We are non-religious activists and campaigners who have been victims of blasphemy and apostasy laws around the world, or of vigilante violence inspired by prejudice against humanists. We are aware that the UK has recently concluded a review of persecution of Christians around the globe, and believe that a similar review should now be conducted into persecution of the non-religious.
Many countries, when supporting freedom of religion or belief, already focus their efforts on opposing the persecution of Christians specifically. But none have given any detailed attention to the non-religious. The UK is one of the least religious countries on the planet. The British Social Attitudes survey (Editorial, 16 July) suggests that a majority of British adults belong to no religion. It is one of the best placed to champion opposition to the persecution that the non-religious face.
What is more, the non-religious need such a champion. In many countries around the world it is simply impossible to be openly non-religious: 13 have the death penalty for blasphemy and apostasy, with many more criminalising it, and widespread social prejudice exists across much of the globe. Many humanists have been murdered with impunity, in some cases for merely identifying as such. In the words of Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, “In my observations, humanists, when they are attacked, are attacked far more viciously and brutally than in other cases.”
If the UK doesn’t provide such high-level support to people like us, who will?
Rana Ahmad Saudi Arabia (now based in Germany)
Bonya Ahmed Bangladesh (now based in the US)
Choity Ahmed Chief editor, Nari News, Bangladesh (now based in Sweden)
Waleed Al-Husseini Palestine (now based in France)
Mubarak Bala President, Nigeria Humanist Association
Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury Editor and publisher, Shuddhashar, Bangladesh (now based in Norway)
Fauzia Ilyas Atheist & Agnostic Alliance Pakistan (now based in the Netherlands)
Siti Kasim Malaysia
Philippos Louizos Greece
Asif Mohiuddin Bangladesh (now based in Germany)
Taslima Nasrin Bangladesh (now based in India)
Alber Saber Egypt (now based abroad)
Mohamed Salih Sudan (now based in Uganda)
Prithu Sanyal Editor, Nari News, Bangladesh (now based in Germany)
Rana Amjad Sattar Humanist Society Pakistan (now based in New Zealand)
Amed Sherwan Iraq (now Germany)
Malaysian Atheists and Secular Humanists (Mash)
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• This article was amended on 1 August 2019 to correct information about Choity Ahmed, which was supplied in error when the letter was submitted.