To mark International Human Rights Day on December 10, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) held a hearing entitled ‘Global Blasphemy Laws and Violations of International Religious Freedom’ which presented new findings from USCIRF’s report on the enforcement of global blasphemy laws and the multiple ways they mobilize violence against religious communities.
The hearing began with opening remarks from Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) and USCIRF Chair and Vice Chairs, Gayle Manchin, Tony Perkins, and Anurima Bhargava, respectively. Hearing witnesses provided an overview of blasphemy laws around the world, along with the trends in their enforcement, and presented policy recommendations to the US government.
The Hindu American Foundation submitted testimony for the record, highlighting gross violations of religious freedoms in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Malaysia. HAF’s testimony includes a list of findings and policy recommendations to the U.S. government, including but not limited to, enforcing US sanctions on Pakistan and certain Pakistani officials under the International Religious Freedom Act and Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, designating the Bangladesh-based Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) and its student wing, Islami Chhatra Shibir (ICS), as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) and Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs), and the U.S. and regional partners to apply economic and diplomatic pressure on the Malaysian government to provide religious freedom and equal rights to non-Muslims through constitutional and legal reforms.
“We welcome this important and timely hearing on the dangers posed by blasphemy laws around the globe,” stated HAF Managing Director Samir Kalra, Esq., author of HAF’s human rights reports. “Blasphemy laws don’t protect religion, they kill people, and it’s important that the US condemn this arcane practice and work with those nations to reform their judicial system,” Kalra said.
In another symbolic gesture to celebrate International Human Rights Day, the US House of Representatives passed H. Res. 512, a resolution “calling for the global repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws.” Modeled after the HAF-backed H. Res. 349 from the 115th Congress, H. Res. 512 was introduced by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and was adopted on December 7 by a vote of 386-3, with 1 member voting present.