Category Archives: World

Kaali: Screening out the Censors

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

In September of 2022, HumanistFreedoms.com shared information about Humanists International‘s expression of deep concern regarding what it has called “the judicial harassment of poet and filmmaker Leena Manimekalai” and regarding Humanist Ottawa’s subsequent letter to the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration, Dr. Anna Triandafyllidou.

Manimekalai, who has previously identified as bi-sexual, had been selected to produce a creative piece on multiculturalism in Canada as part of the national level academic programme ‘Under the Tent’ organized by CERC Migration – Toronto Metropolitan University. The film, ‘Kaali’ was launched at the Aga Khan Museum on July 2, 2022.

Soon the inevitable occurred. As the film came to the wider attention, some people were offended and began to express outrage and hate. This controversy led TMU and the Aga Khan Museum to pull Manimekalai’s film and to apologize to any (essentially anonymous) offended parties.

We have learned since our previous coverage, Kaali: The Short-sightedness of Censors and Kaali: Choose Love and Champion Humanity, that representatives of the Humanist Society of Toronto (HAT) and Humanist Ottawa attended a screening of Kaali on November 3 at TMU. Indeed, HAT was one of several co-sponsors of the event.

Richard Dowsett, HAT spokesperson was one of the scheduled speakers and delivered a “wonderful and incisive statement” which received enthusiastic applause. News of Dowsett’s reception at the event was shared with us by another humanist named Richard who was in attendance – Richard Thain.

Thain, who has his own experience with censors violating his charter right to freedom of expression, was also invited to speak when the event organizers learned that a Humanist Ottawa board member was present:

It is a pleasure to join you for this important event. I was just invited a few minutes ago to say a few words, so I don’t have a prepared statement, but I don’t need a prepared statement to tell you, simply from my heart, how proud I am to stand here, with all of you, ( with a gentle wave toward the audience) in support Leena Manimekalai. And I don’t need a prepared speech to tell you, Leena, how strongly we support artistic freedom and how much we, at Humanist Ottawa, admire your creativity and perseverance, in the face of adversity. (audience actually applauded several times). 

As an historical aside, in 1954, the Humanist Fellowship of Montréal was founded by a man originally from India, Dr R K Mishra, a professor at Universite  de Montréal. This became one of the founding groups of the Humanist Association of Canada in 1968 (now Humanist Canada). 

I drove here from Ottawa, not only to support Leena, but also to oppose those people who have given-in to the “Heckler’s Veto.” People who should know better!

Our Humanist Ottawa president, Robert Hamilton, could not be here this evening, as he is  presently out of the country, but he sends his warm greetings and support. 

Thain also read Humanist Ottawa’s letter to TMU and the leadership of The CERC in Migration and Integration.

According to BlogTO and other mainstream media outlets, the  “sold-outevent, which also featured another of the creative’s films, was sponsored by the Centre for Free Expression, PEN Canada, the Poetic Justice Foundation and other champions of free speech and creative expression as a protest against censorship.

HumanistFreedoms.com congratulates Leena Manimekalai for courage and creativity and all of the individual and organizational supporters who didn’t leave as unchallenged the censors and the un-named (and therefore un-identifiable) offended attempt to stifle the fundamental human right to freedom of expression.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of: https://hindutrend.com/images-of-maa-kali-face/
  2. https://humanists.international/2022/08/india-drop-investigations-into-filmmaker/
  3. https://www.blogto.com/film/2022/11/toronto-filmmaker-bombarded-death-threats-gets-revenge/
  4. https://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/kaali-film-leena-manimekalai-screening-1.6638601

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.

The Cost of Being an Atheist: BBC Africa’s Documentary About Mubarak Bala

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

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 Fundamental Freedoms.

Citations and References

  1. https://humanists.international/2020/08/wole-soyinka-sends-message-of-solidarity-to-mubarak-bala/
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/aug/06/wole-soyinka-protests-imprisonment-of-nigerian-humanist-mubarak-bala
  3. https://freemubarakbala.org/
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wole_Soyinka

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.

Featured Photo Courtesy of Humanists International

HumanistFreedoms.com Recognized

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 and freshness.

Feedspot further explains the basis of their rankings as:

  • Relevancy
  • 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
  • Domain authority
  • 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.

You may wish to view Feedspot’s top-15 rankings to learn about other leading Humanist blogs that you may find useful or informative.

We thank Anuj Agarwal and the Feedspot team for being recognized in it’s rankings!

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy ofhttps://techsmashers.com/how-to-choose-a-reliable-internet-connection/
  2. https://blog.feedspot.com/about_lists_and_ranking/?_src=menu

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.

Philosophy Now Issue 152: God and the Philosophers

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.

This month, Issue 152 God and the Philosophers appears to be similarly thought-provoking:

God and the Philosophers

by Rick Lewis

Excerpt:

“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.

The Ontological Argument Revisited

Peter Mullen explores the argument that by definition, God exists.

God & Humility

Benedict O’Connell argues we must recognise our limitations about knowing God.

Deism: Traditional & Contemporary

Robert Griffiths looks into an anti-religion, pro-God way of thinking.

How Theology Pre-Empts Philosophy

Tony McKenna relates how theology beat philosophy to fundamental metaphysics.

A Theological Self

Stuart Hannabuss journeys into the human condition with Søren Kierkegaard.

Faith & An Unreliable God

Patrick Wilson argues that it’s irrational to trust an untrustworthy God.

Existentialism is a Humanism by Jean-Paul Sartre

Kate Taylor recalls a ‘humanist’ classic by Jean-Paul Sartre.

Excerpt:

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.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy ofhttps://philosophynow.org/issues/152

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.

Jamie Lenman: The Atheist

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.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy ofhttp://www.jamielenman.com/
  2. https://genius.com/Jamie-lenman-talk-hard-lyrics

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.

October 2022 – HumanistFreedoms.com Surpasses Annual Visits Two Years in a Row!… and Call for Participation

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
  • Digital Humanism
  • 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 humanistfreedoms@gmail.com

Preamble, schmeamble….right? Perhaps

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. This week, we found the following information (italicized below) on www.the-star.co.ke .

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

A case has been filed in court seeking to make atheism illegal in Kenya. The court has been asked to declare as unconstitutional the Atheists in Kenya Society.

The argument for the ban is flimsy: the Preamble to the 2010 Constitution starts by acknowledging ‘the supremacy of the Almighty God of all creation“. Therefore atheists who deny God are denying the constitution.

The petition argues that this overrules the constitutional right to freedom of belief, conscience, religion and opinion.

Firstly, if God is all-powerful, surely he has permitted those atheists to exist. Would a court ban go against his will?

Secondly, religions like Buddhism and Taoism do not believe in a God. Would they be the next belief-systems to be banned as unconstitutional?

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, do these atheists do any harm to anyone? If they break the law and injure their neighbours, let them be punished. But if they live peaceably and are productive members of society, then leave them alone.

This court petition is the first step to bringing the thought police to Kenya to tell us what we are allowed to think. The petition should be thrown out.

It should seem ridiculous or preposterous that anyone might attempt to use a legal pre-amble (don’t take our word for it, read the document) to undermine a fundamental human right. And yet, here we have it – someone is trying to make that case.

It ought to make any and all individuals or organizations perk up their ears – not just humanist or atheist organizations, either. Consider that Kenya’s constitution carries a twenty-first century date. And just where might Kenya have taken this idea of a constitutional preamble front-loaded with a deity?

Consider the fact that Kenya is a member of the Commonwealth. And please further consider the fact that the Commonwealth has a program called the Commonwealth of Learning which (per their website) “is the world’s only intergovernmental organisation solely concerned with the promotion and development of distance education and open learning. COL is hosted by the Government of Canada and headquartered in Burnaby, British Columbia Canada. Created by Commonwealth Heads of Government, COL encourages the development and sharing of open learning/distance education knowledge, resources and technologies. COL is helping developing nations improve access to quality education and training.”

Image Courtesy Athists in Kenya Society

And finally consider that one of the Commonwealth of Learning’s programs happens to be a training program in Legislative Drafting – the writing of laws. Note that Athabasa University, based in Alberta, currently offers a Post-Baccalaureate Diploma in Legislative Drafting. It seems to be not unreasonable to connect a these particular dots. Two separate and equal nations in the Commonwealth happen to cooperate in educating and training the individuals whose profession is to craft the verbiage of laws. Canada in particular bears a leadership role in this area of Commonwealth operations.

How similar are these constitutional pre-ambles?

Canada’s Constitution Act (1982) has a preamble which states “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.

Meanwhile, Kenya’s Constitution Act (2010) preamble states “Acknowledging  the supremacy of the Almighty God of all creation

Canada’s constitutional preamble is a bad precedent with readily identifiable mechanisms for distribution and influence. Whether the situation in Kenya is dismissed (as it ought to be) or otherwise fails, we can’t yet know. And is hardly the point. The point is that ideological fanatics will attempt to leverage every and any opportunity to advance their position. It is shortsighted, at best, to view things otherwise.

Canada finally rid itself of the dangerously ridiculous and anachronistic blasphemy law (the former Section 296) in 2018. We can only assume that political leaders must have been confronted by the hypocrisy of advocating against blasphemy laws around the world (via the former Office of Religious Freedom) while maintaining a blasphemy law on its own books.

Did you notice that the US Supreme Court Judges who turned against Roe v Wade are all Catholic? Well, according to Catholic News Agency, they appear to be. A coincidence, no doubt.

Suddenly, we can see the potential for harm lurking within the slightest hint of theism in secular law and decision making.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy ofhttps://atheistsinkenya.org/
  2. https://www.the-star.co.ke/opinion/leader/2022-09-28-atheist-petition-could-bring-thought-police/

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.

Chile Has a Humanist Political Party, Why Not Canada?

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. This week, we found news that Chile has a brand new, legal Humanist political party. While we aren’t experts in Chilean politics, we are aware that this development follows a difficult period in Chilean history – most recently demonstrated by constitutional challenges. Indeed, in a world that seems to face no shortage of political challenges, it is interesting to note that Humanist political parties exist in many countries around the world. Currently, there is no Humanist political party in Canada that we are aware of. Perhaps Chileans have recognized what we’ve not yet seen in Canada: there’s a deep and urgent need for reason in politics.

The following article was located on the Pressenza website on October 2, 2022.

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

Today the more than necessary signatures to legalise Acción Humanista as a political party in Chile were presented to the Electoral Service.

After two and a half years since some 300 militants left the Humanist Party and left that collectivity as a mere movement that did not seek to sustain the original organisation, this new movement is being legalised today.

They worked during the pandemic, they gave themselves their statutes, added adherents, launched their membership campaign and were raising a contagious energy with which they took to the streets while also sustaining their virtual activities. They developed that very special mix that was militancy in times of pandemic.

In this context and after the Chilean social awakening, they supported the “Apruebo” option in the Plebiscite, they sought to elect constituents by running candidates in several districts, and they still presented themselves as a movement in the municipal elections where they obtained the first favourable results that allowed them to elect their councillors. Subsequently, they supported the elections of Governors and CORES, and concluded with a very strong campaign both in the Primaries and for the parliamentary elections in which they won the re-election of Deputy Tomás Hirsch and the inclusion in their ranks of the recently elected Deputy Ana María Gazmuri. They campaigned for the second round of the elections where, with all the forces of Apruebo Dignidad, they achieved the massive vote that put Gabriel Boric Font in the Presidency of the country.

They then went on to form, albeit still as the Acción Humanista movement, the political team on which the new government is relying. Marilén Cabrera was nominated to the Undersecretary of National Assets, they obtained several Seremías in different regions and also a series of other public posts.

While they were trying to gather all the signatures that would allow them to become a legal political party, they worked day by day for the possibility of approving the new constitutional charter in the exit plebiscite and, together with 38% of the population, this time they failed miserably.

However, their work over the last two and a half years has been plagued by solidarity campaigns, forums, retreats, activities, meetings, gatherings and so on. There has been a strong press coverage, especially by Deputy Tomás Hirsch, but also by several others.

And today they have been legalised. With this, Humanism once again has a legal political party in Chile, and that is good news. Tremendous news. It is now called #AcciónHumanista and it carries the spirit that has characterised humanists since the 1980s.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of:https://accionhumanista.cl/
  2. https://www.pressenza.com/2022/10/humanism-once-again-has-a-legalised-political-party-in-chile/

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.

Kaali: The Short-sightedness of Censors

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

Following Humanists International‘s expression of deep concern regarding what it has called “the judicial harassment of poet and filmmaker Leena Manimekalai“, Humanist Ottawa has issued a letter to the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration, Dr. Anna Triandafyllidou.

In the letter, Humanist Ottawa President Robert Hamilton expressed the organization’s “deep concern for the egregious actions taken by CERC Migration and Integration and Toronto Metropolitan University against filmmaker Leena Manimekalia and her short artistic film, “Kaali.

Image Courtesy of Humanist Ottawa

Humanist Ottawa asserted that CERC “asserted a privileged position of your organization over a person of colour and a member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community – in glaring opposition to your own stated values of diversity, equity and inclusion. As well, these action unequivocally contravened Article 18 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights supporting freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Manimekalai, who has previously identified as bi-sexual, had been selected to produce a creative piece on multiculturalism in Canada as part of the national level academic programme ‘Under the Tent’ organized by CERC Migration – Toronto Metropolitan University. The film, ‘Kaali’ was launched at the Aga Khan Museum on July 2, 2022.

The documentary film documents Manimekalai in the guise of the Hindu goddess Kali wandering the streets of Toronto at night during a pride festival. Manimekalai observes groups of people out on the town, riding the subway, stopping at a bar, taking selfies with members of the public, and sharing a cigarette with a man on a park bench.

Humanist Ottawa pointed out in their letter to Dr. Triandafyllidou that CERC’s actions “directly empowered others who have disseminated hate speech posters and other social media advocating violence and death against Leena Manimekalai. Your actions have cause the perpetration of flagrant injustice and have forced Leena to take steps to protect her safety.”

Maintaining an intent to promote diversity and inclusive values, Maimekalai was quoted in the New Indian Express as saying: “Kaali, the film is all about choosing love and championing humanity. Trolls who are witch-hunting me are fueled by hate. They have nothing to do with faith. If they are patient enough to watch the film they might choose love. But that’s exactly why they want the film to be banned.”

Taking aim at CERC’s status as a federally-funded status, Robert Hamilton also wrote, “In addition, your acquiescent public apology to vague assertions of offence were not only short sighted, but were indeed corrosive to individual freedoms that Canadians cherish and have fought to preserve including the freedom to express artistic and religious idea.

Finally, you took quick actions against the filmmaker without due consideration to the foreseeably dangerous consequences that could ensue. This speaks to a failure in judgement and accountability unworthy of a federally-funded program and an institution of higher learning. Canadians deserve and expect better than this.

On 4 July, the High Commission of India in Ottawa issued a statement calling on the Canadian authorities and event organizers to withdraw her film. Her film was subsequently withdrawn and her name removed from the ‘Under the Tent’ programme by Toronto Metropolitan University, while Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum host to a screening of her film apologized for any offence caused by the film.In India, a de facto ‘blasphemy’ provision , Section 295A of the IPC allows up to three years imprisonment for “whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of a class.”

To date, CERC does not appear to have provided any public statement of how it may plan to take accountability for its contributions to the risks faced by Manimekalai. Humanist Ottawa provided some expectations from the perspective of the organization’s inclusive humanist values:

Accordingly, we therefore urge you to:

  • Promptly express a public apology to the filmmaker, Leena Manimekalai
  • Publicly articulate support for the legal, free expression of thoughts and ideas
  • Financially compensate the filmmaker for the pain and suffering that she continues to endure
  • Financially underwrite all expenses needed to ensure the safety and security of the filmmaker

HumanistFreedoms.com encourages you to share your perspective on this situation with Dr. Triandafyllidou by writing a letter of your own – and by commenting in this post.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of: https://hindutrend.com/images-of-maa-kali-face/
  2. https://humanists.international/2022/08/india-drop-investigations-into-filmmaker/

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.