The scientist and author Richard Dawkins is giving away translations of The God Delusion in countries under Islamic rule like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan.
The reason behind the decision is the thirst for atheism in such countries. Whilst 3.3 million copies of the bestseller have been sold since 2006, the unofficial Arabic pdf alone has been downloaded 13 million times.
The hashtag “#Aik crore Pakistani mulhid” (10 million Pakistani atheists) trended around Darwin Day for two years running. Free Mind, launched by Arab atheists promoting atheism, has recorded more than 1 million visits so far.
The now highly visible and vocal ex-Muslim movement (a new Council has just been established in Jordan), the access to atheism and freethought via social media, the deep-seated opposition to theocratic rule that comes from lived experience, the irrationality of religious doctrine, the authoritarianism of religious rule, scepticism about prophets and contradictory tenets, the unrelenting violence, amongst others, make atheism increasingly enticing for a mostly young population.
The powers that be have understood the “threat” atheism poses – seeing it as an existential danger, especially since Islam and state power are intertwined, hence why atheists are persecuted (with many others including religious minorities, women’s rights activists, labour leaders and LGBT).
• Iran as one of the most important bases of atheism in the Middle East, with more than half the population using the Internet regularly, has seen a government ban on more than 160,000 social media accounts and websites for spreading “atheism and corruption” in one year alone.
• A series of laws in Saudi Arabia define terrorism as “calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion.”
• A Malaysian government minister has said that atheists should be “hunted down” and “re-educated.”
Thirteen countries punish atheism with the death penalty, all Islamic states, namely Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, UAE, and Yemen.
And even in countries without the death penalty, like Bangladesh, Islamists kill atheists whilst the government does little or like Tunisia, where Hatem Al Imam, the President of Tunisian Freethinkers has been brutally attacked. Turkish government-backed Islamists in Afrin address “Kurdish atheists,” telling them to repent or face decapitation …
Urgent cases that need our immediate attention include:
Bangladesh: Asad Noor, a 25-year-old atheist blogger is facing up to 14 years in prison because he “hurt religious feelings” with his social media posts “mocking the prophet”.
Iran: 20-year-old Sina Dehghan was sentenced to death for “insulting the prophet”. Deghan’s co-defendants, Sahar Eliasi and Mohammad Nouri, have also been convicted of posting anti-Islamic content on social media. Nouri was sentenced to death; Eliasi has been sentenced to three years in prison upon appeal. Soheil Arabi was initially sentenced to death for “insulting the prophet” is on hunger strike and in critical condition. Ruhollah Tavana and Saeed Malekpour have also been sentenced to death for “insulting the Prophet” and “insulting and desecrating Islam” respectively.
Pakistan: Ayaz Nizami and Rana Noman face the death penalty for “blasphemy.” After the arrest, #HangAyazNizami trended on Twitter. Taimoor Raza, 30, has also been sentenced to death for “insulting the prophet Muhammad.”
Saudi Arabia: Ahmad Al-Shamri, in his 20s, has been sentenced to death for atheism and blasphemy; Raif Badawi has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and a thousand lashes for “apostasy” and “insulting Islam”. Poet Ashraf Fayadh has been sentenced to eight years imprisonment and lashes for poems containing “atheist ideas” reduced from an initial death sentence.