May 7th, 2017

Last week, in my continuing coverage of the barbaric lashing and imprisonment of blogger Raif Badawi, I posted an update from The New Arab: Saudi Arabia sentences man to death for ‘insulting religion.` The story tells us that:

A court in eastern city of Hafar al-Batin handed down the sentence to Ahmad al-Shamri last week, two years after he was arrested for apostasy.

Shamri, who is in his twenties, was reportedly sentenced to death in February 2015 for posting videos on Kik Messenger of himself “insulting God, the Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet’s daughter Fatima, ripping up the Quran and hitting it with a shoe”.

Shamri perpetrated his crime against gawd at about the same time that Stephen Fry gave the interview with Gay Byrne for RTÉ One’s The Meaning of Life excerpted above.

Now, more than two years later Shamri has lost his second appeal and Fry is being brought up on blasphemy charges, not in Saudi Arabia, where we shrug off such medieval bullshit because the House of Saud is our valued ally and, well, you know, Islam, but in Ireland.

Pádraig Collins, reporting in Stephen Fry investigated by Irish police for alleged blasphemy for The Guardian, writes:

Police in Ireland are investigating a complaint of blasphemy regarding comments made by Stephen Fry on a television programme shown on Ireland’s state broadcaster, RTÉ.

Gardaí (police) in Dublin have contacted the man who reported the allegation following a broadcast in February 2015, and a full investigation is due to be carried out, the Irish Independent reported.

Under Ireland’s Defamation Act 2009 a person who publishes or utters blasphemous material “shall be guilty of an offence”. A conviction can lead to a fine of up to €25,000.

That this is not some archaic ecclesiastical edict dating from the last millennium, but a secular law only on the books for less than six years makes the charge all the more horrendous. Collins continues:

A member of the public, who asked not to be identified, said he made the complaint against Fry more than two years ago at Ennis garda station in County Clare.“I told the Garda I wanted to report Fry for uttering blasphemy and RTÉ for publishing/broadcasting it and that I believed these were criminal offences under the Defamation Act 2009.

“The garda then took a formal written statement from me in which I quoted Fry’s comments in detail. This written statement mentioned both Fry and RTÉ specifically.”

He said he was asked by the garda if he had been personally offended by the programme and if he wished to include this in the written statement.

“I told the garda that I did not want to include this as I had not personally been offended by Fry’s comments – I added that I simply believed that the comments made by Fry on RTÉ were criminal blasphemy and that I was doing my civic duty by reporting a crime.”

After hearing nothing for 18 months, the complainant wrote to the head of the Irish police, Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan, “asking if the crime I reported was being followed up. A few weeks later I got a standard ‘we have received your letter’ from her secretary.”

But recently the man was contacted by a detective from Donnybrook garda station in Dublin (the same suburb where RTÉ is headquartered) to say they were looking into the blasphemy claim. “He said he might have to meet me to take a new more detailed statement.”

The No. 1 comment on Collins’ story (with 684 likes) comes from Iliaska who wrote:

In the 21st century, could we just prosecute whoever attempts to prosecute someone for “blasphemy?” This very notion has to go.

Hear, hear!


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