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Among Nonbelievers: London

16 sep 2015
Amond nonbelievers london

The British Humanist Association presents 'Among Nonbelievers', a film by Dorothée Forma, featuring Boris van der Ham, Chairman of the Dutch Humanist Association. Following the screening, figures from the global humanist and secularist movements will take part in a panel discussion drawing out the themes explored in the film.

Joining us for the panel discussion following the screening: Bonya Ahmed, Voltaire Lecturer 2015, and campaigner for freedom of expression. Ramin Forghani, Founder of Ex-Muslims Scotland; Boris Van der Ham, Chair of Humanistisch Verbond (The Dutch Humanist Association); Alom Shaha, author of The Young Atheist's Handbook, and BHA Trustee; Chaired by Pavan Dhaliwal, BHA Director of Public Affairs and Campaigns

'Humanists take a stand for them by pleading for the abolition of blasphemy laws worldwide. Laws that are often used to silence atheists, humanists and free thinkers.

The annual IHEU Freedom of Thought Report shows that it is an offence to be openly nonreligious in 55 countries under the guise of blasphemy, insulting religion and apostasy. In 39 countries one risks imprisonment and in 13 countries even the death sentence. But many ex-Muslims also feel threatened by conservatives in the West.

During The Secular Conference in London, Van der Ham meets ex-Muslim Nahla from Sudan. The aggression in England against people who renounce or criticize Islam alarms her. But above all she is frustrated and disillusioned by the cowardice of the leftist liberals: “They keep tiptoeing around things, very apologetic, justifying their attitude under 'respect for their beliefs' and multiculturalism.”

In Turkey – officially still a secular country – the initiators of the Atheist Association received death threats immediately after it was founded. Being nonreligious can cost you your job. Yet Turkish atheists refuse to go underground.

Ramin, a student from Iran, set up a Committee of ex-Muslims in Glasgow. Most members, like in Turkey, prefer to follow anonymously via Twitter and FaceBook. But some talk openly about coming out as nonbelievers. “I can’t tell my parents who I really am. They only know atheists from stories. They are godless people, they don't have souls. So how can I be an atheist? They couldn't get over that.”

What can humanists do against countries that violate the rights of nonbelievers? And what against religious extremism in Europe?

As a Member of Parliament Van der Ham introduced a private member’s bill which resulted in the abolition of the Dutch anti-blasphemy law in December 2014. In 2015 he pleads at the UN Human Rights Council for the abolition of blasphemy laws worldwide and protection of nonbelievers. Van der Ham: “The freedom to develop and express your own life stance is at the heart of being human.”'