Kia ora: With this ANZAC weekend we can only think of the senselessness of war. And it has all been said before. After World War II, the sentiment was ‘Never again’. General Sherman, of the Union Army during the American Civil War, 1861-1865, wrote: “I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.” Bertrand Russell 1872-1970 wrote “And all this madness, all this rage, all this flaming death of our civilization and our hopes, has been brought about because a set of official gentlemen, living luxurious lives, mostly stupid, and all without imagination or heart, have chosen that it should occur rather than that any one of them should suffer some infinitesimal rebuff to his country`s pride.” The list of present-day conflict is sobering: the Kurdish–Turkish conflict (2015–present), Persian Gulf crisis (2021–2022), Western Saharan clashes (2020–present), Armenia–Azerbaijan border crisis (2021–2022), Kyrgyzstan–Tajikistan clashes, (2021), Myanmar insurgency (2021–2022), Yemen (2014-present) and now Ukraine invaded by Russia on 24 February 2022. Our Humanist NZ President, Tim Wright, commented: “No matter the rationale or logic in Russia invading Ukraine their actions in Ukraine have been atrocious.”
Monday 2 May 2022, 6:30pm
This month’s meeting will be held in person at our usual venue, Thistle Inn, and online – see the link below
Updating the Amsterdam Declaration 2002
This month’s meeting will be a discussion, led by Iain Middleton, around the updating of the Amsterdam Declaration, to be presented at the 2022 Humanists International General Assembly being held 3rd to 5th June in Glasgow, UK.
In 1952, at the first World Humanist Congress, the founders of Humanists International agreed on a statement of the fundamental principles of modern Humanism. They called it “The Amsterdam Declaration” so called because Amsterdam was where the first World Humanist Congress was held. The Amsterdam Declaration of 1952 was set in the world of great power politics and the Cold War, and it asserted that “humanists have confidence that the present crisis can be surmounted”. The Amsterdam Declaration, in keeping with the non-dogmatic, and pro-democratic attitudes of humanism, was revised on its 50th anniversary in 2002. The 50th anniversary World Humanist Congress in 2002, meeting again in the Netherlands, unanimously passed a resolution known as “The Amsterdam Declaration 2002”. Following the Congress, this updated declaration was adopted unanimously by the IHEU General Assembly, becoming the official defining statement of World Humanism, and is now translated into more than 30 languages.
The Board of Humanists International proposed in February 2021 to revise it again, to coincide with the 70th anniversary in 2022. Humanist organisations around the world have been contacted to put forward suggestions for this revision. The suggestions have been collated and circulated giving a wide input of considered thought from around the world.
Meeting ID: 237 145 2179 Passcode: Xe4MjU
All interested people are welcome, Society members and members of the public-bring a friend
Wellington Venue: Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St, Thorndon-upstairs in the Katherine Mansfield Room
Humanists NZ – Palmerston North/Papaioea:. Their event, Festival of Ideas, will be postponed to a later date. To be in touch with this group information is on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/PalmyHumanists and Keith St-Clair may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mubarak Bala’s Unjust Imprisonment is now TWO YEARS of duration!!
In the words of Mubarak Bala:
“We here, especially the rationalists, secularists, atheists and humanists, chose peace over jihad, humanism over hate, and spread of education over illiteracy and wilful ignorance. This is an age of reason.” 2017
Humanists UK will stage a protest, calling for Mubarak’s release, outside the Nigerian High Commission, London, on 28 April, the second anniversary of Mubarak’s arrest.
From Bill Flavell -London Humanist, and with Bill’s permission:
MUBARAK WAS NOT CHARGED WITH BLASPHEMY
Many people are under the misapprehension that Mubarak Bala was charged and convicted of blasphemy. I see some Muslims celebrating Mubarak’s sentence under the illusion that blasphemy laws have achieved their purpose and a blasphemer has been punished. That is not the case. Mubarak was not charged with blasphemy and has not been found guilty of blasphemy. Read on if you wish to know what really happened and why Mubarak pleaded guilty to all counts.
NIGERIA’S LEGAL CODES
Several legal codes are used in Nigeria. All states are subject to the 1999 Constitution. It is the supreme law everywhere in Nigeria and takes precedence whenever there is a conflict between it and any other law. For most states, criminal law is based upon the Criminal Code Act 1916 with local amendments. Twelve Northern states, which are predominantly Muslim in character, do not use the Criminal Code, they have adopted the Penal Code 1960 or amendments thereof. In addition, these 12 states have a version of Shariah law. The status of the Shariah law is interesting. The Constitution permits Shariah law for family and related matters but does not permit Shariah law for criminal matters. Despite this, all 12 “Shariah” states use it for criminal matters.
Shariah law is not universally applicable–these laws can be applied only to Muslims and then only if they opt for their case to be heard in a Shariah court.
Blasphemy is a crime under Shariah and it carries the death penalty. There is no crime of blasphemy in the Penal Code. Under the Penal Code you can publicly insult any religion or incite contempt for any religion. Such behaviour only breaks the law if it is done in a manner “as to be likely to lead to a breach of the peace” (see Penal Code S210). The Maximum penalty provided under S210 is two years imprisonment or an unspecified fine.
Section 114 of the Penal Code has a similar effect except that it’s not concerned with insulting religion. It deals with any act “with intent to cause or which is likely to cause a breach of the peace”. The penalties permitted under S114 are a maximum of three years imprisonment or a fine of up to three hundred pounds or both.
THE ACTUAL CHARGES
Mubarak was born into a Muslim family in Kaduna state. He publicly renounced Islam in 2014. So, when a complaint was made about one of his Facebook posts in April 2020, he was not a Muslim and therefore, could not be charged under the Shariah law.
Mubarak was arrested on April 28, 2020, but, in violation of his fundamental rights, Kano state delayed charging him until June 2021.
The charges were four counts of publishing Facebook posts contrary to Section 114 of the Penal Code and four counts of publishing Facebook posts (the same four Facebook posts) contrary to Section 210 of the Penal Code. By the time of the court case on April 4, the prosecution had trawled Mubarak’s Facebook account and eventually found another five posts which they thought might cause a breach of the peace. So the final tally of charges amounted to 18. That is 9 posts, each of which was charged under Sections 114 and 210.
As I have discussed, none of these charges relate to blasphemy. All charges relate only to acts that are likely to cause a breach of the peace.
PROVING THE CHARGES
Of course, it is for the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Mubarak is guilty as charged. So, let’s look at how they could do that.
They have to prove that at least one of Mubarak’s posts would be LIKELY to cause a breach of the peace. It is not good enough to show that they might. At the very least, to be ‘likely’ means there is a higher chance of causing a breach of the peace than of not causing such a breach. How could they do that?
Perhaps they would find a sample of 100 similar posts and show that more than 50 of them caused a breach of the peace. Except, they could not do that. There are literally hundreds of such posts every month and almost none of them causes a breach of the peace. If the prosecution fails to bring this evidence, I’m sure the defence would be delighted to offer it!
What else could they do? Perhaps they could bring 100 randomly selected Muslims who would be prepared to swear in court that the posts would compel them to break the law and breach the peace. I’m sure the defence would have a grand time cross-examining such witnesses!
I challenge anyone to find evidence to prove that Mubarak is guilty as charged. It is a useless law and it is unprovable. Mubarak could not be proven guilty of these offences.
But there is some evidence that the defence could offer. They could offer Mubarak’s 9 Facebook posts over a period of a month cited on the charge sheet. These were the posts the prosecution thought were most likely to cause a breach of the peace but not one of them did. So how likely was any one of them to cause a breach of the peace. Not at all likely!
WHY DID HE PLEAD GUILTY?
I have not been able to speak to Mubarak but I believe I have a good idea why he chose, against the advice of his lawyer, to plead guilty to all charges. Mubarak has been incarcerated and isolated from his family and friends for two years. He has been unwell and, at least until recently, he was denied medication that he previously took daily. A court ordered his release in December 2020 but he was not released.
Governments across the world, the United Nations, the European Union, Amnesty International, and many others have appealed to the Kano government to release him and restore his fundamental rights. All appeals have been denied.
Mubarak has seen the cynical manipulation of the Judicial system in Kano in which prosecutors, officials, and judges have conspired to delay and avoid justice. I believe Mubarak saw no hope of a fair trial and was in despair. So he tried another tack.
Mubarak knew the maximum prison sentences for the crimes he was charged with and thought he must, by now, have served close to the maximum term. He knew it was his first offence which means he should not be given the maximum term and he should be given credit for pleading guilty, cooperating, showing remorse, and promising not to repeat the offence.Mubarak decided to take a chance, admit everything (despite not being guilty) and appeal for leniency. The judge threw the book at him. Not only did the judge ignore the sentencing guidelines he is mandated to follow but he, for no good reason and against normal practice, decided to run the sentences consecutively instead of concurrently. That is how we ended up with a massive and draconian sentence for charges that are both unprovable and that contradict the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.
There will be an appeal to the Federal Appellate court where we can hope to see diligent and fair legal processes supplant the religiously pressured processes we have seen in Kano.
Both Mubarak’s conviction and sentence will be appealed. I won’t go into details now but there are so many grounds for appeal that I am now, finally, optimistic for a fair outcome and freedom for my friend Mubarak.
In a Nutshell: HOW GOD EVOLVED Bill Flavell (with permission)
The earliest version of the Jewish god was similar to other gods 2,500+ years ago in Mesopotamia. He had human form and characteristics; he walked in Eden, he wrestled Jacob, he couldn’t defeat iron chariots, and so on.
The Jews made their God just like themselves. When they wrote in Genesis 1:26, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”, what they were really doing is making God in their image. They created a human-like god with human emotions and human failings–he failed to foresee how Satan would influence the world and how Adam and Eve would behave. He had regrets and surprises and his plans failed to work out, just like humans.
The human-like god was one of many gods but the Jews wanted their tribal god to be the best god ever. So, they acknowledged other gods existed but began to insist that only their YHWH should be worshipped. This rule became the first of the 10 Commandments and you could be put to death for ignoring it.
In less than 1,000 years this human-like god was dead. He was replaced with a spirit god that was immaterial and everywhere at the same time. And all other gods were declared fake gods.
The evolution of God continued and he became omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent (but they did not redact those early Bible verses when he was very fallible, very angry, and killed millions of people). God retained his human emotions but these days we emphasize his loving and forgiving nature and downplay his anger and jealousy.
Malachi 3:6 tells us, “For I the Lord do not change;” but it is a lie. We humans invent gods and we change them to keep them relevant. After all, who today would worship the bumbling, inept, and temperamental human god of Genesis?
God made in Man’s Image
In 1841 Ludwig Feuerbach, a German anthropologist and philosopher wrote The Essence of Christianity which revolutionised our understanding of religion, as Copernicus revolutionised our understanding of the universe, and Darwin revolutionised our understanding of our origins. In the monotheistic age, religious thought started with God and moved to humankind. Feuerbach started with man and moved to God: “the old world made spirit the parent of matter, the new makes matter the parent of spirit.” Whereas the old world said God had made humankind, the truth is that humans have made God.
“I would like to draw your kind attention towards the creeping fascism and terror of the mob for ordinary rational, humanists and secular citizenry. Nowadays, those who believe in humanism and secular values are not directly killed and tortured by the police and other security forces. After the inception of this country, security forces were deployed to intimidate and harass civil society and political dissidents. But now the terror of these agencies has been bestowed upon the vigilante and religiously charged mobs. Freethinkers, secular and rational citizens are intimidated at jobs, transferred to remote areas and often ostracised in social circles. This is the month of fasting, Ramadan,and one has to be very careful not to hint, say or do anything that reflects one’s reason and rationality. Never wear your heart on your sleeve. Any sort of deviation from the version of popular charged political Islam and Patriotism as defined by the praetorian guards could ostracise and starve anyone here.
The verdict in the case of murder of Sri Lankan citizen Priyantha Kumara in the name of blasphemy has been announced a week ago. A total of 89 accused were challenged by the police in this case out of which 6 accused were sentenced to death, 7 to life imprisonment and 76 to two years imprisonment while one accused was acquitted.
In Pakistan, where extrajudicial killings in the name of blasphemy have become the norm, this decision is very welcome and is expected to have far-reaching consequences, but one aspect of this decision is very important and as the slain man was a citizen of Sri Lanka and Pakistan could not afford to offend Sri Lanka on the basis of Pakistan-India hostility policy as in some cases in SAARC. Sri Lanka is Pakistan’s ally in the past. In the past, Pakistan has provided training and arms to crush the Tamil resistance in Sri Lanka. Not to mention his job in an export factory that earned foreign exchange for the government.
Had Priyantha Kumara not been a foreigner and citizen of Sri Lanka, the case would not have been decided in the first place and it would have been hanging in the courts years after years. With the exception of Salman Taseer’s (Governor of the Punjab) killer, the accused involved in extrajudicial killings are rarely convicted. At first, the accused are not arrested because they are said to be unknown and even if they are arrested, nobody dares to testify against them in the court. Whoever dares to do so, simply risks his or her own life.
According to newspaper reports, more than 70 people have been killed in extrajudicial killings in Pakistan so far in the name of blasphemy. Advocate Rashid Rehman of Multan was killed simply because he was defending Junaid Hafeez, a defendant in a blasphemy case, as a lawyer. Many years have passed since his murder but to date no accused has been arrested. The state was very much interested in punishing the accused involved in the murder of Priyantha Kumara, which is why it has been heard on a daily basis. The special interest of the state, especially the Foreign Ministry, has played a significant role in deciding this case and that is why the accused have been convicted. The lives of Pakistani citizens and their lawyers involved in blasphemy charges are in constant danger and the state has turned a blind eye to their protection. The convictions of those accused in Priyantha Kumara’s murder should be considered as an exception, not to assume that the state is really serious about punishing extrajudicial killings under the guise of blasphemy.
After the ouster of Imran Khan (our version of Donald Trump), from the government, attacks on our soldiers by the IS and other extremist terror groups have increased a great deal from Afghanistan. Likewise, the Muslim minority on the Eastern side in India is being attacked and bulldozed. About 200 million Muslims in India are now being converted into schedule castes at the bottom of political hierarchy. They are being coerced to live under constant fear. We are more worried about the terrorists who could creep into Pakistan from the Western porous border of Afghanistan. More than 80,000 people have died in Pakistan by these terror attacks. It is hard to gather myself to write a page on our multiple woes and lamentations to follow. Had our successive regimes not gradually used religion as a political tool and shoved and pushed the country into a Islamist abysmal inferno, beginning from Jinnah to Imran Khan, all political leaders and military dictators have added their input to the process of Islamisation and religious intolerance to stay in power.”