10 December 2015

Persecuting the non-believers - Report highlights a grim picture across the Middle East

The global Freedom of Thought Report for 2015, published today, begins with a map of the world where every country in the MENA region, from Morocco and Mauritania on the Atlantic coast to Iran in the Gulf. is coloured either black (indicating "grave violations) or red (indicating "severe discrimination").

The Middle East is not by any means the only problem area and the 542-page report, compiled by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), also highlights Bangladesh where four humanist bloggers and one secular publisher were hacked to death.

But the Middle East is striking in – shall we say – its consistency and a prime illustration of the way humanists, atheists and the non-religious are increasingly persecuted and discriminated against. Across the globe there has been a rise in extrajudicial violence targeting such people, the report says, and in some states "harsher judicial sentences have been handed down for crimes such as 'blasphemy' and 'apostasy'."

Even in Kuwait, which in comparison with its neighbours ranks well in terms of civil liberties, press freedom and judicial independence, the past few years have seen a notable crackdown, the report says. The country "is found to be declining due to recent prosecutions for 'blasphemy' and a general deterioration of freedom of expression post-Arab Spring." [al-bab.com] Read more