Atheists face death in 13 countries, global discrimination - study

GENEVA Tue Dec 10, 2013 5:46am IST

Atheist Bus Campaign creator Ariane Sherine poses for photographers in front of a bus bearing an atheist advertisement, at the launch of the campaign, in London January 6, 2009. REUTERS/Andrew Winning/Files

Atheist Bus Campaign creator Ariane Sherine poses for photographers in front of a bus bearing an atheist advertisement, at the launch of the campaign, in London January 6, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Andrew Winning/Files

Related Topics

GENEVA (Reuters) - In 13 countries around the world, all of them Muslim, people who openly espouse atheism or reject the official state religion of Islam face execution under the law, according to a detailed study issued on Tuesday.

And beyond the Islamic nations, even some of the West's apparently most democratic governments at best discriminate against citizens who have no belief in a god and at worst can jail them for offences dubbed blasphemy, it said.

The study, The Freethought Report 2013, was issued by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), a global body uniting atheists, agnostics and other religious skeptics, to mark United Nations' Human Rights Day on Tuesday.

"This report shows that the overwhelming majority of countries fail to respect the rights of atheists and freethinkers although they have signed U.N agreements to treat all citizens equally," said IHEU President Sonja Eggerickx.

The study covered all 192 member states in the world body and involved lawyers and human rights experts looking at statute books, court records and media accounts to establish the global situation.

A first survey of 60 countries last year showed just seven where death, often by public beheading, is the punishment for either blasphemy or apostasy - renouncing belief or switching to another religion which is also protected under U.N. accords.

But this year's more comprehensive study showed six more, bringing the full list to Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

In others, like India in a recent case involving a leading critic of religion, humanists say police are often reluctant or unwilling to investigate murders of atheists carried out by religious fundamentalists.

Across the world, the report said, "there are laws that deny atheists' right to exist, revoke their citizenship, restrict their right to marry, obstruct their access to public education, prevent them working for the state...."

Criticism of religious faith or even academic study of the origins of religions is frequently treated as a crime and can be equated to the capital offence of blasphemy, it asserted.

EU STATES OFFEND

The IHEU, which has member bodies in some 50 countries and supporters in many more where such organisations are banned, said there was systematic or severe discrimination against atheists across the 27-nation European Union.

The situation was severe in Austria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Malta and Poland where blasphemy laws allow for jail sentences up to three years on charges of offending a religion or believers.

In these and all other EU countries, with the exception of the Netherlands and Belgium which the report classed as "free and equal," there was systemic discrimination across society favouring religions and religious believers.

In the United States, it said, although the situation was "mostly satisfactory" in terms of legal respect for atheists' rights, there were a range of laws and practices "that equate being religious with being American."

In Latin America and the Caribbean, atheists faced systemic discrimination in most countries except Brazil, where the situation was "mostly satisfactory," and Jamaica and Uruguay which the report judged as "free and equal."

Across Africa, atheists faced severe or systemic violations of their rights to freedom of conscience but also grave violations in several countries, including Egypt, Libya and Morocco, and nominally Christian Zimbabwe and Eritrea. (Reported by Robert Evans; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Diwali Glitter

Diwali Glitter

Gold sales jump about 20 pct for Diwali - trade body  Full Article 

Microsoft Earnings

Microsoft Earnings

Microsoft sales beat Street hopes, cloud profits up.  Full Article 

Canada Shooting

Canada Shooting

Canada Parliament gunman had planned to travel to Syria - police.  Full Article 

New World Bank Rival

New World Bank Rival

Three major nations absent as China launches World Bank rival in Asia  Full Article 

Assault on Pires?

Assault on Pires?

ISL probes allegation of assault on Pires  Full Article 

Ebola Outbreak

Ebola Outbreak

Mali becomes sixth West African nation hit by Ebola.  Full Article 

Climate Deal

Climate Deal

EU strikes compromise to set new climate target.  Full Article 

Kalki Interview

Kalki on Margarita

Kalki on her role in “Margarita, With a Straw”  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage