Humanist denied UK asylum

Humanist denied UK asylum January 17, 2018

A British Humanist organisation has criticised the UK government for denying asylum to an ex-Muslim, saying that the Home Office has ‘a fundamental misunderstanding of equality and human rights protections with regards to non-religious people.’
Humanists UK was reacting to news that Hamza bin Walayat, who renounced Islam and became a humanist, had his application for asylum rejected after failing to correctly answer questions about ancient Greek philosophers.
The Home Office, according to this Guardian report, said Hamza bin Walayat’s failure to identify Plato and Aristotle as humanist philosophers indicated his knowledge of humanism was:

Rudimentary at best.

The Home Office also said Walayat did not face persecution for his beliefs. In a letter rejecting his asylum claim, seen by the Guardian, it said his assertion that he would be at risk in Pakistan, and could be killed by his family because of his beliefs and his renunciation of Islam, was unfounded.
Walayat, who has lived in the UK since 2011, said he had received death threats from members of his family and community in Pakistan after integrating into secular British life, forming a relationship with a non-Muslim partner and refusing to conform to the expectations of conservative Islam.
Apostates are subject to discrimination, persecution and violence in Pakistan. In March last year, a student who had stated he was a humanist on his Facebook page was murdered at his university.
Blasphemy is punishable by death under Pakistani law. In August, 24 British politicians wrote to the Pakistani government urging it to repeal its draconian blasphemy law, which has been used against religious minorities and humanists.
Walayat claimed asylum in July last year after being served with removal papers for overstaying his student visa.
After an interview with immigration officials, the Home Office said he:

Had been unable to provide a consistent or credible account with regards the main aspect of your claim, namely that you are a humanist.

When tested on his knowledge of humanism, Walayat gave a “basic definition” but could not identify:

Any famous Greek philosophers who were humanistic.

The letter said:

When you were informed by the interviewing officer that he was referring to Plato and Aristotle, you replied: ‘Yeah, the thing is because of my medication that is strong I just forget stuff sometimes’.

The Home Office concluded:

Your knowledge of humanism is rudimentary at best and not of a level that would be expected of a genuine follower of humanism.

Walayat joined the Humanists UK in August, but said he had believed in the basic principles of humanism from childhood.
Humanists UK said on its website:

The Home Office … sought to test the ‘non-religiousness’ of Hamza by asking him to name ancient Greek philosophers who had held humanistic worldviews …

This line of questioning is unfair and problematic for several reasons. Firstly, it is unlikely that a religious claimant would be treated in the same manner. It is not expected that a Christian should be able to answer questions about St Thomas Aquinas or know who drafted the Nicene Creed in order to demonstrate their religious status.
For some, a knowledge of the history of their belief system may be of personal interest, but it is a not a means of determining the strength of their convictions. This is the same for humanists.
Secondly, these questions imply that the Home Office is treating humanism as a monolithic, doctrinaire-positive tradition. Humanism is not a ‘canonical’ belief system, where adherents must learn and follow a strict set of behaviour codes. As a descriptive term a humanist can be someone who has simply rejected religious belief but holds some positive conception of human values.
Such an individual may well not even have heard of humanism. Therefore, one does not ‘follow’ humanism in the sense implied.

According to Humanists UK, “humanism is not a ‘canonical’ belief system, where adherents must learn and follow a strict set of behaviour codes. As a descriptive term, humanists can be someone who has simply rejected religious belief but holds some positive conception of human values.”
In a letter in support of Walayat’s asylum application, Bob Churchill, of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, said:

For many, the broad descriptive ‘humanist’ is just a softer way of saying atheist, especially if you come from a place where identifying as atheist may be regarded as a deeply offensive statement.

Andrew Copson, of Humanists UK, said:

We are appalled by the way the Home Office has handled Hamza’s claim for asylum; it sets a dangerous precedent for non-religious people fleeing persecution. The Home Office is simply incorrect to claim that non-religious people seeking asylum don’t get the same protection in law as religious people do.

Further, the questions put to Hamza not only reveal a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of humanism, but also show that the Home Office, as a public body, is failing in its duty under the Equality Act 2010.
Humanists UK will be writing to the Minister of State for Immigration to address these concerns.

A Home Office spokesperson said:

The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection and each claim is carefully considered on its individual merits.

Hat tip: AgentCormac

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  • Cali Ron

    To laugh or to cry, that is the question. I laugh at the incredible stupidity of the Plato and Aristotle questions, as if knowledge of them is required to be a humanist and I cry for Hamza because some stuffed shirt bureaucrat would actually send him back to Pakistan where he would surely be persecuted, possibly killed. If he had said he was a Christian and would be persecuted I’m sure they would grant asylum, no questions asked in a heartbeat.

  • Laura Roberts

    Yes, I’m forced to wonder what questions they ask of Christians or Jews who apply for asylum.
    If I needed to apply for asylum, you’d better believe I’d study up on Humanism before any interviews; however I can’t imagine I’d spend much time on Greek philosophers, as the first Humanist Manifesto wasn’t written until 1933.
    And, how deluded does someone need to be to imagine a Muslim apostate will not be persecuted in Pakistan, of all places, especially one who has already been threatened by his own family?

  • andym

    I believe the original Bible was written in Ancient Greek. Many of the Christian ethics they are so proud of have been taken, unacknowledged,from the Greeks. In which case,shouldn’t Christian asylum seekers be asked about Plato and Aristotle? I wonder how many have.

  • Stonyground

    Since most Christians can’t name the first book of the New Testament even when presented with a list of four choices, I doubt that many of them have even heard of Aquinas.

  • Broga

    This is scandalous. Obviously a set up to get rid of humanists with dangerous ideas. By dangerous I mean anyone who is not slavish, and ready to lie, about the virtues and truth of religious superstations.

  • barriejohn

    Stonyground: Quite right! Atheists know more about the Bible than Christians:

  • Gaurav Tyagi

    Instead of asking this Pakistani lad questions about Aristotle & Plato. He can be made to do simple tasks of eating Pork Chops, drinking alcohol and peeing/pooing on the crap known as Koran written by the medieval desert pedophile war-lord Mo-Ham-Head.

  • StephenJP

    This is bonkers. In my Civil Service career I was acquainted with a number of Home Office colleagues, and most of them couldn’t tell the difference between Plato and Platini, or between Aristotle and Arry Kane. My dear late brother-in-law was in the Immigration Service, and he would certainly not have relied on a persecuted migrant knowing about Greek philosophy to tell whether he was genuine or not.
    The truth is that the HO is the most xenophobic, primitively retrograde of all Government departments. The blessed Theresa was there for so long that the iron has entered her soul: hence her rigid attitude towards overseas students. All power to Humanists UK on this case.

  • Michael Glass

    Even someone with a rudimentary knowledge of Pakistan would know that an openly atheist’s life would be in danger if he was returned to Pakistan.
    The boneheaded stupidity of asking someone about Plato and Aristotle to show that he was a humanist makes about as much sense as asking a Christian to name and summarise all the books of the Bible.
    Surely there is an avenue of appeal for this man. There certainly should be!

  • M Smith

    “Walayat claimed asylum in July last year after being served with removal papers for overstaying his student visa”. So did he only claim asylum when they caught him? Seems a little convenient. I’m not convinced we are being told the whole story here so I reserve judgement.

  • Jane Robert

    It is such a shame That Home Office wont let him stay in UK. He has been in this country for 7 years and is been in a relationship with English partner for 3 years clearly he has integrated in the British society and culture and has no criminal record, has renounced his religion just want to spend a normal life .government will allow people like who kill our heroes like LEE RUGBY but wont allow a deserving man like this. such a shame
    Can i ask everyone on here to sign this petition to save Hamza’s life and protect rights of non religious and educate Home Office.