The following letter was published in the Irish edition of The Sunday Times today, 30 September 2018, on World Blasphemy Day.
The letter was coordinated by the International Humanist and Ethical Union to support the campaign to repeal the Irish Blasphemy law in a referendum next month.
The letter reads:
“To the good people of Ireland,
We are human rights activists, writers, and campaigners for equality, and committed to freedom and peace. We have all been threatened with fines, imprisonment, torture, or death for “blasphemy” in our countries. In some cases, our friends, family, and colleagues have been brutally murdered. We know that our plight may seem distant to your daily concerns but it is linked.
It makes all our work that bit more difficult when western democratic countries maintain laws that criminalize debate, satire and criticism concerning religious beliefs. The existence of blasphemy laws in European democracies like yours gives cover and support to the laws under which we are persecuted around the world. At the same time it lends false legitimacy to the extremists who claim that “blasphemy” is a sin which warrants intimidation and murder.
“Blasphemy” laws are not hate speech laws and can never work that way. That’s because “blasphemy” laws always potentially criminalize legitimate free expression about religious beliefs, practices, institutions or representatives; expression which is often morally necessary.
You have the opportunity to send a clear signal to the global family of nations that “blasphemy” laws contravene the human rights to freedom of thought and freedom of expression and should be repealed.
We appeal to you from our hearts to seize this opportunity, in solidarity with all those people from around the world – religious and non-religious alike – who are persecuted under “blasphemy” accusations.
Alexander Aan, Indonesia
Bonya Ahmed, Bangladesh (now United States)
Choity Ahmed, Bangladesh (now Germany)
Rana Ahmed, Saudi Arabia (now Germany)
Waleed Al-Housseini, Palestine (now France)
Mubarak Bala, Nigeria
Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury, Bangladesh (now Norway)
Kacem El Ghazzali, Morocco (now Switzerland)
Ensaf Haidar, Saudi Arabia (now Canada)
Fauzia Ilyas, Pakistan (now Netherlands)
Gulalai Ismail, Pakistan
Siti Kasim, Malaysia
Azam Khan, Bangladesh
Filippos Loizos, Greece
Asif Mohiuddin, Bangladesh (now Germany)
Taslima Nasrin, Bangladesh (now India)
Alber Saber, Egypt (now abroad)
Mohamed Salih, Sudan (now Uganda)
Prithu Sanyal, Bangladesh (now Germany)
R A Sattar, Pakistan (now New Zealand)
Amed Sherwan, Iraq (now Germany)
Thessalonika Pride, organizing committee, Greece
Malaysian Atheists and Secular Humanists, Malaysia