by Greg Spearritt
Blasphemy has been in the spotlight lately.
Russian protest group Pussy Riot face two years’ jail for a 30-second political performance against Putin in a church. According to an ABC report, the judge in that case noted that the female band members crossed into an area of the church forbidden to women and opined that "The girls' actions were sacrilegious, blasphemous and broke the church's rules."
Now an 11-year-old Pakistani girl with Downs Syndrome has been arrested for blasphemy on the grounds that she was found carrying a bag with burnt pages on which texts from the Koran were inscribed.
It all sounds a bit like 15th century Europe: as Carl Sagan in The Demon-Haunted World describes it, the persecution of witches under Pope Innocent VIII was a free-for-all with those in power wreaking terrible havoc in the lives of anyone (especially women) they had some kind of set against. All, of course, ostensibly in the name of preserving the sanctity of true religion.
It’s another reason why we in Australia should struggle to achieve freedom from, as well as of, religion in our civic and political life. Superstition and abuse of power go far too easily hand-in-hand with religious fervour.