Conceptual and legal harmonisation of offensive anti-religious speech
: Reconciling the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights with the approach of Muslim States for the protection of Islamic beliefs, and Muslim and non-Muslim minority groups.

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The principal objective of this thesis is to critically debate the possibility of achieving a mutually acceptable harmonisation between the application of Islamic law in Muslim States (as represented by Egypt) and international (mainly European) human rights law (as represented by the ECtHR) on the regulation of offensive anti-religious speech. This considers the direct impact of offensive anti-religious speech (used here interchangeably with expression) in Europe against Muslim minorities, coupled with concerns regarding the application of blasphemy laws in some Muslim States. Doing so, on the one hand, will, hopefully, provide an additional route for the protection of religious (mainly Muslim) minorities against the upsurge in discrimination, hate, and violence in Europe. On the other hand, the researcher recognises that debating such harmonisation requires additional measures to protect non-Muslim minorities who live in Muslim-majority states (including Muslim intellectuals) against the disproportionate and discriminatory application of national (offensive and) blasphemy laws. Assessing such possibility requires, first, an analysis of the underpinning theory of free speech in Islamic and Western (mainly European) human rights law; secondly, a critical overview of the ECtHR’s practical approach to determining the parameters of free and hate speech; thirdly, the position of primary and secondary sources of Islamic law towards offensive and blasphemous speech; and, finally, assessing the proportionality of the application of national (offensive and blasphemy) laws in Egypt (the Constitution and the Penal Code). The latter takes into consideration Islamic law’s position and regional and international human rights treaties that Egypt is a signatory to. The thesis will conclude that both systems, despite theoretical commonalities, are inconsistent and unsympathetic when deciding on the appropriate application and restriction of free and offensive anti-religious speech in practice. Therefore, unless a mutual acknowledgment is made that a clearer, more consistent, and more sympathetic offensive anti-religious framework is needed, religious and non-religious minorities will remain susceptible to the upsurge in discrimination, hate, and violence.
Date of AwardNov 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorSteve Foster (Supervisor) & Ayesha Shahid (Supervisor)

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