Call for government to do more to tackle discrimination against non-religious individuals

By agency reporter
December 5, 2017

Eighty-five countries around the globe ‘exhibit severe discrimination against non-religious individuals’, with several having seen humanists and atheists murdered for their beliefs over the past year. Those are the top-line findings of the 2017 Freedom of Thought Report, published today (5 December 2017) by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). Humanists UK is a member of IHEU and contributed to the report. It has called on the UK to do more to tackle this discrimination, particularly blasphemy and apostasy laws.

This past year has seen humanists murdered in Pakistan, the Maldives and India. In Pakistan, many humanists have been sentenced to death for blasphemy, and a number of bloggers were ‘forcibly disappeared’ by the state. In Saudi Arabia, a man was sentenced to death ‘for atheism’ over a Facebook post, while others remain on death row. In Malaysia, the Government has been ‘hunting down’ atheists, after a photo of a gathering gained publicity. More generally, thirteen countries have laws on the statute books punishing apostasy or blasphemy with death.

The report is also published during a time of growing threats to liberal democracy, as a global ‘strong-man’ culture sees individuals like Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Rodrigo Duterte, Narendra Modi and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In August, Humanists UK hosted the International Humanist and Ethical Union’s annual conference, this year on these growing threats to freedom, human rights, and the rule of law around the globe, which featured the UN Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Religion or Belief and in the Field of Cultural Rights.

Welcoming the new report, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson, who is also President of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, commented, ‘More and more people are coming to us in the humanist movement from Saudi Arabia, or Afghanistan, or Pakistan, and saying: “I am humanist and I am afraid” or “I am atheist, and I cannot speak out, I cannot say what I need to, even online”. They are afraid they’re going to be attacked and killed. This report shows that this is not an irrational fear. Extrajudicial killings in multiple countries have been followed by near impunity for the killers.

‘We call on the international community to stop placating states which criminalise being a humanist or otherwise non-religious, to condemn the persecution of humanists and atheists, and to work with human rights defenders around the world to bring an end to this injustice.’

Humanists UK recently urged the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to prioritise freedom of religion and belief, particularly tackling blasphemy laws, around the globe.

* Download the Freedom of Thought Report here

* Humanists UK (formerly the British Humanist Association)


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