Blasphemy law is a law limiting the freedom of speech and expression relating to blasphemy, or irreverence toward holy personages, religious artifacts, customs, or beliefs. Blasphemy laws are generally used to protect the religious beliefs of a majority or those who control the law. (Wikipedia)
A country may have no law against blasphemy. For example, after the French Revolution, France made blasphemy legal to ensure freedom of religion and the press. The United States, Canada, and many European countries have a law to protect those who speak badly about religion or be satirical as when a movie makes fun of a religion. Cursing is often protected by freedom of speech.
The Pakistan Penal Code prohibits blasphemy (Urdu: قانون توہین رسالت) against any recognized religion, providing penalties ranging from a fine to death. From 1987 to 2014 over 1300 people have been accused of blasphemy, mostly non-Muslim religious minorities. The vast majority of the accusations were lodged for desecration of the Quran.
Over 60 people accused of blasphemy have been murdered before their respective trials were over, and prominent figures who opposed blasphemy law of (Pakistan) being black law (Salman Taseer, the former governor of Punjab, and Shahbaz Bhatti, the Federal Minister for Minorities) have been assassinated. Since 1990, 62 people have been murdered as a result of blasphemy allegations.
According to one religious minority source, an accusation of blasphemy commonly subjects the accused, police, lawyers, and judges to harassment, threats, attacks and rioting. Critics complain that Pakistan's blasphemy law "is overwhelmingly being used to persecute religious minorities and settle personal vendettas," but calls for change in the blasphemy laws have been strongly resisted by Islamic parties - most prominently the Barelvi school of Islam.
Pakistan's laws became particularly severe between 1980 and 1986, when a number of clauses were added to the laws by the military government of General Zia-ul Haq, to "Islamicise" the laws and deny the Muslim character of the Ahmadi minority. Prior to 1986, only 14 cases pertaining to blasphemy were reported.
There has also been at least one case of an attack on a non-Muslim faith registered under the blasphemy laws.
The People's Republic of Bangladesh went from being a secular state in 1971 to having Islam as the state religion in 1988.  Despite its state religion, Bangladesh uses a secular penal code which dates from 1860—the time of the British occupation. The penal code discourages blasphemy by a section that forbids "hurting religious sentiments." Other laws permit the government to confiscate and to ban the publication of blasphemous material. Government officials, police, soldiers, and security forces may have discouraged blasphemy by extrajudicial actions including torture. Schools run by the government have Religious Studies in the curriculum.
Iran is a constitutional, Islamic theocracy. Its official religion is the doctrine of the Twelver Jaafari School. Iran's law against blasphemy derives from Sharia. Blasphemers are usually charged with "spreading corruption on earth", or mofsed-e-filarz, which can also be applied to criminal or political crimes. The law against blasphemy complements laws against criticizing the Islamic regime, insulting Islam, and publishing materials that deviate from Islamic standards. The regime uses these laws to persecute religious minorities such as the Sunni, Bahai, Sufi, and Christians and to persecute dissidents and journalists. Persecuted individuals are subject to surveillance by the "religious police," harassment, prolonged detention, mistreatment, torture, and execution. The courts have acquitted vigilantes who killed in the belief that their victims were engaged in un-Islamic activities.
Saudi Arabia's laws are an amalgam of rules from Sharia (mainly the rules formulated by the Hanbali school of jurisprudence but also from other schools of law like the Jafari school), royal decrees, royal ordinances, other royal codes and bylaws, fatwas from the Council of Senior Religious Scholars and custom and practice. The kingdom's laws treat blasphemy as an instance of apostasy. Sharia says apostasy is a hadd (line-crossing) offence. Sharia prescribes the death penalty for hadd offences.
BBC NEWSJohn McManus, BBC Social Affairs Reporter, 30 January 2015
Blasphemy laws are being challenged in a new global campaign launched by a coalition of humanist organisations. The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) says that, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France, the time is right for countries to abolish laws that protect religious sensibilities. But blasphemy laws nevertheless remain popular in many parts of the world.
The attacks on the staff of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine led to a massive response in defence of free speech - in France, but also across the world.
Equally intensely, some parts of the world saw protests against both the original cartoons, and the subsequent publication of another image of the Prophet Muhammad.
There is a particular prohibition against showing the image of Muhammad in some strands of Islam, but the crime of blasphemy can be found in many religions and countries.
To its supporters, it's a crucial way of protecting religious feelings and minorities; for others, it impedes free speech and can be used to suppress political dissent.
Sonja Eggerickx is the president of IHEU which works to promote an evidence-led ethical society.
She says the campaign is intended to support local people on the ground already working against blasphemy laws.
"The idea that 'insult' to religion is a crime is why humanists like Asif Mohiuddin are jailed in Bangladesh, is why secularists like Raif Badawi are being lashed in Saudi Arabia, is why atheists and religious minorities are persecuted in places like Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, and the list goes on," she says.
Raif Badawi was sentenced to 1,000 lashes in May 2014 by a Saudi court after being found guilty of insulting Islamic religious figures on his blog.
Philip Blackwood, centre, a New Zealander general manager of V Gastro Bar, is escorted by Myanmar police officers to face trial at a township court 26 December 2014, in Yangon, Myanmar.
Philip Blackwood was charged in Burma in relation to a picture showing Buddha wearing headphones
Pakistan also has severe laws protecting religious feelings.
Asia Bibi, a 50-year-old mother-of-five, has been on death row since 2010 after being convicted of insulting Islam during an argument over a glass of water.
John Pontifex from the charity Aid to the Church in Need, which campaigns for Christian minorities, says many cases never reach court.
"They [blasphemy laws] give the fig leaf of respectability to acts of violence against Christians and others accused of crimes they very often have not committed," he said.
But do blasphemy laws help society in any way?
The Pew Research Centre has found that the laws are most common in the Middle East and North Africa.
And it is from this region that the most vocal advocates of the laws can be found.
The Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, which represents 56 Islamic states, has repeatedly tried to get United Nations support for an international measure to outlaw insults to religion.
It says that such a resolution would protect groups from discrimination.
Last year, the organisation's secretary general, Iyan Ameen Madani, said that freedom of expression was clashing with Islamic teachings.
He criticised countries who refused to limit free speech, which he said was harming religious minorities.
"Muslim countries enacting laws to ensure respect for the sanctity and reputation of religious values, scriptures and personalities for promotion of peace in society, are criticised on account of limiting this freedom through blasphemy laws," he said.
Those laws are not just found in the Middle East.
BLASPHEMY IN EUROPE
In Denmark, paragraph 140 of the penal code is about blasphemy. The paragraph has not been used since 1938 when a Nazi group was convicted for anti-Semitic propaganda.
In Myanmar, also known as Burma, in December, three men were charged by the authorities with insulting religion after they allegedly distributed a picture depicting Buddha wearing headphones.
Some European countries also criminalise anti-religious sentiments in some form.
In 2012 there were 99 convictions for "public blasphemy" in Malta, with punishments ranging from fines to imprisonment.
And in 2014, Russian MPs voted for a new law against offending religious feelings.
It followed a political protest by members of the group Pussy Riot in Moscow's Orthodox cathedral.
Members of the Russian radical feminist group Pussy Riot try to perform at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow, 21 February 2012
Pussy Riot were charged with blasphemy for performing a protest song in Moscow's main cathedral
The charge against the three included "insult to religious feelings".
In Ireland, campaigners are furious that the government there has reneged on a promise to hold a referendum on its blasphemy laws, which were themselves only introduced in 2009.
And last year, a Greek man who satirised a dead Orthodox monk on Facebook was sentenced to 10 months in prison.
Those who want to extend religious insult laws are also making plans.
The UN Human Rights Council says it is likely that the issue of insulting religions will be raised at the council's upcoming sessions in March, at the request of Saudi Arabia.
The IHEU campaign, though, is not about encouraging discrimination, says Bob Churchill, its director of communications.
"Our campaign does not target laws against incitement to hatred, which are legitimate," he said.
Mr Churchill also rejects the charge of cultural imperialism.
"The reality is that minority voices for change and reform are there. The problem is they often cannot be heard."
Apostasy in Islam (Arabic: ردة riddah or ارتداد irtidād) is commonly defined as the conscious abandonment of Islam by a Muslim in word or through deed. It includes the act of converting to another religion, by a person who was born in a Muslim family or who had previously accepted Islam. (Wikipedia)
Bangladesh Bangladesh does not have a law against apostasy, but incidences of persecution of apostates have been reported. Some atheist Bangladeshis have been targeted for practicing free speech and "disrespecting" Islam, such as Humayun Azad, who was the target of a failed machete assassination attempt, and Avijit Roy, who was killed with a machete. Some Bangladeshi Imams have encouraged the killing of converts from Islam. An example is the stabbing of a Bangladeshi Christian evangelist (a "murtad fitri" or Muslim-born apostate) while returning home from a film adaptation of the Gospel of Luke.
Salman Rushdie is a prominent contemporary figure accused of apostasy. In 1989 a fatwa was issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, the ruler of Iran at the time, calling for the death of Salman Rushdie for the blasphemy of authoring the book The Satanic Verses.
Hossein Soodmand, who converted from Islam to Christianity when he was 13 years old, was executed by hanging in 1990 for apostasy.
According to US think tank Freedom House, since the 1990s the Islamic Republic of Iran has sometimes used death squads against converts, including major Protestant leaders. Under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the regime has engaged in a systematic campaign to track down and reconvert or kill those who have changed their religion from Islam.
15 ex-Muslim Christians were incarcerated on 15 May 2008 under charges of apostasy. They may face the death penalty if convicted. A new penal code is being proposed in Iran that would require the death penalty in cases of apostasy on the Internet.
At least two Iranians – Hashem Aghajari and Hassan Youssefi Eshkevari – have been arrested and charged with apostasy in the Islamic Republic (though not executed), not for self-professed conversion to another faith, but for statements and/or activities deemed by courts of the Islamic Republic to be in violation of Islam, and that appear to outsiders to be Islamic reformist political expression. Hashem Aghajari, was found guilty of apostasy for a speech urging Iranians to "not blindly follow" Islamic clerics; Hassan Youssefi Eshkevari was charged with apostasy for attending the 'Iran After the Elections' Conference in Berlin Germany which was disrupted by anti-regime demonstrators.
The Bahá'ís in Iran, the nation of origin of the Bahá'í Faith and Iran's largest religious minority, were accused of apostasy in the 19th century by the Shi'a clergy because of their adherence to religious revelations by another prophet after those of Muhammad. These allegations led to mob attacks, public executions and torture of early Bahais, including the Báb. More recently, Musa Talibi was arrested in 1994, and Dhabihu'llah Mahrami was arrested in 1995, then sentenced to death on charges of apostasy.
Pakistan While several attempts have been made to enact laws prescribing "death penalty for apostasy" in Pakistan, it has no apostasy law as of 2013. Pakistani jurists note that Pakistan's constitution defers gaps in its penal code to Sharia, and the lack of law on apostasy and lack of right to convert from Islam to another religion in Pakistan's law implies apostasy defaults to Sharia. Further, Pakistan has blasphemy law that carries death penalty, but the law does not define blasphemy. Under Article 295-C of its penal code, any Pakistani Muslim who feels his or her religious feelings have been hurt, directly or indirectly, for any reason or any action of another Pakistani citizen can accuse blasphemy and open a criminal case against anyone. Inheritance and property rights for apostates was prohibited by Pakistan in 1963.
An apostasy case law precedence was set in Pakistan in 1990, when Tahir Iqbal was arrested after he converted to Christianity, on charges filed by a Muslim neighbor against Iqbal for becoming an apostate and thereby hurting his religious feelings. Tahir Iqbal was arrested on blasphemy charges, accused that he had defiled Islam by his actions, and for an additional charge of making notes inside his English translation of Quran. His application for bail was refused in 1991 by the Pakistan Sessions Court Judge, with the ruling, "conversion from Islam into Christianity is itself a cognizable offence involving serious implications". Tahir Iqbal's appeal to the Lahore High Court against this ruling was also denied with the explanation that re-asserted "conversion from Islam to Christianity is a serious offence". While Iqbal's trial progressed, public demands for death penalty and life threats were persistently made outside and during court hearings. His crime was considered severe enough that he, a paraplegic, was held in a cell without water, light or toilet facilities. In July 1992, after he had served 19 months in jail while his trial progressed, he was found murdered inside the prison where he was being held.
Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia has no penal code, and defaults its law entirely to Sharia and its implementation to religious courts. The case law in Saudi Arabia, and consensus of its jurists is that Islamic law imposes the death penalty on apostates.
Apostasy law is actively enforced in Saudi Arabia. For example, Saudi authorities charged Hamza Kashgari, a Saudi writer, in 2012 with apostasy based on comments he made on Twitter. He fled to Malaysia, where he was arrested and then extradited on request by Saudi Arabia to face charges. Kashgari repented, upon which the courts ordered that he be placed in protective custody. Similarly, two Saudi Sunni Muslim citizens were arrested and charged with apostasy for adopting the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam. As of May 2014, the two accused of apostasy had served two years in prison awaiting trial.
Saudi Arabia school textbooks include chapters with justification for the social exclusion and killing of apostates.
According to the "Online Saudi-arabian Curriculum مناهج السعودية الألكترونية",[23 taught at schools, we read under the title "Judgements on Apostates أحكام المرتدين" the following (in Arabic):
"An Apostate will be suppressed three days in prison in order that he may repent ..... otherwise, he should be killed, because he has changed his true religion, therefore, there is no use from his living, regardless of being a man or a woman, as Mohammed said: "Whoever changes his religion, kill him", narrated by Al-Bukhari and Muslim."