Category Archives: WANA

Secularphobia and Secularphoria in the Middle East: Online Education Event!

SAT, DEC 10 · 2:30 PM EST

Hamed Abdel-Samad:

Secularphobia and Secularphoria in the Middle East

Presented by the Halton Peel Humanist Community

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.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy ofhttps://www.meetup.com/haltonpeelhumanists/events/289775343/?_xtd=gqFyqTIzOTYzOTY1MqFwo2FwaQ%253D%253D&from=ref

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Mahsa Amini: The Tragedy that Reminds the World Why Policing Must Be Secular

Image Courtesy Wikipedia

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.

Religious Police

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

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of: ttps://www.smh.com.au/world/acehs-religious-police-crack-down-on-tight-jeans-20100526-weap.html
  2. https://humanists.international/2022/09/at-un-humanists-international-calls-for-justice-following-murder-of-mahsa-amini/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

AAT’s Atheist Refugees Assistance Program

In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we occasionally find articles published via other venues that we think HumanistFreedoms.com readers may enjoy. The following article was located on Bianet.org on June 1, 2022.

By: Melin Durmaz

İstanbul – BIA News Desk – 26 May 2022

The Atheism Association in Turkey is running several projects, most notably the Atheist Refugees Assistance Program (ARAP).

As part of the ARAP project, 13 people were provided with housing, nine people were provided with jobs, 25 people were provided with legal assistance and reference letters were provided for 22 files in two years. Also, 20 people were provided with psychological, financial or educational counseling.

The ARAP project has three partners: The Atheist Alliance International, the Center for Inquiry and the Ex Muslims of North America.

Summarizing their work, Süleyman Karan, the chair of the association, said, “With the ARAP Project, the association carries out integration work for people who had to migrate due to religion. The association provides translation support in addition to legal support for refugees’ questions, such as ‘How to find a home? How to get a residence permit? How to access education?'”

“At least 3 percent of Turkey are atheists”According to the official data, at least 3 percent of the people in Turkey are atheists. Atheism is divided within itself and the association forms an umbrella, said Karan.”The reason for the existence of the Atheism Association is to show that different atheists exist in this country as a community of at least 3 percent [of the country]. Currently, deism has the highest share; it is followed by agnostics.”Deism and agnosticism have a manageable comfort in the public. For an atomized individual, to feel is super comfortable. Saying that a creator exists facilitates one’s existence in society. Agnostic atheism, however, says positioning ourselves on a thing that we can never know whether it exists or not is not right.”

Karan also talked about the stories of the people who applied to them:

“Atheists refugees are under threat”

“People are coming from Iran, Afghanistan. There are many refugees whose families are taken prisoner in Iran. We had atheist friends who lost one eye because of torture in their own countries. An activist in Afghanistan is currently trying to survive by changing hotels every day.

“In this region, there is a considerable number of secular, atheist and deist people. Refugee people are under double oppression. They are both displaced from their homeland and they are subjected to discrimination and threats within their communities because they are atheists. For example, a Syrian atheist is under serious threat in terms of mental health and life safety within their refugee community.”

The ARAP project is carried out with two employees who speak Persian and Arabic. The association is also looking for lawyers because their services in migration law are weak, said Karan.

“We are the pole star in the region”

Noting that they are the only atheism association in Turkey that is accredited by the European Union and the United Nations, Kata said, “Along with being the only atheist and humanist association in the region, we are in a transit location for migrants.”

“Even though there is an association in Nigeria with the name of the Nigerian Humanism Association, its chairperson Mubarak Bala was sentenced to prison. Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes for writing blog posts criticizing religious regulations. In this context, we are a little pole star that the countries in the region can look at.”

Campaign against high azan volume

The Atheism Association is also running campaigns about the compulsory religion class, high volume of azan, the Muslim call for prayers, and removal of the “religion” section from ID cards.

“[Lawyer] Tuba Torun brought the compulsory religion class issue to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and won. We also provide legal support in this regard.

“Another issue is the campaign to remove religion from identity. The ‘Take five minutes to get rid of this’ campaign. This is also child abuse. Your family cannot assign you a religion before you can make up your mind. This is a successful campaign that we run, saying, ‘Show courage and give the right answer to one of the most fundamental problems of existence.’

“In Rize, someone told the civil registry directorate that they wanted to erase the religion section and the official told them that ‘They will kill you.’ The boy came to the Beşiktaş Civil Registry Directorate [İstanbul] and had it erased.

“Another campaign of ours is the high volume of azan, which we consider to be environmental and noise pollution. The [Presidency of] Religious Affairs is responsible for the volume not exceeding a certain level. But, while the azan would not be heard in Teşvkiye and Muradiye Mosques in the past, it is now very disturbing in Şişli. We provide legal support for this.”

Humanist perspective

The association puts the humanist perspective at the center of atheism. Karan is of the opinion that refugee policies in Turkey should also be addressed within this framework.

“Refugees come to Turkey from different countries and regions. Integration policies should be developed by protecting the freedoms and rights of refugees within the framework of human rights, starting from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We have to support refugees. This is the case from a humanist perspective.

“When I say humanist, I’m not talking about loving humans, I mean being human-centered. I mean the likes of Thomas More and David Hume.

Humanism is the basic proposition behind the universal declaration of human rights, the rule of law, and secularism. The main effort of humanism is to take the power from there and bring it here. Humanism is people putting themselves before God.” (MD/AÖ/VK)


Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Feature Image Courtesy: https://www.atheistrefugeesturkey.com/post/jana-s-story
  2. https://bianet.org/english/migration/262402-turkey-s-atheism-association-is-helping-atheist-refugees-faced-with-double-oppression
  3. https://www.atheistrefugeesturkey.com/about-us#:~:text=WHAT%20IS%20ASSOCIATION%20OF%20ATHEISM%2C%20TURKEY%3F%20The%20Association,Republic%20of%20Turkey%2C%20European%20Union%20and%20United%20Nations.
  4. http://turkishatheist.net/
  5. https://www.atheistrepublic.com/news/turkish-atheism-association-shuts-down-due-pressure

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.