This volume examines both historical developments and contemporary expressions of blasphemy across the world. The transgression of religious boundaries incurs more or less severe sanctions in various religious traditions. This book looks at how religious and political authorities use ideas about blasphemy as a means of control. In a globalised world where people of different faiths interact more than ever before and world-views are an increasingly important part of identity politics, religious boundaries are a source of controversy.

The book goes beyond many others in this field by widening its scope beyond the legal aspects of freedom of expression. Approaching blasphemy as effective speech, the chapters in this book focus on real-life situations and ask the following questions: who are the blasphemers, who are their accusers and what does blasphemy accomplish? Utilising case studies from Europe, the Middle East and Asia that encompass a wide variety of faith traditions, the book guides readers to a more nuanced appreciation of the historical roots, political implications and religious rationale of attitudes towards blasphemy.

Incorporating historical and contemporary approaches to blasphemy, this book will be of great use to academics in Religious Studies and the Sociology of Religion as well as Political Science, Media Studies, History.

chapter |3 pages


ByAnne Stensvold

part Part I|120 pages

Background – theoretical reflections and historical discussions

chapter 1|18 pages

Blasphemies compared. An overview

ByAnne Stensvold

chapter 2|8 pages

The sacred and the secular

ByOlivier Roy

chapter 4|10 pages

Blasphemy as transgressive speech, a natural history

ByGabriel Levy

chapter 5|10 pages

Defining blasphemy in medieval Europe

Christian theology, law, and practice
ByMartha G. Newman

chapter 6|17 pages

Blasphemy through British (post) colonial eyes. The Indian Criminal Code

From a history of sustained paternalism to the genesis of hate crime
ByDavid Nash

chapter 7|10 pages

From ‘blasphemy’ to ‘hate speech’

Changing perceptions of ‘insulting god’
ByJeffrey Haynes

chapter 8|19 pages

Blasphemy in Islamic tradition

ByChristian Moe

chapter 9|13 pages

The OIC and the United Nations

Framing blasphemy as a human rights violation
ByHeini í Skorini

part Part II|143 pages

Case studies

chapter 10|19 pages

Blasphemy and the cultivation of religious sensibilities in post-2011 Egypt

ByMonika Lindbekk, Bassam Bahgat

chapter 11|12 pages

The Hindus on trial. Blasphemy charges and the study of Hinduism

ByClemens Cavallin

chapter 13|17 pages

The state and the construction of the ‘blasphemer’ in Bangladesh

ByMubashar Hasan, Arild Engelsen Ruud

chapter 14|22 pages

The politics of blasphemy in Indonesia

ByCecilie Endresen, Carool Kersten

chapter 16|19 pages

Blasphemy and images

Depiction and representation in Islamic texts and practices. Two Muslim cases
ByIngvild Flaskerud

chapter 17|15 pages

From Pussy Riot’s punk-prayer to Matilda

Orthodox believers, critique and religious freedom in Russia
ByDmitry Uzlaner, Kristina Stoeckl

chapter |9 pages

Concluding remarks1

ByAnne Stensvold