The Freedom From Religion Foundation is condemning the persecution of Yacine Mebarki, reportedly prosecuted by the government of Algeria for “inciting atheism” and sentenced on Oct. 8 to 10 years imprisonment. Mebarki was also fined and found guilty of “offending Islam.” The sentence, which was even more severe than what prosecutors requested, appears to be a pretense for muzzling an anti-government activist.
The Algerian government apparently sees atheism as a convenient excuse to jail dissenters. Sadly, demonizing atheism is nothing new. Dating back at least to the spread of Christianity across Europe in the early Middle Ages, atheists and atheism have been scapegoats for all of societies’ ills. Crimes for blasphemy and apostasy have historically stifled freedom of thought and freedom of conscience throughout the Western world.
As Bertrand Russell said, “Every great idea starts out as blasphemy.”
While Western governments have generally repealed their laws against blasphemy — some only very recently — it is long past time for the rest of the world to follow suit.
The harsh sentences on Mebarki came after the police raided his home and allegedly “found an old and faded copy of the Quran with one of its pages ripped.”
The United States should not sit by quietly while other countries imprison their citizens for atheism, apostasy or blasphemy, whether or not the punishment seems to be a cover for jailing political dissidents. Our government must immediately condemn the Algerian regime for enforcing this barbaric, antiquated law and work to free Mebarki.
Further, the U.S. Congress should pass a resolution calling for the repeal of blasphemy and apostasy laws worldwide. Such resolutions have been introduced every session in recent years, and receive bipartisan support, but have failed to cross the finish line.
“Blasphemy is a victimless crime,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, “but unfortunately blasphemy laws are victimizing all too many freethinkers, atheists and religious minorities.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is committed to standing up for the rights of freethinkers and nonbelievers in the United States and abroad. Freedom requires freethinkers, and we must speak out when a government attempts to choke dissent by citing a religious justification.