TORONTO, Sept. 27, 2016 /CNW/ - PEN Canada deplores the killing of writer Nahed Hattar, who was gunned down outside a courtroom in Amman, Jordan on Sunday, September 25, 2016. Mr. Hattar, a Jordanian Christian and secularist, faced trial on criminal charges of "insulting Islam" and "provoking sectarian strife" because of a cartoon he posted on his Facebook page.
"Violence in the name of a religious creed does a gross disservice to that very creed, undermines both religious freedom and freedom of expression, and, as in the present case, leads to the taking of a human life," said Randy Boyagoda, president of PEN Canada.
PEN International has long objected to the use of religious defamation laws to suppress freedom of expression. In a 2006 statement on the publication of cartoons offensive to Muslims, Jiří Gruša, former president of PEN International, noted that "The right to question all beliefs is a cherished tradition that requires mutual respect." He added that "Satire can often be provocative and the defence of the right to such freedom of expression does not imply any sympathy with the views held by the authors."
In 2010, a PEN International panel urged the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva not to support legal restrictions on expression that is considered offensive or defamatory to religions. PEN argued that such measures do little to foster mutual understanding and respect and are often used to stifle creative freedom and suppress minority views. Former PEN International President John Ralston Saul stated: "The most violent attacks on organized religions do not come from religious individuals or even atheist individuals, but from other organized religions or sects and from their religious leaders." Saul added: "The problems of religious denigration are not legal. They are political and cultural problems that can only be resolved through strengthening respect among nations and a shared understanding of our common humanity."
Since the 2015 killing of writers at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and widespread subsequent violence against writers, bloggers and cartoonists accused of religious insults, PEN has repeatedly called for the repeal of laws that restrict the right to legitimate freedom of expression. Especially troubling are vague and overbroad national security acts, and sedition, obscenity, blasphemy and criminal defamation laws that are used to harass and silence critical voices, including on social media and online.
SOURCE PEN Canada
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