Why Is the BBC Asking What Blasphemy Punishment Should Be?

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Shazia Awan on the BBC Asian Network. (Photo: Screenshot from video)

Muslim activist Shazia Awan asked BBC Arabic’s Twitter followers what they thought the appropriate punishment for blasphemy should be. She asked the question in a short video, in reference to the recent crackdown in Pakistan against online blasphemy.

The tweet left Twitter users fuming that blasphemy has no place in 21st century Britain.

Anti-extremist activist and Quilliam co-founder Maajid Nawaz used his radio show on LBC to excoriate the BBC for pandering to Pakistani blasphemy laws.

“Do you see the problem that journalists could even be asking that question?” he asked his listeners, “That assumes, in essence, that there should be a punishment for blasphemy.”

Nawaz sought to draw a distinction between hate speech and blasphemy and said that tech companies are blurring the distinction in their efforts to clamp down on the former.

“Blasphemy, by the way, is the very essence of progress in our history,” he said. “Galileo was a blasphemer, Darwin was a blasphemer, heck every prophet of every major religion was a blasphemer when they first came along. We wouldn’t be where we are today as a modern civilization if it wasn’t for blasphemy.”

Watch Nawaz’ full four minute segment here.


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Elliot Friedland

Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.

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