Limitations on religious rights

Professor Makau Mutua, in a paper of the same title argues that in the human rights corpus, indigenous religions should be protected against the proselytizing religions, that is, Christianity and Islam.

He argues that the two instruments-UN Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights- need to not only check on government’s encroachment into the private and personal realm but also powerful private institutions in the private realm including established religion.

It is a known fact that these middle Eastern religions spread to the rest of the world either through deceit or force or both combined. In Africa, the two religions sought to and were successful in destroying that which was different leaving the African as neither European nor Arab. He argues they are imperialist in nature, that is, they seek to dominate the whole world.

It his contention, and I agree, that free exercise of religion and belief should find protection within the human rights universe in the context of respect for diversity without giving license to the destruction of other religions and cultures.

It his final submission that the law need to expand to cover indigenous religions. Much may not be done to recover what has been lost but indigenous peoples should be at the forefront in trying to rebuild this information and passing legislation with the aim of protecting indigenous religions and cultures.

Further reading: Limiting religious freedoms

Socrates and religious persecution

To most of us, the mention of Socrates elicits either the thoughts about being a good citizen, dying a good death or the Socratic dialogues brought to us by Plato. In his apology, he asks his hearers not to consider him extravagant when he tells them the god at Delphi declared him the wisest of men. He narrates his search for a man wiser than himself and at last comes to the conclusion that the Oracle was indeed right. He concludes thus

Well, although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is – for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows. I neither know nor think that I know. In this latter particular, then, I seem to have slightly the advantage of him.

There is another way of looking at the trial and subsequent sentence of Socrates, one that I guess others may have written on. I digress to mention the accusers he identified. Of the first accusers he says he can’t name them, that he will fight their shadows. They charge him as follows

Socrates is an evil-doer, and a curious person, who searches into things under the earth and in heaven, and he makes the worse appear the better cause; and he teaches the aforesaid doctrines to others.

The second class of accusers, of whom we are interested, represented by Meletus he says charge him thus

That Socrates is a doer of evil, and corrupter of the youth, and he does not believe in the gods of the state, and has other new divinities of his own.

If you haven’t noticed, Socrates’ trial was/ is a case of religious intolerance. There is no difference between the trial of Socrates and that of George William Foote tried in Britain for similar crimes in the late 19th Century.

I hope I haven’t lost you as yet. I don’t want to bore you with history, there is a case like this at present and we need your help to ensure this is the last of them.

In Saudi Arabia, a young man has been accused of atheism and spreading atheistic ideas (via the internet), and sentenced to six years in prison and 600 lashes – he appealed, and the appeals court not only maintained the conviction, but increased the sentence to 10 years and 1000 lashes.

It saddens me to hear that somewhere on this rock we inhabit, a man is not free to hold and express an honest opinion. That those who claim to worship gods seem to be as savage as they gods they worship. They worship gods who kill, or condone killing are tyrants and for whom, all honest men cannot point to one thing that heavens have has done to humanity other than being the reason is some conflicts that have led to massive loss of lives.

There is a petition to the UN that I think all of you are going to sign to abolish blasphemy laws and most of all seek the immediate release of the said young man. If gods exist and they are powerful, they can handle their shit. The question we demand to be answered is on whose authority do those who punish others for offenses deemed to have been committed against god act?  And how was this authority given them?

Let us join hands and fight this inhumane act. Let us not be silent. And in the words of pastor Martin Niemöller

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.