Increased attacks on Freethinkers
Maryam Namazie, Sadia Hameed
Spokespersons, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
On 16 March, ex-Muslim atheist H Farook, a father of two, was hacked to death in India. He was known to our Sri Lanka affiliate organisation and was killed for his views. Several men have been arrested for his murder.
In Pakistan, Ayaz Nizami and Rana Noman have been arrested by the government on 22 March. A report in a Pakistani paper says they were arrested for uploading "blasphemous content", including on " Atheist & Agnostic Alliance Pakistan and CEMB forum" sites.
This follows the Pakistani government’s request that Facebook and Twitter help identify those suspected of blasphemy so it can prosecute them or pursue their extradition.
CEMB is extremely concerned for the safety and welfare of freethinkers in Pakistan and elsewhere. The government of Pakistan must be reminded that the right to religion has a corresponding right to be free from religion and that blasphemy and apostasy are part and parcel of free conscience and expression not crimes to be punished including with the death penalty.
This is something that the BBC also needs reminding, given that its Asian Network asked: "What is the right punishment for blasphemy" as if blasphemy should be a punishable offence. (The BBC was forced to apologise after widespread condemnation.)
The normalisation of de jure or de facto blasphemy laws and accusations of Islamophobia when religion is criticised have created a climate where Islamic states feel free to persecute freethinkers with impunity. Motions such as the anti- Islamophobia motion passed by the Canadian parliament are no different to de facto blasphemy laws, which aim to silence critics of Islam and ex-Muslims.
It’s crucial that we defend blasphemers and apostates unequivocally and ensure that freedom of conscience and expression are upheld for all and not just the religious.