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Apostates fear violence and abuse in UK, according to new report

The risks apostates face after leaving Islam – including harassment, abuse, and threats of violence – must be considered by the Government when tackling hateful extremism, according to a new independent report which cited evidence submitted by Humanists UK and its apostate-support programme, Faith to Faithless.

Earlier this year, Humanists UK and Faith to Faithless submitted evidence to the Commission for Countering Extremism on experiences faced by apostates in the UK in the context of tackling extremism.

Yesterday the commission, led by Lead Commissioner Sara Khan, released its first major report, Challenging Hateful Extremism. It recommends taking a ‘victim-centred rights-based’ approach to counter extremism, while also balancing the need to protect and preserve freedom of expression.

The report also echoes several concerns raised by Faith to Faithless. In a section scrutinising credible threats of serious violence, it notes Faith to Faithless’ evidence of extremists threatening apostates – including calls for them to be killed or punished – because they have left Islam.

In another section on active or persistent hatred, harassment or intimidation of individual members of other groups, it recognises the abuse directed towards people for choosing to leave Islam. The report states: ‘Faith to Faithless described how their “workers, speakers, and advocates are attacked on social media on a daily basis” and stressed the negative effects it can have on their mental health and wellbeing.’

Humanists UK is also calling for the definition of hate crime to be extended to people who are non-religious to ensure that laws forbidding religious hate crimes equally include those with non-religious beliefs.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented: ‘We welcome the Commission on Countering Extremism’s report, which extensively cites our evidence on the very serious risks that apostates in the UK face. It should not be a crime to leave a religion, but as our evidence shows, we know that people have been threatened with death and violence after announcing they are leaving Islam. Our Faith to Faithless programme does great work in supporting people who have left a religion, but this report shows what more the Government can do in protecting those at greatest risk in the wider context of tackling hateful extremism.’

NOTES:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078.

Read the Commission for Countering Extremism’s report.

Read Humanists UK’s evidence to the report.

Read our previous news item on Humanists UK and Faith to Faithless’s work on the report.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefiting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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