When is Blasphemy Punishable?

Blasphemy is the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for a religious deity, irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things, or toward something considered sacred or inviolable. The word “blasphemy” came from the Middle English blasfemen , Old French blasfemer, Late Latin blasphemare, and from the Greek βλασφημέω, from βλάπτω , which is to “injure” and φήμη, which means “utterance, talk, speech”.

In some countries blasphemy is a punishable crime. For example, in countries where Islam is the major religion, most Islamic jurists consider blasphemy as an evidence of apostasy, and therefore conclude it is punishable with death. Aposasty is the “act of abandoning Islam, or finding faults or expressing doubts about Allah (ta’til) and Qur’an, rejection of Muhammad or any of his teachings, or leaving the Muslim community to become an atheist is a form of blasphemy.”

Islamic law also considers blasphemy against the Prophet a more severe offense than blasphemy against God. Repentance can lead to forgiveness by God when God is blasphemed, however since the Prophet is no longer alive, forgiveness is not possible when the Prophet is blasphemed, and the Muslim community must punish his blasphemy by avenging blasphemer’s death.

The term blasphemy can also be used in a non-religious context when irreverence is shown for something that may be considered “sacred”, “special”.