Tag Archives: blasphemy

Non-Crime Hate Incidents Code

The Home Office is a ministerial department of the United Kingdom’s government. The Home Office takes its primary duty as being the safety and security of the country and it’s citizens.

On March 13th, 2023, the Home Office published a draft Non-Crime Hate Incidents Code of Practice on the Recording and Retention of Personal Data, as provided for in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.

This statutory draft code of practice, once in effect, will provide guidance to the police in England and Wales relating to non-crime hate incident (NCHI) recording. It sets out the common-sense and proportionate approach that should be adopted by the police.

The publication of this Code of Practice appears to be in direct response to recent events and controversy surrounding an incident when the purchased copy of a Koran, owned by a 14-year-old autistic child, happened to become smudged and scuffed. According to media reports, the accidental dropping of the Koran was investigated by police as a hate crime and the child was threatened with death.

It is a strange world when an incident of clumsiness by a child leads to outrage of “adults” and investigation by police. However, it did. And a Code of Practice has been issued.

According to the Home Office, the new Code of Practice:

  • includes guidance relating to whether and how the personal data of an individual who is the subject of an NCHI report should be processed as part of an NCHI record
  • provides detailed information on the right to freedom of expression, and clear case studies to illustrate how this right should be taken into account in the context of NCHI recording
  • clarifies that debate, humour, satire and personally-held views which are lawfully expressed are not, by themselves, grounds for the recording of an NCHI
  • sets out that a non-crime hate incident should not be recorded if the report is deemed by the police to be trivial, irrational, malicious, or if there is no basis to conclude that it was motivated by intentional hostility

The code also introduces the additional threshold test, which clarifies that personal data should only be included in an NCHI record if the event presents a real risk:

  • of significant harm to individuals or groups with a particular characteristic or characteristics
  • that a future criminal offence may be committed against individuals or groups with a particular characteristic or characteristics

For the purposes of the code, a ‘particular characteristic’ means race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity, as defined in hate crime legislation. This test will enable the police to intervene where necessary to safeguard vulnerable individuals and communities.

The code is subject to the affirmative procedure and will enter into force 31 days after it is approved by Parliament.

Suella Braverman KC (i.e. the government representative in charge of these things) had apparently stated that the UK does not have blasphemy laws and everyone should respect freedom of speech and pluralism. She wrote that ‘The education sector and police have a duty to prioritise the physical safety of children over the hurt feelings of adults. Schools answer to pupils and parents. They do no have to answer to self-appointed community activists.’

Those comments appear to have preceded the release of the new Code of Practice.

It is difficult to be certain what the UK’s general population thinks about this situation. Humanists UK, however, has posted on their website that:

We welcome this draft code of practice. The state has strong interests both in protecting free speech and in preventing harassment, discrimination, and incitement to hatred against people on the basis of their innate characteristics. The code of practice carefully balances these competing needs, considering the motivations behind incidents, their seriousness, and whether debate, humour, or satire are relevant factors.

‘What happened in Kettlethorpe appears to simply have been schoolboy foolishness. As such it never warranted the involvement of the police. We’re pleased that the Government has listened by bringing some much-needed clarity to the table. The police are often put in a difficult position by vocal religious groups in their area demanding action – kowtowing to which only can sometimes only escalate tensions further.  We look forward to further action from the Government to make sure that what happened in Kettlethorpe never occurs in a school again.’

Whether “clarity” has been established by this release of a Code of Practice for the documentation of non-Criminal matters by police is something that bears some consideration. Indeed, one wonders how and why people who threaten a child with assault and murder are not the ones considered candidates for investigation of a hate crime. Uttering threats is, after all, not precisely an utterance of affection.

Citations, References And Other Reading

Featured Photo Courtesy of :

  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/non-crime-hate-incidents-draft-code-of-practice
  2. https://inews.co.uk/opinion/blasphemy-law-system-punishes-2191532
  3. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11819099/Suella-Braverman-wades-row-pupils-suspended-slight-damage-copy-Quran.html
  4. https://schoolsweek.co.uk/home-office-u-turn-on-blasphemy-guidance/

    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.

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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

OMG, you can’t write that – Banned Books Event(s)

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

Did you Know that September 18-24 is “Banned Books Week“?

The Banned Books Week Coalition is an international alliance of organizations joined in a commitment to increase awareness of the freedom to read. The coalition seeks to engage various communities and inspire participation in Banned Books Week through education, advocacy, and the creation of programming about the problem of book censorship.

Humanist Society of Scotland

Join Humanist Society of Scotland for an online evening of discussion to mark Banned Books Week 2022. In light of the recent horrific attack on Salman Rushdie and the increase in book banning in schools in the US driven by Christian fundamentalists, we wanted to create an event that highlights religious censorship of books. OMG, you can’t write that! Books, Censorship, and Religion 

Join the event online on Thursday 22nd September, 7:30pm-9pm

The panel discussion will be hosted by our CEO Fraser Sutherland and will include playwright and Lyceum artistic director David Greig, cartoonist and Executive Director of Cartoonists Rights Network International Terry Anderson, Emma Wadsworth-Jones of Humanists International and formerly of PEN International, and Professor Emerita of Royal Conservatoire Scotland, theatre director, and co-chair of Humanist Society Scotland Maggie Kinloch. The panel discussion will be followed by an audience Q&A. 

The event is free to attend, with donations to the legal fund of former Scottish Award for Humanism winner Mubarak Bala welcomed. Bala is serving a 24 year sentence in Nigeria after being found guilty in 2022 of 18 counts of public disturbance in relation to a ‘blasphemous’ Facebook post that he wrote.  

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of: https://www.tophermacdonald.com/Banned-Books-Week
  2. https://bannedbooksweek.org/

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.

Wole Soyinka: The Concept of Blasphemy Should Not Even Exist in a Secular State

In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we occasionally find articles published in other venues that we think humanistfreedoms.com readers may enjoy. The following article was published on April 19, 2021 on:

The Punch

By: Solomon Odeniyi

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has lambasted Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State for his hypocrisy and promotion of religious intolerance in the state which allegedly contributed to the 24-year jail term handed down to atheist, Mubarak Bala.

In a telephone interview with The PUNCH, Soyinka said the sentence handed down to Bala must be appealed at once even as he argued that it was hypocritical of the Ganduje government and the Sharia authorities to be chasing blasphemers while the governor himself saw nothing wrong in stuffing his babariga outfit with dollars.

Ganduje was in 2018 caught on video stuffing his outfit with wads of dollars presumed to be kickbacks, a development which attracted criticisms from several pro-transparency groups.

The governor however denied receiving kickbacks.

Soyinka said he was shocked by Ganduje’s statement wherein he promised to sign the death warrant of musician, Yahaya Shariff, who was convicted for blasphemy in 2020.

“You can imagine a governor saying he would sign the death warrant of a musician for blasphemy! For me, it is nothing short of a crime against humanity. It reeks of hypocrisy. This was the same governor that was stuffing his outfit with dollars.

“I have deliberately not called for his arrest because he enjoys immunity. But these are the people who arrest blasphemers,” said the Nobel Laureate.

When asked if he would be seeking Ganduje’s prosecution after he leaves office, Soyinka responded, “Of course, the authorities know what to do once he leaves office.”

He added that it was hypocritical of the northern leaders to hound blasphemers while turning a blind eye to corruption.

The Nobel Laureate called on civil society groups to launch a campaign against the 24-year imprisonment of Bala even as he insisted that the moves should be made to immediately appeal the sentence.

“I am glad that the conviction will be appealed but I think it is imperative for rights groups to launch a campaign against these atrocities. Nigeria is a secular nation and has no state religion. The conviction is one of the fallouts of the so-called Sharia that was adopted by some of these states years ago.

“We are not in the dark ages or cavemen. No one should be imprisoned for their religious views. The concept of blasphemy should not even exist in a secular state,” he said.

Also in an interview with The PUNCH, Bala’s lawyer, James Ibor, said the matter would be appealed soon.

The lawyer said the 24-year sentence handed to his client was outrageous, adding that the court even lacked the jurisdiction to hear the matter in the first place.

Ibor lamented that despite a Federal High Court in Abuja ordering the release of his client, the authorities refused to obey the order.

“We will appeal the matter very soon. This is a travesty of justice. My client only pleaded guilty because he and his family had been receiving threats and just decided to end it all. And even after pleading guilty, the sentence should not have exceeded five years based on Kano sentencing guidelines and he has already been in detention for two years which means he shouldn’t have been given more than three years,” Ibor said.

Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), also condemned the sentence, adding that he was sure the matter would be overturned once it is challenged at the Court of Appeal.

“The conviction will not stand the test of an appeal. He should also apply for bail. No doubt, the Court of Appeal will uphold his fundamental rights of freedom of conscience and freedom of expression,” Falana said.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Image Courtesy:
  2. https://www.msn.com/en-xl/africa/other/soyinka-accuses-ganduje-of-hypocrisy-over-atheist-s-imprisonment/ar-AAWneX2?ocid=BingNewsSearch
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/28/un-condemns-one-year-detention-of-nigerian-humanist-mubarak-bala?msclkid=6998673bc5b911ec882193d39ff8250c

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.