Oswestry Culture Fest – Saturday 19th August

This Saturday 19th August, we have a presence at the Oswestry CultureFest to reflect:-

  • our welcome of human diversity
  •  our support for human rights
  • our stand against discrimination
  • and to emphasise that, although we live without religion, we support cultural and religious freedom, as well as freedom to live without religion.

We hope to see lots of our humanist members there and, if anyone would like to help man our stall, please email our chair – Dr. Simon Nightingale.

For more information on the event, please see the attached – OswestryCultureFestFlyer.

Many thanks as always for your continued support!

Humanists UK: Pro-choice coalition challenges EHRC Commissioner over anti-choice bill

Lord Shinkwin. Photo credit: House of Lords.

Voice for Choice, the UK’s national coalition of pro-choice campaigning organisations – of which Humanists UK is a member – has lodged a formal complaint to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) over the conduct of its Commissioner, Lord Shinkwin, who was appointed by the Government Equalities Office earlier this year. The complaint focuses on two areas where Lord Shinkwin’s actions have contravened the EHRC’s codes of conduct and undermined its integrity. In the light of Voice for Choice’s complaint, Humanists UK believes that it is no longer appropriate for Lord Shinkwin to remain in his role as a Commissioner.

The first area of complaint is Lord Shinkwin’s introduction of the Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill in the House of Lords. If this bill becomes law, it would amend the 1967 Abortion Act to prevent women from accessing an abortion after 24 weeks when faced with a serious antenatal diagnosis. This would include cases where the pregnancy would result in a stillbirth or the baby would not survive long after birth. Women faced with this diagnosis would be forced to carry such a pregnancy to full term.

By denying women abortions in the case of fatal foetal abnormality, this bill would violate their human rights. The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) has already established this precedent in two rulings on the denial of abortion on these grounds in the Republic of Ireland. The UNHRC found in both cases such a prohibition constitutes cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment. With this bill, Lord Shinkwin undermines the very rights that as a Commissioner he is entrusted to uphold.

Read more on Humanists UK web site…

16th February: Oswestry Equality Group

oswestryhumanrightsFrom Fairness, Respect, Equality Shropshire (FRESh):

You may remember the very successful British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) Human Rights Tour event held in Shrewsbury in October 2014. We are delighted that once again we’re holding the event in partnership with BIHR – this time in Oswestry on 16 February – as part of their 2017 Human Rights Tour. The event aims to raise awareness about human rights and their relevance in everyday life, and provide space for debate and discussion.
BIHR will provide a basic introduction to the law that protects our human rights in the UK, and together we will explore what the Human Rights Act is and how it is relevant and real to us all in our everyday lives today. There will be an opportunity to engage in some of the important debates going on about the future of our human rights law, and the final session will explore the relevance of human rights in our local rural context.
The day will use a combination of presentations, interactive sessions, discussion and creative activities, providing a timely opportunity to explore the law, everyday practice and the way human rights are portrayed.
Everyone is welcome to attend. More information is available here, from FRESh on 07773 644 714 (answerphone), or email fresh.shropshire@gmail.com.

ITV programme: Islam’s non-believers

Humanists may be interested in the programme that is online for about another three weeks:

http://www.itv.com/hub/exposure-islams-non-believers/2a4261a0001

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain featured  and issued the following press release:

“I remember saying to my mum, ‘I don’t think I believe in God any more,’ And her saying, ‘You can’t tell anybody else because they’ll kill you, we are obliged to kill ex-Muslims,’ and that it would put me at extreme risk if anybody else was to find out, so that conversation ended there.” – Sadia, a former Muslim

This new documentary in the Exposure current affairs strand investigates the lives of ex-Muslims, who face extreme discrimination, ostracism, psychological abuse and violence as a result of leaving Islam.

Featuring contributions from British and Bangladeshi ex-Muslims, Islam’s Non-Believers paints a vivid picture of the dangers facing those who renounce their faith. Some are at risk of suicide, or self-harm, or have been physically and psychologically abused by their closest family members. Most are terrified of being shunned by their own family and friends if their true beliefs become known.

Made by award-winning film-maker Deeyah Khan, who also directed the acclaimed Jihad – A British Story and Banaz: An Honour Killing for ITV, the programme finds that many young British ex-Muslims live in the shadows hiding their true beliefs, running huge risks if they ‘come out’ as atheists within their religious communities. Some of those who speak in the programme have asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.

The film follows the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, a volunteer support group led by Iranian-born activist Maryam Namazie which supports ex-Muslims, often referred to as apostates or unbelievers, both in the UK and abroad. Maryam says: “They see us as people who are troublemakers, deviants, apostates and blasphemers… There is nothing, nothing more intolerant than religion.”

One ex-Muslim, Sadia, talks about her brother Razaa, who killed himself. She says it was partly because he felt sidelined and misunderstood by his community all his life, one reason being his atheism. She says: “I feel like when you leave Islam, your intelligence gets attacked. They make you feel like you’re stupid for making such a decision, which he felt like his entire life. Leaving Islam, becoming an ex-Muslim, all of a sudden you feel like you’re dirty, and you become unimportant within the community.”

Dr Omer El-Hamdoon from the Muslim Association of Britain says people can leave the religion of their own free will and should not be punished. But he says it is not surprising that those who do leave are shunned. He says: “The Muslim community is a community based on religion, so if a person chooses to stop being a Muslim they can’t really expect that the Muslim community is still going to say to them, ‘You are still part of our community.’”

The programme also reports on how the danger for ex-Muslims who live in Islamic countries can be even higher. Apostasy carries the death penalty in a dozen Islamic countries. Atheists face a double threat – persecution by their own government, and the risk of murder at the hands of Islamist gangs.

Bonya Ahmed, whose writer and blogger husband Avijit Roy was brutally killed in the streets of Bangladesh, speaks about the attack and how she is trying to rebuild her life in America. Avijit was murdered because he spoke out against religious fundamentalism. They are just two of many atheist bloggers and intellectuals who have been attacked by Islamist gangs wielding machetes in Bangladesh.

Also featured is an international network of atheist writers, bloggers, academics, intellectuals and artists who form a resistance movement against what they see as the growing oppression, violence and political power of Islamic fundamentalists. Many live in Muslim countries where leaving Islam carries the risk of prosecution and discrimination.

Arif Rahman, a Bangladeshi blogger now in hiding in London, says he sees bloggers as a resistance movement against religious extremism. He says: “When we started writing in 2006, we did not think the people would be killed over this. And in 2013 our first colleague Ahmed Rajab Haidar, he was an architect, was hacked to death in front of his house. That was the first time we realised this was real this could potentially happen.”

The programme finds that a number of senior British Bangladeshi imams, mainstream figures in society, have called for the execution of atheist bloggers in Bangladesh, claiming they have insulted Islam, and making a number of anti-atheist statements.

Imad Habib, from Maryam’s organisation, is filmed on his way to help two girls escape from their Muslim family while they are on holiday in London. He says he had undertaken a similar journey – after he came out publicly as an ex-Muslim, he had to leave Morocco to escape prosecution by the authorities and attacks by religious extremists. He says: “First of all you suffer, you suffer, there is no one to help you, if you speak out at any moment you are going to be at risk, you speak out you feel afraid that anyone might find out who you are really, it is a really risky journey that those people take.”

This documentary sees how ex-Muslims continue to struggle to be heard and to express themselves, with radical Islamist protesters often trying to shut down their talks and events. Deeyah identifies these as a part of a growing international movement which is confronting radical Islam both in the UK and the Islamic world. Maryam says they remain defiant: “The internet and social media is doing to Islam what the printing press did in the past to Christianity, because it’s one way in which masses of people can connect with each other, can hear ideas that are taboo and forbidden.”

This is a Fuuse Films production for ITV.

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