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Sunday, 23 December 2012


A 20-year-old Scottish student from Edinburgh, Thomas Aikenhead, was the last person in Britain to be executed for blasphemy.  He was prosecuted for denying the veracity of the Old Testament and the legitimacy of Christ's miracles. Aikenhead was hanged for the crime on January 8, 1697 and was said to have died Bible in hand, "with all the marks of a true penitent".

The 1989 film Visions of Ecstasy was the only film ever banned in the UK for blasphemy. Following the 2008 repeal of the blasphemy law, the film was eventually classified by the BBFC for release as 18-rated in 2012.

In some countries, blasphemy is not a crime. In the United States of America, for example, a prosecution for blasphemy would violate the Constitution according to the decision in Joseph Burstyn, Inc v. Wilson. The United Kingdom abolished its laws in England and Wales against blasphemy in 2008.

Some countries, especially countries which have Islam as the state religion, regard blasphemy as a serious offence. Pakistan, for example, has legislation which makes execution a penalty for blasphemy.

Reuters (File Photo)

The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published controversial editorial cartoons depicting Muhammad on September 30, 1975. They sparked protests across the Muslim world by many who viewed them as Islamophobic and blasphemous.

The Quran and the hadith do not mention blasphemy. According to Pakistani religious scholar, Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, nothing in Islam supports blasphemy law. Rather, Muslim jurists made the offense part of Sharia; the penalties for blasphemy can include fines, imprisonment, flogging, amputation, hanging, or beheading.

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