All posts by Michael De Dora

Waleed Abu Al-Khair

Waleed Abu Al-Khair is a  lawyer and a prominent human rights activist currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. He is the head of the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia.

In 2007, Waleed launched a statement entitled “Features of a Constitutional Monarchy,” which advocated for human rights and democracy. In 2008, he created the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, but both the website and the Facebook page was blocked in December 2008 and May 2009, respectively.

In his work, Al-Khair defended many individuals seeking to express their views, and advanced a more democratic state.

In April 2014, al-Khair was arrested and jailed for his human rights work. He was not allowed to contact either his clients or his family. Several months later, Abulkhair was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, followed by 15 years of ban on travel. He remains imprisoned. 

News

This section will be updated as news develops on this case.

Taslima Nasrin

Taslima Nasrin is a prominent Bangladeshi human rights activist, author, and blogger. Her works involve feminist motifs and criticisms of religion, which have gained her international fame.

She had written against Islamic philosophy, angering many Muslims of Bangladesh, who called for a ban on her novel, Lajja. Taslima left Bangladesh in 1994 because of death threats, and spent the next ten years in exile. 

In 2015, Nasrin was threatened with death by extremists linked to murders in Bangladesh. She currently lives in India.

Listen to Taslima Nasrin’s interview from Point of Inquiry:

You can also listen to this interview at the Point of Inquiry website.

News

This section will be updated as news develops on this case.

    Mariam Ibrahim

    Mariam Ibrahim is a Christian woman who was sentenced to death in Sudan for apostasy. Her brother learned she was a practicing Christian who had married another Christian, and reported her to the police because her biological father was a Muslim, despite the fact that her father did not raise her. Leaving Islam is against the law in Sudan. She was arrested during her second pregnancy and gave birth to a girl in prison in May 2014.

    Sudan has a very caustic attitude and long abusive history toward Sudanese Christians. Mariam witnessed this abusive attitude because of the heavy corruption and heavy religious influence exercised in the government of Sudan. She was arrested for being a Christian despite her father being a Muslim.

    After intense pressure, the Sudanese government released Ibrahim and allowed her to escape to the United States. She currently lives in New Hampshire with her brother-in-law, where she says she will continue to advocate for victims of religious persecution.

    News

    This section will be updated as news develops on this case.

      Raif Badawi

      Raif Badawi, 30, is founder of the website Liberal Saudi Network, which was dedicated to fostering open discussion of religion and politics in Saudi Arabia. He is also an advocate for freedom of religion, belief, and expression, and women’s rights. He is currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for insulting Islam.

      In 2008, Badawi was detained and questioned on charges of apostasy, but was eventually released. However, on June 17, 2012, Badawi was arrested and formally charged with insulting Islam and apostasy – the latter of which could result in punishment as severe as the death penalty. Badawi was arrested for hosting a website which features content critical of religion, and declaring May 7 as a “day for Saudi liberals.”

      While the apostasy charge would later be dropped, on July 29, 2013, a criminal court sentenced Badawi to seven years in jail and 600 lashes for his other offenses. The Court of Appeals struck down that ruling, and sent his case for review to Jeddah’s Criminal Court. He remained in prison during this process.

      On May 7, 2014, the Center for Inquiry learned that a Saudi court issued a new sentence for Raif: 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes, and a one million riyal fine. CFI would later release a translated copy of this court ruling.

      On January 9, 2015, Saudi authorities gave Badawi the first 50 of his 1,000 lashes, prompting the Center for Inquiry to once again demand that the Saudi Arabian government end this persecution, forego this brutal punishment, and free Raif immediately.

      Badawi’s sentence and punishment has been condemned by many prominent political figures, including several foreign governmental and UN leaders and eight U.S. Senators.

      News

      This section will be updated as news develops on this case.

      International Blasphemy Rights Day

      International Blasphemy Rights Day, held each year on September 30, is a day to show solidarity with those who challenge oppressive laws and social prohibitions against free expression, to support the right to challenge prevailing religious beliefs without fear of violence, arrest, or persecution.

      International Blasphemy Rights Day is observed every September 30 to commemorate the publishing of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons, which angered religious believers around the world, many of whom expressed their disapproval with violent protests, riots, and in some cases, murder.

      While many perceive “blasphemy” as offensive, this event is not intended to ridicule and insult others. Rather, it was created as a reaction against those who would seek to take away the right to satirize and criticize a particular set of beliefs given a privileged status over other beliefs. Observing International Blasphemy Rights Day is a way of showing opposition to any resolutions or laws, binding or otherwise, which discourage or inhibit freedom of speech of any kind.

      Freedom of expression, including the right to criticize any belief, religious, political, or otherwise, is the only way in which any nation with any modicum of freedom can exist. Without this essential liberty, dissent can be suppressed and silenced by labeling it as “defamation” or “blasphemy.” Even rhetoric that uses the guise of sensitivity, such as “hurting religious feelings” can be twisted to stifle opposition by turning popular sentiment against it.

      If you support free speech, and the rights of those who disagree with religious views to voice their opinions peacefully, join the cause and support International Blasphemy Rights Day!

      The event is administered by the Center for Inquiry as part of its Campaign for Free Expression.

      Ideas don't need rights, people do

      Sherry Rehman

      Sherry Rehman is Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States. Due to a citizen complaint, she is currently under investigation for blasphemy, which could result in punishment as severe as the death penalty.

      In 2010, Rehman took part in an interview that was aired on Pakistani television. Muhammad Faheem Ahkter Gill, a 31-year-old businessman who owns a marble business in the city of Multan, was reportedly watching the appearance with friends and felt Rehman made comments critical of the Islamic prophet. Gill spent years trying to register a case against Rehman, and in January 2013 – for reasons unknown – Pakistan’s Supreme Court finally accepted the case and directed police to perform an investigation.

      Rehman has previously faced death threats after urging for reform to the country’s blasphemy laws. Several prominent Pakistani politicians have been assassinated for criticizing blasphemy laws, including Salmaan Taseer, the former Governor of Punjab, and Shahbaz Bhatti, the former Minister for Minority Affairs.

      News

      This section will be updated as news develops on this case.

        Asif Mohiuddin

        Asif Mohiuddin, ~30, is an engineer and one of Bangladesh’s most prominent atheists and bloggers. He was attacked by suspected radical Muslims, then jailed for his criticism of Islamic tenets.

        On January 14, 2013, as Mohiuddin arrived to work in the capital area of Dhaka, he was brutally attacked and stabbed by a group of men. According to Haridas Saha, a surgeon at Dhaka Medical College Hospital: “The nature of the cuts proved that the attackers wanted to murder him.”

        Mohiuddin partially recovered, but was later arrested “for posting derogatory comments about Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.”

        On June 27, 2013, Mohiuddin was released on bail. However, on July 29, his plea for permanent bail was denied, and he was sent back to prison.

        Mohiuddin was eventually released on bail, and then escaped the country, but the charges against him were never dropped.

        News

        This section will be updated as news develops on this case.

        Yossawaris Chuklom

        Yossawaris Chuklom, 54, is a prominent comedian (stage name: Jeng Dokchik) and activist in Thailand who was recently sentenced to two years in prison for insulting the monarchy.

        In March 2010, “red-shirt” political protesters who support ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra occupied parts of Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, to demand that the government of then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva step down. During these protests, Chuklom delivered a speech in which he was allegedly critical of the monarchy.

        He was formally sentenced in January 2013, and appealed his conviction. Chuklom was released on bail in September 2014.

        People found guilty under the Thai law that criminalizes criticism of the monarchy can face up to 15 years in prison.

        News

        This section will be updated as news develops on this case.

          Get Involved

          While it is necessary that the public become educated about the moral and legal basis for the right to freedom of expression and about current threats to its existence, it is also important that the public act to promote and defend free expression. On this page you will find a collection of different ways in which you can take action—from writing to political leaders to helping raise social awareness. In all of your communications, please remember to mention the Center for Inquiry and the Campaign for Free Expression!


          Write Foreign Leaders

          The Cases featured on the Campaign for Free Expression website take root in many countries, and followers of the Campaign reside in many more. You can urge leaders of foreign countries, as well as your own, to respect the right to freedom of expression and immediately grant freedom and protection to prisoners of conscience and dissidents.

          To share your thoughts with leaders of foreign countries that have not protected freedom of religion, belief and expression, simply search for the contact information of that country’s embassy, and send an email or letter addressed to the Ambassador, asking ask that he or she convey your concerns to government officials in their home country.

          To share your thoughts with your own leaders who might engage in pressuring other countries that have not protected freedom of religion, belief and expression, search for the contact information of federal or national elected officials, particularly those who represent you, and urge them to take action or else to pressure the central government to do so.

          In addition, U.S. citizens can consider writing to Ambassadors who represent countries which are featured on the Cases page.

          Show contact information

          Bangladesh

          Embassy of Bangladesh
          H.E. Akramul Qader
          3510 International Drive, NW
          Washington, D.C. 20008

          Egypt

          Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
          H.E. Sameh Hassan Shoukry
          3521 International Court, NW
          Washington, D.C. 20008

          Indonesia

          Embassy of the Republic of Indonesian
          H.E. Dr. Dino Patti Djalal
          2020 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
          Washington, D.C. 20036

          India

          Embassy of India
          H.E. Nirupama Rao
          2107 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
          Washington, D.C. 20008

          Pakistan

          Embassy of Pakistan
          H.E. Sherry Rehman
          3517 International Court, NW
          Washington, D.C. 20008

          Russia

          Embassy of the Russian Federation
          H.E. Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak
          2650 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
          Washington, D.C. 20007

          Saudi Arabia

          Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
          H.E. Adel A. M. Al-Jubeir
          601 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
          Washington, D.C. 20037

          Sudan

          Embassy of Sudan
          H.E. John Ukec Lueth
          2210 Massachusetts Ave NW
          Washington, DC 20008

          Thailand

          Embassy of Thailand
          H.E. Vijiavat Isarabhakdi
          1024 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
          Washington, D.C. 20007

           


          Press the U.S. Government

          If you live in the U.S., you can write your elected officials and the Obama administration to let them know that you care deeply about protecting the right to freedom of expression and want the U.S. government to take a strong stand for this right in the global arena.

          Take action now »

          In addition, the U.S. House of Representatives is currently considering a specific resolution that calls for the repeal of blasphemy laws around the world. Take a moment to tell your U.S. representative to co-sponsor this measure and support its passage.

          Take action now »


          Support Secular Rescue

          Violent Islamists who have claimed responsibility for the murders of more than a half dozen secularists and activists in Bangladesh since 2015 are now threatening the lives of a number of writers, bloggers, publishers, and activists in the country.

          Generous public support has helped CFI to assist several individuals and families in escaping to safety, either temporarily or permanently — but many others remain in danger.

          CFI will continue to raise funds for this important cause so that we can act quickly and decisively before another writer or activist is attacked. Please give now so that we can help these courageous defenders of secularism and freedom of religion, belief, and expression.

          Take action now »


          Bring CFE to Your Community

          Your community group can advance the cause of the Campaign for Free Expression any time of the year through events such as lectures, discussions, and public demonstrations. But, you and your group can also get involved right now with two particularly timely initiatives which we celebrate as part of the Campaign: Banned Books Week and International Blasphemy Rights Day.

          Banned Books Week

          Banned Books Week falls toward the end of September each year and raises awareness about the widespread censorship of books that some find to be offensive. The event is primarily coordinated by the American Library Assocation, with schools, libraries, and other organizations taking part to promote the free exchange of ideas. Here are some ways you can show your support for the cause:

          • Invite an author of a banned book to give a talk to your group. If that’s not feasible, another great option is to invite a school librarian or other speaker to give a presentation on censorship, book banning, blasphemy, and/or free speech.
          • Organize a Banned Books Readout in a public space. Invite group members and passers-by to read aloud sections from their favorite banned and challenged books.
          • The Metro State Atheists at Metropolitan College of Denver came up with this service project idea: Food for Freethought. During Banned Books Week a few years ago, they gave away donated books to students on their campus who brought in non-perishable food items to be donated to a food bank. If you’re not connected with a campus group, see if you can team up with a local library for a similar project.

          International Blasphemy Rights Day

          International Blasphemy Rights Day (IBRD) was founded by CFI to commemorate the Danish Muhammad cartoons that incited riots on September 30, 2005. However, its significance has extended far beyond defending the right to publish blasphemous cartoons; it’s more imperative than ever that we stand up for the ability to criticize religion and its effects without fear of retaliation. IBRD is a day to celebrate the right to free expression, and that no idea, even one considered by some to be sacred, is immune from criticism. Here are some ideas of how your group can take part:

          • Invite a speaker who can talk about blasphemy laws and free expression issues around the world. Check out the CFI Speakers Bureau for ideas.
          • Educate your community about blasphemy issues around the world by putting up an informative display in a local library or community center.
          • Sponsor a bus and/or billboard campaign to advertise yours and other local freethought groups. Though this may not seem “blasphemous,” it’s a fact that many municipalities and transit authorities have refused to run these ads in light of them being considered “offensive.”
          • Host a blasphemous art or cartoon contest. Keep in mind that blasphemous images can be more than just Muhammed—check out these Charlie Hebdo covers as examples.
          • Research speech ordinances in your municipality and find out if there are ones that inhibit free expression and assembly. If so, organize a coalition to lobby against them.
          • Curious as to how to turn IBRD into a day of service? On the Sabbath (Sunday) preceding or following September 30th, your group can engage in a day of volunteer work; after all, in Exodus 31:15 it says, “For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall surely be put to death.”

          Need more ideas for Banned Books Week or International Blasphemy Rights Day, or else the Campaign for Free Expression? Contact the CFI Outreach department at outreach@centerforinquiry.net.


           Help Raise Awareness

          Many of the stories mentioned on this website or elsewhere have not garnered local, national, or international media attention. We need to change that. How? Here are a couple of ideas:

          • Post about the Campaign on Twitter with the hashtag #CFICFE or about International Blasphemy Rights Day with the hashtag #.
          • Share news articles, videos, and other materials regarding the Campaign and IBRD on Facebook.
          • Write posts about the Campaign and IBRD on your blog or website.
          • Pen a letter to the editor in your local newspaper on the importance of protecting freedom of expression.
          • Organize an event in your community.

          Need assistance? Email cfe@centerforinquiry.net.