According to a new report presented this week in the European Parliament, non-religious people face heavy discrimination in 85 countries around the world.
International humanist and ethical Union (IHEU), who prepared the report, also notes that, according to the last 12 months, the unbelievers are actively pursuing at least seven countries — from India and Malaysia to Sudan and Saudi Arabia. In which regions fared the worst, and what is behind this trend?
In April in Pakistan, a University student, accused of insulting Islam, was beaten to death by a mob of fellow students directly on campus.
A few weeks before in the Maldives blogger, known for his support of liberal secularism and ridiculing religion, was found stabbed to death in his apartment.
In Sudan, human rights activist Mohamed Dosage was jailed after asking to formally change the entry in your ID card, putting in the “religion” that he is an atheist.
These are just three stories that the international humanist and ethical Union cites, warning of a growing wave of discrimination, pressure and attacks on atheists and religious skeptics around the world.
In a report “On freedom of thought in 2017” cases, as the authors write, “severe discrimination” against non-religious people in 85 countries.
In seven of these countries — India, Mauritania, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and the Maldives — the unbelievers “actively pursuing”, the authors of the report.
This week the international humanist and ethical Union (IHEU) — the London-based organization that unites under its aegis more than 120 humanist, atheist and secular groups from more than 40 countries presented their findings at the European Parliament.
“This worrying trend runs counter to one of basic human rights, which is simply ignored by the authorities”, — stated in interview Bi-bi-si the head of the IHEU Gary Maklelland.
Freedom of thought and religion guaranteed by the universal Declaration of human rights of 1948 and include the right to freely choose or change religions, and freedom of expression of their religious beliefs — or lack thereof.
“Many countries turn a blind eye to this international norm,” says Maklelland.
Of the 85 countries recognized by experts IHEU unsafe for people who do not identify themselves as followers of no religion, 30 the situation is even worse: there in the last 12 months were recorded gross violations.
It can be extrajudicial killings, pressure from the authorities, the prosecution of suspects in blasphemy or defamation of religion — or even their complete disappearance.
According to the report, 12 of these 30 countries, apostasy — changing religion or abandoning it — is punishable by death.
In 55 countries there are other forms of “serious discrimination”.
Such, for example, include the control of religion on family and administrative law, fundamentalist education in public schools or criminal punishment for criticizing any beliefs protected by law.
In this same category were a few States — such as Germany and New Zealand — on the grounds that there are still archaic laws on “blasphemy” and similar violations, although in practice they are rarely used.
“Many countries where there are more serious forms of discrimination, predominantly inhabited by Muslims, or is it a multi-religious country, which is heavily Islamized regions — for example, in Northern Nigeria,” said the Maklelland.
“Discrimination often occurs where the basis of the approved rules based on religious principles and freedom of expression is very limited. The report simply reflects the existing situation, not making any judgments,” he says.
In the West too, problems
However, cases of discrimination against non-religious people have been registered in several European countries and in the United States of America.
This is especially true in those regions, where the rise of conservative nationalism and populism.
“In the U.S., discrimination and hostility towards non-religious people became common, says Lois Lee, who teaches religious studies at the University of Kent. — In recent polls atheists are among the population groups that are trusted the least”.
It is reported that in highly religious and socially conservative areas in the South-Eastern United States — the so-called “Bible belt “- dramatically increasing the hostility towards non-religious people.
For example, in one of the schools in Kentucky not long ago conducted a special investigation after several people complained that its employees treat students-non-Christians.
Lois Lee explains the events that more and more people now define their identity through the prism of their religious beliefs — including atheists.
“The perception of identity is partially shifted: people increasingly define themselves by belonging not only to their country or ethnic group but to a particular religion, she explains in interview Bi-bi-si. — This issue has become more painful — and therefore, it is more often used for discrimination.”
The growth of atheism
Of course, the persecution of atheists in different countries is not a new phenomenon.
In 2014, the Mauritanian blogger Mohamed Sheikh Ould Maiter was sentenced to death for “apostasy”. Only recently the sentence was commuted, replacing his two-year imprisonment.
Another blogger, Raif Badawi, 2012 sitting in a jail in Saudi Arabia for “insulting Islam through electronic channels”, despite repeated calls by the international community to release Badawi.
And in 2013, a law student from Bangladesh, to set down in their secular beliefs, had died at the hands of religious extremists.
The list goes on.
However, many observers note that more and more of such cases occur because, despite the growing worldwide popularity of religious views, while simultaneously increasing the number of people who identificeret itself as not having such.
Research center Pew Research estimates that by 2060 the number of unaffiliated people (this includes atheists, agnostics and those who do not consider themselves followers of any particular religion) will be approximately 1.2 billion people (now there are 1.17 billion). Although, according to the same forecast, this group will not grow as fast as the number of believers.
“Currently, the disbelievers-they are the third largest group of the population from the standpoint of religious belief, says Lois Lee. And we don’t even have a special term to describe these people — only through negation.”
“In some countries, the governments often perceive atheists as a small group of the population. But it is precisely because of the possible threats they will encounter, many non-religious people can’t publicly call themselves atheists. Therefore, they often do not notice”, — said the Executive Director of IHEU Gary Maklelland.
In any case, the pursuit of non-religious people, as a rule, is observed in those countries where common and other serious forms of discrimination. Crimes against atheists is “not isolated incidents, but part of the overall regressive pattern”.
“As we see in the report this year, human rights have generally been respected or violated all along — says the President of the IHEU Andrew Corpse. — Where persecute non-religious people usually pursue specific religious minorities (and sexual minorities). It’s not a coincidence”.
How is the rating
●The IHEU report evaluates countries on a 60 characteristics in four broad areas: government and law, education, social interaction and freedom of expression.
●Then, countries are classified in five categories depending on the seriousness of incidents of non-religious people: serious violations, harsh discrimination, systematic discrimination, the overall satisfactory situation of the country in which believers and unbelievers are free to equally.
* In the 2017 report notes that 30 countries in at least one of the measured parameters (usually there are more) is at the highest level of “gross violations”.
●In 55 countries was a “serious breach”.
●Critics of this methodology argue that it may not reflect the accurate picture. For example, a secular country with a strict separation of Church and state and laws that directly prohibit discrimination on religious basis, can be included in the list of “unsafe” due to her unsatisfactory only in one subcategory (for example, if the state sponsors religious schools or provide tax benefits to the Church). “The reality in different countries are different, and the degree of the offenses are very different, so to compare them is very difficult,” says Dr. Lois Lee.