Blasphemy laws upheld, in Malaysia and Poland

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Two related stories from the last few weeks—the first from Bernama, "the national news agency of Malaysia":

The Federal Court [in Putrajaya, Malaysia] … ruled that a provision in the Selangor state Syariah law criminalising Muslims for publishing and disseminating religious books against the Islamic Law, is valid….

Following this decision, Mohd Ezra, who is the son of former law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, have to face his charges at the Syariah Court for allegedly publishing a book titled "Allah, Love and Liberty" written by a Canadian author Irshad Manji which was deemed against hukum syarak [which I believe means Sharia law -EV]….

"This is because the (Federal) Constitution allows the legislature of a state to legislate and enact offences against the precepts of Islam. Taking the Federal Constitution as a whole, it is clear that it was the intention of the framers of our Constitution to allow Muslims in the country to be also governed by Islamic personal law," [Court of Appeal President Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif] said….

"[The state law is] a measure to prohibit the dissemination of any wrongful belief and teaching among Muslims, through publication of any book or document or any form of record containing anything which is contrary to Islamic Law," he said….

Under Section 16 of the enactment, any person who prints, publishes, produces, records, disseminates or possesses any book or document for sale which are contrary to the Islamic law is said to have committed an offence punishable by a fine not exceeding RM3,000 or a maximum two years' jail or both, upon conviction….

And the Warsaw Business Journal, reports that the Polish Constitutional Tribunal upheld the Polish law providing that "whoever offends religious feelings of other people by publicly insulting an object of religious cult or a place for public holding of religious ceremonies, is subject to a fine, restriction of liberty or loss of liberty for up to 2 years":

The ruling comes after singer and celebrity Doda, who was sentenced to a PLN 5,000 fine for saying that she believes "more in dinosaurs than in the Bible as it's difficult to believe in something that was written by a guy wasted on wine, who smoked pot," had filed the inquiry with the tribunal.

Andrzej Wróbel, a justice of the Constitutional Tribunal, said that religious criticism is acceptable, only if it's devoid of abusive, insulting or degrading opinions. The tribunal said it is necessary to punish such offenses, because the public debate about religion must be conducted in a cultured and civilized manner.

Very regrettable, in both cases.

Thanks to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause) for the pointer, and to my mother Anne for checking the Warsaw Business Journal account against the Polish Constitutional Tribunal's Polish-language decision.

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