IHEU joins calls for calm over ‘Innocence of Muslims’ video, and protests the arrest of Egyptian blogger Alber Saber

  • post Type / General news
  • Date / 17 September 2012

Humanists around the world have joined human rights organisations and political representatives who are calling for calm in response to the Youtube video, 'Innocence of Muslims'.

For the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) Bob Churchil said:

"In response to a video, seemingly masterminded by a very small number of individuals, there has been a violent and contagious reaction, reminiscent of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoon riots. This violence is itself often led by a small number of radical clerics, with a small minority of Muslim adherents willing to join 'protests', in many cases not having seen the video in question, and with intent to cause physical damage and personal harm. As a result of the gross overreactions of a few, several people have been killed, including the US Ambassador to Libya.

"Many commentators have noted that the film is of remarkably low quality and seemingly made with malicious intentions. But regardless whether a film is legitimate criticism, or if it is outright hateful, the kind of violence we are seeing is in no way a legitimate response. This mob violence is detrimental to all our freedoms in the long term and endangers life in the short term. If the supposed "trailer" is provocative, that only makes violent protest all the more absurd.

"In many countries where 'Innocence' violence is occurring there are laws against 'blasphemy'. Such laws lend legitimacy to violent and radical responses, which is in part why we call for the abolition of all 'blasphemy' laws. In the immediate future however, police and political authorities can act in such a way that they do not appear to validate or condone violent behaviour.

"We are therefore deeply concerned to hear of the arrest of Alber Saber in Cairo. Saber, of Coptic Christian background, was reportedly "discovered" as the administrator of an Egyptian Atheists Facebook page, on which there appeared a link to the 'Innocence of Muslims' video. A mob formed outside Saber's house threatening his safety and that of his mother. When Saber called the police, instead of dispersing the mob they arrested Saber over his personal blog and videos in which he professes his atheism. He was allegedly detained in a cell crowded with inmates who were told about his supposed 'blasphemy' and his throat or neck have been cut. The injury was not apparently fatal but his lawyer reports that Saber is on hunger strike.

"Not only is the arrest a violation of Alber Saber's human rights and freedom of expression, a violation committed under the auspices of national laws which pervert or ignore international law, it is also tantamount to a police encouragement of violent protest, legitimising a bullying mob which was baying for blood.

"The Egyptian President has spoken in recent months of a commitment to the rights and freedoms of religious minorities in the country. He now has an opportunity to intervene or speak out in support of freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and basic justice.

"We are writing to the authorities in Cairo. IHEU calls for the immediate release without charge of Alber Saber and a guarantee of his protection."

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