A disturbing new report from the International Humanist and Ethical Union, which is based in London, details how atheism is punishable by death in 13 Muslim countries around the world. The report entitled Freedom of Thought 2013 also details how 39 other countries will sentence people to prison for using blasphemous language.
However, these strict laws don’t just apply to Muslim countries as the report reveals that six western countries also have harsh sentences for blasphemy and will sentence people to jail for using it.
The report was released on Tuesday to coincide with the UN’s Human Right’s Day and makes for truly thought provoking reading when it is clear that even in this day and age, people are still not free to practice their own religion or to choose not to believe at all.
Several countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East were under the spotlight in the pages of the report, which accuses them of “Grave Violations” of human rights. The blame was placed firmly on the governments in some regions as it is said that they actively encourage campaigns of hate against atheists. It was also found that the authorities in some countries took little action to address the violence perpetrated against non-believers in some regions of the world.
Atheists put to Death
The most worrying aspects of the report explain how people can be put to death for apostasy, leaving a religion. The report highlights the Islam religion as an area for concern.
Blasphemy is considered unlawful in 55 countries around the world, according to the report; in 39 countries, people can be jailed for using blasphemous language. In Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia can be executed. In other states militant Islamists can inflict other punishments for daring to blaspheme; the militants use the Sharia law as a way of enforcing these punishments.
Western countries that faced criticism in the report include Iceland, Denmark, Germany and New Zealand. Many people won’t be aware that offending someone else’s religion could lead to a year long jail sentence in New Zealand or up to three years in Greece.
The authors of the report have urged that freedom of speech must not be “compromised” and have stated that laws such as these that prohibit freedom of speech or freedom of religion can set a trend worldwide. The organization has called for these harsh laws to be abolished.
Commenting on the official website, Sonja Eggerickx, president of the IHEU, said:
“The opening words in last year’s edition of the report, came from the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. This year we thought we would flip it around: we asked the victims to introduce our work.”