BHA calls for freedom of speech in OIC countries

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has issued a statement at the 22nd regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, which calls for freedom of speech in the member states of the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation).  Issued jointly with the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) and the Center for Inquiry, the statement, entitled ‘Freedom of Expression and the OIC’ reads as follows:

Mr President,

Freedom of expression is once again under sustained attack from the member states of the OIC.

In Saudi Arabia last week, two activists were sentenced to ten years in jail for exposing hundreds of cases of human rights abuse in the kingdom.

In Iran, we have seen protesters imprisoned and even sentenced to death, for ‘waging war against God’.  But what strange logic can possibly equate criticism and peaceful protest with waging war? And since when did any government equate itself with God?

In Morocco, a colleague has had to flee for his life because he wrote of his doubts about Islam.
In Mauritania, two days ago, a group of nine antislavery protesters were attacked and severely beaten by police.

In Pakistan, hundreds of Shias have been murdered for holding the ‘wrong’ beliefs.

But we have waited in vain for condemnation by the OIC of human rights abuses carried out by agents of the State within its member States. Instead, we have seen protests against Islamic extremism condemned as ‘Islamophobia’, which was recently described by the prime minister of Turkey as ‘a crime against humanity’.

A crime against humanity, Mr President?  No Sir. We see murder, ethnic cleansing, torture, kidnappings, suicide bombings, and terrorist attacks as crimes against humanity.

Protesting against human rights abuse, and pointing out where the responsibility lies, is not a crime, Mr President, it is a duty. And may we respectfully remind the member States of the OIC that it is their duty to uphold the right to freedom of expression, not condemn it.

Thank you Sir.

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the BHA and First Vice-President of IHEU, commented ‘Too many states, including the member states of the OIC, are failing to uphold the right to freedom of expression.  In several OIC member states, freedom of expression is restricted by blasphemy laws, which are often used to suppress legitimate criticism of human rights abuses.’

‘The abolition of blasphemy laws must form part of efforts to strengthen human rights around the world.  Blasphemy laws infringe the freedom of speech of atheists, but they can also infringe the rights of religious groups.  For example, this has been shown by the abuses committed against Shia Muslims in Pakistan, regarded as blasphemous by some of their fellow Muslims for believing in the “wrong” kind of Islam.  Today, the International Day of Action to Defend Apostates and Blasphemers, is the ideal time to stand up for human rights, and to re-iterate the demand for freedom of expression for everyone, religious and non-religious.’


For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs, at or on 0773 843 5059.

The International Humanist and Ethical Union:

The Center for Inquiry:

The UN Human Rights Council:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

Pavan Dhaliwal
Head of Public Affairs, British Humanist Association
39 Moreland Street, London EC1V 8BB | 020 7324 3065| 0773 843 5059 | | |

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