Seeking Asylum when Under Threat from Blasphemy Attacks

Atheist Ireland has campaigned consistently against the blasphemy laws in Ireland. We have explicitly highlighted the chilling effect of this legislation at home, but our opposition to the Irish blasphemy law has been primarily driven by the international responsibilities of our country. Consequently, much of our lobbying on the blasphemy issue is through the UN.

For example, Atheist Ireland successfully lobbied on the blasphemy issue during our meetings in Geneva recently. As a result UK specifically asked the Irish delegation:

“What is the Government of Ireland doing to prevent discrimination against religious minorities and what plans are there to change its blasphemy laws?”

In addition, Atheist Ireland has also been in touch with atheist and humanist organisations in several other countries, who have become concerned at the treatment of secularists within their national asylum processes. Specifically, within The UN Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, it states that:

“A refugee, according to the Convention, is someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.”

The documentation used within many national asylum processes, inherit their language from such UN material. There is a perception that repeated use of the term “religion” in such contexts, is leading to asylum claims by the non-religious being taken less seriously. People with non-religious philosophical convictions, such as secularists, atheists and humanists are persecuted for their beliefs in many countries. This persecution includes imprisonment, torture and execution. For example, the recent murders of secularists in Bangladesh for blasphemy have been well documented.

In an effort to ensure fair treatment for atheists and secularists who are under threat based on accusations of blasphemy, Atheist Ireland has joined more than thirty other organisations in writing to the UN High Commissioner on Refugees on this issue. The full text of the letter along with all of the signatories can be found here. In many regions of the world an accusation of blasphemy can be extremely dangerous and those atheists and secularists who are under threat from such persecution deserve our full support.


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