On August 9, 2020, HumanistFreedoms.com published our first article about Mubarak Bala. At that time, we featured Wole Soyinka’s all-too-prophetic condemnation of the Nigerian government’s treatment of Bala:
“When I accepted the International Humanist Award at the World Humanist Congress in 2014, I spoke of the conflict between Humanists and Religionists; one of enlightenment versus the chains of enslavement. Your arbitrary incommunicado detention over the last 100 days is the cruel reality of this conflict. All too often these chains of enslavement lead directly to the gallows or a prison cell.“
On April 5, 2022 – the Kano High State Court sentence Bala to 24 years imprisonment following a guilty plea to 18 charges blasphemy and public incitement. As the president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, Mubarak Bala is a prisoner of religious tyranny.
BBC Africa has recently published a documentary titled “The Cost of Being an Atheist” which carries a terrible reminder of just how correct Wole Soyinka’s words were. Too often and far too readily, tyrants curtail free speech with arbitrary actions which lead to prison cells and worse.
Mubarak Bala is a chemical process engineer. A husband. A father. He and his family deserve better than this. They don’t just deserve better – they had a fundamental right to better.
And so does every living person, regardless of the country they live in or the beliefs or non-beliefs that they may have. That’s why the freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom of religion (including freedom from religion) are called FundamentalFreedoms.
The Middle East has never been far from the headlines.
The last 100 or so years has seen the Middle East to be the center of continuous struggles starting with the end of the first world war, the subsequent collapse of the Ottoman Empire and over the next forty or so years the withdrawal of the western powers from the region.
Many of these struggles led to bloody conflicts, some between Arab countries and Israel, and others between allegedly secular or progressive republics and conservative monarchies.
Starting in the mid 1970’s the Middle East has been the scene of the resurgence of Islamic revivalist forces attempting to replace both republics and monarchies, and to overthrow all aspects of modernity. This in turn led to resistance by secular groups; some uneasily allied with the existing regimes, while others doing so enthusiastically while ignoring or justifying corruption and repression.
This sad state of affairs has obscured a lively fermentation of enlightened intellectual thought asserting the necessity of secularism for progress and modernity to take hold, and triggered strong reactions from forces seeking to reinforce religious privileges and blunt any progress.
Professor Hamed Abdel-Samad will describe for us these countervailing forces and the prospects for the future.
About Hamed Abdel-Samad Hamed Abdel-Samad is a German-Egyptian writer and political scientist.
Hamed was born in Egypt and grew up in a devout Muslim family, his father being an Imam. He studied French and English at Ain Shams University in Cairo during which time he joined the Muslim Brotherhood. That close association triggered within him a skepticism of Islam, and led to him eventually abandoning it.
He moved to Germany at age 23 to study political science at Augsburg University, subsequently taught Islamic studies at Erfurt, conducted research at Munich University and worked as an educational expert for UNESCO.
He has authored several books in German and Arabic with titles translating to “Muhammad– A final reckoning”, “The downfall of the Islamic world”, “My farewell to heaven”, “War or peace – The Arab revolution and the future of the West”, and most recently “What the commoners don’t know about Islam: A brief history from Mohammed to the present”. One book, “Islamic Fascism”, has been translated into English and released by Prometheus Press in 2016.
Hamed appears frequently on German television, and is very active on his YouTube channel Hamed.TV (also the name of his website). There he released series of talks called “Box of Humanity” and “Box of Islam” that deal with life, with history and with Islam. He is a sought after guest on many other YouTube channels.
Unfortunately Hamed’s has rarely appeared on English language media.
In January of 2022, HumanistFreedoms.com reported on a human rights challenge to the Province of Ontario’s public-funding of Catholic schools led by an organizations named One Public Education Now (OPEN). Recently, OPEN has sent us an update on their work.
Two members of OPEN are plaintiffs in a Charter of Rights challenge to the current funding of separate schools in Ontario. The lawsuit states the funding of non-Catholics in separate schools and the funding of Grades 11 and 12 are not protected from Charter challenge and violate the s.15(1) guarantee of equal protection and benefit of the law for all religions and beliefs (including beliefs in no religion).
The two plaintiffs are a teacher who cannot obtain a teaching position in one-third of publicly-funded separate schools because she is not Catholic, and a parent whose children must travel an extra 80 minutes per day in order for them to have a non-denominational public education, and not a publicly-funded Catholic education.
The Attorney-General of Ontario has brought a Motion to Dismiss the Application before it even gets to a full hearing. The Motion is scheduled for Friday, November 25, 2022 and we think it will not be successful for various reasons including that the funding of non-Catholics in separate schools has not been ruled on by any court in Ontario. But obviously it means further delay and further expenses. We have already raised over $175,000, but we know we need to raise more. People can find out more on our website, https://open.cripeweb.org/, where they can also donate through secure PayPal or by E-transfer to email@example.com.
On November 16, 2022, HumanistFreedoms.com was notified by Feedspot.com that we made their list of the top 15 Humanist blogs on the web. According to the content reader site, HumanistFreedoms.com earned a #10 rating based on: traffic, social media followers, domain authority andfreshness.
Feedspot further explains the basis of their rankings as:
Industry blogs (those not favoring a specific brand) are given higher rank than blogs by individual brands (who often tend to promote their own products).
Blog post frequency (freshness)
Social media follower counts and engagements
Age of a blog
Alexa Web Traffic Rank, and many other parameters.
Feedspot claims to routinely remove inactive blogs as well as those that aren’t relevant to any given list. Lists are updated as they receive new blog submissions to ensure updated rankings every few weeks.
When notifying us of this honour, Anuj Agarwal (a founder of FeedSpot) said, “I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. This is the most comprehensive list of Top 15 Humanist Blogs on the internet and I’m honored to have you as part of this!“
Feedspot discovers, categorizes and ranks blogs, podcasts and influencers in several niche categories. We have curated over 250,000 popular blogs and categorized them in more than 5,000 niche categories and industries. With millions of blogs on the web, finding influential, authority and trustworthy bloggers in a niche industry is a hard problem to address. Our experience leads us to believe that a thoughtful combination of both algorithmic and human editing offers the best means of curation.
On November 2, 2022, the American Humanist Association (AHA) presented its 2022 University Award for Philosophical Diversity to Tufts University. The award, which celebrates the expression of humanism in higher education, was accepted by Anthony Monaco, President of Tufts University.
According to AHA’s press release about the presentation, interfaith work is one of the most important bridges that can build during this difficult time of our socio-political landscape. For this reason AHA presented Tufts University with their award based on the school’s Humanist Chaplaincy.
AHA says that, “The Humanist Chaplaincy at Tufts has done an exemplary job of serving not only secular students but bringing together students from other religious minorities to reimagine a future where all people belong. From hosting an “Unlearning” event that explored the decolonization of our thoughts and social norms to working with Sikh students to create art together, the AHA is proud to recognize Tufts University for fostering an environment where collaborations are encouraged to better support their student body.“
“The Humanist Chaplaincy at Tufts has been a thriving hub for the rigorous and creative exploration of religious and philosophical differences. As a higher education chaplaincy, we are strategically positioned to realize a more just and interdependent world by supporting students in a critical time of exploration and identity formation,” says Anthony Cruz Pantojas, Humanist Chaplain at Tufts University. “As the first Afro-Boricua Humanist Chaplain, I aim to embrace the complexities of the human condition through narratives and experiences with students and create anew what has been historically erased or obscured.”
According to Cruz Pantojas’ biography on the Tufts University website, “Anthony Cruz Pantojas, MATS, MALS (they/he/elle/él) is honored to be the Humanist Chaplain at Tufts University. They joined the University Chaplaincy team in August 2021. In this capacity, Anthony supports the development and sustainability of ethical inquiry through co-constructed projects with the campus community. Cruz Pantojas earned master’s degrees in Theological Studies, and Leadership and Humanist Studies from Andover Newton Theological School and Meadville Lombard Theological School, respectively. Additionally, they hold a Graduate Certificate in Humanist Studies from the American Humanist Association Center for Education. Previously, Anthony worked with Faith in the Vaccine, a program under the auspices of the Interfaith Youth Core. They worked with youth community leaders to inform marginalized communities about the significance of the COVID-19 vaccine and to curate resources that address social stigma. With Faith in the Vaccine, Anthony focused on vaccine hesitancy, as well as spearheaded projects promoting civic engagement and critical consciousness through action research and narrative methodologies.”
The AHA created its University award to recognize colleges and universities that foster a culture of openness and academic inquiry that allows humanism and a diverse array of other philosophical perspectives to flourish. Beyond the swanky plaque and the press releases, HumanistFreedoms.com has been unable to determine what AHA’s University Award is comprised-of.
Via somewhat dated press-releases, we observed that criteria for receiving the University Award for Philosophical Diversity include: offering a course in humanist studies, employing a faculty member engaged in research relevant to humanist studies with already-published works in scholarly journals, and having a secular student organization recognized by the institution and existing in a supportive environment.
In years past, the award has also been presented to Pitzer College (2016 for being the first school in the United States to offer a degree in Secular Studies) for , Carnegie Mellon University (2015 for its Humanist League’s commitment to fostering dialogue about humanism and upholding the humanist values of reason, compassion and justice), Stanford University (2014 for making humanist inquiry and study possible for students interested in pursuing careers in the secular movement and beyond).
By offering the award, the AHA aspires to counter the prejudice faced by humanists and other nontheists who are good without a god as well as encourage schools to include humanist chaplaincies on campus.
The Tufts Humanist Chaplaincy was formed in 2014 to foster institutional support for the humanist community and to attend to the “many changing needs of students across the nonreligious spectrum.”
“We are delighted to recognize Tufts University and their ongoing commitment to the representation of secularism and humanism on campus,” comments AHA Executive Director, Nadya Dutchin. “It is vital that higher educational institutions encourage an open dialogue between different worldviews and philosophies, both religious and nonreligious.”
In addition to the University Award, the American Humanist Association also bestows an annual Humanist of the Year Award (HOTYA) to a prominent individual whose work and activism promote humanist values. In 2018, AHA revoked its award of the 2015 HOTYA award from Lawrence Krauss. In 2021, Dr. Anthony Fauci was awarded AHA’s Humanist of the Year Award.
Amidst a set of global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic/epidemic response, the war in Ukraine and the so-called culture wars of right wing versus left wing politics, it is predictable, if not absolutely inevitable, that attention to the ongoing travesties and tragedies of violated fundamental human rights would be reduced.
It seems equally likely that faith-based authoritarians (or for that matter any ideologues) would take advantage of the distracted times to increase their entrenched influence and control.
HumanistFreedoms.com hopes that the distractions of the early 2020’s may finally pass and that secularist organizations may again be relied-upon to focus attention and action upon promoting humanist values and undertaking serious opposition to theocracies and religious police forces.
The tragic death of Mahsa Amini seems like an excellent matter to begin with.
Humanists International (Excerpts below from HI Sept 28, 2022)
In a statement made during the General Debate segment of the 51st UN Human Rights Council, Humanists International’s Advocacy Officer, Lillie Ashworth, responded to the recent murder in custody of 22-year old Kurdish-Iranian Mahsa Amini. Amini had been arrested by Iran’s “morality police” on 13 September for wearing her hijab “improperly”. She was accused of being in violation of Iran’s discriminatory compulsory veiling laws which require girls from the age of 9 to cover their hair completely. As several UN independent experts stated in the days following her death, there is evidence that Amini had been beaten and subjected to torture while in the custody of Iran’s theocratic regime. The Iranian police have claimed that she had suffered a stroke and a heart attack.
Ashworth’s statement reminded Iran that “compulsory veiling is a human rights violation, and that appeals to religious morality can never be used to police women’s choices, or to invalidate their equal dignity and worth.”
Since Amini’s murder, there has been widespread protests in Iran and around the world. In Iran, crackdowns by the theocratic state has resulted in further faith-based beatings and murders.
At this time, seven nations have formalized and explicitly-designated religious police: Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. These are a dirty seven which should be under international scrutiny and pressure to discontinue faith-based policing – a practice that is nothing other than state violation of fundamental human rights.
HumanistFreedoms.com looks forward to observing whether Canadian (in particular) and global humanist, atheist, secularist organizations join Humanist International in a re-focus on issues of this scope and type. We feel certain that there are still many other women, girls and families who might appreciate the kind of help from the international community that might have saved Mahsa Amini’s life.
Citations, References And Other Reading
Featured Photo Courtesy of: ttps://www.smh.com.au/world/acehs-religious-police-crack-down-on-tight-jeans-20100526-weap.html
Back in the summer of 2020, we brought Issue 138 of Philosophy Now to HumanistFreedoms.com readers’ attention as we thought that the issue’s Table of Contents offers a number of great articles, including a feature section on religion and secularism. The periodical’s website appears to allow complimentary viewing of up to four articles per month.
“Is there a God?” has been a central philosophical question since the earliest times.Don’t roll your eyes! These arguments should interest you too, and I’ll try to explain why.
The Philosophy Now editorial team includes both humanists and religious believers, but we agree that questions about God are tied up with a whole series of philosophical concerns of the deepest and most personal kind – questions which keep honest folk awake at night. How should we live our lives? How should we treat one another? What’s the point of it all? What happens when we die? Where did this world come from? Some say that the idea of God arises from our need to answer such questions. Others retort that without God we’d never have had the wit to ask such questions in the first place. The questions are difficult and the question of whether God exists – and what we mean by God – particularly so, which is why Benedict O’Connell’s agnostic article on ‘God and Humility’ is well worth a read.
Kate Taylor recalls a ‘humanist’ classic by Jean-Paul Sartre.
Sartre makes two basic claims – firstly that God is dead and this has consequences for the way we live; and secondly that all claims about humanity and the world must begin with human experience. Given these two claims, Sartre concludes that ‘existence precedes essence’. What he means by this is that human beings are without any pre-existing purpose or ‘essence’ which is not of their own making….In a post-God world, only human beings can choose what to make of their existence. Sartre in fact says that we are ‘condemned to be free’. Our freedom is a condemnation because we cannot escape having to choose, nor escape the responsibility that comes from having that capacity. We cannot deny the weighty responsibility that accompanies our freedom to will as we choose.
Looking for something fresh to listen to? Why not try Jamie Lenman’s (formerly of the band, Reuben) new album, The Atheist?
The album is set to be released on November 25, 2022. Two tracks, “Lena Don’t Leave Me” and “Talk Hard” are currently available via video platforms and presumably audio platforms as well. We suspect you know how to search your favorite sources. Or you could visit Lenman’s website.
Talk Hard features lyrics (below courtesy Genius.com) with an upbeat, pro-freedom-of-expression message. It’s refreshing to hear something that is boldly and encouragingly supportive of a fundamental human right.
I thought I heard you make some assertion But you were mumbling And I could not be sure So turn yourself into a bolder person There’s nothing to be gained from acting so demure
Take a breath Take a sec Take your time Take the floor buddy You’re just fine Yeah
Talk hard I know you wanna play your trump card They just ain’t listening Stand up And tell ’em what you have to say
I know it maybe seems too much to handle Finding the energy to shout above the crowd But if they take away the proper channels You have to find somehow to make it extra loud
Take a breath Take a sec Take your time Take the mic if you like Here’s mine Yeah
Talk hard I know you wanna play your trump card They just ain’t listening Stand up And tell ’em what you have to say
Yeah, talk hard I know you wanna play your trump card They just ain’t listening Stand up And tell ’em what you have to say Say Say Say Say
There does seem to be a lot of mumbling out there these days. Good on Lenman for offering up an encouraging word.
2020 was HumanistFreedoms.com’s first full year of operation. Today we reached a new milestone!
At the end of July 2021, we had surpassed the total visitors to the site in 2020. Effective today, October 23, 2022, we are thrilled to see that we’ve surpassed the 2021’s annual total visitors and pages read. By year’s end we expect to have grown 25% in 2021!
We have enjoyed publishing articles which promoting and celebrating humanism and our common humanity. We thank our contributors, readers and visitors for making http://www.humanistfreedoms.com a unique online magazine.
By contemporary internet standards, HumanistFreedoms.com is still a new and growing project. But we think that every small project has the potential to bring humanist values, outlooks and news to a continuously-growing audience; we look forward, therefore, to promoting other start-up Humanist-themed projects. Recently, the “Reasons for Reason” Youtube channel caught our attention. The channel features R4R, The Rational Robot, undertaking a number of classic counter-apologetics exercises. Currently, the channel’s most popular video is one devoted to the so-called Shroud of Turin.
If you enjoyed the R4R’s adventures in reason, please share your thoughts below and share the video with those who may be interested to learn more bour Reasons for Reason, counter-apologetics and humanism.
For the remainder of 2022 and looking forward to the new year, we are looking for even more essays, articles and stories to share! We are not able to pay for articles (yet) but we want to hear what you have to say. This month, themes that we want to explore include:
Contemporary Humanism’s Biggest Priorities and Challenges for 2022
Leadership Within The Humanist Movement
Humanism and Secularism
Humanism and Human Trafficking
Humanism and Global Population
A Humanist Perspective of Radical Politics
Humanist Photography: Photographer Review
Humanism in the Arts
Humanism and the Environment
Humanism and Freedom of Expression: Lessons of the 2020’s
Humanism and Freedom of/from Religion: Global Lessons
Humanism and Architecture
Book/Movie/Music/Arts Review: A Humanist Recommends….
Do you have an idea that isn’t on our list? Let us know. Inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s something about elected office(s) and democracy that doesn’t quite match-up well with religious prerequisites. The concepts are fundamentally opposed. Elected office and democracy puts the leadership selection process in the hands of the people that the system is intended to serve while religious prerequisites place the selection process in the hands of religious authorities, regardless of who may be within that system. That seems fairly obvious doesn’t it?
Canadian media outlets have recently reported the outcome of a legal case wherein an Ontario student sued the York Catholic District School Board after having been barred from running for elected office within the school system. It seems that Dasha Kandaharian, an Orthodox Christian (i.e. not a Roman Catholic), was not allowed to run for student trustee at the high school she attended because of that sectarian difference.
Media stories have referred to the case as a “landmark” – which it undoubtedly is. The decision undoubtedly addresses the situation faced by thousands of non-Catholic students who have attended publicly-funded Catholic schools in the past (clearly, Kandaharian was not he first and only student to be barred from the elected office) – and the thousands more who may do so in the future.
What the media have not (that we can find) spent much time in considering is where the Catholic School Board(s) of Ontario may have gotten this notion that a sectarian religious prerequisite for elected office is an acceptable thing.
A person is qualified to be elected as a school board trustee if the person is qualified to vote in a school board election and is a resident of the school board district.
When filing a nomination a candidate must meet all of the following requirements:
a resident within the jurisdiction of the board;
a supporter of the board (“supporter” refers to the individual’s support for one of the four publicly funded school systems. A list of supporters for each system is kept by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation);
a Canadian citizen;
at least 18 years old;
Roman Catholic (if running for a Catholic school board);
not legally prohibited from voting; and
not disqualified by any legislation from holding school board office.
Note: A candidate, if nominated, must remain qualified throughout the election and, if elected, throughout the term of office. The term of office is 4 years. School board candidates should confirm that they have the qualifications described here and in section 219 of the Education Act. It is the responsibility of the candidate to determine whether he or she is qualified to be elected to and hold office.
In case you’re interested, Section 219 of the Education Act doesn’t seem to actually bear the qualification that we’ve bolded in the language above. Perhaps the argument is implicit or explicit in some other section of the Act. But for the moment, we can skip over that murky inconsistency and observe that the York Catholic District School Board (and any other publicly funded Catholic School Board) appears merely to have been applying the same criteria to the selection and election of Student Trustees as the Government of Ontario appears to tolerate for the selection and election of School Board Trustees.
Well, this landmark court decision rather brings to question whether what’s good for the goose (students) may also be good for the gander (adult politicians).
So let us consider, in the spirit of taking note of landmarks, an entirely fictional scenario: a hypothetical Secular Humanist who happens to be a (legally defined) ‘supporter’ of the Catholic School system in their area decides that they would like to be Board Trustee of that system. Regardless of how they might fare in an open election – how well do you imagine this hypothetical individual might fare in the qualification screening process?
Here is a separate and perhaps more fundamental question: Can you imagine any other elected office in a 21st-century democratic country named Canada where membership in a religious sect would be accepted as a pre-requisite condition?