The British Humanist Association (BHA), International Humanist Ethical Union (IHEU) and the Centre for Inquiry UK (CFI UK) joined forces outside the Bangladeshi High Commission in London today to call for action on the imprisonment of four atheist bloggers in Bangladesh.
Police in Bangladesh have arrested several “atheist bloggers” and shut down their websites. Those confirmed arrested include Subrata Adhikari Shuvo, Mashiur Rahman Biplob, and Rasel Parvez, from Dhaka, and the popular blogger Asif Mohiuddin, who was viciously attacked in January. They have all been interrogated and remanded in custody. Islamists have provided the Bangladeshi government with a list of 84 “atheist bloggers” demanding that they repent or face “blasphemy” charges.
In their London action today, BHA, IHEU and CFI UK focussed on encouraging UK citizens to lobby the UK government to express its support for the imprisoned men. They have already called for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to intervene with the government of Bangladesh and are encouraging everyone to write to British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Gibson, urging him to do so. At the same time, protestors called on the Bangladeshi government to respect the human right to freedom of thought, to freedom of belief, and to freedom of expression and release the bloggers.
Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the BHA and First Vice President of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, which represents over a hundred Humanist member organisations around the world, commented ‘Those of us who enjoy the benefits of free expression have a moral obligation to stand up for the rights of those persecuted people around the world who do not. The UK government must take action to ensure the release of these men and we all need to take action in urging them to do so. Any arrest or imprisonment for the harmless act of so-called ‘blasphemy’ anywhere in the world is an affront to human rights, human dignity, and the aspiration of a free world.’
Stephen Law of Centre for Inquiry UK, a section of the BHA, commented ‘When a regime caves into pressure to punish those who have “given offence”, it encourages the offence-takers to become ever more strident and hysterical in their demands. I hope Bangladesh will stick to fair and impartial secular principles that guarantee freedom of speech for all, irrespective of their views on politics or religion, and irrespective of whether others happen to “take offence” at what they say.’
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The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.