For Immediate Release: September 30, 2015
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
firstname.lastname@example.org - (207) 358-9785
Today, September 30, is International Blasphemy Rights Day, created by the Center for Inquiry to celebrate and defend the fundamental human right to free expression around the world — especially when that expression is critical of religion. To mark IRBD this year, CFI is launching a new website for its Campaign for Free Expression, supporting a landmark blasphemy resolution in Congress, speaking against religious extremism at the UN, and releasing a special blasphemy-rights edition of its magazine Free Inquiry.
At a time when secularist bloggers are being murdered in the streets of Bangladesh, when Raif Badawi endures prison and floggings in Saudi Arabia for encouraging people to question the authority of Islam, and when Asia Bibi — a Christian woman in Pakistan — faces the death penalty for charges of blasphemy, a day that focuses on the global assault on free expression is needed now more than ever.
International Blasphemy Rights Day was established by the Center for Inquiry in 2009 as a bold response to the worldwide crackdown on the right to criticize and satirize religion, to be held each September 30, the anniversary of the publication of the controversial “Danish cartoons” of Muhammad in the newspaper Jyllands-Posten that sparked international outrage and violence. In 2012, CFI launched the Campaign for Free Expression to rally grassroots and diplomatic support of free speech rights and to highlight the cases of those who are being persecuted, jailed, and threatened for their dissent.
The new Campaign for Free Expression website, launched today, spotlights the struggles of courageous individuals who face both punishment from their governments and mortal peril at the hands of radicals. It also provides avenues for activism, with tools and resources for those who want to have an impact in global efforts to protect free expression. As part of this campaign, CFI is working to assist secularist writers and activists under violent threat in countries such as Bangladesh with the Freethought Emergency Fund.
CFI is also putting its weight behind a U.S. House resolution, introduced by Rep. Joe Pitts, which calls for the repeal of blasphemy laws worldwide. H.Res. 290 urges countries with blasphemy laws to embrace their obligations under international agreements and repeal those laws. It also calls upon the Obama Administration and the State Department to put a greater emphasis on countries’ records on free expression rights in its international relations. Its passage would send a powerful message across the globe, and CFI is rallying its supporters to contact their representatives to sign on to the resolution.
Recently appearing on newsstands is the latest special issue of CFI’s magazine Free Inquiry, which focuses on the free expression crisis and boldly defends blasphemy rights with a series of provocative reports and essays, as well as the publication of the winning “draw Muhammad” cartoon from the controversial conference in Garland, Texas earlier this year, the site of a shooting attack by two jihadists. (An important note: CFI in no way endorses the American Freedom Defense Initiative, and deplores its intolerant statements regarding Islam, but supports its right to express its position.)
And last week, CFI representatives delivered statements at the UN Human Rights Council on the attacks against atheist and secularist writers in Bangladesh, as well as violence and judicial discrimination against women. Video of these statements being delivered to the Council are available here. At past sessions, CFI has spoken out against government suppression of online speech.
“The fundamental human right to free expression endows each of us with the power to raise questions, persuade others, and affect change, and for that reason it has often been fiercely policed and suppressed,” said Michael De Dora, CFI’s chief UN representative. “For this International Blasphemy Day and beyond, let’s show our support for the right to question and dissent, and speak up for those who have been silenced.”