Afghan Atheist Wins Asylum in UK

Lawyers say he could have faced death sentence
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2014 1:00 AM CST
Afghan Atheist Wins Asylum in UK
A large domed mosque dominates the landscape seen from the window of the governor's mansion in Kandahar, Afghanistan.    (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

In a landmark case in Britain, an Afghan man has been granted asylum because he fears persecution for his lack of religious belief. The man, now 23, was brought up as a Muslim in Afghanistan but became an atheist after he fled to Britain at age 16, the Guardian reports. His lawyers argued that the man could face a death sentence in Afghanistan for his lack of belief unless he kept it secret, which would be almost impossible because religion is so pervasive in the country's daily life.

This is believed to be the first time British authorities have considered atheism grounds for protection and the case is expected to set a major precedent. "Freedom of belief for humanists, atheists, and other non-religious people is as important as freedom of belief for the religious, but it is too often neglected by Western governments who focus too narrowly on the rights of Christians abroad, as we have seen recently," the chief of the British Humanist Association tells the BBC. "It is great to see Britain showing a lead in defending the human rights of the non-religious in the same way." (More atheism stories.)

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