Humanists Report: Freethinkers at risk in 2020


Humanists International released a report on Thursday, June 25, entitled Humanists at Risk: Action Report 2020. which the site says “exposes a lack of separation between state and religion, as well as an array of tactics used against humanists, atheists and non-religious people in Colombia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka to limit their rights to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly”.  There is a PDF available for viewing and download through the site.

I have only been to one of the eight countries listed.  Just because I have not personally discrimination in the Philippines for being an atheist and Transgender doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  But I suspect (opinion only) that the complete absence of violence from atheists in the Philippines (compared to killings by and of drug traffickers, gangs kidnapping people for ransom, muslim separatists) makes them a low priority or “threat” in the eyes of the religious. From the report:

Humanists and other minority groups are free to gather in public, not because of a lack of stigma towards them, but mostly because of the anti-discrimination measures set in place by local government units.

Edwin Bulaclac Jr. from the Humanist Alliance Philippines International underlines indeed that: “Business establishments cannot refuse service to paying customers for fear of their licenses getting revoked by the local government unit. Filipinos are very vocal when it comes to civil liberties, especially when money is involved. The LGBTQ+ community in the Philippines faces more backlash than the secular humanists/atheists.”For this reason, Edwin adds, “We are allowed to gather in public spaces, even in private rented spaces. Humanism as an ethical stance/belief system is not yet that known in the Philippines. But atheists, on the other hand, might get the occasional eyebrow lift.”

Other countries have issues such as mandatory participation in a fixed list of religions (Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Nigeria), “blasphemy” laws, persecutions and executions where the allegedly offended “god” never appears to speak for itself.

It does not shock me that India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Indonesia are the countries with the most reported cases of anti-atheist hostility.  Colombia’s hostility is predictable: predominantly catholic, they falsely equate atheists with satanists, and also with terrorism.

The Guardian also covered this story:

Atheists and humanists facing discrimination across the world, report finds

Non-religious people in Colombia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines and Sri Lanka are often ostracised, and some women are forced into marriages, says Humanists At Risk: Action Report 2020, published on Thursday by Humanists International.

Evidence is growing that humanist and atheist activists are being targeted on the basis of their rejection of a majority religion or their promotion of human rights, democratic values and critical thinking, it says.

Mubarak Bala, president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was last month arrested after being accused of blasphemy, which carries the death penalty. Bala, the son of a widely regarded Islamic scholar, has been an outspoken religious critic in a staunchly conservative region of the country.

[. . .]

It cites the case of Fauzia Ilyas, founder of the Atheist and Agnostic Alliance Pakistan, whose ex-husband, a devout Muslim, was granted custody of their daughter “apparently on the basis of Fauzia having left Islam”. After a court in Lahore issued a warrant for Ilyas’s arrest in 2015, she fled to the Netherlands where she is seeking asylum.

Gary McLelland, the chief executive of Humanists International, said: “This report shines a light on the targeted violence, continued harassment and social discrimination faced by humanists in many countries and opens the door to conversations on how best to protect humanists worldwide. What is clear is that all laws and policies which criminalise ‘blasphemy’ should be repealed.”

Leave a Reply