On Thursday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan will visit Washington, D.C., to meet with President Barack Obama. Among a range of security issues, the focus will surely be the civil war raging next door in Syria. But President Obama should make sure to highlight a human rights issue with far-reaching consequences for the Middle East and the broader Muslim world: the radioactive effect of blasphemy laws.
Anti-blasphemy laws forbid the criticism or insult of religion, or any perceived contempt of religion. In many countries, alleged blasphemers can be sentenced to jail for such a "crime." The laws are a tool for suppressing freedom of speech and religious practises. In some countries they are more than that; they are a cause of political instability and violence. Closer to home, they have posed threats to U.S. national security.