Monday, 30 March 2015

Third humanist killed in the streets of Dhaka

Washiqur Rahman becomes the third humanist to be cleavered to death in the streets of Dhaka

This morning, the humanist satirist and blogger Washiqur Rahman was hacked down not 500 yards from his house, because he criticised religious fundamentalism in a blog. Barely a month has passed since Avijit Roy, the Bangladeshi American founder of the Mukto-Mona blog, was killed in identical circumstances. Ahmed Rajib Haider met a similar end in 2013.

The institutionalised persecution of the non-religious is seen all over the world. In some places, as in Saudi Arabia, the state acts as persecutor. In others, like Bangladesh, a tradition of turning a blind eye to murders committed in the name of blasphemy has given confidence to well-coordinated thugs and terrorists. Following an international outcry over Avijit Roy's death, the man who promised to murder him was arrested for the crime, and afterwards Ahmed Haider's suspected killers were indicted for murder as well. But these late-in-the-day reactions did little to deter the man who killed Washiqur this morning.

As we told the UN this month, states need to act decisively to emphatically and explicitly prohibit murders inspired by perceived acts of blasphemy. A wave of violence now plagues the non-religious in large swathes of the world, and governments, including our own, face a moral obligation to resist it.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Terry Pratchett

Remembering Terry Pratchett (1948–2015): storyteller, campaigner, humanist

We were all saddened to hear of the death of our patron Sir Terry Pratchett last week

Many of us grew up reading his stories and feeling moved by the wonder and joy of the fictional worlds he created.

We were also very lucky to have worked with Terry on a range of issues. As our patron he lobbied with us against 'faith' schools, filmed videos about Humanism for teachers to use in schools, and, after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, he became a public face for our longstanding campaign to legalise assisted dying for the terminally ill and incurably suffering.

Just last year, he took part in our open letter to the Prime Minister, rebuking him for his damaging assertion that Britain was a 'Christian country'. He also submitted testimony in favour of assisted dying as part of our intervention at the Supreme Court case of Tony Nicklinson and Paul Lamb, making a powerful plea for the right to die.

Truly, Terry was someone who lived a good life, spreading a great deal of joy and happiness, even transforming his own suffering into a cause for the betterment of all society. We are eternally grateful for all his work, and can only say that we will miss him and that our thoughts are with his loved ones.