New BLASPHEMY Law in Mauritania

Our campaign on behalf of Mohamed Ould Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir finally succeeded. He had been sentenced to death for a blog post that was denounced as blasphemous. This already was a horrible situation, because the point of his blog post was to protest the use of Islam as the basis for caste-based discrimination. Mkhaitir comes from the smithy-caste (fogerons in French, or malamine in Haratine), which has historically been considered very low status. This low caste status served as grounds for all types of exclusions and impoverishment.

Mkhaitir’s intent was to prevent those in power from using religion to uphold this caste-based discrimination. Instead of successfully bringing this issue into political debate, he was charged with blasphemy, thrown in jail and sentenced to be executed.

Our long campaign on behalf of Mkhaitir finally succeeded. His sentence was reduced to two years and he was released.

BUT just days later, the Mauritanian government strengthened their blasphemy law. This is an abdication of their duty under international human rights treaties, to which they are ratified party. In particular it conflicts with article 18 of the ICCPR which provides for freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

The new blasphemy law revokes the right to repent of an allegedly blasphemous statement. This is historically unprecedented. Sharia traditionally allows for the right to repent. Mauritania adopted a shari’a based legal code in 1980. This innovation in 2017 is far more rigid than any traditional Malikite legal code.

In contrast to all the historical culture and traditions of the peoples of Mauritania, a rigid and intolerant Islam advances in Mauritania with this new blasphemy law.

See press report in Le Monde

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