No need for blasphemy law, IPC addresses hate speech, says a Muslims' body

Citing examples of Pakistan & Bangladesh, IMSD says blasphemy laws promote fanaticism; stresses that as equal citizens of India Muslims can invoke Section 295(A) IPC against hate speech

Representative photo
Representative photo

NH Web Desk

The Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy (IMSD), a body of progressive and liberal Muslims founded in 2016, has opposed the demand raised by All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and a few other organisations for blasphemy law.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board has demanded the enactment of an anti-blasphemy law to punish those who show disrespect to Prophet Mohammad and urged the government not to attempt imposing the Uniform Civil Code, directly or indirectly.

The Muslim body also sought “curbs against communal and hostile posts on social media and legal action against miscreants”. The demands were part of a resolution adopted at the two-day convention attended by around 200 AIMPLB members in Kanpur on November 21.

IMSD stated that Muslims demanding such a law should instead take recourse of the already existing law against hate speech in our country. Section 295 (A) of the Indian Penal Code states: “Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of (citizens of India), (by words, either spoken or written or by signs or by visible representation or otherwise) insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to (three years) or fine or with both”.

IMSD stressed that as equal citizens of India Muslims have the right to invoke Section 295(A) against every attempt to target the community with hate speech and demand strict enforcement of the existing law.

"But the demand for a special law to punish blasphemy must be opposed for more than one reason. Among other things, the experience of neighbouring countries shows that such a law promotes fanaticism and seeks to silence even rational critical commentaries on religion," it said.

Activist Javed Anand is the convenor of IMSD that introduces itself as "progressive and liberal voices of the Indian Muslim community".

“The AIMPLB cannot be unaware of the notorious blasphemy law in neighbouring Pakistan which is frequently misused to hound individuals from religious minorities and even fellow Muslims with sectarian and personal motives,” underscored IMSD in its statement.

It pointed out that Bangladesh, which started off as a secular state at its birth in 1971 but adopted Islam as a state religion in 1988, does not have a law against blasphemy "but often misuses the same secular penal code of the British period – section 295(A) – to silence all critical comments on Islam in the name of blasphemy”.

IMSD condemned the constant attempts by certain hate factories of Hindutva which were working overtime to demonise Islam and Muslims.

However, IMSD maintained that it fully supported the principle that in a secular state there can be no place for a law criminalising blasphemy.

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