To be atheist is an offense

By Razib Khan | January 22, 2012 3:45 pm

I have seen references to this around the web, and don’t really know if I can believe this, because the details are so disturbing to consider. So I’ll pass it on, You can expect threats if you discuss Sharia:

My One Law for All Co-Spokesperson Anne Marie Waters was to speak at a meeting on Sharia Law and Human Rights at the University of London last night.

It was cancelled by the Queen Mary Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society organisers after police had to be called in due to Islamist threats. One Islamist filmed everyone at the meeting and announced he would hunt down those who said anything negative about Islam’s prophet. Outside the hall, he threatened to kill anyone who defamed the prophet. Reference was made to the Jesus and Mo cartoon saga at UCL.

The University’s security guard – a real gem –arrived first only to blame the speaker and organisers rather than those issuing death threats. He said: ‘If you will have these discussions, what do you expect?’ Err, to speak without being threatened with death maybe?

A crazy British Muslim threatening to kill someone for defaming the prophet isn’t too surprising. ~3 percent of British Muslim university students think apostates should be killed. What is disturbing is that the establishment institutions are accepting this sort of disproportionate response as normal behavior. As in centuries past it is now the atheists who are by their nature offensive, and disturbing public order.

In the Netherlands the Dutch Muslim Party is going to contest for parliament. It already has some purchase in major cities with large Muslim minorities. Naturally one of its planks is to prosecute those who give offense to religion and religious people. Just jump to article 2.2. Welcome to multiculturalism!

In other news, an atheist has been charged with blasphemy in the world’s largest Muslim nation, where Islam is a moderate religion of peace. Dismay After Indonesian Atheist Charged With Blasphemy:

Police on Friday confirmed that they had charged a man with blasphemy after he was reported by the Indonesia Council of Ulema.

Dharmasraya Police Chief Sr. Comr. Chairul Aziz told the Jakarta Globe on Friday that the district branch of the council, known as MUI, and other Islamic organizations believed Alexander, 31, had defiled Islam by using passages from the Koran to denounce the existence of God.

Alexander, a civil servant, is facing five years in jail for writing “God does not exist” on a Facebook page he moderated called “Ateis Minang” (“Minang Atheists”).

Chairul said the issue was that Alexander had used the Koran to highlight his atheist views.

“So it meets the criteria of tainting religion, in this case Islam.”

Blasphemy, which carries a five-year sentence, is defined under the Criminal Code as publicly expressing feelings or doing something that spreads hatred, abuse or taints certain religions in Indonesia in a way that could cause someone to disbelieve religion.”

A member of a 600-strong atheist organization in Jakarta, meanwhile, said the case was a clear breach of human rights.

He would not be identified because of fears for his safety.

“If MUI thinks that there’s an imaginary friend up there, it doesn’t mean people should believe it,” he said. “Why is it that we cannot criticize religion? This is against freedom of expression and human rights.”

He was, naturally, attacked by a mob on his way to work.

Finally, 72 percent of the seats in Egypt’s parliament went to Islamists. The Salafists nabbed 25 percent. This is absolutely not surprising to me.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Religion

Comments (14)

  1. Miley Cyrax

    “What is disturbing is that the establishment institutions are accepting this sort of disproportionate response as normal behavior. ”

    Just another example of political correctness going amok. People in western nations are strongly averse to criticizing non-whites even if the issue is not racial in nature, in fears of getting called a bigot. As I wrote on Robin Hanson’s post Religion Gets a Bad Rep:

    “…you will see people constantly excoriating ‘bible-thumping anti-evolutionary hicks,’ but see the same people defending Muslim extremism. You will have people mocking and denigrating Tim Tebow for his religious beliefs, but a black NFL player would not face the same ridicule.”

  2. I agree Egypt seems like a pretty retrograde place at the moment. But it was not so long ago that gay people could not be married in any state, or that black people could not vote in the American South for fear of white terrorist violence, or that women could not vote at all.

    How did that change? Slow, grinding activism: years of thankless organizing, rallies and conferences and door-by-door campaigns and pamphlets and books. But they got it done, and America is a better place for it.

    Give the Egyptians a chance. They’ve had a kinda-sorta grip on their country for like ten minutes.

  3. Clark

    Miley, I’m not sure it’s political correctness gone amuck. Rather I think there’s a common human attitude of, if you know the situation will result in a certain consequence it’s your fault. Independent of whether the consequences should follow. This has rightly infuriated feminists for decades – the whole response of “why were you dressed like that in that area? What did you expect?” I think the whole extreme Islam reaction is much more analogous to those discussions of rape.

    I worry about Egypt, but Ryan is right. Give them some chance. There’s nothing like having to run things to temper extremism. On the other hand Iran is still the way it is, so it’s probably wishful thinking to assume things will change the way some are. More worrisome is what will result between Israel and Egypt.

  4. #2, there are three things that come to mind

    1) many of the changes you mention did NOT come about through bottom up populism, but through various combinations of elite change + popular conflict, where the elites aligned themselves with one component of the populace (in the USA woman’s suffrage movement it really succeeded via its alliance with temperance, as well as early 20th century nativist sentiment).

    2) some of the changes had less to do with popular will than a shift in the elite opinion as manifest through the courts. the gay marriage case is a classic example.

    3) these things took decades. for example, women’s suffrage arguably took ~70 years! it’s easy to say “give them a chance” if you aren’t an egyptian copt. black people in the south have long looked to the federal gov. to protect it against the majority will, as an analogy.

    all that being said, this process is inevitable. i just think we should be open and honest about its downsides, and not pretend like this is going resemble in any way the velvet revolution.

  5. Dwight E. Howell

    Cultural values change through time but in what direction is not a given. The thought that a culture will change in the direction one wishes is at best wishful thinking. The part of the population that most strongly agrees with you is not making replacement. The places where the population is growing fastest doesn’t share many of your core values.

    This makes long term outcomes in your favor extremely dubious.

  6. #5, your comment is plausible, but very superficial. and no, this isn’t an opening to have a discussion, i’ve had a discussion on this with others in the past where i point out that logic can not explain the past, so why would expect to explain the future? (naturally, my interlocutors don’t know any past history, so my comment was a total surprise to them) just entering into the record so people don’t repeat superficial stuff down thread which bores me.

  7. Matt_M

    @Razib: it wouldn’t be possible to provide a link to one of those past discussions, would it? I’ve seen this particular meme around a few times, but I don’t think I’ve come across a critical discussion of it before.

  8. caplan alludes to this:

    people have been making the argument about ‘the religious shall inherit’ since the early 19th century with france’s demographic transition. if you know the history you know that the arc of history since then has been complex, with an arguable trendline toward more, not less, secularity. but most people are totally ignorant of the history, and so find the sort of logic above awesomely impressive.

    i’m not interested in having discussion on issues which i found interesting when i as 18. it’s about as fruitful as the two centuries of inevitable prediction of the extinction of religion.

  9. Enver Hoxa where are you?!

  10. Finkelstein

    You can probably add to your collection. This one is not exactly about atheism, but about porn. Porn? Well… “authorities there said a photo-uploading program he had designed had been used for uploading pornography to the web.”

  11. H

    Here’s a prediction about Egypt: the Islamist parties will end up competing with each other to be more socially conservative. One of them will pick an issue – say, scorcery – and run with it at a local level and then accuse the other party of back sliding. The effect will be to drag the political centre rightwards.

  12. Rick

    Great article. It’s amazing in the 20th century we can be persecuted for believing in “nothing”.

    Just a reminder, 10 people died over the muhammed cartoons. 10 people DIED because people were offended by a CARTOON!!!! If only there was a magic mirror we could hold up to the religious of the world that clearly shows how ridiculous they appear to the rational amongst us. Conditioning is a powerful thing.

  13. Bobby LaVesh

    I wonder if the shift from moderate religion to extremist religion around the globe in many previously moderate areas is due to a perceived “threat to religion”.

    Science and globilization is probably seen as a threat to religion in many places. I certainly know from experiences in England and the American South- when a mosque is built in the community the local christians seem to become suddenly more anti-islamic.

    If places such as Egypt or Indonesia see more western “secular or christian” culture invading their own culture it could very easily give the local religions a “back-against-the-wall” mentality.

  14. The shift to extremist religion is not occurring everywhere. The West (apart from a minority of evangelicals) is generally secularizing, and India too. Islam is clearly becoming more of a threat.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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