Religious and minority persecution was at it's epitome last week when a powerful explosion ripped through a crowd of Shiites as they left a mosque in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, on Sunday, killing at least 45 people. It was the latest atrocity in an escalating campaign of countrywide sectarian violence.
In Third World countries, they're often employed by religious majorities to arrest, imprison and prosecute religious minorities. Majority Sunni Muslims have used blasphemy laws to punish Shiite Muslims, Ahmadis, Hindus and Christians, for no other reason than their beliefs.
A canadian lawyer writes -
Blasphemy laws, in general, are a bad idea. Western democracies normally disdain them because they're so ripe for abuse. Mixing legal authority with religious belief is a time-honoured recipe for injustice.
Canada, unlike most western nations, has a blasphemy law. Canada's Criminal Code includes a crime of blasphemy that not only mixes church and state, but also favours one faith over all others. To boot, it's badly drafted and dangerously vague.
Sec. 296 of the code criminalizes what it calls "blasphemous libel." It doesn't scruple, however, to define blasphemy. It simply states: "It is a question of fact whether or not any matter that is published is a blasphemous libel."
Unlike almost all criminal offences, there doesn't have to be an element of intention to support a successful prosecution. In other words, for the Crown to convict, it needn't prove the accused actually intended to blaspheme. It need only prove the accused uttered blasphemous -howsoever that might be defined in any particular scenario - statements.
More problematic still, the Criminal Code's blasphemy provision is an inheritance from old English criminal law. And English courts -- though there's no Canadian judicial decision on the point -- have determined the provision applies only to insults to the Christian faith. It's therefore uncertain whether statements about other religions, no matter how vile or offensive, are prosecutable.