In Belgium, hate speech law converges with blasphemy law

Anti-religious, xenophobic, and “Islamophobic” speech has already drawn prosecution in a number of cases and some in the European country wish to push the trend further [Dr. Jogchum Vrielink, University of Leuven, via Volokh]:

On the political level too some are attempting to increase the legal sensitivity for ‘Islamophobia’. Senators Fauzaya Talhaoui and Bert Anciaux, for instance, introduced a draft resolution on 21 February 2013, aimed at the ‘the fight against Islamophobia’. Following the definition offered by the Runnymede Trust, the Senators understand ‘Islamophobia’ to entail the ‘strong presence’ of any of eight elements, including: ‘Islam as monolithic and static’; ‘Islam as inferior to the West and as barbaric, irrational and sexist’; and ‘Islam as violent, providing support to terrorism, and actively involved in a clash of civilisations’. Such ‘Islamophobic’ ideas, Talhaoui and Anciaux contend, “incite to discrimination and racism, and require unequivocal condemnation and judicial prosecution”. They argue that the police and that the office of the public prosecutor should be instructed to treat the issue as an absolute priority.

The Runnymede Trust, incidentally, “is the UK’s leading independent race equality think tank. We generate intelligence for a multi-ethnic Britain through research, network building, leading debate, and policy engagement.”

Meanwhile, in blasphemy prosecutions elsewhere, a court in Turkey has convicted composer and pianist Fazil Say of committing blasphemy on Twitter [Guardian] And Islamists are inciting prosecution and worse for atheist bloggers in Bangladesh [Volokh, Christian Post]


  • Would it be “Islamophobic” in Belgium to point out that Belgian politicians who seek support from Muslim voting blocs are hostile to the core Western value of free speech?

  • >
    >Eugene Volokh • April 25, 2013 12:06 am
    >Dr. Jogchum Vrielink (coordinator of the Centre for Discrimination Law at the University of Leuven, Belgium) passes this along:
    >>In Belgium a man was convicted for ‘racist hate speech’ because he publicly tore up a Koran, before the eyes of a group of Muslims. The case illustrates the need to protect free speech against those seeking to criminalise ‘Islamophobia’

    I have never been much of a fan of “symbolic speech” (eg. flag burning), but have misgivings about criminal prosecution here. On the other hand, if the Koran destroyer were a student stirring up trouble at a college, I would support the administration kicking him out, and not readmitting him until he showed a willingness to meet norms of civility.

  • It would also probably be “Islamophobic” to report on those charges of blasphemy and atheism without gushing approvingly of the prosecutions and denouncing the blasphemers.

  • […] In Belgium, hate speech law converges with blasphemy law […]