Letter: Sentence condemned

August 31, 2001

The condemnation to death of the peace activist Younis Shaikh under the blasphemy laws of Pakistan is an abuse of justice and humanity.

While respecting religious difference, religion must also respect those rights of free thought and free speech enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We must never forget that article 18 states the right to "freedom of thought, conscience and religion" and the correlated article 19 states "the right to freedom of opinion and expression", including the "freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers". Human justice cannot be done nor human rights served when religious dogma ignores these.

We urge the religious and non-religious, Muslim and non-Muslim to join in condemning the unjust sentence of Shaikh and others condemned to death for expressing an opinion about religion.

The international campaign to defend Shaikh, to organise worldwide demonstrations in front of Pakistani high commissions and to fight blasphemy laws is being coordinated by the International Humanist and Ethical Union, at www.iheu.org . Messages of support can be emailed to campaign@iheu.org .

Peter Atkins, Richard Dawkins, Sir Harry Kroto, Terry Pratchett and Claire Rayner

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