The Global Effort to Rescue Persecuted Atheists
Source: Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science/YouTube (September 2016)
With more than a dozen countries criminalizing atheistic expression and anti-atheist sentiment widespread even in purportedly secular countries, organizations have popped up around the globe to rescue persecuted atheists, lobby for civil rights, and promote community and security for atheists, agnostics, and other freethinkers. Secular Rescue was launched by the Center for Inquiry in 2016 in response to the recent spate of murders of secularist Bangladeshi writers and intellectuals, and its efforts have drawn attention to the plight of freethinkers living in the Global South in need of asylum. The Atlantic recently profiled the organization as well as the conditions contributing to the greater visibility of atheists in regions conventionally assumed to be inhospitable to the growth of secularism and freethought.
“The ‘Underground Railroad’ To Save Atheists” (The Atlantic | January 2018)
“Center for Inquiry Launches ‘Secular Rescue’ to Save Lives of Threatened Activists” (The Center for Inquiry | September 2016)
Atheist Asylum Program
Jordan reverses ban on Lebanese band with gay frontman
- Amman Governor Khaled Abu Zeid had announced the cancellation of Lebanese indie rock group Mashrou’ Leila’s concert in Amman, citing lyrics and belief that the band “violates the traditions and customs of the Jordanian society.”
- Despite the band’s promotion of gender, sexual, and religious freedom, Mashrou’ Leila claimed to have had no problems performing in Jordan before, where they have given three concerts.
- Although the travel ban was lifted, the reversal arrived too late for the band to play its scheduled concert, though they have indicated they look forward to playing in Jordan in the future.
“Mashrou’ Leila: Jordan lifts ban on Lebanese band with gay singer” (BBC)
“Ban on Mashrou’ Leila concert triggers controversy” (The Jordan Times)
“Jordan lifts ban on popular Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila” (The Daily Star and AP)
Mashrou’ Leila (official website)
(Image Credit: Hussein Malla/AP, via The Daily Star)
Professor murdered in northwest Bangladesh as attacks on intellectuals continue
- Rezaul Karim Siddiquee, an English professor at Rajshahi University, was found nearly decapitated near his home after neighbors heard screams and alerted his family.
- Siddiquee is the latest in a series of attacks by fundamentalist militants against academics and writers with progressive leanings.
- Three other professors at the university have been murdered by fundamentalists since 2004.
“RU Professor Rezaul Karim hacked to death” (Dhaka Tribune)
“Bangladesh Police Suspect Islamist Militants in Professor’s Killing” (The New York Times)
“Bangladesh professor hacked to death by Islamist militants” (Reuters)
(Image Credit: Md. Abdullah Iqbal/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images, via The New York Times)
Protests planned after secular Bangladeshi blogger killed by suspected Islamist militants in Dhaka
- Nazimuddin Samad, a law student at a Dhaka university, was attacked at night by a group of machete-wielding men while returning home from class.
- An online activist group described Samad as “a loud voice against all injustice and also a great supporter of secularism,” and students at Jagannath University have called for demonstrations in protest of his murder.
- The murder follows six similar killings in 2015 and attacks on foreign nationals in Bangladesh.
“JnU student killed in suspected militant attack” (Dhaka Tribune)
“Liberal Bangladeshi blogger killed by machete-wielding attackers” (Reuters)
“Strike at Jagannath University on Sunday to protest Nazim murder” (bdnews24.com)
(Image Credit: via Dhaka Tribune)
Bangladesh High Court rejects 28-year-old petition to remove Islam as state religion
- The court ruled that the 15 petitioners (10 of whom have died since filing suit) didn’t have the standing to bring the issue before the court.
- Bangladesh was initially established as a constitutionally secular country upon gaining independence from Pakistan in 1971, but constitutional revision under military rule established Islam as the state religion in 1988.
- Despite the reaffirmation of secularism as a political principle in 2011, religious and ideological minorities, including secularists and atheists, have increasingly come under attack as Islamic fundamentalism has begun gaining a foothold in the country.
“In 2 Minutes, Bangladesh Rejects 28-Year-Old Challenge to Islam’s Role” (The New York Times)
“HC rejects writ on state religion” (Dhaka Tribune)
“Bangladesh continues with Islam as state religion” (newsnextbd.com)
(Image Credit: A.M. Ahad/Associated Press, via The New York Times)
Saudi Arabia reduces sentence for poet from death to imprisonment and lashes
- Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, a refugee in Saudi Arabia, had initially been sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes for apostasy, but was sentenced to death on appeal.
- Fayadh will now face 16 years in prison, receive 800 lashes, and must publicly apologize and disavow his work.
- Fayadh’s case stirred a fierce response from the international community, including artists, celebrities, nonprofits, and other human rights advocates.
“Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh’s death sentence quashed by Saudi court” (The Guardian)
“Saudi Arabia Reduces Ashraf Fayadh’s Death Sentence to Eight Years in Prison and 800 Lashes” (Global Voices)
“Lawyer: Saudi court revokes poet’s death sentence” (AP)
(Image Credit: AP, via The Guardian)
Secular Bangladeshi book publisher murdered, three others attacked in separate incidents in Dhaka
- Faisal Abedin Deepan, a publisher affiliated with the Jagriti Prokashoni publishing house, was hacked to death in the Bangladeshi capital.
- Publisher Ahmed Rahim Tutul was attacked at his home along with writers Ranadipam Basu and Tareq Rahim in a separate incident.
- Both publishers had published work by Bangladeshi-American blogger Avijit Roy, who was murdered earlier in the year in a spate of attacks on secular bloggers.
“Avijit’s publisher Dipan slaughtered” (Dhaka Tribune)
“Avijit Roy’s publisher, 2 bloggers hacked in Dhaka” (Dhaka Tribune)
“Secular publisher hacked to death in Bangladesh” (The Guardian)
(Image Credit: Zakir Hossain Chowdhury/Zuma Press/Corbis, via the Guardian)