Today has been designated International Day to Defend Apostates and Blasphemers. There are blasphemy laws in place in over 30 countries, apostasy laws in over 20. Maryam Namazie, Gita Sahgal, Peter Tatchell, together with many other activists, have signed a letter calling on readers to take action and drawing attention to the plight of some of those suffering under these unjust and repressive laws.
These include Alex Aan, an Indonesian man, imprisoned for saying there is no god on Facebook, Asia Bibi a Pakistani Christian accused of blasphemy, Saeed Malekpour, sentenced to death in Iran for ‘insulting and denigrating Islam’ and Alber Saber, an atheist blogger who is serving a three year prison term in Egypt.
Saber was first accused of linking to The Innocence of Muslims after being reported to the authorities by a neighbour. This accusation was not proved, but other ‘anti-religious’ material on his computer ensured a conviction. Blasphemy prosecutions have increased sharply since the fall of Mubarak, and many of the victims are from a Coptic Christian background, like Saber.
Here’s a very different story, a less dramatic one. The blogger Organica explains why she has now left Islam and describes contrasting reactions to her decision:
I came out of the religious closet to close friends last year. Some were accepting, others not so much. I’ve been called psychotic, erratic and insane. A gang of people have warned one another to keep clear of my company since I was toxic and misguided.
Surprisingly, I have a lot of empathy for a lot of Muslims who are angry with my decision. I understand because I used to be one of those people when I would hear of misguided souls who abandoned the cult. How dare they? How couldn’t they see the truth?
There are some interesting comments under her blog. Here’s just one:
Myself and the vast majority of other Muslims in this country respect your decision – it’s a personal one and I hope it leads you to happiness. But by prejudging us as you have, and by wrongly implying that we’re all narrow-minded and can’t accept your decision and must want to harm you, you have offended people unnecessarily and revealed yourself to be a bigot.
As the Council of ex-Muslims is behind today’s initiative, it’s not surprising their focus is on the Muslim world where these laws are most likely to be in place, and enforced. Most recently, people have taken the ‘law’ into their own hands, by turning on a whole community of Christians in Pakistan.
As the Council of ex-Muslims notes, even in Muslim countries these laws affect Muslims as well as atheists, Christians and others. Some are simply the victims of malicious false allegations, others, as reported in this strong piece, face discrimination (and of course murderous violence) because they are Ahmadi or Shia. Other less obvious victims are those who have put their life or freedom on the line to try to fight these laws.