Convenor Javed Anand and co-convenor Firoze Mithiborewala said the statement has been signed by 400 secular citizens, a majority of whom are Muslims. Among them figure Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, Anand Patwardhan, Anjum Rajabali, Joy Sengupta, Shabnam Hashmi, Shama Zaidi, Teesta Setalvad and Zeenat Shoukatali. The signatories include social and political activists, lawyers, journalists, writers, poets, actors, film makers, businessmen, farmers, home makers and students.
The statement reads, “We condemn the constant attempts by certain hate factories of Hindutva which are working overtime to demonise Islam and Muslims. However, in a secular state there can be no place for a law criminalising blasphemy. Muslims demanding such a law should instead take recourse of the already existing law against hate speech like Section 295 (A) of the Indian Penal Code.”
“The experience of neighbouring countries shows that the anti-blasphemy law promotes fanaticism and seeks to silence even rational critical commentaries on religion. The board cannot be unaware of the notorious blasphemy law in neighbouring Pakistan which is frequently misused to hound individuals from religious minorities and even fellow Muslims with sectarian and personal motives. Bangladesh does not have a law against blasphemy but often misuses the same secular penal code of the British period – section 295(A) – to silence all critical comments on Islam in the name of blasphemy.”