Atheist Freethinkers’ Press Release

by | January 9, 2015


In its press release, Atheist Freethinkers (AFT) “Condemns Horrific Attack on Charlie Hebdo [and] Calls for Repeal of Blasphemy Laws”:

Montreal, 8th January 2015 — Atheist Freethinkers (LPA-AFT), an association which promotes secularism and supports the rights of atheists, condemns the horrific attack yesterday on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in which two well armed and very professional gunmen killed 12 persons, including eight journalists and two policemen, before shouting “Allahu Akbar” and bragging that they had avenged the prophet Muhammad, then fleeing through the streets of Paris. . . .

This is a tragic and horrific event. We express our condolences to the friends, colleagues, families and loved ones of the deceased and the wounded. Beyond the grief and mourning for this senseless extinguishing of human life, this event is an attack on the fundamental freedoms of all human beings: freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom to be informed. It is a blow in favour of obscurantism and dogmatism.

AFT’s press release goes on to mention not only Section 296 of the Criminal Code, but section 319(3)(b) of the Code as well:

The best way that we as Canadians can honour the victims of today’s attack and pay homage to their legacy is to repeal Section 296 of the Criminal Code which makes “blasphemy” a crime and to work assiduously for the repeal of all laws in all countries which criminalize “blasphemy” or apostasy. We must also repeal paragraph 319(3)(b) of the Hate Propaganda provisions of the Criminal Code because it exempts religious discourse from prosecution, thus granting a dangerous privilege to religions, permitting them to make hateful statements with impunity. . . .

It is this sense of entitlement held by religious leaders and many believers, the attitude that their tenets are so divinely important as to be above the law, to be more important than even basic human decency, which is at the root of today’s attack on Charlie Hebdo.

Imtiaz Ahmed, an Ottawa imam, manifests “this sense of entitlement” and believes religion is “so divinely important as to be above the law.” Ahmed’s opinions are given far too much space in a National Post article:

An Ottawa imam has denounced the terrorist attack on a Paris weekly newspaper that killed 12 people, but he says satirical cartoons of religious leaders should be illegal.

Imtiaz Ahmed, an imam with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, said it should be against the law to publish cartoons that depict religious figures in a derogatory way.

“Of course we defend freedom of speech, but it has to be balanced. There has to be a limit. There has to be a code of conduct,” Ahmed said.

“We believe that any kind of vulgar expression about any sacred person of any religion does not constitute the freedom of speech in any way at all.”

Who are “we,” and who are religious figures and sacred persons? Are imams, priests, ministers sacred persons or is Ahmed referring to Jesus and Muhammad: main characters in grim fairy tales and in the Jesus and Mo comics?

According to Imtiaz Ahmed, “there should be limits placed on freedom of speech to prevent the publication of offensive material”; however, Ahmed can say whatever he wants and can advocate for restrictions on freedom of speech and expression because he is protected by section 319(3)(b) of the Criminal Code:

No person shall be convicted of an offence . . . if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text.

Ahmed wants to decide what is and is not “illegal”; he wants depictions of “religious figures” to adhere to “a code of conduct.” Atheist Freethinkers, and atheist freethinkers disagree: “nous sommes Charlie Hebdo.”

10 thoughts on “Atheist Freethinkers’ Press Release

  1. Terri D F

    I’m offended that this Imam believes that any man or woman is better than another. Imams, priests, ministers, rabbis or any other so-called ‘sacred men’ should be open to ridicule for daring to place themselves above any other human; and that includes women. I want a law making it illegal for anyone to give themselves a title which suggests they should have special treatment. I also want a law that makes it illegal to teach anything whatsoever that cannot be proven beyond all reasonable doubt by a panel of experts from many different countries. See how it works, Ahmed?

    1. Tim Underwood

      I understand your emotion but really there is a natural hierarchy amongst all things including us.

      You probably meant “No unwarranted authority over the unknowable.” or something to this effect.

      Laws against publicly asserting to know the unknowable does sound appealing. Practically it would be difficult to enforce.

      It would be easier to have religiously deluded people treated for psychosis. Even this would be extremely time consuming and expensive.

      Think about it. We live in a one of the coldest inhabited countries and we can’t afford to end homelessness.

      Curing the religiously deluded would be vastly more expensive.

      1. Bubba Kincaid

        We should probably remember to make a distinction between ending religious influence in secular affairs vs. allowing(?) people to hold whatever beliefs they choose.

        1. Tim Underwood

          Your position is the most democratic for sure. Nevertheless I would like to challenge people’s opinions, like Stephen Harper’s for instants, when, for example, his understandings about the Jews in Israel is historically indefensible. To me they are European and Asian people who were, long ago in the Roman Empire, converted to Rabbinic Judaism. To Stephen they are a genetically distinct breed of divinely created and chosen people. He thinks there is a divinely mandated responsibility for Canada to stand with Judaism against “radical” Islam. I think there is a secular imperative to stand with secular people in both the Judaic and the Islamic neighborhoods. Looking back to where these people arrived from, it was precisely because of the Christian/Judaic divide that it became unsafe for the minority to remain in Europe or Asia in the first place.
          One of these opinions clearly does not jive with reality. When your understandings do not reflect reality you reside in the psychotic territory. Is it safe for so many citizens to be milling bout in religious delusion? What will be the future of these delusions?

          1. Bubba Kincaid

            Which is precisely from where derives the impetus towards abolishing religious influence on secular affairs, as well the use of religiously based arguments to derive credible justifications for secular positions.

      2. Debbie Underwood

        Dear Tim
        Your view that people with relegion are psychotic are unfounded and riduculous. The truth is far more complicated and interesting. Believing in a compassionate and loving God can help you become that way yourself. If you want a more balanced point of view read God can change your Brain by Andrew Newberg.
        Relegion when it is done right makes us more human. Violence done in the name of relegion is just an excuse for immature people to dominate. They would use any excuse because of who they are .

  2. Heather Hastie

    Excellent press release. I was part of the drafting of a press release yesterday in which NZ secular, freethinker and atheist orgs got together to call for the abolition of NZ’s blasphemy law. We inherited it from Britain in the first place when we were a British colony, and Britain has abolished their version. It’s also only been used once, unsuccessfully, and that was in 1922. It needs to be done away with.

    I like Terri D F’s message to the imam above too! 🙂

    1. Eric Adriaans

      As National Executive Director of CFI Canada; I’d be happy to work together with a NZ organization for an international call to end all blasphemy laws. NZ and Canada both have the old British law to get rid of…sounds like a great place to start.

      1. Heather Hastie

        I think that’s a great idea. I’ve forwarded your comment onto the people who decide stuff like that – I hope something comes of it.

        Heather 🙂

  3. Bubba Kincaid

    And yet we still have to find a way somehow to remember that these laws were originally conceived, just as much if not more so, as protection against de facto religious (and other types) persecution, as opposed to only preservation of ecclesiastical elitism.


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