A petition urges the UN to come to
the rescue of non-Muslims and non-believers in Pakistan – who are often the
victims of State Religion – and recognise and celebrate 11 August as the
International Day Against State Religion.
As Pakistan makes history and marks
five years of democracy by successfully upholding general elections, conditions
in Pakistan for non-Muslims and non-believers are far from getting any better.
The 2013 election has been termed the most violent election in the history of
Pakistan. The Taliban carried out their threats and attacked
convoys and rallies of secular
and even Islamist
political parties. Here is
a whole timeline of pre-poll violence in Pakistan. Even on Election Day, the violence
Non-Muslim candidates were largely absent
from the elections, but those who ran were voted for because electors felt they
could offer protection. The Christian residents of Joseph
Colony, a Christian community that was
attacked by a Muslim mob earlier this year, voted for the conservative party
Jamaat-i-Islami's non-Muslim candidate because they wanted to vote
Conditions in Pakistan for
non-Muslims are grim.
and again in 2012 the World Council Of Churches stated that minority
religious communities in Pakistan are living in “fear and terror” of
Islamic fundamentalists amid abductions and forced conversions that the
government is helpless to stop.WCC’s
ruling Central Committee declared that Pakistan’s small Hindu
and Christian communities were increasingly subject to “persecution
and discrimination”. Likewise, Ahmaddiya Muslims
outlawed and at the mercy of Islamists. In light of these and other incidents where non-Muslim and non-believer
Pakistanis have been victims of persecution and intolerance, a petition
has been set up calling on the Secretary General of the United Nations to
recognise an International Day Against State Religion on August 11, 2013 “in
solidarity with victims of the State Religion, namely, non-Muslims and
non-believers of Pakistan”. The
petition says "the life of non-Muslims and non-believers of Pakistan is as
good as hell thanks to the State Religion of Pakistan.” There is now a need for
State Religion to be hit by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Written by Leo Igwe, Nigerian Humanist Movement
07 March 2013
On February 9, 2013, the former Chair of the Nigerian Humanist Movement, Eze Ebisike died after a brief illness. On March 2, he was buried in his hometown Okpokume, Mpam, Ekwerazu Ahiazu Mbiase in Imo State. Ebisike was an ex-catholic priest and an atheist. He was buried after a short humanist funeral ceremony in the compound. The ceremony was a historic event because it was the first time, in that part of the country that someone who was an atheist was given a non-religious funeral.
Funerals constitute a vital part of the local culture and tradition. Most people attach a lot of importance to rites marking the end of life. Some people plan for their own funerals even though they know they won't be there to celebrate it! People devote time, energy and resources to mourning the dead and paying their last respects.
But like most other aspects of culture, funeral ceremonies have been based on religion and supernaturalism. A funeral is a ‘spiritual’ and godly exercise.
Hence people think that a funeral must be conducted in line with the teachings of one of the traditional religions; Islam or Christianity. They cannot imagine a godless funeral service or a non religious or non theistic way of mourning the dead. This is to be expected given the ubiquity of the theistic cosmological outlook. Most people believe in a god that rewards or punishes people after death. There is a strong belief that death is not the end of life, that death is a kind of transition from this life to the ‘next life’, that there is a heaven and a hell. But humanists do not hold to these beliefs. For humanists, death is the end of life. When people die they decompose just like all other living things. Post mortem life in heaven and hell is viewed at best as a comforting illusion. The evidence for a personal god is simply not there. There has also been no evidence produced for the existence of a soul. And the whole idea of the soul leaving the body is just wishful thinking.
resignation of Pope Benedict, does that mean there will be real change in areas
where the Catholic Church is seen to be at odds even with its own people? Paedophile priests aside, I wish to focus on
the attitude of the church toward women, their health needs, and in particular
contraception and abortion. There have been recent events in Europe regarding
these issues which are worth discussing.
Jones, writing for the Irish Times,
wrote of her disapproval of a custom in Ireland, a country with strong Catholic
traditions, where medical professionals address women
patients as “mother”. Catholic bishops have spoken about their “two-patient model” regarding
maternity services in which mother and child are treated as one unit. Jones’ objection is that referring to a woman as
“mother” means treating that woman as a role rather than as a person; it implies
that women are for breeding, and cannot be considered in separation from that
role. Such a stance skews any possible discussion on abortion: “Women have the
right to be treated as equal, responsible, capable human beings, independent of
any roles they may assume. Women are entitled to medical services in their own
right, including abortion.”
not the only country in Europe where Catholic views have conflicted with the
health needs of women. As reported by Der
Spiegel in January of this year, certain Catholic hospitals in
Germany refused to examine a rape victim. The case was reported by an emergency centre
doctor who treated a 25-year-old woman suspected of being the victim of a
date-rape drug. After prescribing the
‘morning after pill’, the doctor contacted two Catholic hospitals, and both
hospitals refused to provide the gynaecological examination requested by the doctor
and the woman. This refusal was given because Catholic hospitals do not want to
be in the position of having to advise victims of rape regarding possible
unwanted pregnancies. The case caused uproar in the community, and a defensive
reaction by the Catholic Church at the time.
Atheist Ireland, an Affiliate of AAI, will be hosting Empowering Women through Secularism in Dublin, 29-30 June 2013. The speaker line up is excellent - Annie Laurie Gaylor, Maryam Namazie, Taslima Nasrin, Ophelia Benson, Rebecca Watson, PZ Myers and Dan Barker, as well as AAI President Carlos Diaz. Don't miss this fantastic opportunity - early bird tickets now on sale for EUR100. For more information click here.
Outside of the “Arab Spring” movement and unbeknownst to most of the atheist community in the West, there has been an equally forceful effort in East Asia to throw off Islamist domination since its establishment as an independent country in 1971.
Bangladesh - A country that was initially created as part of Muslim-dominated Pakistan in the movement of Indian independence in 1947, and later separated from Pakistan in 1971 as an independent country - has had a schizophrenic identity since then. Having been the ruling seat of British-ruled India, the Bengal region has had a strong heritage with the British Enlightenment. The region played a major part in the Indian Independence movement. But the region is also strongly Muslim and was the birthplace of the separationist Muslim League which led to the partitioning of India and the creation of Pakistan, which included East Bengal, later renamed East Pakistan, as a nation and a society focused on strict Sharia (Islamic law).
Politics have always been complex in Bangladesh. Since its separation from India, Bangladesh has endured a series of corruption scandals, assassinations and coups that left the country mired as one of the poorest for decades and eventually led to its own war of independence from Pakistan in 1971.
Much of that war was driven between conservative Islamists (supported by Pakistan) and moderate-minded Muslim and secular progressives (supported by India). The Islamists formed a military faction, the Jammat-e-Islami, which later transformed itself into a political party that led the state for the first decades after independence.
In this episode Jake and Han talk about atheist churches, the accusations of elitism and the horrors committed in the name of faith. They also interview Indian atheist writer Rastam Singh. Click here for the Secular World podcast.
During the first
two Arabic months, Moharram and Safar (most recently mid-Nov 2012 to mid-Jan 2013 on the Western calendar), Shia Muslims go into a mourning
period and the colour black comes into prominence. People wear black clothes. Arabic
sentences written on black pieces of cloth are seen in streets, in the entrance
doors of shops, and especially in mosques. During this two-month holy period,
Shia Muslims attempt to find solutions for their problems. One of their
solutions has always been quite strange to me.
It was the
beginning of Moharram when I went as
usual to the Afghan Student Union (in Mashhad City, Iran) to take part in a weekly English-discussion
class. In the yard, there was a tree which had several
pieces of cloth tied to it. Some of the cloths had two or three knots in them
and some had many. While I have seen the green pieces
of cloth tied onto the door handles of mosques or holy places before, this time
it was different for me: this time, I was at a place where university students
gathered. I have decided to write something about this tradition because it has
found its way into a place where the younger generation is educated.
How many serious
problems do you have in your life? An Islamic traditional solution recommends
you to take a piece of cloth (green is preferred) and begin tying.
Jake and Han talk about boy scouts, religious violence and the myth of Christian morality. Plus a fascinating interview is Roselynne Martinez from PATAS, the Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society. Click here for the Secular World podcast.
concerned with the negatives of atheism often concentrate on moral “ideals”
that they perceive atheists could not have, they seem to forget that their own
ideals give less validation to this life we have now, allowing finite time to
be taken up by demonstrably petty mythical tales.
recent times we have seen an upsurge in honour killings in the large
up-and-coming powerhouse of the world, India, and from it, a greater acceptance
of honour killings from the communities within these regions. While
this is not an issue confined to the South Asian continent, it is an issue strongly
linked to religion (and, in India, specifically, the caste system), with the
ideology of these murders spreading through several doctrines of faith.
Now, with more emigration
around the world (which is not a bad thing in itself), some of these strange
ideologies have spread into western societies, hiding in plain sight as we wear
our politically correct tinted glasses and ignore that an essential issue
behind these numerous human rights abuses is religion. Proving a ‘higher’
set of morality provides justification in some people’s minds for what is
simply a crime. While when the judicial system
is involved the right outcome can be achieved many people are
sympathetic to the notion of allowing immigrants to keep their ‘culture’. A lot
of people feel like it is too much of a messy issue to deal with.
AAI President Carlos Diaz talks with hosts David Driscoll and John Snyder about his background and religious education in Argentina, Atheist Census and other AAI activities. The interview starts at around the 10:15 mark.
Written by Jo Stephanie, News Team
16 January 2013
Eve 2012, attacks on two Nigerian churches resulted in
the deaths of at least 12 people. Brutal as the attacks may have been, they
were not necessarily surprising as attacks by militant Islamist groups against
Christians in Nigeria have become all too common. The Christmas attack is one
of many since 2010. More than 30 people died in 2011 on Christmas Day in a wave
of attacks in the region, blamed on the militant Islamist group Boko Haram. Indeed,
al-Qaeda affiliated militant Islamist groups such as Boko Haram have become
more active not only in Nigeria but in other African countries as well. Some of
the other main groups include Ansar Dine in Mali and al-Shabab in Somalia.
As of January 2012, Boko Haram had killed close
to 1,000 people. One year on and many attacks later, the death toll is well over
1,000. Although it has targeted a wide range of people, Boko Haram is especially
known for attacking Christians during religious gatherings. This is in part due to the fact
that many international news agencies tend to give more coverage to Boko Haram
when it targets Christians as opposed to other groups. Ansar Dine has
taken over large areas of Mali, most notably Timbuktu, and imposed sharia law.
Al-Shabab has caused devastation in Somalia and has been responsible for
attacks in Kenya and Uganda.
The end of the world; Atheist Census with Carlos Diaz, AAI President; David Ince, the Carribean Atheist; and so much more! Enjoy! Contact the show by emailing podcast [at] atheistalliance [dot] org. Click here for the latest podcast. And yes, we've re-numbered the podcasts, we're just mysterious like that.
A member of Indonesian Atheists recently visited Alexander Aan in prison. The visitor was able to bring food and drink for Alex and spoke with him for around 20 minutes. Alex appears to be well, socialising with other prisoners and communicating with the officers. Alex and the visitor discussed recent news related to secularism and atheism and Alex provided a copy of some of his recent notes, including (on the second page) "I always concern in humanity and science and never come back to Islam", "I need to leave Indonesia quickly" and "I need to be myself". Alex also thanked his supporters: "Thank (you) for all my friend who support(ed) me all the way".
Alex's appeal to the Indonesian Supreme Court is in process. Atheist Alliance International is raising funds to support Alex's legal case and, separately, to assist him to study outside Indonesia after his release if possible. If you would like to help Alex please donate here.
Atheist Alliance was established in 1991 as a
democratic network of US-based atheist organizations plus one non-US
organization. Over time Atheist Alliance
expanded to include more non-US members and changed its name to Atheist
Alliance International (AAI) in 2001. In
2010 AAI had 31 US-based affiliates and 18 non-US based affiliates. At this time the board of AAI concluded that
its goals could be achieved more effectively by separating into two
organizations – one focused on US local and national issues and one focused on
providing a supportive global network for atheist and freethought organizations
around the world. In October 2010 the
separation was approved in principle by AAI’s members and in June 2011 AAI effectively
separated into Atheist Alliance International and Atheist Alliance of America.