Ireland's blasphemy laws condemned


Ireland’s blasphemy law is being cited by Islamic states “as justification” for persecuting religious dissidents, according to an exiled Indian campaigner for free speech.

Sanal Edamaruku, who is on a five-day visit to Ireland, is facing charges of blasphemy in his home country after challenging claims that water dripping from a revered statue in Mumbai was a miracle.

Sections of the Catholic Church in India complained last April to the police who sought his arrest under charges that carry a three-year sentence. He has since fled to Finland which has granted him a residency permit.

“World public opinion has to be raised to this issue. I am not so much worried about me; I am worried about the end of these laws,” said Mr Edamaruku, who is founder president of Rationalist International.

He said he was “surprised” by Ireland’s decision two years ago to introduce a law on blasphemy, something the Fianna Fail-led government claimed was necessarily to comply with the constitution. Pakistan and other countries have referred to the statute at the United Nations to support their own blasphemy laws.

Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland, which invited Mr Edamaruku for a series of public meetings, criticised the coalition’s decision to refer the issue to the constitutional convention which meets for the first time on Saturday.

“Both parties (Fine Gael and Labour) say they are committed to getting rid of the law - so the effect is simply to delay it happening.”

Mr Edamaruku, a critic of various religious figures including Mother Theresa and Amma “the hugging saint”, speaks at NUI Galway this evening at 7pm, and Malone Lodge, Belfast tomorrow at 7pm. He then travels to London and Berlin.

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