USA, January 6, 2010: (By Aseem Shukla) A person could be fined up to $35,000 if “he publishes or utters matter that is insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion.” That absurd anti-blasphemy law, proposed in Ireland, provides a timely occasion to explore the Abrahamic concept of blasphemy.
Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century considered blasphemy to be a crime more grave than murder. But when the definition isn’t agreeable even today, where does the question of legislating against it even arise?
For Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains, the arguments are observed dispassionately. While conflicts have occurred, followers of these faiths have promoted debate and discussions as new schools of thought have sprouted very much as Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism sprung from their Hindu roots. Where a core concept of pluralism accepts other paths as potentially equal, divergent views are given space in the religious dialogue.
All faiths have the right to protest when others take liberties with their faiths. The law should protect scholars, professors, artists and publishers. Blasphemy laws do the opposite: they empower the prejudiced, sectarian and bigoted.