Repeal All Blasphemy Laws.
OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Warsaw September 13th 2018
Statement by Giulio Ercolessi, European Humanist Federation president (Audio)
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe holds every year in Warsaw a Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, where the representatives of the governments of the 57 member countries meet non governmental organisations.
The recommendation of the European
Humanist Federation, which is the largest umbrella organisation of humanist and
secularist associations in Europe, is for all OSCE member countries to repeal
all still existing blasphemy laws.
We are deeply concerned by the
widespread lack of interest and attentiveness for some of the fundamental
principles upon which the very fabric of our civilisation was built. Many of
these principles are put at jeopardy by politicians who pose as the guardians
of our “real” identity and tradition. And mainstream politicians are often inclined
to come to terms with those claims, thus letting their openly nationalist and populist
competitors to impose their narrative and set the political agenda. If
trampling on the human rights of minorities is the most evident consequence of
the present regressive wave, keeping in force the existing limitations to
freedom of thought and expression through blasphemy laws is another and not
less relevant one.
These laws have become an
inherent part of policies aimed at using the autochthonous traditional
religion, or whatever other item may be found in each of our countries real or
invented “tradition”, as tools of exclusion, as weapons to be brandished
against real or supposed minorities, against liberal or progressive believers
and/or against the immigrants.
But there is also another,
more intelligent and apparently more “inclusive” version of this repeal of
freedom of thought, when blasphemy laws are extended to protect from any criticism all religious
faiths. As our societies are more and more secularised, many religious leaders
demand a renewed “public recognition” and renewed privileges. And when such
claims come from the religious communities newly established in our countries,
other long-established churches often try to seize that opportunity to ask for
a renewed “public role” of all religious organisations, that would inevitably
confine non-believers and maverick believers alike in the position of second
class citizens, like the Dhimmis in the Ottoman Empire.
Repealing all blasphemy laws has
become today part of the defence of our open societies. If we don’t act
consequently, if we appease the high-handed and the intolerant, we should not
be surprised if sooner or later Voltaire’s writings are prohibited once again
somewhere in our countries (maybe in the school libraries as a mere first
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