Blasphemy Law News: Turkey, Canada, Saudi Arabia

by | March 4, 2015

Canadian Atheist readers will know that Centre For Inquiry Canada and a host of other organizations from around the world have created the International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws (ICABL).  As a result of this coalition, I receive letters and information regarding blasphemy laws from around the globe.

This week, I received news from Turkey’s Association of Atheism (Ateizm Dernegi):

As I read your email, let me update you on what is currently going on over here in Istanbul, it seems to be right in line with what ICABL was created for.  A Turkish Court in Ankara has recently ordered block[ed] Access to 49 web addresses, including several Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and the Association of Atheism (Ateizm Dernegi) web page.  According to the court order, blocked web sites are accused of “containing messages, images and drawings that openly denigrate the religious values of a part of the population”.
Among the 49 addresses, there are:
3 Twitter accounts
8 WordPress blogs, 2 other blogs
3 News sites
9 Facebook posts and accounts
10 online forum posts
1 Youtube video
1 Google plus page
10 other web pages
Charlie Hebdo web page in French and Wikipedia page in English
Association of Atheism web page and forum
Blocked content mainly consists of recent and historical drawings of Mohammed, posts about ISIS, drawings from Charlie Hebdo, and criticism of Islam and Mohammed. It appears that the collection is a result of extensive web research.  Association of Atheism web page seems to be the least offensive, since it contains only information about the Association’s activities and tasks. It looks like they couldn’t block the whole site. The domain can be accessed without ‘www’ in the beginning. Google links to sub pages also work fine. Blocking access to web pages is Turkey’s 21st century method of book burning. However, the block is only effective within borders of Turkey, which makes the method more clumsy and awkward. Association of Atheism has already been preparing to appeal the order.

The ICABL is facilitating information sharing and strategy discussions between secularist organizations across international boundaries.  Here in Canada, we are in a position to observe, learn from and support secularists around the world.  I think we have a particular obligation to do so.

As we receive reports from our contacts around the world, Canada’s blasphemous libel law, Criminal Code Section 296 sits nestled between Section 295, a section concerning unlawful marriage solemnization and Section 297, a section whose entire purpose appears to be about defining what a newspaper is.  While it sits there, comfortably reinforcing blasphemy laws around the world,  Jason Kenney adds “nun” to his social media.  What happens when someone in Saudi Arabia “likes” that Jason Kenney did this?  Apparently they risk their lives.

Jason Kenney, nestled safely in Canada as he is, should go beyond supporting his government’s policy of taking an interest in religious minorities. He should do what he can to ensure there is no hypocrisy in his actions and Canadian law by pushing his government to end Canada’s blasphemy law.




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