An Afghan man is probably the first atheist ever to receive asylum in the U.K. for religious reasons. The British Home Office agreed to let him stay indefinitely after it accepted that he could face persecution in Afghanistan for having abandoned his Islamic faith.
From The Independent:
Although he was brought up a Muslim, since living in the UK he has gradually turned away from it and is now an atheist.
His lawyers argued that their client’s forced return to Afghanistan
… could result in a death sentence under Sharia law as an “apostate” — someone who has abandoned their religious faith — unless he remained silent about his atheist beliefs.
Evidence presented to the Home Office also suggested that because daily life and culture in Afghanistan is permeated by Islam, living [there] discreetly [as a non-believer] would be virtually impossible. The submission read: “The Applicant’s lack of religion causes him to live in fear of the prospect of being returned to a country where religion is both prevalent and dominant in society”.
Said one person on the man’s legal team,
“We argued that an atheist should be entitled to protection from persecution on the grounds of their belief, in the same way as a religious person is protected.”
Sheona York, who supervised the case, said: “The decision represents an important recognition that a lack of religious belief is in itself a thoughtful and seriously-held philosophical position.”
Aye to that.
You may have noticed that the atheist in question appears to have no name. Here’s why:
The young man … does not want to be identified for fear of being rejected by the Afghan community in Britain.
A sad bit of irony, that. While his atheism was the reason for the asylum, he can’t actually tell anyone that tidbit. In other words, he’s won the freedom to remain in Britain, but not the freedom to be open about who he is. Unfortunately, that’s not something a government can grant; in this case, it’s something that only the community he wishes to remain a part of can bestow.
My admittedly pessimistic guess is that it’ll take generations.
(Image via Shutterstock)