Dutch blasphemy law to fall and Irish one may follow

December 5, 2012

(Protesters from Hizb ut-Tahrir demonstrate against insults to Islam at the American Embassy in London September 16, 2012. A wave of furious anti-Western protests against a film mocking the Prophet Mohammad abated over the weekend, but U.S. policy in the Muslim world remained overshadowed by 13 minutes of amateurish video on the Internet. REUTERS/Neil Hall)

Laws criminalising blasphemy are set to be struck down soon in the Netherlands and may disappear in Ireland, but rising tensions in economically battered Greece seem to be reviving pressure to prosecute offences against God.

Blasphemy appears more frequently in headlines from the Muslim world, where countries such as Pakistan or Saudi Arabia readily punish perceived critics of Islam, but a lesser known trend is a general movement in Europe away from such laws.

Cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed and works of art seen as offensive to Islam have angered many Muslims in Europe and beyond in recent years, sometimes sparking violent protests. Yet attacks on religion no longer seem to shock most Europeans.

In the Netherlands, scrapping a 1932 blasphemy law became an issue last year after a court undermined it by acquitting far-right leader Geert Wilders on charges of inciting hatred against Muslims.

Ireland opened a constitutional convention last Saturday to consider a major reform of the political system, including removal of a blasphemy law only passed in 2009.

Greece is a major exception. The producer, director and actors in a play depicting Jesus and his Apostles as gay were charged this month with blasphemy after protests by priests and right-wingers, including deputies from the ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn party

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