U.N. told atheists face discrimination around globe

GENEVA Mon Feb 25, 2013 1:45pm EST

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay (R) talks to Remigiusz Henczel, President of the Human Rights Council before the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva February 25, 2013. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay (R) talks to Remigiusz Henczel, President of the Human Rights Council before the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva February 25, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Denis Balibouse

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GENEVA (Reuters) - Atheists, humanists and freethinkers face widespread discrimination around the world with expression of their views criminalized and subject in some countries to capital punishment, the United Nations was told on Monday.

In a document for consideration by the world body's Human Rights Council, a global organization linking people who reject religion said atheism was banned by law in a number of states where people were forced to officially adopt a faith.

"Extensive discrimination by governments against atheists, humanists and the non-religious occurs worldwide," declared the grouping, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) which has some 120 member bodies in 45 countries.

In Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan "atheists can face the death penalty on the grounds of their belief" although this was in violation of U.N. human rights accords, the IHEU said.

Further, in several others legal measures "effectively criminalize atheism (and) the expression and manifestation of atheist beliefs" or lead to systematic discrimination against freethinkers, the document declared.

It was submitted to the rights council as it opened its annual Spring session against a background of new efforts in the U.N. by Muslim countries to obtain a world ban on denigration of religion, especially what they call "Islamophobia".

Three of the states with legislation providing for death for blasphemy against Islam, a charge which can be applied to atheists who publicly reveal their ideas, are on the council - Pakistan, Mauritania and Maldives.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the council on Monday there was a "rising trend" of Islamophobia, adding: "We condemn all sorts of incitement to hatred and religious discrimination against Muslims and people of other faiths."

OIC WANTS ACTION

And earlier this month a top official of the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said the body would be focusing on getting agreement on criminalizing denigration of religion in coming talks with Western countries.

In November last year, the head of the 21-country Arab League told the U.N. Security Council in New York his organisation wanted a binding international framework to ensure "that religious faith and its symbols are respected".

The IHEU, and other non-governmental rights groupings, argue that many Muslim governments use this terminology and the concept of "religious blasphemy" within their own countries to cow both atheists and followers of other religions.

A number of these governments "prosecute people who express their religious doubt or dissent, regardless of whether those dissenters identify as atheist", the IHEU document submitted to the rights council said.

Islamic countries - including Bangladesh, Bahrain, Egypt, Indonesia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey - had also stepped up prosecution of "blasphemous" expression of criticism of religion in social media like Facebook and Twitter.

OIC countries have 15 seats on the council, all from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and make up just less than one third of the rights body.

(Reporting by Robert Evans; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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Comments (2)
Tiu wrote:
For some reason back in 1999 I was looking forward to the new millennium, expecting it to herald fantastic new technologies and a leap into the future.
Instead it our leaders have heralded an age of religious bigotry and intolerance which drags us all back to the medieval period.
There will be a heavy price to pay now that these religious nutters have undermined society and inflicted their “interpretations” of very contentious and debatable texts which have been translated and re-written numerous times through the ages.
The darkness has enveloped us all.

Feb 25, 2013 9:41pm EST  --  Report as abuse
reality-again wrote:
Not sure the darkness has enveloped us all, but we’re immersed in BS for sure.

Feb 26, 2013 1:48pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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