Egyptian, Moroccan Dissidents to Join Online Discussion for International Blasphemy Rights Day

September 26, 2013

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) will mark International Blasphemy Rights Day on Monday, Sept. 30, with an online discussion featuring persecuted young atheists Alber Saber and Kacem El Ghazzali, who were forced to flea their home countries after facing charges of blasphemy and repeated death threats.

Alber Saber, formerly of Egypt, was arrested during the 2012 protests over a film posted on YouTube that depicted the Islamic prophet Muhammad in a negative light. He was known within the country as an activist for secular democracy and a critic of fundamentalist Islam. On Sept. 14, 2012, a crowd of hundreds formed outside of Saber’s home demanding he be arrested for allegedly posting a link to the film, along with other crimes such as insulting religion. When the police arrived, they arrested Saber and put him in jail. On Dec. 12, 2012, a court sentenced Saber to three years in prison. Upon being released on bail, Saber was able to safely escape Egypt. He currently resides in Europe.

Kacem El Ghazzali, formerly of Morocco, is a prominent secularist blogger who several years ago became widely known in his home country for his criticism of religion and advocacy for freedom of thought on his blog, Atheistica. In 2012, he launched the “Masayminch” initiative, which urges Moroccans who do not observe Ramadan to defy the country’s law against drinking, eating, or smoking in public during Ramadan. Due to threats against his freedom and his life, El Ghazzali was forced to leave Morocco later that year. He currently resides in Switzerland. El Ghazzali has since delivered many statements at the United Nations Human Rights Council on behalf of CFI and the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

The online discussion will be hosted by Michael De Dora, director of CFI’s Office of Public Policy, and its representative to the United Nations. It will begin at 4 p.m. ET on Monday, Sept. 30, and can be watched here.

The online discussion will focus on telling the troubling stories of Saber and El Ghazzali, among others, and on what concerned people around the world can do to help those persecuted for exercising their rights to freedom of belief and expression.

International Blasphemy Rights Day is an initiative of the Center for Inquiry to focus attention and efforts on defending the right to criticize religion—that is, to blaspheme. CFI maintains that religious beliefs should be subject to examination and criticism just like any other beliefs. International Blasphemy Rights Day is celebrated every Sept. 30 to commemorate the 2005 decision of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten to publish a dozen cartoons lampooning the Islamic prophet Muhammad, which prompted violent demonstrations and deadly riots around the world. CFI’s magazine, Free Inquiry, was the first U.S.-based publication to republish several of the cartoons in its April-May 2006 issue. As a result, The Borders Group refused to carry this issue in its Borders and Waldenbooks stores.