Blasphemy updates: Rimsha Masih freed on bail, Alex Aan sentence upheld

There are updates on two important blasphemy cases in Pakistan and Indonesia, both of which require a redoubling of campaigns for the victims.

Rimsha Masih, the 14 year old Christian Pakistani girl arrested for allegedly burning pages from the Quran, was released on bail on Saturday after more than three weeks in jail. Her lawyer, Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, confirmed her release after two guarantors submitted a surety bond guaranteeing that she would reappear before court at the court’s choosing. A local Muslim cleric has since been arrested for planting Quran pages among the evidence against Rimsha.

But in Indonesia, the provincial appeal court in West Sumatra has confirmed atheist Alex Aan’s prison sentence of two years and six months imprisonment. This news comes from Rafiq Mahmood, who has visited 31 year old civil servant Alex in prison. He has no further details at present about this. Alex was charged with blasphemy for writing about atheism and Islam on Facebook, and jailed for spreading information inciting religious hatred and animosity.

You can take action today to support these victims of blasphemy laws that are often enforced without due process to settle personal grudges.

You can write to Alex Aan care of Atheist Alliance International. Keep your message uplifting and positive. In July Alex sent a message from prison, saying that he would feel alone without our support and love. To send a message of support to Alex, email info at atheistalliance dot org with “Message for Alex” in the subject line.

You can talk to politicians directly in your own country. Don’t just write to them; arrange to meet them or their staff. If that’s not practical, telephone them. Give them a short written summary of the cases, and ask them to raise the issue in your parliament and with your government.

Highlight the context of worldwide blasphemy laws that are used against atheists, Christians, Muslims and members of other religions. Blasphemy laws do not protect religions, they infringe on the freedoms of religious and nonreligious people alike. As well as Rimsha Masih and Alex Aan, some other important cases to highlight are:

Sanal Edamaruku – 57 year old Atheist Activist, India
Asia Bibi – 40 year old Christian Mother, Pakistan
Youcef Nadarkhani – 35 year old Christian Pastor, Iran
Hamza Kashgari – 23 year old Muslim poet, Saudi Arabia
Pussy Riot – three members of punk band, Russia

You can also start or support a campaign initiative. Write directly to the relevant Pakistani and Indonesian authorities. Contribute to the Atheist Alliance International legal fund. Contact your local Amnesty International branch, and ask how you can help the campaign on these cases. And support national organizations such as Atheist Ireland, the Center for Inquiry and the Council of Ex Muslims in Britain, who are also campaigning for blasphemy law victims.

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