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.
Indonesian Atheists, an AAI Affiliate, began on Facebook in 2008 and has grown to provide a community for non-believers in Indonesia. The group was profiled in the New York Times on 26 April:
JAKARTA — Karina is an atheist, but her friends jokingly call her “the prophet.” That is because she is helping nurture a community for unbelievers in predominantly Muslim Indonesia, where trumpeting one’s disbelief in God can lead to abuse, ostracism and even prison.
“It’s very normal for atheists to be paranoid because the environment does not support them,” said Ms. Karina, 26, who uses only one name. But, she said, “in this group people don’t need to be afraid.”
Written by Bwambale Robert, School Director
19 April 2013
Pupils at Kasese Humanist Primary School numbering close to sixty participated in an event that involved planting of trees along their recently acquired permanent site on the river banks of River Nyamwamba, which borders the property in the west.
The students left from school in the evening hours of Thursday 18 April 2013 led by the School Director accompanied by the School Headteacher plus some 3 teachers. Movement to this site was by foot from the current site, along the Kasese - Fortportal highway, and they purchased a number of trees seedlings from a nearby nursery bed. We passed along the Majengo-Rukoki Trading center and headed to the School Project.
The children were so excited to learn of the news that this is going to be a future permanent home of the school. They posed for a photograph at the recently plastered building within the property. There are some plantains, bumpkins, pepper and mangoes and the kids tried their luck and took what was available.
Each child planted a tree in a hole and the trees will be looked after such that they grow and as it's rainy season now, there is a good chance they will grow. This exercise took close to two hours.
The purpose of the trees along the river bunks includes to curb soil erosion, provide shade and fresh air and to add on the beauty of the scenery. This exercise is going to continue in more weeks to come.
A fundraising campaign is in progress as the school management tries to mobilise resources to put up classroom blocks on the site and all well wishers and friends of Kasese Humanist Primary School are encouraged to support us materially, financially or morally such that we succeed in commencing bigger construction works in March 2014. If you would like to support Kasese Humanist Primary School please donate through AAI.
by Nathan Lean is making the rounds on the internet and it seems like everybody
is jumping on the atheist-bashing bandwagon. Lean recently wrote an article for Salon – the title: Dawkins,
Harris, Hitchens: New Atheists flirt with Islamophobia. Many anti-Islamophobia crusaders quickly shared it
with comments like “Dawkins’ idiot brigade”. To be fair, many liberals,
atheists and Christians shared it too. But Lean’s article is currently a hot
favourite in circles that dislike atheists in general because of their atheist
read Lean’s article, you probably already know who he is. But if you
haven’t, let me fill you in. Nathan Lean
is the editor-in-chief of the non-profit organisation Aslan Media, an aggressive pro-Islamic, self-proclaimed opponent of Israel of which
some members – including Lean himself – hold a reputation for making
anti-Israel comments on Twitter. Aslan
Media is supposedly an anti-Islamophobia crusader, taking cheap shots at
Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller in the past, and been called out by Jihad
Watch on more than one occasion. It is also ‘supported’ by Loonwatch, a group of
anonymous people who smear almost every critic of Islam while also outing
anti-Muslim bigots. Lean is also
the author of the book The Islamophobia Industry, which received acritical review by Jonathan Schanzer for the Wall Street Journal, and elicited a petulant and
defensive response piece viciously attacking Schanzer by Loonwatch. As well as writing books, Lean also endorses cyber
of 'new atheism' is that this type of non-believer is the 'mean' and
‘in-your-face’. Lean puts new atheists like Harris, Dawkins and
Hitchens in the ranks of Pamela Geller and anti-Muslim bigots, calling new atheists ‘the new Islamophobes’. This is a little disturbing and so over the
top that it sounds almost absurd. Anyone who has read the works of 'new atheists' such as Dawkins and Harris knows that their ‘invectives’ are directed
against Islam as a religion, and not Muslims. If Lean should be criticising
anyone, it should be those who engage in destructive acts of terror, those who
make the lives of people hell on earth by giving fatwas, those Muslims
who kill Muslims and then go on to whine about Islamophobia.
Atheist Alliance International (AAI) urges global governments to petition the government of Bangladesh to immediately release bloggers who have been arrested for allegedly "hurting religious sentiments” and, further, to demand that the state take resolute steps to protect atheists and religious minorities from real and pressing threats of violence. On 2 April, police arrested Subrata Adhikari Shuvo, Mashiur Rahman Biplob and Rasel Parvez. The following day, authorities detained blogger Asif Mohiuddin, a writer who was attacked on 13 January by militant Islamists. The attack on Asif was followed a month later by the violent murder of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider.
“That a government will arrest people for exercising free speech and expression when those people are themselves under threat from religiously-inspired criminals is a tremendous injustice and an outrage to humanity,” said AAI President Carlos A. Diaz. "This is contrary to basic human rights and Bangladesh's own constitution." The arrests of the bloggers, three of whom were paraded in handcuffs at a press conference on 2 April, came after pressure from Islamists, who have organised a march to the capital on the weekend of 6/7 April to demand the death penalty for atheist bloggers. “That the government has caved-in to a violent sectarian movement, by arrests and shutting of websites, does not bode well for the country’s future,” Diaz said. “The state should act to ensure a vibrant civil society by protecting free expression, especially the expression of minority viewpoints.”
AAI calls on the international community, concerned individuals and organisations to take a firm stand in supporting freedom of expression and freedom of conscience. Religious tolerance and pluralism are strongest when freedom of expression, including freedom to challenge religious viewpoints, is protected for all peoples.
Written by He R. Lock & She R. Lock, News Team
03 April 2013
Imagine living with the constant fear that an angry mob would torture you to death if they found out you are a free thinking person.
That’s how many agnostics and atheists live in Pakistan. Being Pakistani and an atheist is undoubtedly a dangerous combination. This does not even begin to make sense until you bring the context into the picture, which is a religious verdict about apostates being punishable by death. So much for 'thinking freely or differently’. This religious ruling is the prime factor that puts the life of Pakistani atheists in danger. In fact ‘thinking’ is just as big of a sin in Pakistan as thinking differently. You are doomed if you decide to use your so-called god-given mental faculties and engage in critical thinking because thinking in matters of faith is a sin in itself.
Despite the fact that revealing yourself as an atheist in Pakistan is like having a death wish, some are brave enough to publicise their atheism. Yet most atheists living in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan have no choice but to live in disguise as Muslims. They are often called ‘in-closet atheists’ which is not far from reality. The constant dread, dismay and the pressures have taken a significant mental toll on atheists in Pakistan as religion takes hold on the majority of Muslims in the country.
Another significant factor jeopardising the life of atheists living in Pakistan is the Penal code of Pakistan, which has laws decreeing the death penalty for various religious offences. This may or may not come as a surprise to free thinking people all over the world, but the famous ‘Blasphemy Law’ proposes death penalty for merely defiling the ‘sacred’ name of Holy Prophet Muhammad. So far many innocent people have fallen prey to the draconian law of blasphemy:
”An estimated number of 1,274 people have been charged under the stringent blasphemy laws of Pakistan between 1986, from when they were included in the Constitution by General Zia ul Haq, until 2010.” (Source: Dawn News)
The exhaustive list of people accused, jailed and even killed by radical Islamists ‘in the name of Allah’ can be accessed here.
Image: Protesters rally at
the Philippines’ Supreme Court in Manila to protest the four-month suspension. Source: Kalatas
On Tuesday 19 March, the Philippines’ Supreme Court issued a four-month suspension
of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act. The new law would
have required government health centres to provide free contraceptives and
schools to teach sex education.
The suspension, which is intended to allow opponents until 18June
to present their arguments, was issued after petitions were received from
religious and pro-life groups seeking to overturn the law, who are now claiming
the move as a ‘partial
The law came
as a result of disturbing statistics in the Philippines, which revealed increased
rates of teenage pregnancies and the maternal and child death rate. The
maternal death rate alone has increased by almost 40% since 2006. These statistics have been linked to poor knowledge of
sexual health and little or no available family planning advice. The President
of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino, has thrown his support behind the law: ‘Items like sex education for
instance, how can anyone argue that there is such a need, it shouldn't be deriving
your knowledge from your peer group who are actually as ignorant as you.’ The
President’s office reported that despite the suspension, there is confidence
that the law will be retained.
Even if it
is retained, opposition to the law will likely remain. 80% of the Philippines’ population
of 100 million identify as Catholic and as yet the Catholic Church in the
Philippines and elsewhere has vociferously opposed any reproductive health law.
There is hope, however. On the day the suspension was announced, protesters
gathered at the Philippines’ Supreme Court in Manila, claiming that the Supreme
Court should be held “accountable to the 15 women and
children who will die each day” until the law is reinstated.
Karl from Indonesian Atheists, an AAI Affiliate, talks to the Jakarta Globe about "You Ask, An Atheist Answers":
Discussions between atheists and theists, or those who believe in the existence of God, are fragile events that rarely, though not impossibly, manage to do anything more than reinforce just how disparate the two factions’ stances are. This profound divergence is evidently true in Indonesia, where the concept of atheism is still seen as remarkably foreign, to put it mildly.
Stigmas and assumptions about Indonesian atheists often paint them as smart-aleck contrarians with a penchant for hedonistic nihilism who leave the burden of proof to believers.
To disprove this widespread view, two Indonesian atheists have taken up the call, Karl Karnadi and Virgi Albiant, the latter of which is a pseudonym used by the founder of “Anda Bertanya, Ateis Menjawab” (“You Ask, an Atheist Answers”), an Internet-based forum and community that aims to build a friendly bridge between believers and non-believers.
Yesterday AAI tweeted a link to an Atheist Revolution article that trivialised harassment of women in the atheist community. The tweet (and related Facebook post) have been deleted and this apology posted on the Butterflies & Wheels blog:
Hi everyone, tweeting that link was a mistake, a big one. One of our Social Media collaborators twitted the link from what looked to him as a sensible source with a title that seemed on the same page as we are. He wasn´t aware of the fact that the article is far off from our stance on harassment: we don´t condone it, we don´t defend it and we certainly will not accept it in our community, end of story. We are completely committed to promoting women feeling safer in our community (something we should all strive for) and to stopping this senseless harassment that plagues us.
We have an anti-harassment policy that is mandatory for all conventions we help organize or give funding to and we are always open to receiving suggestions or requests for help regarding this, and any other issue (email: president [at] atheistalliance [dot] org).
I personally apologize for the slip up and hope you understand we, in no way, share any view other than the fact that we all must work together against harassment in our community, we must all feel safe discussing ideas among ourselves and not blame the victims in order to hide the shortcomings our community has.
Written by George Thindwa, Association for Secular Humanism
19 March 2013
We are very concerned about Witchcraft based violence in Malawi. Here is the story that should make you very disturbed. The attached two photos is that of Margaret. One where she is alone and of course on the second photo I am there standing with her.
Margaret Wisele (50) who has her leg chopped off with a machete because she was accused of witchcraft. This happened on 21st January 2013. The local hospital had to finally amputate her on 25th January 2013. This was done at Zomba Hospital.
She was hacked on 21st Jan 2013 by three boys from her village. She was accused of being a witch. On this day, there was a funeral of a grandson to Margaret`s sister. And the village blamed her for the sudden death. And these three boys picked themselves out of the group at the funeral to go and kill Margaret. Since the incidence in January the local police did not arrest the perpetrators for reasons best known to themselves.
However, with our influence the perpetrators have now been arrested now. The arrest was made yesterday, on 18th March 2013-one and half months after the event. We went to see Margaret on Monday 18th March, 2013 at her village.
We should be buying her walking clutches or artificial leg in the near future. Margaret is well. Except that she feels some pain on her amputated leg sometimes.
Written by Jo Stephanie, News Team
18 March 2013
On the night of 13 March, white smoke and
chiming bells alerted the world that we had a new Pope. I waited, somewhat
impatiently, to see who the new leader of the world’s largest religious institution
was going to be. Part of me wished I could have been in the Vatican to witness
the revelation for myself. Strange as it may seem for an atheist to express
such a desire, it is true. As a Catholic I had once listened to Pope John Paul
II speak in the Vatican and I wondered what it would be like to once again
listen to a pope speak in the same location but as a non-believer. Furthermore,
the revelation of the new leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics was a
significant moment in history. One moment that happened to be going on just
twenty minutes from my old home.
Once Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis,
stepped out onto the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica, it quickly became clear
that he would have more mass appeal than his predecessor. News contributors
have talked at length of the significance of the name Francis but I realised its
significance as soon as I heard the name. For eight years I attended a Catholic
school named after St Francis of Assisi and I was well aware of his legacy. He
was a man who was born into a wealthy family but chose to live a life of
In his hometown of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio
famously rejected the perks that came with his high rank in the Argentine
church. However, it seems that religious leaders are held to a low standard
when people determine whether or not they are good people. A church official
taking public transport or rejecting a palatial home should not make
international headlines. After all, when priests begin their ‘careers’ they
take a vow of poverty. All too often though, once a priest climbs a few notches
up the church hierarchy those vows are forgotten. I recall when the news broke
that Pope Benedict’s butler had leaked private Vatican documents; my first
thought was, ‘Why on earth does a man who took a vow of poverty have a butler
Written by Alexandre F. Shimono, News Team
16 March 2013
Tweets from Marcos Feliciano in 2011: "Africans are descendants of an ancestor cursed by Noah. This is fact. The reason for the curse is polemic." and "The rottenness of homosexual feelings brings hate, crime and rejection.”
7 March 2013 was not a day to be remembered by minorities in Brazil as Marcos Feliciano, a known racist and homophobic preacher, was elected president of the Human Rights Commission by Brazil’s House of Representatives. Originally planned to take place on the 6th, the voting process had to be transferred to the 7th due to protests and rows among the voting deputies.
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.