IHEU Issues Report on Anti-Atheist Discrimination Around the World

Today is Human Rights Day, according to the United Nations. So there’s no better time than now for the International Humanist and Ethical Union to publish “Freedom of Thought 2012: A Global Report on Discrimination Against Humanists, Atheists and the Non-religious” (PDF):

This report shows that atheists, humanists and other nonreligious people are discriminated against by governments across the world. There are laws that deny atheists’ right to exist, curtail their freedom of belief and expression, revoke their right to citizenship, restrict their right to marry, obstruct their access to public education, prohibit them from holding public office, prevent them from working for the state, criminalize their criticism of religion, and execute them for leaving the religion of their parents.

This report isn’t something to ignore. In seven countries, you can be executed for being an atheist (Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan).

Robert Evans at Reuters highlights another disappointing revelation from the report:

In a range of other countries — such as Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Kuwait and Jordan — publication of atheist or humanist views on religion are totally banned or strictly limited under laws prohibiting “blasphemy”.

In many of these countries, and others like Malaysia, citizens have to register as adherents of a small number officially-recognized religions — which normally include no more than Christianity and Judaism as well as Islam.

Speaking of blasphemy, the report includes a section on the sharp rise of blasphemy charges on social media, like the cases of Alexander Aan and Alber Saber:

The trend of prosecuting “blasphemies” shared through social media is most marked in Muslim-majority countries. For example, in addition to the tragic, but all too familiar, wave of blasphemy prosecutions in Pakistan, this year saw prosecutions for allegedly atheist comments on Facebook and Twitter in Bangladesh, Bahrain, Egypt, Indonesia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Turkey. In some of these cases, the governments even threatened to prosecute those who commented on, or “liked”, or re-tweeted, the offending comments. In May, the Pakistan government went so far as to block all access to Twitter in the country because of objections to ‘blasphemous’ content”.

Matt Cherry, the editor of the report, makes a strong case that these laws are archaic/outdated and that atheists are often the victims of these charges:

“When 21st century technology collides with medieval blasphemy laws, it seems to be atheists who are getting hurt, as more of them go to prison for sharing their personal beliefs via social media… Across the world the reactionary impulse to punish new ideas, or in some cases the merest expression of disbelief, recurs again and again. We even have a case in Tunisia of a journalist arrested for daring to criticize a proposed blasphemy law!”

I wish I could say the report was short, but it’s 72 pages — most of which include details about human rights violations across the world.

Read it and weep.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandy-Kokch/100000074576649 Sandy Kokch

    Read it and weep indeed….

    You in the US could also roll a copy up into a tight  truncheon like form, and use it to beat some sense into the next Krystyhun you hear bleating on about how they or their particular brand of the Abrahamic hate crime made dogma are being “persecuted” by us commie pinko lefty secularists. 72 pages should make a pretty good and weighty Reality Applicator.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=569655551 Dan Davis

    Obviously a piece of fiction, not even by the real UN.  Perhaps they can squeeze pieces under the pews in congress to keep them from rocking when you have to stand up and sit down. Do the benches in congress have fold-down kneeling thingies?

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Obviously since we are “One Nation, Under God”, any American who does not pray should be charged with treason.  We should probably start with some good figureheads, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.  We don’t need that kind of non-believer in our great country- kick ‘em out!

      • http://www.facebook.com/Jensay Dustin Toope

        Can’t tell of you’re being satirical or are just completely bat shit crazy and ignorant about American history. If it’s the former, good job. If it’s the latter, you should consider being checked into an asylum and read up on American history, and what treason actually is.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          When in doubt, clicking on the person’s avatar can usually shed light on the intent.

      • Coyoteself

        Actually not so  Obviously since the original “Pledge of Allegiance” was written in 1892 by the Baptist Minister, Frances Bellamy who DID NOT INCLUDE the words “Under God”. Those words were added by Congress 62 years later, in 1954 as a part of anti-communism propaganda that many of use grew up with.

  • SeekerLancer

    Meanwhile Christians rally outside of the supreme court in California and cry persecution because gays might be allowed to marry.

    • Bill S

      I thought the California was more liberal. I’m surprised that proposition 8 passed in the first place. I think the Supreme Court will fix this whole mess once and for all.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

    Yup.  You can’t control people if they are allowed to think and voice opinions.  You must limit their exposure to outside points of view or you risk losing control of the populace.  Unfortunately, there are those here in our own free country who seek to do just this and would in a heartbeat if allowed.

  • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

    Anyone care to do the research to count up how many countries there are where being a Christian is a capital offense, or where publication of a Christian viewpoint is prosecutable/prosecuted as “blasphemy”? There’s probably at least a few for the latter.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

      it is true that chinese christians have a tough time, just because they want to worship without the government telling them how to do so. i doubt a lot of them are killed for it, but i’m sure lots of them find their lives more difficult if they profess “too” loudly. 

  • peicurmudgeon

    There are a number of places where Christians are being literally persecuted for their beliefs. An example is the Copts in Egypt, and many christian sites outline others. In my mind the important fact is that in almost all cases, the persecutions are based upon the religious beliefs of the majority.

  • Bill S

    The problem with atheism is that it doesn’t give people the courage or incentive to stick up for it. Religious zealots think they have something to suffer and die for. Atheists don’t.

    I am a Catholic who has lost his faith. I mean that in a positive sense not a negative. The cost of admitting that to anyone around me outweighs the benefit of having the feeling that I am doing the right thing. So I continue to practice the Catholic faith even though I don’t believe in it. Does that make me a bad person? If so, should I even care?

    • Targettee

      Hi Bill, I too used to be Catholic, but now many years later after leaving it, I feel much better being true to myself and others about it, even my own mother has left and thanks me for it, of course after many years of my mom being scared to death that I was questioning the faith.  Be true to yourself and in time, you will be free from religion and sleep because of it.  


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