The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has issued a report on blasphemy laws around the world, with the top five worst-scoring nations all seeking to protect Islam.
"In all five of the worst-scoring countries (Iran, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Qatar), the blasphemy laws aim to protect the state religion of Islam in a way that impermissibly discriminates among different groups," a press release from the organization stated on Wednesday.
The major report found that 71 of the world's 195 countries have blasphemy laws, with penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment and death.
USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark said that religious freedom should protect people's rights to express their thoughts and beliefs, even those that others may find blasphemous.
"Advocates for blasphemy laws may argue that they are needed in order to protect religious freedom, but these laws do no such thing. Blasphemy laws are wrong in principle, and they often invite abuse and lead to assaults, murders, and mob attacks. Wherever they exist, they should be repealed," Mark insisted.
Christians and other religious minorities have been targeted by such blasphemy laws in Pakistan where they're punished any time an accusation of having insulted the Islamic faith is lobbed against them.
In June, a Pakistani Christian father was arrested on charges of blasphemy after he asked a Muslim man to pay for a bicycle that he had repaired the week before, but was then accused by the same man of insulting Islam.
Islamic hardliners have also taken justice into their own hands. In one instance in November 2014, a Christian couple was burned to death by a mob after they were accused of having desecrated the Quran, a claim that turned out to be false.
Iran, which persecutes Christians, Baha'is, and other minorities, has threatened to execute anyone who's accused of insulting the Islamic faith.
The Iranian government has been particularly concerned about the rise of Christianity in the country, especially among youths. This has led to Islamic seminary officials calling on the government to "stop the spread" of the faith.
Though the majority of high-ranking countries beyond the top five focused on defending Islamic sensibilities, Italy and its blasphemy laws protecting the Roman Catholic Church also scored a high ranking, coming in at number seven.
Article 403 of Italy's criminal code reads:
"Anyone who insults the State religion in public by offending those who profess it shall be subject to a prison sentence of up to two years. Anyone who insults the State religion by insulting a minister of the Catholic Church shall be subject to a prison sentence of one to three years."
USCIRF noted in its report that most of the blasphemy laws that it studied were "vaguely worded," and failed to specify intent as part of the violation. It added that a majority of blasphemy laws are embedded in the criminal codes of countries, with 86 percent of nations with such laws threatening imprisonment for offenders.
"Though implementation varies, countries from Switzerland to Sudan persist in outlawing expression of views deemed 'blasphemous,'" Mark added.
"Some countries, including Canada, have such laws but do not actively enforce them. We call upon those countries to set an example for the others and repeal their blasphemy laws. And we call upon all countries to repeal any such laws and to free those detained or convicted for blasphemy."