa’s editor-in-chief was arrested on May 7 for “violating religious sensibilities,” but this move was not enough to placate local Muslims.
Barnabas Aid said a parliamentary committee then drafted the Law to Protect Sanctities and plans to present it for a vote shortly. It has been criticized by Human Rights Watch, who called for MPs to oppose the bill on the grounds that it “clearly restricts the right to free expression.”
According to Barnabas Aid, although the bill ostensibly applies to all religions, it has clearly been created with a view to appeasing Muslim sensibilities. It comes against a backdrop of growing Islamic fervency in Kurdistan.
Barnabas Aid reported that Sozan Sahab, an MP for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) said, “After the Arab Spring comes the Islamic Spring. It’s in the region, in the atmosphere. The mullahs have changed.”
Barnabas Aid commented that while the Arab Spring seemed to promise increased freedom and rights for citizens in the region, the spreading anti-blasphemy movement indicates it is actually delivering the opposite.
Barnabas Aid provides hope and relief for the persecuted church. For more information go to www.barnabasfund.org/US/Home/
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