According to a new report, the Freedom of Thought report, published by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), atheists and humanists are increasingly being targeted around the world by religious and political leaders. The report states “hate campaigns” are singling out atheists and humanists as the cause of civil unrest and a danger to society, according to the Independent.
“In 2014, in addition to laws such as those targeting ‘apostasy’ and ‘blasphemy’, we have seen a marked increase in specific targeting of ‘atheists’ and ‘humanism’ as such, using these terms in a broadly correct way (the users know what they are saying) but with intent clearly borne of ignorance or intolerance toward these groups.”
Reuters reports the study pointed to “hate campaigns” launched by public figures against those who renounce the dominant or state religion in Muslim nations like Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and Egypt. It said “the overwhelming majority of countries fail to respect the rights of atheists and freethinkers” as set out in U.N. treaties, adding that 13 states, all of them Muslim, had made apostasy or blasphemy against religion a capital offense.
In some countries such as Russia, where communist ideology has been replaced by Orthodox Christianity, any public expression of atheist views can be equated with blasphemy and criminalized.
The report specifically detailed some recent examples from the past year. Najib Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia, has called humanism, secularism, and liberalism a “deviant” threat to Islam and the state. In a speech to the Quran Recital Assembly, Razak said, “We will not tolerate any demands or right to apostasy by Muslims.”
Saudi Arabia is also criticized in the report for equating atheism with terrorism. According to the Independent, the very first article of the kingdom’s new terror regulations bans: “Calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion.”
In the new military-backed government in Egypt, Nuamat Sati, of Egypt’s Ministry of Youth, announced a campaign to spread awareness of “the dangers of atheism” and why it is “a threat to society.” Young atheists in particular, who are increasingly expressing their views on social media, would be given “a chance to reconsider their decisions and go back to their religion.”
In November, Christian churches in Egypt said they are joining forces with Al-Azhar, a prominent centre of Sunni Muslim learning, to fight the spread of atheism in the country.
This repression of thought is also extending to reporters, as detailed in an article published in the Inquisitr.
Reuters reports in some Western countries governments had moved to strengthen the privileged position of religion in society. In Britain, the Ministry of Education has dropped atheism and humanism from religious studies in state schools.
Douglas McLellan, Chief Executive of the Humanist Society Scotland, said that “this report is a timely reminder that humanists and atheists are all too often the victims of violence and intimidation by states around the world, and even in many Western European countries humanists and atheists face discrimination.”
The Freedom of Thought report is published annually on Dec. 10, which is International Human Rights Day.