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Paper Review: Blasphemy Bill Under Microscope
October 6, 2012 00:36

Amid the craze over The Innocence of Muslims and the Pussy Riot pranks, Russia is mulling a new bill to make blasphemy a criminal offence with up to up years in jail and a penalty between 100,000 and 200,000 roubles. Currently, it is classified as an administrative offence punishable by a fine of up to 1,000 roubles.
The international press has picked up the story and presents its readers with the rationale behind the draft, possible reasons for its introduction and long-term consequences. You can read it in the Huffington Post, the Atlantic, the Washington Times and others.
The Guardian gives an impressive insight into the history of close ties between the Orthodox Church and the authorities. It says that Russia's leaders did not only control the church but also exploited it “for political gain”.
The British daily reminds its readers on how “Boris Yeltsin bowed in mosques, sang in synagogues and struggled to keep upright during mass but, much like the women of Pussy Riot, he did not cross himself correctly, nor did he demonstrate a particular desire to promote the Orthodox cause.”
The Guardian questions the credibility of the Orthodox Church to tell people what’s right or wrong because its hands are not entirely clean.
"Orthodox priests sprinkled holy water on nuclear warheads and blessed military factories, navy vessels and army aeroplanes while mugging for cameras.”
The atheist Freethinker magazine, operating since 1881, points out that Russia’s contemporary “religious fervor” will make life intolerable for evangelical Christians.
“Evangelical Christians insult many when they say God had a son.”
The “Protestants are left out in the cold” because the new bill will only protect the four officially recognized regilions in Russia.
According to Reuters, the new legislation could “tighten the bonds” between the authorities and the “resurgent Orthodox Church”.
It also quotes Mark Feigin, a lawyer for the Pussy Riot band members, who said that “criminal punishments for offending religious faith seemed to contradict the constitution, which says Russia is a secular state, and was motivated by a desire to suppress dissent and to protect those in power, not religious believers.”
USA Today ties the move to the worldwide panic response to The Innocence of Muslims, which “has reignited old dilemmas over free speech in Europe”.
The American edition looks skeptical at recent calls for “stricter blasphemy laws, bans on protests and debates over how much free speech to allow”.
“Unlike the United States, free speech is limited in Europe with numerous statutes that ban hate speech, blasphemy, Holocaust denial and even phrases deemed insults to bureaucrats and police officers.”
For more details on the bill under the Russian parliament's consideration, contact Russia-IC.

Author: Mikhail Vesely

Tags: blasphemy law Pussy Riot Innocence of Muslims   

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