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Blasphemy ( old Greek βλασφημία - blasphēmía - 'damage to reputation', composed of βλάπτειν - bláptein - 'bring harm', 'disadvantage' and ἡ φήμη - phếmê - 'the customer', 'the reputation') denotes the mocking or curse of certain beliefs a religion or an ideological creed. A public, scandalous abuse of God is called blasphemy (cf. Middle Latin blasphemizare : 'blaspheme God').

Cover picture of the third edition of the tragedy Das Liebeskonzil , published in 1897 , on the basis of which its author Oskar Panizza was sentenced to one year imprisonment for blasphemy in 1895.


According to Section 48 of the 2011 opinion of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, a panel of eighteen independent experts tasked with assessing complaints regarding the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights , “are bans on depictions of disrespect for a religion or other belief systems, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the contract, except in the specific circumstances as foreseen in Art. 20, paragraph 2 of the contract. "

Article 20 (2) calls on states to prohibit the following:

"The advocacy of national, racist or religious hatred that incites discrimination, hostility or violence."

The Commentary carefully demands that no restriction should violate the guarantees of the agreement on equality before the law (Art. 26) and freedom of thought , conscience and religion (Art. 18).

However, this human right is violated in many countries. So true blasphemy in many religions as a serious infringement. The western countries are shaped by the age of the Enlightenment and protect explicitly (mostly in a constitution) the religious freedom , freedom of opinion and freedom of speech of their citizens, as long as they do not violate the rights of third parties. For this reason, blasphemy is seldom raised in Western countries; Nevertheless, there are occasional convictions for blasphemy.


In many states with a state religion, blasphemy is a criminal offense . In some of these states she can be punished with the death penalty , e.g. B. in Saudi Arabia , the Islamic Republic of Pakistan , the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran . Whether and to what extent certain actions or statements count as “blasphemy” depends on the legally valid criteria for their determination and the importance of religious traditions and value orientations in a society. These can change significantly within the history of a religion.

Certain fundamentalist religious groups also see things as blasphemy that are protected in Europe by freedom of religion , freedom of expression and freedom of speech ; for example:

  • belief in gods of other religions
  • atheism
  • general disbelief
  • Swearing , especially those with a religious reference (examples: "goddamn", "holy shit")
  • Mockery of religious symbols, such as the cross
  • a mockery of beliefs, for example through films like Dogma , Popetown and the like. Ä. Satires or cynical comedies

Christians in Islamic countries were and are often accused of blasphemy; The media and human rights organizations repeatedly report on the persecution of Christians on this occasion or pretext.


In the Tanakh , the Hebrew Bible of Judaism , the blasphemy of YHWH is a serious breach of the second (according to another counting the third) of the Ten Commandments . This prohibits the misuse of the name of God YHWH ( Ex 20.7  EU ):

“You shall not abuse the name of the Lord your God; for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who misuses his name. "

This follows directly from the 1st commandment Ex 20.2ff  EU : I am YHWH, your God. With this the liberator of Israel promises his chosen people his presence of salvation and at the same time claims exclusive veneration in Israel. This is the guiding principle for the entire Torah , so that the fact of blasphemy is not justified every time. It becomes clear through the Jewish creed Shma Yisrael .

In a case, which is described in Lev 24,10-23  EU , it says accordingly:

“Whoever reviles the name of the Lord is punished with death; let the whole church stone him. The stranger, like the native, must be killed if he reviles the name of God. "

- Lev 24.16  EU

According to the context, what is meant is the direct curse of the Name of God by a non-Israelite living in Israel. This indicates the possibility that foreigners induce the Israelites to worship foreign gods and thus threaten the existence of the people of God. This does not make the belief in other gods per se, but their public propagation in Israel against YHWH punishable. In this case the non- Israelite was stoned to death by the Israelites at the command of God, transmitted through Moses ( Lev 24:23  EU ).

In Ex 22.27  EU it says in the context of the compilation of commandments in the Book of Exodus (Ex 20-24):

"You should not make God contemptible or curse the prince of your people."

This puts cursing God and the authorities of Israel on an equal footing. The worship of foreign gods, seduction into idolatry and rejection of the leaders appointed to practice and maintain the YHWH cult were similar offenses in biblical Israel. It was not just about protecting a monotheistic theocracy , but about the freedom of all Israelites freed from slavery. From a biblical point of view, this was threatened by the takeover of gods, who mostly ensured slavery and god-kingship in Israel's environment.

In Lev 19.12  EU the abuse of the name of God is related to perjury :

“You should not swear falsely by my name; otherwise you would profane the name of your god. I am the Lord. "

This is about the use of God's name for certain selfish purposes. Israel's God can therefore be blasphemed precisely by invoking and apparently affirming his power.

In 1 Kings 21,10  EU it is described how Jezebel , the wife of King Ahab , abused the prohibition of blasphemy anchored in the Torah to steal his inherited land from an Israelite farmer. According to a prophetic court announcement, this results in the death of the entire royal family.

“But put two worthless men across from him! They should stand as witnesses against him and say: You have blasphemed God and the King. Then lead him out and stone him to death! "

The prototype of the foreign blasphemer who attacks God directly is for the biblical apocalyptic the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV. Epiphanes . This tried around 170 BC To exterminate the Jewish religion in the course of the Hellenization of his empire. In the book of Daniel he is characterized as "mouth that spoke presumptuously" ( Dan 7,8  EU ) ( Dan 11,36  EU ):

“The king does what he wants. He becomes cocky and brags to all gods, even to the highest god he makes incredible speeches. He succeeds in doing so until the anger (of God) is over. Because what has been decided must be carried out. "

What the monstrosity consisted of is not stated; the precise quotation of blasphemy is avoided. In the opinion of the author, however, it was a mockery of God. This could also happen indirectly through the abolition of the Torah, the prohibition of Jewish festivals or the desecration of temples by foreign images of gods ( Dan 9.27  EU ; Dan 11.31  EU ). These religious offenses were considered idolatry in Israel (cults of foreign gods in Israel), which were particularly closely related to the subject of blasphemy in the book of Deuteronomy .

New Testament

In the New Testament , Jesus Christ reaffirms the prohibition against misusing the name of God by forbidding not only perjury but all oaths :

“You have heard that it was said to the ancients: You shall not swear perjury, and: You shall keep what you have sworn to the Lord. But I say to you: Do not swear at all, neither by heaven, for it is God's throne, nor by the earth, for it is the stool for his feet, nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king. Nor should you swear by your head; 'Cause you can't make a single hair white or black Your yes is a yes, your no is a no; everything else comes from evil. "

- ( Matthew 5,33-37  EU )

Nevertheless, even according to the Passion Report of the Gospel of Mark , Jesus was viewed by the Sanhedrin as a blasphemer, after he had affirmed the Messiah question of Kajaphas and supplemented it with the announcement of the Son of Man ( Mk 14.63f  EU ):

“Then the high priest tore his robe and shouted: Why do we still need witnesses? You heard the blasphemy. What is your opinion? And they unanimously passed the verdict: He is guilty and must die. "

What was Jesus' blasphemy is historically controversial. Mostly it is seen in the self-deification that the accuser heard from Jesus' announcement of the Son of Man. This interpretation is also represented by the Gospel according to John ( Joh 19.7  EU ):

"The Jews replied to him: We have a law, and according to this law he must die because he has passed himself off as the Son of God ."


Blasphemy Trial 1912

Theodor Fritsch had been one of the most journalistic anti-Semites in the German Empire since 1880 . He had already published numerous inflammatory pamphlets, including the anti-Semitic catechism, which had been distributed in 49 editions until 1945 , when he published the following motto in the Hammer magazine on May 15, 1910 :

" I do not believe that the Hebrews will abandon their Judaism and become Germans until they burn their Talmudic writings and tear down their synagogues - as a sign that they are no longer inclined to worship Yahweh, the spirit of wickedness and lies."

Thereupon the Central Association of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith , founded in 1893 , which was also responsible for the legal protection of Judaism in Germany, showed Fritsch insulting a religious community endowed with corporate rights (Section 166 of the Reich Penal Code ) and endangering the public peace by inciting acts of violence (Section 130) before the Royal District Court in Leipzig. Fritsch was sentenced to one week in prison on November 18, 1910 for violating the religious sentiments of the Jewish community; A second trial for Talmudic baiting led to the same result , in which he received ten days in prison on May 19, 1911.

Blasphemy charges

  • Artists of the group SPUR were charged with blasphemy in the Federal Republic of Germany in the 1960s and convicted in the first instance for the dissemination of indecent writings, abuse of religion and blasphemy according to § 166 StGB ( abuse of denominations, religious societies and ideological associations ).
  • In 1994, the performance of the "rock comical" Das Maria-Syndrom by Michael Schmidt-Salomon was prohibited by an administrative order from the City of Trier due to imminent danger.
  • The exhibition of the installation of the work Pasja (“Passion”) by Dorota Nieznalska was banned in Gdansk in 1994 because of a violation of Section 196 of the Polish Criminal Code.

Mohammed cartoons


An example of a controversy over blasphemy was the 2005 caricatures of Mohammed , which many Muslims perceived as blasphemous . On October 27, 2005, eleven representatives of Danish Islamic organizations filed a criminal complaint against the newspaper Jyllands-Posten on the basis of Section 140 of the blasphemy paragraph in the Danish Criminal Code .

On January 6, 2006, the public prosecutor in Viborg closed the case on the grounds that there was no evidence of a criminal offense under Danish law. This decision was confirmed on March 15, 2006 by the Director of the Danish Public Prosecutor's Office and explained in detail with reference to the cartoons.

The Danish Parliament abolished Section 140 of the Criminal Code, which had existed since 1866, and with it the prosecution for blasphemy on June 2, 2017.

In Khartoum (capital of Sudan ) on September 14, 2012, after the Friday prayers, the German embassy in "53 Baladia Street" was stormed, set on fire and partially destroyed. Then the British embassy was damaged and the US embassy was stormed. According to Spiegel Online and news agencies, this action was not spontaneous, but planned, apparently because of anti-Islam demos of rights in Germany.

The mob also took action against the neighboring British embassy. Then thousands of demonstrators moved towards the outskirts of the US embassy or drove there in buses. Despite the use of tear gas, the police were unable to hold the US embassy.

Blasphemy law in Pakistan

Pakistan , the 1956, the first Islamic Republic proclaimed the world has about 156 million inhabitants ; 96 percent of them are Muslim, 2.3 percent Christian and 1.5 percent Hindu. The situation in the country is shaped by a very strong population growth (see here ).

For years it has been criticized that the blasphemy laws in Pakistan are abused to take action against people of different faiths and above all to resolve personal disputes. In many cases a mere suspicion of blasphemy is sufficient. The blasphemy law is enshrined in the Pakistani Criminal Code and comprises four paragraphs. In principle, the law introduced in 1986 forbids insulting any religion. The most severe punishments are intended for desecrating the Koran (Section 295-B, life imprisonment) and insulting the name of Muhammad (295-C, death penalty). Although no death sentence has yet been carried out in Pakistan, several defendants were lynched by a mob after their release . Most of the charges were brought against Ahmadis ; around 13 percent of the accused were Christians.

  • On May 30, 2007, a Christian was sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy.
  • At the end of March 2010, police arrested Rubina Bibi, a Christian, in Pakistan's Punjab province . She is said to have "insulted" the Prophet Mohammed. When asked, the Alipur police denied the arrest and tried to keep it secret from human rights organizations.
  • The Christian Asia Bibi was sentenced to death by a court on November 8, 2010 as the first woman in the country's history for alleged blasphemy .
Pope Benedict XVI In 2011, at its traditional New Year's reception for diplomats at the Holy See, called on the Pakistani government to repeal the law, "all the more so since it is obviously used as a pretext to provoke injustice and violence against religious minorities". A day later, the general secretary of the Pakistani party Jamaat-e-Islami , Liaquat Baloch, spoke of "interference in internal and religious matters". According to APP, the Pakistani state news agency, he qualified the Pope's statement as a template "to plunge the whole world into a bloody war".
In 2011, one after the other, Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti , two high-ranking Pakistani politicians who spoke out in favor of Asia Bibi and for reforming the blasphemy law, were shot dead in the street.
On January 9, 2011, over 40,000 people demonstrated in Pakistan to uphold the controversial blasphemy law. Der Spiegel then summed up: “In Pakistan, extremists increasingly determine politics. [...] The fanatics have long since won. "
  • In the summer of 2012, a blasphemy case held Pakistan in suspense for weeks: a young Christian named Rimsha Masih, who had been accused of blasphemy, was placed in custody. She was under 18 and was considered to be mentally retarded. She was released from prison on bail in September. The trigger for this was the arrest of an imam who was suspected of having falsified evidence against the girl. Previously, over 1 million people from many countries had signed a petition online by calling on Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari to campaign for the girl's release. On October 1, 2012, the “Supreme Court” did not abandon the blasphemy proceedings, although the police had previously exonerated the girl.
  • In April 2014, the Christian couple Shagufta Kausar and her husband Shafqat Emmanuel from Gojra , Punjab, were sentenced to death after they allegedly exchanged text messages critical of Mohammed. After six years in prison, the Lahore High Court was awaiting a verdict on appeal.
  • In 2019, Pakistan was ranked 5th on the world tracking index published by Open Doors . a. the country's blasphemy laws contributed significantly. In 2019, a court sentenced the university professor Junaid Hafeez, who teaches in Multan , to death for statements about the Prophet Mohammed and the Koran, which he made in 2013 on social networks, among other things. The trial, which has dragged on since 2014, received a lot of attention from the Pakistani public due to the murder of Hafeez's defense attorney.

Pope cartoons from the satirical magazine Titanic

In connection with Pope caricatures in the satire magazine Titanic , Thomas Goppel (* 1947, CSU politician and Member of the Bavarian State Parliament) expressed sharp criticism of "Titanic" editor-in-chief Leo Fischer in July 2012 . Goppel was quoted as saying that he would personally “revoke the license to write” from journalists like Fischer, as he was not worthy of the office of editor-in-chief. As a result, Goppel supported Archbishop Ludwig Schick's demand that blasphemy be made punishable in future. Schick had said that although Section 166 of the Criminal Code did exist, it had been completely forgotten and was hardly ever applied. No mockery and scorn should be allowed against “holy persons, holy scriptures, worship services and prayers as well as holy objects and implements of all religions”. Goppel supported the suggestion with the words "If you don't like your decency, you need a law".

For the cover picture and the last page of the July 2012 edition, the legal representative of Pope Benedict XVI requested a declaration of cease and desist. The magazine had under the title Hallelujah in the Vatican - The leak has been found! Indiscretions in the Vatican (see " Vatileaks ") picked up and two edited photos of the Pope were printed. The cover photo shows the Pope from the front in a cassock that is stained with yellow liquid from waist level down. The second photo - on the back of the magazine - shows him from behind, with the buttocks area stained brown. The Hamburg Regional Court then issued an injunction against Titanic to refrain from further disseminating the images. The majority of the kiosk edition had already been sold by this time. The Titanic announced an appeal. On August 30, the Holy See withdrew its application for an injunction against the paper.

"Titanic" is considered a magazine that has often "tested" the limits of satire. The Roman Catholic church had already before 2012 at least four times for denigrating the pope and three times because of religious defamation complained once felt the former Bishop of Fulda , Johannes Dyba , offended.

Constitutional decisions

In a referendum held in the Republic of Ireland in 2018 at the same time as the presidential election , the Irish voted with 64.85% to remove the blasphemy clause from the Irish constitution. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charles Flanagan , welcomed the decision as timely. In addition to amending Article 40.6.1 of the Constitution, Sections 36 and 37 of the Defamation Act 2009 are deleted.

Reception in art

The 1979 film The Life of Brian is about blasphemy. The satire aims at the dogmatism of religious and political groups. Christian and Jewish associations protested sharply against the publication. Performance boycotts or performance bans in countries such as the USA , Great Britain or Norway gave rise to debates about freedom of expression and blasphemy.

The Cheeky Mario Prize has been awarded since 2008 for blasphemy works of art in various genres (including cartoons, sculptures, texts, cabaret contributions, pieces of music, short films). It aims to abolish Section 166 of the Criminal Code ( insulting denominations, religious societies and ideological associations ).

See also


  • Arnold Angenendt , Michael Pawlik, Andreas von Arnauld de la Perrière: Religious abuse . The legal protection of the saint. Published by Josef Isensee . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2007, ISBN 3-428-12491-X , ( Scientific treatises and speeches on philosophy, politics and intellectual history. 42).
  • Wolfgang Hütt (Ed.): Background. With the indecency and blasphemy paragraphs of the penal code against art and artists 1900–1933. Henschelverlag, Berlin (East) 1990, ISBN 3-362-00384-2 .
  • Steen T. Kittl , Christian Saehrendt : Vultures at van Gogh's grave and other ugly stories from the world of fine arts. DuMont, Cologne 2010, ISBN 978-3-8321-9093-4 (including on blasphemy in art).
  • Klaus Petersen: Literature and Justice in the Weimar Republic. Metzler, Stuttgart 1988, ISBN 3-476-00644-1 .
  • Jacques de Saint-Victor: Blasphemy. Story of an "imaginary crime". Hamburger Edition, Hamburg 2017, ISBN 978-3-86854-308-7 .
  • Gerd Schwerhoff: Blasphemy in Christianity: Holy target of ridicule. In: THEN. The magazine for history and culture. 38, 2006, 11, ISSN  0011-5908 , pp. 70-75.
  • Gerd Schwerhoff : Tongues like swords. Blasphemy in old European societies 1200–1650. UVK-Verlags-Gesellschaft, Konstanz 2005, ISBN 3-89669-716-1 , ( Conflicts and Culture  12).

Web links

Wiktionary: Blasphemy  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Blasphemy  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Konrad Goehl , Johannes Gottfried Mayer , Kurt Hans Staub: What to do when the plague comes: blaspheme gods or burn Jews? In: Editions and studies on Latin and German specialist prose from the Middle Ages. Festival ceremony for Gundolf Keil. Königshausen and Neumann, Würzburg 2000. ISBN 3-8260-1851-6 , pp. 127–166; here: p. 128.
  4. by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.
  5. ^ Constitution of Ireland . (English: Wikisource).
  6. Carten Volkery: Ireland: Incredulous amazement at law against blasphemy. Spiegel Online from July 16, 2009
  7. Bundestag printed paper 16/3608 (application) of November 29, 2006 (pdf; 175 kB) ; Christianity most persecuted religion worldwide (December 22, 2008)
  8. Christian Wiese: Yahweh - a God only for Jews? P. 30.
  9. ( Page no longer available , search in web archives: The explanation in Danish )@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /
  10. Reinhard Wolff: Denmark's public prosecutors no longer investigate the Mohammed cartoons criticized as blasphemy. In: taz , January 9, 2006.
  11. Press release of the "Director of Public Prosecution" on the website of the "Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark" March 15, 2006 ( Memento from September 30, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) ( MS Word ; 33 kB), detailed explanation of the "Director of Public Prosecution "on the website of the" Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark ", March 15, 2006 ( Memento from March 20, 2006 in the Internet Archive )
  12. ^ "Blasphemy": Denmark abolishes blasphemy law. In: . June 2, 2017. Retrieved June 2, 2017 .
  13. Sudan: Assault on the German embassy was a targeted attack . In: Der Spiegel , September 14, 2012.
  14. Sudan: The attack on the German embassy was controlled . In: Die Zeit , September 14, 2012.
  15. ^ Minister for Religious Minorities murdered Frankfurter Rundschau on March 2, 2011
  16. International Society for Human Rights (ISHR): Pakistan: Abolish blasphemy law! ( Memento from August 3, 2012 in the web archive )
  17. Blasphemy law divides people into two classes
  18. in Nankana , other sources speak of Sheikhupura as the seat of the court, e.g. (November 8, 2010) and Spiegel Online (November 11, 2010), accessed on November 12, 2010.
  19. ^ Pakistani Christian woman appeals over death sentence , accessed November 12, 2010.
  20. a b Pakistan rejects criticism by the Pope of January 11, 2011
  21. 40,000 Pakistanis for blasphemy law , of January 9, 2011
  22. Pakistan's leadership bows to the fanatics January 13, 2011
  23. September 9, 2011: Young Christian is released on bail
  24. , Pakistan blasphemy case Christian girl 'is 14' (BBC) , Pakistani Muslim leaders support Christian girl accused of blasphemy (Guardian) , Pakistani Christians, fearing backlash, flee community after girl is accused of blasphemy ( Washington Post) , Pakistani president wades into 'Down's Syndrome' blasphemy case (Christian Science Monitor)
  25. Pakistan is dragging off blasphemy proceedings
  26. Pakistani couple get death sentences for blasphemy. BBC News, April 5, 2014, accessed April 5, 2014 .
  27. Secunder Kermani: Pakistan 'blasphemy' death row couple's plea for freedom. BBC News, June 2, 2020, accessed June 2, 2020 .
  28. Country profile Pakistan. Open Doors, accessed February 3, 2019 .
  29. Asam Hashim: Pakistani academic Junaid Hafeez sentenced to death for blasphemy . Announcement from Al Jazeera English dated December 21, 2019; last accessed on December 22, 2019
  30. ^ "Titanic" complies with the will of the Pope . In: Handelsblatt , July 10, 2012. Retrieved July 12, 2012.
  31. Mia san Pope . In: , July 12, 2012. Accessed July 12, 2012.
  32. a b Debate on the blasphemy ban Blasphemy prohibited, August 2, 2012 , accessed on August 2, 2012.
  33. Archbishop calls for stricter blasphemy ban, August 2, 2012 , accessed on August 2, 2012.
  34. Pope demands a declaration of cease and desist from "Titanic" . In Sächsische Zeitung , July 10, 2012.
  35. ^ Pope obtains an injunction against satirical magazine , Deutsche Welle, July 10, 2012
  36. Titanic defends itself against the ban on Pope cover picture . In: Zeit Online . July 11, 2012.
  37. "We will pull up to the Day of Judgment" , BBC News , 11 July 2012
  38. process on Friday turns out , August 30, 2012
  39. Vatican withdraws preliminary injunction
  40. Michael D Higgins re-elected as Irish president for second term , BBC October 28, 2018, accessed October 28, 2018.