A draft bill to criminalize offenses against ‘sacred values’ was submitted to parliament this week [Wednesday 8 August 2012] by Tunisia’s ruling Islamist party Ennahda.
Human rights defenders warn if passed it would threaten freedom of expression and may worsen an already difficult situation for Tunisia’s gay community.
If passed, the new law would effectively punish remarks and words broadly deemed as insult or mocking the ‘sanctity of religion’ by large fines and imprisonment.
If this draft law is passed it will introduce a new and another form of censorship in a country that already suffers from so much censorship as it is.
This is extreme bill even by most Islamic states standards. It is additionally worrying in the fact that if it was ever to be passed, other Islamic states would follow suit and use Tunisia as a president and by example to establish their own similar laws.
The introduction of this bill also violates International Human Rights law, which generally prohibits criminalising the defamation of religion.
The bill lists subjects it deems sacred in the three Abrahamic religions, including God and the Prophet Mohammed, the earlier prophets, the holy books, mosques, churches and synagogues.
Offences to religious feelings include ‘insults, profanity, derision and representation of Allah and Mohammed’.
The bill orders a prison sentence of up to two years or a fine of 2000 dinars in fines (US$ 1,236, €1,006) to anyone convicted of violating sacred values and up to four years for repeat offences.
"If passed, this draft law would introduce a new form of censorship in a country that suffered from so much censorship under the ousted president," Zine El Abidine Ben Ali [HRW deputy regional director Eric Goldstein] said.
One year after protesters ended the repressive rule of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisians are still waiting for their human rights to be guaranteed.
We the people of the world request and demand that International Law is not violated and that religious belief do not supersede those of individuals Human Rights.
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