Blasphemy is what? Why does the idea conflict with the rule of law?

The beheading of a Hindu tailor in Rajasthan’s Udaipur for a social media post supporting (now-suspended BJP spokesperson) Nupur Sharma over her “blasphemous” remarks against Prophet Muhammad is being treated by the central government as an act of terror.

The brutal killing and its filming by the two cleaver-wielding Muslim men, who were arrested quickly, have triggered massive outrage, also escalating the debate around the idea of blasphemy. Let’s first understand what it is and its origin before moving to other questions.

Some religions or religion-based laws define blasphemy as acts or remarks that insult God or a sacred religious figure or object. The original idea behind treating blasphemy as a crime was to ensure complete reverence and protect religions as they evolved.

But soon, other motivations also emerged. From ancient to medieval times, rulers considered themselves undefiable. They sought to project religion and state as one to assume divinity with titles like Zil-e-Ilahi (the shadow of God). They used political powers and the premise of blasphemy to crush opposing voices.