June 25 (UPI) -- Humanists and other non-religious people are targets of discrimination and persecution in eight countries, a Humanists International report published Thursday said.
Humanists International is a global non-governmental organization, championing secularism and human dignity. The organization's Humanists at Risk Action Report 2020 published Thursday focused on human rights conditions in Colombia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines and Sri Lanka.
The report found humanists and other non-religious people were discriminated against in government policies, including blasphemy and apostasy laws and education systems with no secular alternative.
Incidents include two police officers arresting the president of the Humanist Association in Nigeria, Mubarak Bala, for blasphemy in April. Bala was arrested in connection with a Facebook post, where he allegedly insulted the Prophet Muhammad. The police officers took Bala from his home in Kaduna, northern Nigeria, to Nigeria's northern Kano State, where blasphemy is punishable by death.
Since Bala renounced Islam in 2014, he has been subject to death threats and harassment, according to the report.
"To speak out and say you're an atheist or humanist in Nigeria can be dangerous, but Bala is very passionate about creating a space for those who do not subscribe to Islam or religion," said Leo Igwe, a fellow Nigerian humanist and human rights advocate.
In Colombia, Jaime Augusto Sanchez, a professor of religion, was attacked last year because he identified as an atheist and discussed various religious worldviews other than the dominant Roman Catholic one, the report said.
In Malaysia, authorities have repeatedly harassed Eric Paulsen, a non-religious person who has criticized the government and Islamist extremism, according to the report.
The report noted that non-religious minorities in Pakistan, which is approximately 97 percent Muslim, also face condemnation when they speak out.
"The legal environment in Pakistan is notably repressive; it has brutal blasphemy laws, systemic and legislative discrimination and often allows vigilante violence on religious grounds to occur with impunity," the report said.
In India, the report voiced concern about the new Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, and recommended that the act be amended to include non-religious people, humanists and atheists.
The report recommended across the eight countries that local laws or policies criminalizing blasphemy should be repealed and government schools should provide secular education for all children.
The report funded by the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office is based on testimony from 76 survey respondents in the eight countries.
"This report shines a light on the targeted violence, continued harassment and social discrimination faced by humanists in many countries and opens the door to conversations on how best to protect humanists worldwide," Chief Executive of Humanists International Gary McLelland said. "What is clear is that all laws and policies which criminalize ' blasphemy' should be repealed."