A young guy from Afghanistan has been granted asylum on the grounds of his non-belief in “God” (or, specifically in his case, in “Allah”), This is believed to be a first.
The Afghan was brought up as a Muslim and fled the conflict in his native country. He arrived in the UK in 2007, aged 16. He was initially given temporary leave to remain until 2013 but during his time in England gradually turned to atheism.
Enough said. He can’t go back to Afghanistan in that condition, now can he.
[His lawyers] helped him submit his claim to the Home Office under the UN’s 1951 refugee convention, arguing that if he returned to Afghanistan he would face persecution on the grounds of religion – or in his case, lack of religious belief.
He could, the lawyers argued, face a death sentence under sharia law as an apostate unless he remained discreet about his atheist beliefs. Evidence was also presented showing that because Islam permeates every aspect of daily life and culture in Afghanistan, living discreetly would be virtually impossible.
Like for instance being shouted at by the muezzin five times a day every day. Imagine trying to be “discreetly” atheist with that racket going on.
Claire Splawn, a second-year law student at the University of Kent, prepared the case under the supervision of the clinic’s solicitor, Sheona York. Splawn said: “We argued that an atheist should be entitled to protection from persecution on the grounds of their belief in the same way as a religious person is protected.”
York added: “We are absolutely delighted for our client. We believe that this is the first time that a person has been granted asylum in this country on the basis of their atheism.
“The decision represents an important recognition that a lack of religious belief is in itself a thoughtful and seriously-held philosophical position.”
More thoughtful than religious belief itself is, if you ask me. (I know, I know, believers can be thoughtful. I know. But the belief itself? To the extent that it really is belief, as opposed to a hope or a metaphor or a way of being in communion with other people or tradition, I can’t see it as really thoughtful.)