Secular Sunday #25 – Blasphemy and Infamy

Welcome to this week’s Secular Sunday.

In this issue:

  • Blasphemy Report
  • Other News
  • Upcoming Events
  • Blogs and Such

Blasphemy Report

Alexander Aan, the Indonesian atheist arrested for saying on Facebook that there is no god has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for the crime of blasphemy. Please contact the Indonesian embassy in the UK (there’s none in Ireland), and your local politicians to express your disapproval. Read more

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. Sanal Edamaruku, President of Rationalist International still faces arrest in India on blasphemy charges for discovering that water dripping from a statue was not of miraculous origin but rather the result of faulty drainage and capillary action. Read more at the Rationalist International site.

In Pakistan, protests after a mentally disabled man allegedly burnt some pages from a Koran, left one person dead and 19 injured. Also in Pakistan, Twitter was temporarily blocked for refusing to remove links to a site that encouraged people to post pictures of Muhammad.

Kuwait’s parliament recently voted to make blasphemy a capital offense although so far this amendment has been vetoed by the Emir. Nonetheless, the government there continues to persecute those accused of blasphemy. On 5 June, Hamad Al-Naqi, a Kuwaiti Shiite, was sentenced to ten years in prison with hard labour for comments made on Twitter. Read more

The above are just some of the most recent cases.  Human Rights First has a report detailing dozens more cases from the last few years of people being fined, imprisoned or sentenced to death for blasphemy, primarily in Muslim-majority countries but including one case from Austria. The fact that a blasphemy case was successfully prosecuted in an EU country just last year should serve to remind us that Ireland’s own absurd blasphemy law could some day be invoked.

Atheist Ireland will continue to work with other atheist groups and campaign for the repeal of all blasphemy laws, including Ireland’s.

Other News

  • On Wednesday 6 June, Michael Nugent was on a panel discussion about religion and science on the Marc Coleman show on Newstalk Radio. The other panelists were Michael Kelly, deputy editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper, Donal O’Sullivan Latchford of the Irish Family and Media Association and Dublin City Councillor Dr Bill Tormey of Fine Gael. You can listen to some edited highlights of Michael’s contribution (8 minutes) or the full discussion (46 minutes)
  • The National Council of Curriculum and Assessment are seeking submissions (in 100 words or less) on the priorities for the Primary curriculum. Atheist Ireland has made a submission, which you can read here.
  • A Constitutional Convention will be established next month with the aim of reforming Ireland’s constitution. Among the topics for discussion will be the removal of the blasphemy law. Read more

Upcoming Events

  • Monday 18 June, McSwiggans Bar and Restaurant, Woodquay, Galway (map)
    Galway Skeptics in the Pub #34 – An Alternative to Medicine? Facebook event page
  • Wednesday 20 June, 8:00 pm, Absolute Hotel, Sir Harry’s Mall, Limerick (map)
    The Mid West Humanists will be meeting. All are welcome.
  • Thursday 21 June, 7:30 pm, The Bankers, Dublin 2 (map)
    The monthly meeting of Dublin Atheists in the Pub. This month we’re delighted to  have not just one but two guest speakers:
    David Horgan, writer of the upcoming film Jesus the Remake, and Jennifer McCreight of the Secular Student Alliance in America, writer of Blag Hag. Facebook event page
  • Saturday 23 June, 1:00pm, somewhere in London
    The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain will be 5 years old in June 2012. To celebrate they will be holding a fundraising lunch in London. Tickets are £45 (£35 unwaged). Speakers include A.C. Grayling, Lawrence Krauss and Maryam Namazie. Learn more
  • Thursday 28 June, 1:00 pm, Science Gallery, Dublin 2 (map)
    The Science of Discworld. Terry Pratchett, author of the hugely popular Discworld series of fantasy novels,and his co-authors of  the Science of Discworld series, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen will be having a panel discussion and Q&A on the natural laws of the Discworld universe and our own. Admission €5. Read more
  • Saturday 30 June, 10:00 am, Teachers Club, Parnell Square, Dublin 1 (map)
    Dublin Offlines: Speaking out against the Scientology cult Ex-members of the cult of Scientology speak out against its fraud and abuse. Facebook event page

Blogs and Such

  • “Gaiman’s underlying premise – that gods exist because people believe in them, the more people who believe the more powerful they become and when no one believes they become powerless – is a fascinating idea.” – Harry Guinness reviews Neil Gaiman’s American Gods
  • “Did we ever think we would see the day when a soccer match is more important to our First Citizen than the salvation of his eternal soul?  It would not have happened in 1932, let me tell you, when the politicians of our newly-fledged Free State knew how to show proper respect.” – Bock the Robber’s “Father Fitz” on the Eucharistic Congress.

That’s it for another week. Keep in touch with us via Facebook, Twitter, or our forum.

Derek Walsh
Editor, Secular Sunday
Atheist Ireland

Secular Sunday