Insult to Religion is Secondary Crime in Europe; Islam not Considered
Although the insult to religion issue is not explicitly mentioned in the European laws for secular and religious affairs, which are separate from each other, it is considered as an “ethical crime” in many European countries.
These legal arrangements, which do not foresee any severe punishments for the perpetrators, are not implemented in everyday life most of the time.
There have been virtually no rulings regarding this law in many European countries. Since the laws on insult to religion in Europe take Christianity as the basis, Muslims have not been successful about the issues affecting them so far. For example, when Salman Rushdie published “Satanic Verses,” Muslim groups demanded that Islam be included in the scope of laws relating to insult to religion; however, their demands were not accepted.
French Muslims also received a negative response to the legal case they initiated in response to the reprinting of the blasphemous cartoons.
The general consideration in Europe is that insult to religion is a sin, and therefore, it cannot be considered off-limits for “non-believers”. Despite this, many European countries banned any acts, which seriously insult religion and instigate religious hatred. Yet, the definitions of these crimes were not mentioned explicitly and all of them were made with Christianity in mind.
The only exception about “media and insult to religion” is Greece, where religious and state affairs are not separate. In the Greek law, an article relating to “insult to religion in media” exists. The article explicitly reads that insult to religious values by the media is forbidden.
Austria also considers insult to religion as a crime; however, the country has never practiced it.
In Germany, those who insult “religious congregations or groups who explicitly declare their world view” can be sentenced to up to three years imprisonment.
In Portugal, “corroding the social order” is stipulated as a crime.
Those “offending religious sensitivities” in Spain are ordered to pay a fine, instead of being imprisoned as punishment.
Along with insult to religion, to instigate hatred among religions is also a crime in Italy.
The UK has recently taken the issue within the scope of crimes instigating hatred based on religion. Yet, criticism about religion or acts humiliating religions and beliefs are not considered crime. Moreover, Muslims are not taken in the scope of these laws, while Sikhs and Jews are.
Double obstacle for Danish Muslims
There are articles in the Danish criminal code for punishing “whoever explicitly insults or humiliates any religions officially recognized’ in the country”. Yet, since Islam is not considered “one of the accepted religions”, no legal procedures can be instigated. In addition, the insulting cartoons do not enter into the scope of this law, because it “conflicts” with freedom of thought, and insult to religion is defeated by the freedom of expression!
In the Netherlands, it should be “systematic and heavily provocative” to punish insults to religion.
In Belgium, there are no legal arrangements, which consider insult to religion a crime and punish it. The freedom of press is considered as a basic and “infinite” right in Belgium except in three cases: “Libel and defamation, racism and denial of the Jewish holocaust, along with publications which corrupt the social order”.