On January 30, 2017 the federal government tabled a response to an electronic Parliamentary petition (E-382) calling for the repeal of Canada’s blasphemous libel law (Criminal Code Section 296).
As Christmas approaches, there is one item on my wish list that requires a response from the federal government. Last December Ali Ehsassi sponsored a petition to repeal Section 296 of the criminal code, which allows prosecution for blasphemous libel. Although it has not recently been enforced and we have the Charter of Rights protecting freedom of expression, we need to set an example for countries that not only have these laws, but also enforce them.
All countries should respect religion, but should not have laws on their books that allow people to use religion to oppress different faiths or the absence of faith. In the United States there are laws on the books that make it illegal for an atheist to hold political office. They make no attempt to enforce them, but with the crazy direction they have taken in the last election, I’m not holding my breath for the future.
This year we opened our arms to Muslim refugees who were brutalized by religious zealotry on their way out and stigmatized as terrorists on the way in. Let us tell them that they can freely practice their faith in Canada because we value freedom of expression and modern civilization does not condone laws that penalize religious discussion.
This letter by CFIC member Russell Pangborn was recently published in the Toronto Star
UPDATE: See also Purging Criminal Code of defunct ‘zombie laws’ no simple task, which cites the anti-blasphemy law among a list of targets for legal reform.
A part of CFIC’s complicated mission(see it at the top of this page) is to provide education and training about secularism. To understand secularism, is to understand the interaction between law and religion. While there are a variety of ways that religion indirectly influences law (such as laws which have the same effect as enforcing a religious perspective on all people in the country), the most direct influence is through blasphemy laws. CFIC encourages an understanding of all blasphemy laws and how they impact their local societies and people around the world. In this article, CFIC examines blasphemy laws in the USA. In 2011 Pew Research Center published a study indicating that 59 countries (30%) still have some form of legislation against blasphemy, apostasy or religious defamation. While nationally the United States has deemed blasphemy laws unconstitutional, some states still have them on the books. In the 1952 case of Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson, the U.S. Supreme Court found that
“the state has no legitimate interest in protecting any or all religions from views distasteful to them. . . . It is not the business of government in our nation to suppress real or imagined attacks upon a particular religious doctrine . . . .”
President Obama, in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, made a statement that “the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs.”
It is surprising, after this Supreme Court decision and Obama’s speech, that six states still have laws against blasphemy.
Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wyoming, have laws which reference blasphemy.
Whoever wilfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, his creation, government or final judging of the world, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars, and may also be bound to good behavior.
It makes one wonder, if these laws are never enforced, why does it matter that they exist? They may rarely be enforced but their existence allows for some cases to be brought forward. A Pennsylvanian filmmaker was turned down in 2007 for a corporate name “I Choose Hell Productions”, based on Pennsylvania’s blasphemy law. States have symbolic power to enforce these laws. It’s a form of moral condemnation as stated by Sarah Barringer Gordon, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
- Restrict freedom of speech
- Infringe on the right to freedom of religion
- Often lead to human rights violations during enforcement
- Can incite mass violence
- Fail to promote religious harmony which is supposedly the intention
The infamous Danish cartoons became so publicized because of the blasphemy laws attached to them. Raif Badawi faces physical brutality and the death penalty for a blasphemous blog posting. The Charlie Hebdo shooting is mass violence based on perceived blasphemy. There is no proof that blasphemy laws promote harmony, in fact, countries with these laws often have higher levels of religious tension.
Where does the United States stand today on blasphemy laws?
The United States has been fighting for religious freedoms and an end to blasphemy laws abroad, and has offered criticism on the intolerance of other cultures. The credibility of these actions will be seen as questionable until they put an end to the hypocrisy.
Both the American Humanist Association and the Centre for Inquiry (USA) are partners in the International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws (ICABL); the purpose of which is to remove blasphemy laws wherever they exist.
The American Humanist Association, an organization with a long history of opposing blasphemy laws within the USA, has called for a repeal of blasphemy laws:
“Laws prohibiting blasphemy are a relic of the Middle Ages and are blatantly unconstitutional,” declared Mel Lipman, a constitutional lawyer and president of the American Humanist Association. “Blasphemy is a purely religious offense and hence the sole concern of religious organizations and their own members. By contrast, those people without religion, or who have religious beliefs that don’t condemn blasphemy, shouldn’t be affected.”
CFIC approves the work of AHA and other organizations who educate Americans about blasphemy laws in the USA and around the world. Just as Canadians must direct their gazes to Criminal Code Section 296, so too should the residents of other countries investigate blasphemy regulations which violate the human rights of their citizens. Specifically in the US, this requires investigation of Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wyoming, which today still have problematic laws against blasphemy.
This blasphemy update is provided by legal project intern Cassandra Martino with CFIC.
PMB – Section 159 of the Criminal Code of Canada
A Private Member’s Bill (PMB) is useful, even if it is not passed, to bring an issue to the attention of government, Members of Parliament, and the public. This is what NDP MP Craig Scott attempted to do when he introduced PMB C-448 on October 4th 2012. This Bill called for the repeal of section 159 of Canada’s Criminal Code, thus removing the distinction between anal intercourse and other forms of sexual activity. This section of the criminal code may be viewed as the criminalization of one part of gay sexual activity beyond the age of consent – although anal intercourse is not a sexual activity exclusive to gay persons. It is the intent to criminalize homosexual acts that is not only stigmatizing and outdated but unconstitutional.
Section 159 has been found unconstitutional by three courts in Canada: the Court of Appeal for Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta.
In the explanation in the case of R. v. C.M., 1995 before the Court of Appeal for Ontario, Justice Abella stated:
Anyone who is 14 or older, whether married or not, can consent to most forms of non-exploitive sexual conduct without criminal consequences, whereas no one can consent to anal intercourse unless he or she is at least 18 or married. Sexual orientation is an analogous ground of discrimination prohibited under s. 15 of the Charter. Gays and lesbians form a historically disadvantaged group, and s. 159 violates s. 15(1) of the Charter because it arbitrarily disadvantages individuals in that historically disadvantaged group — gay men — by denying to them until they are 18 a choice available at the age of 14 to those who are not gay.
Section 159 is not the only outdated provision in the Criminal Code of Canada. Recent events surrounding international religious violence and cruel blasphemy laws have provided Canadian organizations such as the Centre for Inquiry Canada (CFIC), public attention and outrage about attempts to stifle freedom of expression. The public has begun to critically examine and reject Section 296 of the Criminal Code, which states that “every one who publishes a blasphemous libel is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years”.
Our Stance at The Centre for Inquiry Canada
The Centre for Inquiry Canada has been instrumental in establishing the International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws (ICABL) and the End Blasphemy Laws website. As the Blasphemy Project Intern, for CFIC, I have reached out to MP Craig Scott and received the needed support to consider a PMB repealing Section 296. These outdated provisions no longer reflect our modern, diverse, and tolerant society. Not only are both section 296 and 159 unconstitutional, they are not reflective of Canadian values. Unfortunately, Canada is maintaining these outdated ideas by allowing them to remain in the Criminal Code of Canada. If you agree that section 269 should be repealed click here to join our Action List and keep in touch with the CFIC’s End Blasphemy Laws Campaign.
This blasphemy update is provided by legal project intern Cassandra Martino with CFIC.
Whether perpetrated by individuals, organized groups or governments, Centre For Inquiry Canada condemns all faith-based and superstition-based violence, bigotry and discrimination. CFIC marks every death, harm or human rights violation as further evidence of the danger and tragedy of un-checked fanaticism; these tragedies are also a spur to defend and promote human rights and freedoms of all people.
It is impossible to catalog all of the harms done by violent fanatics in defence of or in opposition to superstitions, religions and ideas. It is impossible to recall and name every victim, or to comprehend the motivations of every violent offender. There are nameless victims of fanaticism and intolerance who will never be recognized in the media or publicly identified on websites such as this.
However we can honour and remember all victims of intolerance and dogmatic ideologies by renewing our commitment to end all violent and oppressive bigotry. Whether the victims are young girls kidnapped from their homes and families in Nigeria, soldiers gunned down by their own radicalized and mentally unstable citizens in Canada, atheists attempting to live in brutally oppressive regimes such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia or indeed average families living as religious minorities in the USA or Canada - CFI Canada honours their memories and grieves their injuries and deaths by calling on all individuals, groups and governments to actively respect and protect human rights and freedoms.
There is no idea, faith or opinion which entitles its holder to oppress and kill others.
CFI Canada remembers, honours and grieves all victims of violent bigotry by recognizing and referencing the tragedies which come to our attention.
Orlando, Florida – June 12 2016
Centre for Inquiry Canada (CFIC) is deeply grieved and horrified by the terrible events at the Pulse night club of Orlando, FLA. CFIC wishes to express its grief and condolences to the families and friends of the people who lost their lives this week in these terrible acts of violence and our support and solidarity with the many people who were injured or terrorized by the actions of a single gunman.
In the earliest moments of shock, confusion and horror, it can be dangerously tempting to draw conclusions and offer condemnations of individuals and groups assumed to be involved. CFIC urges secular humanists and all Canadians to consider relevant information and evidence that is gathered and made available to the public regarding this attack so that such events may be properly understood. Without clear information and validated evidence, we cannot anticipate and prevent other such acts in the future.
As an organization, CFI Canada has consistently studied and condemned acts of faith-based bigotry for many years – whether perpetrated by governments, organized non-state groups or by radical individuals. In the case of this attack on Orlando’s gay community, it must absolutely be understood that anti-gay bigotry has been observed in a wide-range of faiths and has been perpetrated by fanatical individuals, endorsed by hateful organizations and excused by many governments and cultures around the world. Despite the sparse evidence specific to the killer’s motivations or state of mind, it is reasonable to include religious an cultural perspectives as a factor; it is not reasonable to ascribe those perspectives to all Muslims or all religious people.
The LGBTQ community throughout the world has endured a long and sometimes despairing struggle to attain and maintain human rights and freedoms. Violent oppressors and their dogmatic ideologies must be condemned at every step and at every atrocity in the defense of human rights. It is not only reasonable, but essential that any motivations of this killer, and where their roots may be found be closely examined and publicly challenged. Where those motivations, whether religious, psychological, political or of some other source may be shared across groups, they must be exposed and ended. Any individual, group or government which condemns the victims of this attack or discourages full investigation of the motivations must also share in condemnation and culpability for creating an environment where such crimes are possible.
It has been reported that the victims of June 12, 2016 were diverse in their character, their religion, their political views, their socio-economic backgrounds and on many other details – but they shared a common victimization in having been targeted by their presence in a community gathering place of supportive love and friendship. The diversity and individuality of the victims of this crime, when compared to the singular and consistent hatred of murderers like Omar Mateen, must be a reminder to all people that fanatical bigotries eventually make victims of us all. CFIC encourages Canadians to participate in local Pride activities in solidarity with the LGBTQ community.
Dhaka, Bangladesh – April 6, May 8 2016
Nazimuddin Samad, a student at Bangladesh’s Jagannath University, was hacked to death. Nazimuddin is recognized by the Mukto Mona community as “a courageous freethinker; he was vocal in his support for a secular and humane Bangladesh.” This murder follows the pattern and methods of murders of secularists in Bangladesh throughout 2015 – speaking out as a secularist, humanist or atheist in Bangladesh is rapidly bccoming dangerous not only for publicly recognized figures such as Avijit Roy (who was murdered in February 2015) but also for private citizens.
On May 8, 2016 a Sufi Muslim leader was found hacked by machetes and left dead in an abandoned field (New York Times).
“In April alone, five people, including a university teacher, two gay activists and a Hindu, were hacked to death by suspected Islamist militants.” (Reuters)
Brussels, Belgium - March 22, 2016
Paris is the tourist capital of Europe, but Brussels is its real capital. A famously unglamorous city, it is home to many of the key institutions of the European Union—the European Commission, the Council of Ministers, and the European Parliament (which also meets in Strasbourg, France). It is known mostly for its high concentration of Eurocrats and postwar Brutalist architecture (outside the Old Town), and, lately, for the Islamic extremists who inhabit its drab suburb of Molenbeek, which lies to the west of the city center.
Vox presents a series of articles analyzing the significance of the Brussels attacks by Matthew Yglesias on the threat to European Union, Zack Beauchamp on how jihadism became a significant problem in Belgium, and Johnny Harris and Max Fisher present their perspective of why Brussels was attacked. In a second article by Zack Beauchamp, he quotes Alain Grignard (a representative of Belgium’s anti-terrorism task force)
Previously we were mostly dealing with ‘radical Islamists’ — individuals radicalized toward violence by an extremist interpretation of Islam — but now we’re increasingly dealing with what are best described as ‘Islamized radicals.’
Shabqadar, Pakistan – March 22, 2016
A 50-ear-old man was shot to death for alleged blasphemy. The Express Tribune reports that the man had been described as mentally challenged and recalls a November 2015 mob attack on a factory – setting it ablaze on grounds that a worker had uttered a blasphemy.
Maiduguri, Nigeria – November 23, 2015
Bombings or other events of faith-based violence in Europe and the Middle-East typically receive significant media attention, often leading to genuine and important expressions of empathy for the families of the victims and concern about the security of people in their own communities. CFIC urges the condemnation of similar faith-based violence in countries such as Nigeria and Cameroon. As described in as story from The Guardian, a recent bombing in Nigeria
was the first suicide bombing in nearly a month in Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, whose six-year insurgency has killed about 20,000 people and driven an estimated 1.5 million to 2.3 million people in the region from their homes.
While the victims of this violence may be less familiar to western societies, we should be no less concerned with the violence involved, nor less concerned with the underlying motivations and ideologies.
Johannesburg, South Africa – November 17, 2015
Nawaz Khan, “Cricket South Africa’s award for the intellectually impaired Cricketer of the Year in 2013“, was lured by a friend, murdered and beheaded in a superstitious ritual in South Africa. As with examples of attacks on people with albinism or superstition-based violence incidents, traditional medicine practices are often interwoven with local cultural and religious beliefs and practices which only education and an emphasis on evidence can correct.
Peterborough, Ontario - November 14 , 2015
Violence against faith is not the answer to faith-based violence
Recently in Ontario, there have been two incidents that appear to be actions taken in response to the ISIS terrorist attacks in France. In Peterborough, a mosque was set ablaze (there were no injuries), and in Toronto, a Muslim woman walking to pick up her children from school was attacked by two men who punched her in the stomach and face, attempted to remove her hijab, and robbed her of her cellphone and some cash. Both of these cases are currently under investigation as hate crimes.
CFI Canada unequivocally condemns violent actions such as these. Faith-based violence includes not only those who attack individuals in the name of their faith, but also based on the faith-identity of the victims. The most effective response to faith-based bigotry is legal punishment of the crimes, rational and critical education both of the perpetrators and the community.
Paris, France – November 13, 2015
Several co-ordinated attacks in Paris resulted in the death and injury of hundreds of people. The attacks were attributed to ISIS, a group associated with political Islam ideologies and terrorism. The French government rapidly responded by escalating military attacks on ISIS in Syria.
Delhi, India – August and September, 2015
India intellectual, Malleshappa Kalburgi , has been murdered for his writings against superstition and false beliefs. Many Indian intellectuals, writers and artists began a movement to return honours and awards that they had received as an expression of their rejection of violence, intolerance and other assaults on human dignity through the violent and dogmatic ideologies to be found in society. From “The Medium” story by Andrea Mihai and Christy Tam,
On September 28, in a village near Delhi, an angry mob murdered 52-year-old Mohammad Aklaq. The mob killing was carried out based on the rumour that Aklaq had eaten beef. Cows are sacred in the Hindu religion and thus are not killed by them.
Dhaka, Bangladesh - August 7, 2015
On August 7, 2015 CFI Canada received notice of the murder of Niloy Neel from the Bangladesh Centre For Human Rights Development (BCHRD). Niloy Neel was a secularist blogger in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Centre For Inquiry Canada shares comments from BCHRD on these events as the expressions of the grief, horror and anger that this violence inspire but also the humanist response which we require:
A gang armed with machetes hacked another blogger to death at his home in Dhaka on Friday 07 August 2015 in the fourth such murder in the country since the start of the year. Niloy Neel was murdered after the gang broke into his apartment in the capital’s Goran, according to the Bangladesh Blogger and Activist Network which was alerted to the attack by a witness. ‘They entered his room in the fifth floor and shoved his friend aside and then hacked him (Neel) to death.
He was a listed target of the Islamist militants,’ said Imran H Sarker convener of the network and organiser of Ganagajaran Mancha. Imran said Neel used to write on the rights of ethnic minority communities and women. He was regular on different secular blogsites including Mukto-mona and Ishtishon.
Imran said they were informed that a group of five people went to Niloy’s place on the plea of seeking information about renting a flat of their building. One of Niloy’s friends, Moni, was with Niloy and they shoved him aside and hacked him to death on the spot and fled immediately. Imran also said that Niloy had informed them that he had been followed by unknown people after the murder of another blogger Ananta Bijoy Das in Sylhet.
The network blamed the government’s insincerity in ensuring security for writers for the death since Niloy was a ‘target’ of ultra-rightist groups. Police confirmed Neel had been murdered but had no details on his background. A May 15, 2015 facebook post of Niloy reads, ‘Two people were tracking me all the way home from a rally protesting against the killing of Ananta Bijoy Das…I faced a peculiar situation when I went to police to file a general diary seeking security. A police officer personally told me that police is not eager to record such general diaries because the officer who would record it would be accountable to ensure security of the person. If the person faces any problem, that police officer might lose job… As I my route to home had covered the jurisdiction of a number of police stations, none of the stations agreed to record the general diary saying it was under jurisdiction of other police station. They also suggested me to leave the country immediately.’
Earlier, blogger Ananta Bijay Das was hacked to death by unidentified miscreants in broad daylight at Subidbazar Bankalapara in Sylhet city on May 12. Ananta was also an activist of Sylhet Ganajagaran Mancha. Another blogger Oyasiqur Rahman was killed at Begunbari of Tejgaon industrial area on March 30. Before Oyasiqur, a free-thinking writer and blogger, Avijit Roy, was hacked to death and his wife Rafida Ahmed Bonya grievously injured by unidentified assailants near TSC on the Dhaka University campus on the night of February 26. Avijit, a Bangladesh-born US citizen, came to Bangladesh in mid-February to launch his two books which were published on the occasion of the Amar Ekushey Book Fair. More than two years ago, on February 15, 2013, Ahmed Rajib Haidar, an architect by profession and an activist of the Shahbagh Ganajagaran Mancha movement, was stabbed to death near his house at Palash Nagar in Mirpur.
BCHRD Calling to Government of Bangladesh and International Parties:
1. To submit the char sheet proving the incident of murder after murder of Niloy Neel as soon as possible after completing an impartial investigation.
2. To ensure exemplary punishment of the perpetrators and also who were indirectly involved in this gross violation of human rights;
3. To provide adequate financial compensation to the victim’s family as well as guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of them;
4. To ensure the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards both of general people and government authority;
5. To provide human rights education and training to both of general people and government authority in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards
Background: The vulnerable groups in Bangladesh are religious minorities and secularist bloggers. Very recently, 108 important and respected persons have been targeted by the fundamentalists. If the government and others do not take appropriate initiatives, then their fate will be like Muktamona writer Avijit Roy. The most vulnerable districts in Bangladesh are Shatkhira, Coxsbazar, Khulna, Rajshahi,Tangail, Chittagong, Barisal, Nowakhali and Dhaka. In those places, Islamic fundamentalists are more active. To reduce these, we have to take pilot project in these areas and build up the youth defenders to protect and promote secular rights, science and human rights education in particular.
You know in 2015 three men known for their writing on humanist, atheist and secularist topics were murdered in little over three months in Bangladesh. Avijit Roy was murdered on 27 February 2015 after attending the international book fair at Dhaka University. His wife Bonya Rafida Ahmed was also hit in the machete attack. Roy was a multiply pushed author on science, a blogger of great humanism, a proponent of secularism and a critic of Islamist fundamentalism. Fellow Mukto-Mona blogger Washiqur Rahman was killed just a month later on 30 March 2015, also by machete attack in the street. This was followed on 12 May 2015 by the murder of Ananta Bijoy Das, again in almost identical circumstances, this time on streets close to his home. All three 2015 murders (see BBC coverage on all three attacks) targeting “atheist bloggers” have been linked to the Islamist “hit lists” produced in 2013 in response to the Shahbag protests. Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman and Ananta Bijoy Das were not the first to be targeted.
We must promote freedom of speech, freedom of conscience. human rights of asylum seekers, refugee, Freelance news-gatherers including journalists, bloggers, online human rights defenders, human rights defenders groups, LGBT groups, Torture Victims, Rape Victims, Sexual Violence Victims, Minority Groups and secularist and the end blasphemy laws campaigns in Bangladesh. This initiative not only our organization will be benefited but it will also help our movement to promote the human rights for the asylum seekers, bloggers and secularist and marginalized people in Bangladesh and hate crimes.
Our colleagues at International Humanist and Ethical Union have posted a statement on their website regarding this latest attack on secularist bloggers in Bangladesh; Center For Inquiry (US) has also issued a statement.
CFI Canada calls on Canadian, Bangladeshi and International government leaders to take concrete action to protect secular and atheist bloggers and free speech, to prevent and curtail fanatical religious violence in Bangladesh and in their own countries.
On August 10, 2015 The Independent reported that the Bangladesh Inspector General for Police made several statements regarding this latest murder:
Inspector General of Police (IGP) AKM Shahidul Hoque yesterday urged bloggers to refrain from writing anything that may hurt the sentiment of any religious community, reports UNB. He also urged the country’s people to take recourse to law instead of taking it into their own hands. “We urge all to express their opinions with their good judgement and prudence. Please don’t cross the limit in the name of freedom of expression,” he said briefing reporters at the Police Headquarters. The police headquarters arranged the press briefing to inform people about law enforcers’ steps following the recent killings of three children and blogger Niladri Chakrabarti Niloy. Blogger Niloy, who was residing at a rented flat on the 4th floor of a multi-storey building at Goran in the city, was hacked to death in the city’s Khilgaon area on Friday. Niloy is the fourth Bangladeshi blogger hacked to death so far this year. Shahidul said the killing of Niloy is not expected in any way. “The killers must be tracked down.” He said police will surely take legal action if any case was filed against any body for hurting any community’s sentiment.
Mentioning that as per the country’s existing laws if one gets accused of hurting anybody’s religious sentiment can be sentenced to maximum 14 years of jail, the police boss urged people to file case with the police if they are hurt by any body’s statements. “Police will take necessary action after investigation if any one files such a case.” The IGP also urged bloggers to contact with police if they suffer from the sense of insecurity for their any write up.
During Rafida Bonya’s Voltaire Address to the British Humanist Association she said,
How did we come to a point, in a supposed secular democracy such as Bangladesh, where humanists and secularists can be hacked to death in the street….Islamic fundamentalism has spread for many years through Bangladesh via the support of all the political parties, and growing number of mosque-madrasa complexes all over country which have been established and funded by locally influential people or through the funding from a few countries in the middle east. Islamic fundamentalists use many madrasas as a way of spreading their message of hate and intolerance…..We know this in theory, but we must, right now, in this world on the brink of so many extraordinary outrages, reach out across international borders, extend our personal circles of care and empathy to include everyone—every human being—fully and confidently as a person of moral worth. This is the way we can celebrate Avijit’s life, Ananta’s life, and all those who have suffered or are at risk. In Bangladesh they are fighting machetes with pens. Everywhere, we must fight fundamentalism and all oppression, with compassion and rationality and universalism, and with a deeper understanding of the conflicts. That is the twenty-first century challenge of humanism.
Bangladesh - May 12, 2015
Blogger Ananta Bijoy Das, who wrote for the same blog as Avijit Roy, another blogger who was recently murdered, is reported to have been murdered by men “wielding machetes“. CFI Canada expresses its deepest sympathy to the family and loved ones of Ananta Bijoy Das and condemns the ongoing slaughter not only of cartoonists and outspoken critics of religion but even those who, according to editor/journalist, Zafar Sobhan:
respectful in their critiques. They did not critique Islam solely. They were critical of all organized religions. So it was Islam, Hinduism, Christianity. They have been accused of insulting and abusive language, but I have found no evidence of this.
Garland, Texas – May 4, 2015
Two gunmen were killed by police when they attacked an American Freedom Defence Initiative event; the Telegraph reports that the event was a cartoon-drawing contest themed on depictions of the Prophet Mohammed. CFI Canada notes that the Southern Poverty Law Centre is reported to describe AFDI as holding an anti-Islam agenda and may not necessarily be primarily concerned with freedom of speech.
CFIC does not support actions which are undertaken through motivations of hate or malice; faith-based bigotry can be directed at any person by any person – regardless of their status as a religious believer or non-believer. All faith-based violence and bigotry should be rejected and condemned.
There is absolutely no idea, faith or opinion which deserves such a perceived respect that it would ever entitle its holder to oppress and/or murder others.
CFIC rejects hate-tactics designed to escalate tensions between people with different perspectives. While AFDI’s motives for designing their event certainly deserve examination, CFIC rejects and condemns the violence of the gunmen. If AFDI is guilty of hate crimes, that is a matter to be dealt with under US law – not by armed vigilantes.
Karachi, Pakistan- April 24, 2015
Human Rights activist Sabeen Mahmud was murdered and her mother wounded on April 24, 2015. Mahmud was a vocal secularist and director of a charity called The Second Floor (T2F), most recently speaking out about “disappeared people”. As reported by International Business Times:
“Sabeen was a voice of reason, pluralism and secularism: the kind of creed that endangers the insidious side of constructed Pakistani nationalism,” Raza Rumi, a Pakistani rights activist, who now lives in the United States, told Al Jazeera. “In her work, she was neither a political partisan nor a power seeker but Pakistan’s state and non-state actors are averse to any form of dissent. This is why she had to be killed.”
Jamame, Somalia – April 24, 2015
Voice of America reported the murder of Mohamud Mursal Muse by Islamist militant group Al-Shabab. The report claims that the murdered man confessed to insulting the Prophet Muhammad which resulted in an execution by firing squad.
Syria, April 14, 2015
ISIS released photos of a man beheaded for blasphemy. Report by Khaama Press.
Nairobi, Kenya - April 2, 2015
147 people have been killed, including 4 gunmen during an attack at a Garissa University College in Nairobi, Kenya. The attack is being ascribed to Shabab, an extremist organization with connections to Al Qaeda; the attack was conducted as an attack on non-Muslims. This attack is a follow up to the 2013 attack at a shopping mall in Nairobi which resulted in 67 deaths.
Malaysia – April 1, 2015
Aisyah Tajuddin, a journalist for an independent radio station in Malaysia received rape and death threats and is investigated under Malaysian blasphemy law for circulating a video critical of political proposals.
Dhaka (Bangladesh) - March 30, 2015
Washiqur Rahman was killed in a machete attack by assailants on the streets of Dhaka. The attack took place close to Rahman’s home. Rahman’s Facebook banner had declared #IamAvijit following the brutal murder of Avijit Roy.
Lahore, Pakistan – March 20, 2015
Liaquat Ali is sentenced to death for blasphemy as reported by Jurist.
Kabul, Afghanistan – March 19, 2015
A mob beat and burned a 27-year old woman named Farkhunda after being accused of burning a Quran; at least 47 people have been arrested.
Dhaka (Bangladesh) - February 26, 2015
Avijit Roy, founder of the Mukto-Mona freethinking blogsite, and his wife were attacked with machetes following threats from faith-based thugs. Mr. Roy was killed while his wife suffered serious injuries. CFI Canada extends its condolences to the family and loved ones of Mr. Roy. According to reports by BBC and The Guardian Mr. Roy’ s murder recalls the 2013 murder of Ahmed Rajib Haider.
Copenhagen – February 14, 2015
Centre For Inquiry Canada sends its condolences to all people affected by yet another act of senseless violence, this time in Copenhagen.
CFIC condemns all violence perpetuated by individuals or groups. The latest deaths of one person and the injuries sustained by three police officers during a free speech debate in Copenhagen, attended by a controversial Swedish cartoonist, is another violent act perpetuated by a person or persons trying to stifle freedom of expression. Following the shooting at a free speech event, the murderer went to a synagogue and killed Dan Uzan: http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/18/world/denmark-shootings/
As a founding member of the International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws (ICABL), CFIC supports peoples’ right to caricature and criticize religions, ideologies or movements without being accused of blasphemy by a government or a religion. Blasphemy laws should be abolished, so the charge of blasphemy or laws against it can no longer be an excuse for government sanctioned punishment or violence by an individual.
The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) has published a statement regarding the violence and murders in Copenhagen.
Chapel Hill – February 11, 2015
Centre for Inquiry Canada (CFIC) is saddened and dismayed by the murders of Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. CFIC expresses its grief and condolence to the friends and loved ones of those who lost their lives by these terrible acts of violence.
Center For Inquiry (US), an affiliate organization based in Amherst, New York, has issued a statement regarding these murders including reactions from CFI President & CEO, Ron Lindsay, “As secular humanists, we at CFI will continue to work toward fostering a free and enlightened world for everyone, no matter who they are or what they believe.”
CFI Canada rejects and condemns any and all faith-based acts of bigotry, violence or hatred. Eric Adriaans, National Executive Director of CFI Canada said, “CFIC ‘s core policies reject all acts of violence and bigotry as contrary to ideals of non-theism and humanism. Secular Humanists and atheists share the grief, anger, horror and distress that these murders have created.”
“All murders shock and offend us, but we are especially troubled by violence or murders which may be motivated by faith-based bigotry,” said Kevin Smith, Chair of CFIC’s Board of Directors. “We value reason and a rational approach to understanding and addressing these murders as officials investigate any immediate and underlying causes.”
Paris - January 2015
CFI Canada echoes the words of Stephan Oberreit, Director of Amnesty International France, in the wake of the death of 12 people at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo:
This is a dark day for freedom of expression and a vibrant press culture. But above all, it is an appalling human tragedy.
CFI Canada condemns the two gunmen and their motivation for killing at least 12 people and wounding at least 10 others at the Paris office of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Eric Adriaans, National Executive Director of CFI Canada said,”It is difficult to put into words how deeply the attack at Charlie Hebdo affects secular humanists and atheists – how heartbreaking and grievous these murders are for us, but at the same time how much reinforcement it demands of our conviction to oppose religious extremists. When people of faith attempt to intimidate, silence, harm, torture, persecute and murder others, we must respond with condemnation and solidarity. We must oppose all acts and forms of faith-based oppression and violence.”
CFI Canada joins with CFI Transnational and all organizations that stand in solidarity with the people of Charlie Hebdo in support of their right to free speech.
We are heartbroken by the unthinkable and cowardly attack at the magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris today, and outraged that such a barbaric act was a response to journalists and satirists exercising their right to free expression.
CFI Canada pledges to continue its mission “to provide education and training to the public in the application of skeptical, secular, rational and humanistic inquiry.”
Ottawa & Montreal – October 2014
Centre for Inquiry Canada (CFIC) is appalled by the murders of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and WO Patrice Vincent and the threat to Canadian soldiers, police officers and citizens that the murder of these soldiers implies. CFIC wishes to express its grief and condolence to the families and friends of the men who lost their lives this week in these terrible acts of violence.
CFIC thanks the people who risk their lives to protect Canadians every day. House of Commons Sergeant-At-Arms Kevin Vickers, Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent are among the soldiers, police officers, reservists and other armed forces and security personnel who have risked and far too often lost their lives to protect all Canadians from violence and harm.
Centre For Inquiry Canada also extends its thanks to the bystanders, first responders and medical professionals who attempted to save the lives of Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent.
“Events such as these shock and offend all people of Canada. Centre For Inquiry Canada joins all Canadians in rejecting the violence and hatred promulgated by murders such as these,” said Kevin Smith, Chair of CFIC’s Board of Directors. “We value reason and a rational approach to understanding and addressing these crimes as our country investigates any immediate and deeper-seated causes.”
Soldiers, doctors, nurses, police officers, first responders and government officials are all a part of the secular social system that protects all Canadians from harm and violence. CFIC is committed to critically examining these incidents and their causes and we invite Canadians join us in these inquiries.
“I urge Canadians to educate themselves on the advantages of a secular approach to governance and lawmaking in Canada,” said Veronica Abbass, Chair, CFI Canada’s Committee for the Advancement of Human Rights. “A secular government and a secular legal system contribute to protecting all Canadians from the vagaries of cultural or religious ideologies.”
“I have spoken with Centre For Inquiry Canada volunteers, members and supporters across the country,” said Eric Adriaans, CFI Canada’s National Executive Director. “Secular Humanists and atheists share the grief, anger, confusion and distress that these crimes have created. We are committed to the protection of human rights and safety which are provided by Canada’s secular governance and legal systems.”
As a national educational charity, CFIC promotes and provides education on the application of reasonable and rational approaches that include skepticism, secularism and humanism.
Nigeria – 2013- Present
In February 2014, Boko Haram opened fire on a school dormitory in Buni Yadi in Yobe state, with different news sources reporting between 29 and 43 teenaged boys being killed. They did the same thing in September 2013, killing about 50 male students and teachers in their dormitory at the College of Agriculture in Gujba in Yobe state. In July 2013, they reportedly killed 42 students at their secondary school in Mamudo, also in Yobe state, “spraying it with bullets and using jerry cans to burn some pupils alive,” according to The Telegraph. In 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of girls from their homes and families.
CFI Canada’s continues to collect and document media coverage of Boko Haram in our article Boko Haram and the Importance of a Secular Society.