Date:                 November 30, 2020


U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Hearing

Blasphemy Laws and the Violation of International Religious Freedom

Wednesday, December 9, 2020
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Virtual Hearing

Register Here


Please join the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for a virtual hearing about new findings from USCIRF’s upcoming report on the enforcement of global blasphemy laws and the multiple ways they mobilize violence against religious communities.

Blasphemy laws often criminalize any form of expression that allegedly insults or offends religious doctrines, making it essentially illegal to express religious views different from the majority, including the right not to believe. They are often misused to target faith communities. For example, in Indonesia, where Ahmadi Muslims and Chinese Indonesians are targeted for allegedly committing blasphemy, enforcement is used as a political tool along religious and ethnic lines.

The enforcement of blasphemy laws often sparks incidents or threats of mob violence. In 2019, the government of Mauritania’s inability to protect its citizens from the threat of mob violence was used as justification to continue detaining blogger, Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir, who was accused of blasphemy. In Pakistan, vigilantes violently target not only the alleged blasphemer, but also attack lawyers, family members, and the surrounding faith community. The public statements of support for Asia Bibi resulted in the two high-profile murders of Shahbaz Bhatti, a cabinet member, and Salman Taseer, then Governor of Punjab.

Witnesses will provide an overview of blasphemy laws around the world, along with the trends in their enforcement, and present policy recommendations to the U.S. government.

Opening Remarks

  • Senator James Lankford, R-OK
  • Gayle Manchin, Chair, USCIRF
  • Tony Perkins, Vice Chair, USCIRF
  • Anurima Bhargava, Vice Chair, USCIRF
  • Joelle Fiss, Member of the Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief, ODIHR, OSCE; and co-author of USCIRF’s new report on blasphemy laws
  • Jocelyn Getgem Kestenbaum, Associate Professor of Clinical Law, Cardozo School of Law; and co-author of USCIRF’s new report on blasphemy laws
  • Amjad Mahmood Khan, Lecturer in Law, University of California School of Law
  • Shaan Taseer, son of Salmaan Taseer, the former governor of Punjab province killed for blasphemy; co-founder of Pakistan for All
  • Elizabeth O’Casey, Director of Advocacy, Humanists International
Witnesses’ Bios
This hearing is open to Members of Congress, congressional staff, the public, and the media. Members of the media should register online and can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for any questions or to schedule an interview. The video recording of the hearing will be posted on the Commission website. For any additional questions, please contact Nina Ullom at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (202) 322-0232.