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.
The Association for Secular Humanism in Malawi (an AAI Member) has
released a report on the extent of witchcraft in Malawi - and it is
depressing reading. Belief in witchcraft is widespread, the number of
cases is rising and people suspected of witchcraft are often subject to
violence. The report recommends ten initiatives to combat the violence
against those accused of witchcraft.
Atheist Alliance International congratulates the
Association for Secular Humanism for its work to document the extent of
the problems in Malawi and its ongoing campaign against superstitious
and dangerous practices.
Written by Alexandre F. Shimono, News Team
27 April 2012
Women celebrate when the results were announced.
“Crime is having no rights!” reads the banner. (Picture: AgBR/ CFêmea)
Anencephaly, according to Wikipedia, is a cephalic disorder that results from a neural tube defect that occurs when the cephalic (head) end of the neural tube fails to close, usually between the 23rd and 26th day of pregnancy, resulting in the absence of a major portion of the brain, skull, and scalp.
On 12 April Brazil took a true secular action by decriminalizing the abortion of anencephalic fetuses and assuring the rights of pregnant women in such cases. With eight votes for and two against, the result of the judgment may not have been as significant as the signaled Brazilian position regarding religion and State separation: minister Marco Aurélio Mello of the Supreme Court of Brazil (“Superior Tribunal Federal”), the highest judicial court, rapporteur of this process and first to vote pro-decriminalization, included a whole section in his speech to reinforce the fact that the constitution is laic, and no religious belief should interfere in the law.
Some interesting parts are transcripted below (free translation):
“Gods and Caesars have separated places. The State is not religious, nor is atheist. The State is simply neutral.”
Thank you to Richard Ponce for his recording of Bertrand Russell's Am I an Atheist or Agnostic for AAI's Freethought Audio Library. AAI Members can access this recording by logging into the Members Only section of the AAI website, then finding the Freethought Audio Library under the Resources menu.
Written by Richard Ponce, News Team
25 April 2012
The First Philippine Atheists and Agnostics
Convention was held in Manila on Saturday April 21st
by the Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society (PATAS). This event is notable
in that it came into being from a grassroots organization started on Facebook
only just over a year ago. The ambitious work of its members, its chairperson
Marissa Torres Langseth and president John Paraiso, drew a crowd of around 150
supporters and speakers from many organizations around the world. Don’t be
fooled by the size of the turnout; this is truly a spark in a tinderbox.
The vast majority of people in the
Philippines are fervently religious, the country being predominantly Roman
Catholic with an Islamic population in the south, and it is also highly
superstitious. At the convention we learned of the power of the Catholic Church
in the Philippines, where voters are outright coerced into election choices under
the threat of excommunication. Even more alarming is the church’s stance on
birth control, abortion rights and, women’s rights. The church’s influence has
led to overpopulation with a majority of Filipinos living in poverty, where AIDS
and other sexually transmitted diseases are on the increase. Lack of basic
education and the threat of damnation for rational family planning plague the
population. Undue meddling in the government by the church has allowed it to
maintain control since it was forced onto the Filipino population by the
Spaniards. But times are changing. As
Marissa Torres Langseth wrote in the preamble to the convention, “No more
hiding, no more lying—we are coming out…Our tools are logic, critical thinking,
Just when sequestering, shunning and sheltering seemed to be enough to keep the minds of ultra-Orthodox Jewish followers from exploring anything reasonable or scientific outside themselves, it seems the leaders have learned to embrace modern psychology, well sort of. In a new effort to help "problematic" members fall in line and control their tayvos - desires - leading rabbis in various Hasidic communities in Israel have linked up with morally questionable psychiatrists in order to prescribe drugs intended to kill sex drive and aid in the "struggle against homosexuality."
Some definitions of terms that appear in the articles: Yeshiva- a religious college for boys where only religious scriptures are learned; Rebbe- the head of a Hasidic community, higher ranking than a "rabbi" and seen as an intermediary between the faithful and God; Hasidic Jews- continuation of an 18th century spiritual revival movement in Eastern Europe which is known for stringent observance of Jewish law and isolating themselves from the secular world in regards to media, education and actual contact. The first article is the initial report uncovered by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which is one of the most widespread and internationally recognized Israeli newspapers.
(With the other speakers and the PATAS team in Manila)
It was an honour and a pleasure to be at the first atheist convention in South East Asia on 21 April. Hosted by the Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society (PATAS) in Manila, the convention - titled Filipino non-belief - are you ready for this? - was a lot of fun and a significant step for non-believers in the region. Dan Barker from FFRF headed the program - it's always great to hear him talk - and it was wonderful to meet and listen to other speakers including Jeremiah Camara, David Orenstein and Norm Allen. In addition, we heard about about the projects done by PATAS (and it's only been in existence since Feb 2011 - a very busy first year!) and it was very interesting to listen to Red Tani's talk about secular activism by the Filipino Freethinkers. A lot of work is going into supporting the Reproductive Health bill, which would make contraception more widely accessible. PATAS' tour of Manila on the following day really showed why this is needed - in slum areas we saw a very high proportion of children and were told that the average family size is 8 - 10.
A big congratulations to PATAS and the organising committee for all their hard work in hosting this seminal event. It was a great statement in support of atheism and secularism in the Philippines and may there be many more!
Written by Esteban Cortés, News Team
17 April 2012
The AECH, Skeptics Association of Chile, started
as a group of people who got to know each other through debates on online
forums. They were familiar with the work
of Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens, among others, and were also catalyzed by the appearance
of a very well known charlatan on television.
AECH’s work involves
publishing articles online, running two radio shows, and also going after
possible charlatans or quacks, explaining people why some
benefits-for-little-money might be a scam.
They spread science through the internet and their radio shows, which a
lot of people still don’t have access to in our country, where statistics about
reading skills and reading comprehension are frantically depressing.
AECH’s objectives are
to undertake an educational role in the mass media, create debate wherever and
whenever it’s needed and raise awareness of all the quackery still going on.
I contacted Luis León
Cárdenas Graide, better known as ‘Luchostein’, who is a member of this
But before Luis’
interview, what is the apostasy campaign and how does it work?
The apostasy campaign
is a (hopefully) massive gathering of people to formally renounce their
religion. People participate by attending a meeting in their communities where
they are given apostasy letters to fill in.
The letters are handed in by groups to their respective archdiocese,
which then has two days time (by law) to go through the papers and delete the
apostates from its records permanently.
Wow! The 2012 Global
Atheist Convention A Celebration of
Reason, held in Melbourne 13 – 15 April, was simply amazing. Kudos to the Atheist Foundation of Australia
and the organizing committee for putting together the largest atheist
convention the world has ever seen in such a professional manner. The program was first class, culminating in a
moving tribute to Christopher Hitchens – a video of classic Hitch moments – followed by speeches from Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss (self-described
as Hitchens’ personal physicist), then the Closing Panel comprised the three
remaining ‘Horsemen’ - Dawkins, Dennett, Harris – and Ayaan Hirsi Ali (who
would have been part of the original ‘Four Horsemen’ discussion a few years ago
but for a last-minute change of plans).
The four received a standing ovation when they walked on stage. I listened to their discussion – including
Ayaan’s point that it’s racism that underpins the failure to prosecute for the
crime of female genital mutilation in Islamic communities in the UK (wonder
what would happen if it were little white girls that were being mutilated?) –
marveling at being in a room of around 4,000 atheists listening to some of our best. There were many
other excellent talks during the convention – I didn’t get to see all of them
but particularly enjoyed ones I did see from Annie Laurie Gaylor, AC Grayling,
Leslie Cannold and Geoffrey Robertson, as well as Stella Young's comedy on the opening night. A
special mention for Jason Ball - he talked about the Freethought Student
Alliance, which supports explicitly non-religious groups in high schools and
universities in Australia. I wish it had
been around when I was at university!
The buzz in the plenary and in the foyer during the breaks – the feel of
thousands of atheists having a great time – was awesome. It was a unique, exhilarating experience.
More personally, I was very pleased that my talk (I’ll add a video if I can!) was
well-received on the Sunday morning and that the AAI table was subsequently
overwhelmed with people wanting to support us!
We sold out of all our merchandise and it was wonderful that people came
up and gave me compliments on my talk, joined up
as members and/or donated to AAI. Thank
Gambia lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons are not
accorded their basic right to simply be who they are.
Monday 10 April 2012 marked a historic day of the unrealistic denial of the
diversity of sexual orientation. Seventeen
young Gambian men - Alieu Sarr, Kebba Ceesay, Abdoulie Bojang, Amadou Jallow,
Amidou Nyang, Ousman Gomez, Sainey Fatty, Lamin Konateh, Lamin Sarr, Buba
Banda, Ebrima Jallow, Lamin Saho, Abdoulie Cham, Lamin Jaiteh, Ousman Dibba,
Adboulie Saidy, and Muhammed Manneh - were remanded at the Mile 2 Central
Prison on grounds of being under police investigation for having engaged
in homosexual activities. An eighteenth accused man, Nigerian
immigrant Ogika Amenechi, was also charged.
The seventeen Gambia nationals and Nigerian were charged with having been
engaged in "indecent practice among themselves in public places" on 5
April 2012 at Serre Kunda and other places in The Gambia.
The seventeen accused, who pleaded not guilty to the charges against them, were
denied bail on Monday on the grounds that they were being investigated. Even
though the Magistrate who presided over the case told the court that the men
were charged with a bailable offence and noted that they had been in detention
since 5 April, the Police prosecutor persisted with his application for bail
The case was adjourned to 19 April 2012 for hearing. The accused were not represented during the
A civil servant who incited controversy by declaring that he was atheist was on Monday indicted on three charges, including one for violating the Information Transaction Law (ITE).
The first charge brought against Alexander at the Muaro Sijungung District Court was for violating Article 28, Clause 2 of the ITE. Next was for Article 156a(a) of the Criminal Code (KUHP), and the last for violating Article 156a(b) of the KUHP.
Alexander was indicted for creating a Facebook group called Minang Atheists. Alexander wrote about Prophet Muhammad on the Facebook wall. The trial was attended by five witnesses, Hendri, Mulyadi, Doni Saptri, Yon Riadi, and Hendri Martariko, who had seen the pictures and posts on Alexander's Facebook group.
Prosecutor Ibrahim Khalil, in the indictment, said the Facebook posts and pictures insulted Islam. The posts also caused a public disturbance and outcry.
The congregation’s suspicions fell on the
pastor who was interrogated and apparently confessed to facilitating the boy’s
passage to Tanzania, a country known for ritual killings of albinos. The pastor is said to have been ordered to
bring back the boy – he left, but returned a few days later without the young
albino boy. Subsequently a mob descended
on the church.
Lawrence Nyagah, a humanist activist and an
albino himself, said”images of an enraged mob burning and tearing the church
into pieces was aired on one of Kenya’s TV stations [which] spoke more than
words could have said about the anger of the crowd, but it further said more:
that by perpetuating superstitions the church as an institution was complicit
in such incidences of human rights abuse.”
The matter is (allegedly) being pursued by the Kenyan police.
Lawrence said he is “attracted to humanism
because of the work humanists are doing to end belief in superstition. Lawrence said he converted from Catholicism to
humanism about two years ago after reading about Leo Igwe and the IHEU, and
expressed Africa’s need of more courageous people committed to the fight
against belief in and practice of superstitions.
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.