Humanism and the Arab world

Humanism is practical and can be used to help us understand and solve some of the complex issues we face today on issues such as human rights, justice, democracy, gender relationships, freedom of expression and religious freedom.

  • Freedom of expression and religious freedom – While opinion polls conducted in the Arab world tend to reflect an overall support for the principle of freedom of expression, a closer look indicates that the an overwhelming majority reject certain forms of freedom of expression primarily when it has to do with religion. Blasphemy and apostasy are outlawed in the majority of Arab countries seven of which impose the death penalty for apostasy (Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen). Even more concerning is the people’s widespread support for such laws and the systematic discrimination that Atheists and free-thinkers face. The Freedom of thought report by the International Humanist Ethics Union (IHEU) is an in depth survey that highlights such discrimination. One of our main objectives is to stand up for the right of Arab dissidents to profess disbelief and criticize religion without fear of persecution.
The Freedom of Thought report shows the Arab world as one of the regions with the highest amount of discrimination against the non-religious
  • Women’s rights – By standing up to traditional beliefs and religious authorities, humanists aim to fight practices, such as female circumcision, honour killing, forced veiling, and forced marriage.
  • Science and scientific inquiry – By any index, whether its the amount of scientific output, its quality or the amount of expenditure on research and development, its evident that the Arab world today is greatly lagging behind is science. Even when resources are available the prevailing mentality continues to be that of buying science and technology rather than producing them. We believe that changing this has to start with education and instilling an appreciation of science, the scientific method and the importance scientific inquiry in youth.
  • Democracy – The majority of Arab states are either absolute monarchies, theocracies or military dictatorships. There is strong desire for a change toward democracy in the Arab world however this needs to be accompanied with an equal desire to end Sharia law, fatwa courts and clerical rule. Without reforming sectarian education that teaches intolerance, democracy alone won’t be enough to protect the rights of minorities.