- Posted January 16, 2014 by
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An Afghan Atheist: On the Right to Asylum on Religious Ground I
On behalf of all humanists, agnostics, atheists and freethinkers of the world, I would like to commend the British authorities for granting an Afghan atheist a religious asylum.
It seems to me and there is no doubt whatsoever on my mind that the case of this man is the first ever recorded case of this instance, hence this is not only a historic development but also a case of first impression of truly universal importance.
By virtue of this humanistic and noble action of the English authorities, this case would now be a precedent for future case of similar facts and situation.
To quote the words of Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association and first vice president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union:
“Freedom of belief for humanists, atheists and other non-religious people is as important as freedom of belief for the religious, but it is too often neglected by Western governments. It is great to see Britain showing a lead in defending the human rights of the non-religious in the same way…”
Undeniably, “the UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need it.” This case has proven once again that England, despite its bloody and imperialist past is truly the global center of haven for refugees.
To further exemplify my point, it was also the English who provided the Fathers of Communism, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels a safe haven.
In fact, Marx was even buried at Highgate Cemetery in London.
To quote from the RT report:
“An Afghan man has apparently become the first atheist to secure religious asylum in the UK. The Home Office let him stay in the country as he could face the death sentence because of his views on religion, report British media.
“The 23-year-old, who preferred to remain unidentified for fear of being hunted by his ethnic community in Britain, was brought up as a Muslim. He initially demanded asylum in 2007 at the age of 16 on the grounds of a conflict involving his family in Afghanistan. Though his claim was rejected by the British Home Office, he was granted a discretionary leave in the UK until 2013 under rules to protect unaccompanied children. During his six-year stay in England, he eventually became an atheist.”
It was also averred that “his fears of being rejected and persecuted became more evident after attending his friend’s wedding in Pakistan” that is “according to evidence presented to the Home Office.”
Our Afghan atheist testified that at the said wedding, people there told him that:
“You cannot sit and eat with people who are not Muslim,” Naturally, he was “shocked” by such an attitude.
He also stated that, “in Afghanistan, people’s reactions towards his religious views could be even worse.”
On this juncture, I would like to thank and greatly commend the Kent Law Clinic of the University of Kent who has taken his case and took up the cudgel of the legal battle for him.
The Law Clinic of the said university is “a partnership between students, solicitors and barristers who provide public service for those who need legal advice and representation but cannot afford to pay for it.”
The lawyers from the said clinic helped the ex-Muslim to present his case before the UK Home Office by invoking the 1951 Refugee Convention which specifically protects people from persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality or political opinion.
Under Article 1 A (2) of the said international law, a refugee is defined as a person who:
"…owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”
It is clear from the definition of the law that the said Afghan atheist is a refugee that deserves the protection of his host country (on this case, England). This is squarely in conformity to his lawyers’ contention that “the man could face a death sentence under Sharia law” as he is regarded as an apostate “unless he remained discreet about his atheist beliefs”.
I fully concur with the submission of his counsel, Claire Splawn, a second-year law student from the same university who prepared the case that the man’s “lack of religion causes him to live in fear … of being returned to a country where religion is both prevalent and dominant in society.”
I am also in agreement on her central legal thesis that:
“We argued that an atheist should be entitled to protection from persecution on the grounds of their belief in the same way as a religious person is protected…"
Article 33 (1) of the said law clearly provides that:
“No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”
Hence, England has the moral and the legal responsibility base on this international convention to extend help and to protect the rights of that Afghan refugee at all cost.
The 1951 Refugee Convention as held by Geoffrey Robertson, “establishes the ‘Good Samaritan’ principle that no state can expel from its territories any persons likely to be murdered or maltreated at their destination for reasons of race or religion or politics. It is supplemented by the Torture Convention, which prohibits deportation to countries where torture probably awaits.”
The right to religion and to one’s faith is a global human right sanctioned by universal convention, yet the same right also includes that: the right to believe includes the right not to believe. The freedom to have a religion includes the freedom not to have one at all!
Said provision of the law applies equally to both the theist and the atheist!
Needless to state, I am also overwhelmingly in agreement with the supervisor of this case and a clinic solicitor, Sheona York, when she stated that:
"The decision [to grant asylum] represents an important recognition that a lack of religious belief is in itself a thoughtful and seriously-held philosophical position…"
The lawyers of the Afghan atheist also brought to the attention of the Home Office “the case of Abdul Rahman, an Afghan man who was put on trial and faced death in 2006 for becoming a Christian, was set as an example. Rahman was then released and given asylum in Italy.”