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Sanal Joseph Edamaruku is the founder-president of Rationalist International. He is also the president of the Indian Rationalist Association. Photo by: Google images

Islamic states use Ireland’s blasphemy law in persecuting Indian dissident

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Sanal Joseph Edamaruku is the founder-president of Rationalist International. He is also the president of the Indian Rationalist Association. Photo by: Google images

In recent months Ireland's stringent abortion ban has been cited approvingly by Islamic states as a model for their own societies, and now Irish enacted blasphemy laws have become the envy of nations like Pakistan.

According to the Irish Times, Ireland's 2010 blasphemy law is being cited by fundamentalist Islamic states 'as justification' for persecuting religious dissidents, according to an Indian campaigner who was exiled for his belief in free speech.

Many Islamic countries have enacted biting blasphemy laws. In Afghanistan blasphemy is an offence under Sharia law and may be punished by penalties up to execution by hanging. In Ireland, blasphemy is prohibited by the constitution and carries a maximum fine of $32,500.

Meanwhile Sanal Edamaruku, who is on a five-day visit to Ireland, is reportedly facing charges of blasphemy in India after challenging the claims that water dripping from a statue in Mumbai was a miracle.

Catholic Church members in India complained to the police there last April, seeking his arrest under blasphemy charges that carry a three-year sentence. Because of the threat, Edamaruku was forced to flee to Finland which has granted him a residency permit.

Edamaruku said he was 'surprised' by Ireland's decision two years ago to introduce a law on blasphemy, something that the then Fianna Fail-led government claimed was necessary to comply with the Irish constitution.

Since the law passed in 2010, Irish voters have watched with disbelief as Pakistan and other countries have cited the statute at the United Nations to support their own blasphemy laws.

Meanwhile Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland, which invited Edamaruku to highlight his plight and to host a series of public meetings, criticised the Irish coalition government's decision to refer the issue to the constitutional convention which meets for the first time on Saturday.

'Both parties (Fine Gael and Labour) say they are committed to getting rid of the law - so the effect is simply to delay it happening.'

In India, Edamaruku established that a statue of Jesus said to 'cry' real tears was not holy water so much as wholly ineffective plumbing.

But the backlash was instant and severe. Edamaruku was accused of blasphemy, charged with offences that carry a three-year prison sentence and eventually, after receiving death threats, forced to seek exile in Finland.

Edamaruku is well known in India for debunking religious myths, and was already unpopular among Indian Catholics for publicly criticising Mother Teresa's legacy in Kolkata.

Edamaruku reportedly travelled to Mumbai where he found that the dripping water was due to clogged drainage pipes behind the wall where it stood.

'India cannot criticise Pakistan for arresting young girls for blaspheming against Islam while it arrests and locks up its own citizens for breaking our country's blasphemy laws,' Edamaruku said. 'It is an absurd law but also extremely dangerous because it gives fanatics, whether they are Hindus, Catholics or Muslims, a licence to be offended. It also allows people who are in dispute with you to make up false accusations of blasphemy.'

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