Charlie Hebdo ‘breaches Irish law’
Ahmed Hasain, Executive Secretary of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Dublin, has warned that his organisation is considering pressing the authorities to bring blasphemy prosecutions against vendors of Charlie Hebdo in Ireland.
In our view, the sale of this magazine is a breach in Irish law. It is blasphemous and it is illegal under the legislation. It’s against the law here in Ireland, that is quite clear.
According to the Guardian, Hasain said that while the centre has not decided whether or not to lodge a complaint to the Irish authorities, individuals or groups have the right under Irish law to use the legislation to prosecute those distributing the magazine, which has been on sale for more than a week.
He described the law introduced by the former Fianna Fáil justice minister, Dermot Ahern, as very helpful.
It’s good that the law is in place as it protects every faith.
A lot less enthusiastic about the law is Atheist Ireland, which is to meet the Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, in Dublin tomorrow, to urge the taoiseach to hold a referendum on abolishing the law before the general election in 2016.
The Irish Republic is the only nation in Europe to have introduced a blasphemy law in the 21st century. Secular and atheist groups in Ireland have been campaigning for its abolition since it came into being in 2010 – the last year of the Fianna Fáil-Green government.
Michael Nugent, writer and co-founder of Atheist Ireland, agreed with Hasain that technically speaking the sale of around 1,500 copies of the Charlie Hebdo edition in the state had breached the blasphemy law.
The Charlie Hebdo cartoons seem to meet the first test of the Irish law, that is that it is ‘grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion’. The next test in the law is ‘thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion’.
So if anyone wants to try to have a prosecution brought, [cases must be brought by the state ] what they would have to do is demonstrate that outrage has been caused. But it would be irresponsible to encourage or show outrage at a time like this. People who are offended should respond more proportionately than by showing outrage. That is a major flaw in the Irish law – it encourages outrage.
Ahead of its meeting with the taoiseach, Atheist Ireland announced a new international campaign against blasphemy laws. The organisation has joined forces with secular groups from Britain, Canada, Iceland, the US and New Zealand. They are organising an online global petition against laws which they say:
Legitimise mob violence, vigilantism, and persecution of minorities.
Prof Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion, has advised Atheist Ireland to keep up the pressure in the republic to repeal the law. He told the organisation:
Of course you are right that the major damage done by this legislation is the international one. I wouldn’t expect any harsh verdicts being handed down in Ireland, but those countries that continue to have an intimidating anti-blasphemy practice like to quote European countries to unmask Western hypocrisy.
Blasphemy in Ireland is a crime punishable with a fine of up to €25,000 (£19,000).
Meanwhile, in the UK, Guardian reader Anne Keat of Wiltshire, reported sinister police activity in reaction to the sale of the satirical magazine in the county:
Your offer of commemorative badges in support of journalistic freedom highlighting ‘Je suis Charlie’, prompts me to suggest a degree of caution following my experience.
Tongue in cheek, I asked my helpful newsagents to obtain a copy of the edition of Charlie Hebdo issued after the dreadful massacre in Paris, if indeed a copy was ever available in north Wiltshire.
To my surprise, a copy arrived last Wednesday week and although the standard of content in no way matches that of the Guardian I will cherish it. However, two days later a member of Her Majesty’s police service visited said newsagent, requesting the names of the four customers who had purchased Charlie Hebdo. So beware, your badges may attract police interest in your customers.
Hat tip: Antony Niall (Wiltshire police report).