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Freedom of Thought Report finds escalation of non-religious persecution

Global persecution of humanists, atheists and the non-religious has risen over the past year, a new, systematic report published today has found. The 2015 Freedom of Thought Report is the fourth edition of the annual publication, produced by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) with input from the British Humanist Association (BHA). Cases such as the ongoing barbarity of Islamic State and the murders of humanist bloggers in Bangladesh are highlighted, along with lesser known cases such as Ashraf Fayadh in Saudi Arabia and Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir in Mauritania, both sentenced to death for apostasy.

Developments over the past year that are highlighted include:

  • The spate of murders of humanist bloggers in Bangladesh by Islamists, to which the Government has failed to take effective action (and in fact blamed the bloggers). In her forward to the report, Bonya Ahmed, one of the bloggers who survived an attack, warns that ‘once a country silences and intimidates its intellectuals and freethinkers, a vicious cycle of terror and extremism becomes inevitable… from which it could take many, many years to revert.’
  • The ongoing human rights violations by Islamic State, both in Iraq and Syria and around the world.
  • Individuals like Ashraf and Mohamed Cheikh, who have been sentenced to death for apostasy, others also facing new sentences like Egyptians Sherif Gaber, sentenced to a year’s hard labour, and Karim al-Banna, sentenced to jail for three years, and ongoing cases like that of Raif Badawi.
  • Violent attack on the non-religious both by members of the public in countries such as the Maldives.
  • Some positive moves, such as Iceland and Norway abolishing their blasphemy laws.

As last year, the United Kingdom is given a rating of systemic discrimination, as a result of discrimination by, for example, state-funded religious schools.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson, who is also the President of IHEU, commented, ‘Last year we recorded a rise in hate speech and rhetoric: Presidents saying “humanism” and “liberalism” were a threat to the state, laws branding atheism as “terrorism”, and so on. This year we’ve seen that rhetoric bubble over into truly malicious acts of persecution.

‘Our ongoing concern is that with jihadist extremism setting the bar very high for brutality, it is creating a space for this deepening, noxious hatred against the non-religious in a growing number of countries, primarily Islamic states. It’s almost as if there’s this false need to create an equal, imaginary threat from the opposite end of the belief spectrum, as a kind of false balance to the likes of ISIS. In fact this strategy is sometimes almost completely explicit, as in Egypt’s “war on atheism” for example. This entirely misplaced reaction against the non-religious is turning to increasing violence by non-state actors, and ever harsher, transparently unjust sentences from state authorities.’


Notes

For further comment or information contact BHA Chief Executive and IHEU President Andrew Copson on andrew@humanism.org.uk or 07534 248596

The report is available (under embargo) at: http://iheu.org/newsite/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/FOT15-FULL-v0_2.pdf

After midnight it will be available at: freethoughtreport.com

Visit the International Humanist and Ethical Union website: iheu.org

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is the world umbrella group bringing together more than 100 Humanist, atheist, rationalist, secularist, and freethought organizations from 40 countries.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

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