Freedom of Expression, NSS Newsline letter to editor, 25 January 2013
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
Last week saw a victory for freedom of expression as the government finally capitulated and agreed to support reform to Section 5 of the Public Order Act. In the wake of such victories it serves us well to remember how often this basic freedom is denied to those living under religious laws. Abdel Aziz Mohamed Al-Baz, a 27 year old Egyptian atheist blogger, has been arrested and charged with blasphemy in Kuwait. He has been held since January 2nd and is in real danger. Recently there were moves in the Kuwaiti national parliament to introduce execution as a punishment for blasphemy and a man has been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for leaving allegedly blasphemous messages on Twitter. Al-Baz, also known as Ben Baz, joins countless others across North Africa and the Middle East who are being persecuted for peacefully expressing their thoughts. Three such cases in Saudi Arabia, those of Raif Badawi, Turki Al-Hamad and Hamza Kashgari, are discussed in a video from the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain’s forum.
For every case that comes to light, usually thanks to the efforts of internet savvy friends and fellow bloggers, there are many others with no voice, no one to speak out on their behalf, no one to defend them. Well, those of us with freedom of speech can, and must. Freedom of conscience and expression are fundamental human rights. Abdel Al-Baz, Raif Badawi, Turki-Al Hamad, Hamza Kashgari and all others accused of blasphemy, apostasy and heresy have caused no harm to anyone, yet are vilified and threatened with imprisonment, torture and execution.
The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain has condemned the Kuwaiti government’s imprisonment of Abdel Al-Baz and called on the government to immediately and unconditionally release him and all those being held on blasphemy charges. It’s important that we continue to demand that governments across the region follow suit. But what can we do as individual citizens?
1) Write: To the Kuwait Ministry of Justice firstname.lastname@example.org and Higher Commission for Human Rights email@example.com
2) Sign this petition
3) Share: On Facebook and Twitter (#freebenbaz)
4) Protest: the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain website and Facebook page are regularly updated with details of recent cases that need attention, along with information on protests, events and campaigns.
It only take a few minutes to make a difference, so please take a moment and use your freedom of speech to give someone else theirs.