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Stopping Olukoya and Witch hunting in UK Black Communities

Sep 6th, 2016 | By Leo Igwe
Stopping Olukoya and Witch hunting in UK Black Communities

Witchcraft related abuse is a very serious problem in African migrant communities in the UK. There is documented evidence that these abuses are linked to activities of African pastors and African initiated churches. Unfortunately efforts to address this problem are bogged down by concerns over racism, minority rights and abuse of religious liberty. We should not allow such concerns to distract us from addressing this problem.

Vulnerable members of the African migrant communities in the UK, particularly children, are at risk of being tortured and murdered by relatives who accuse them of witchcraft. Many of such horrific treatments in the name of witchcraft go unreported because victims are often defenseless infants, and the abuses take place in the name of Read the rest

Hajj Controversy and the Imperative of a Secular Nigeria

Aug 11th, 2016 | By Leo Igwe

The reactions that have trailed the decision by the Buhari government to subsidize this year’s Hajj, despite the fact that the Nigerian economy is in recession, underscores the necessity of separating church (mosque) and state. Last year, President Buhari announced the discontinuation of state sponsorship of both Muslim and Christian pilgrimages as a cost cutting measure. He made it clear that stopping state funding of pilgrimages would save some money that could be devoted to development programs.

But Buhari has refused to make good this pledge and his government has continued to subsidize pilgrimages and engage in these wasteful schemes. Now instead of seeing how state subsidization of pilgrimages, whether Christian or Muslim, is impoverishing the country and further destroying … Read the rest

For Our Tomorrow and For Their Tomorrow

Jul 23rd, 2016 | By Leo Igwe

To delegates from the host country Kenya, and attendees from South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Malawi, Tanzania and Burundi; thank you for the honour of inviting me to address this meeting and for giving me the opportunity to contribute to strategizing against witch hunting in the region.

In the past weeks, I have pondered on what title to give this presentation in order to capture the urgency of the situation: In the course of my search and reflection, a popular line by an English poet, John Maxwell Edmonds, caught my attention. It says:

When you go home, tell them of us and say:
For your tomorrow; these gave their today.

On a second thought, I said, look we are not … Read the rest

Death and Dallas

Jul 8th, 2016 | By Bruce Gorton

The Dallas shootings which claimed the lives of five people, and injured at least six others, were a long time coming.

That is not the same as saying that the cops who got shot deserved it, or that the shooter was justified, but rather acknowledging what has long gone on in America.

For years now we have been reading stories about black people getting killed by the police – and stories about the police getting away with it.

Tamir Rice was twelve years old when he was killed by a cop for playing with a toy gun in a park.

The shooting was deemed “reasonable” by outside experts.

Freddie Gray was arrested for having a switch blade, in a Read the rest

Youths and the Imperative of Humanism in Africa

Jul 6th, 2016 | By Leo Igwe

Humanism has become a necessity for Africa and for Africans particularly for young people across the region who are struggling to make sense of life and existence.  Youths are critical to any human endeavor because they are the agents of hope, continuity, change and promise. Without young people, any society or initiative will go into extinction. Without young people, there is no future for humanity. So, it is with Africa and the humanist movement in the region.

Africans are not exposed to humanist ideals and values very early in life. This is why the meeting of young humanists in Nairobi, from July 22 to July 24, is a welcome development. Young Africans who are atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers will convene … Read the rest

Buhari: Breaking Ramadan Fast at State Expense

Jul 3rd, 2016 | By Leo Igwe

In Nigeria, politics is tied to religion. The State, Church and Mosque operate like conjoined twins. Efforts have been made to separate them with marginal success. Section 10 of the Nigerian constitution which says that ‘No part of the Federation or State should adopt any religion as state religion’ is a paper tiger because it seems to be of no import and has no practical effect or impact on how Nigerian politicians conduct state affairs at least by the incumbent presidents.

Any time that section 10 is invoked it is usually by the aggrieved ‘religious party or politician’, by the ‘marginalized’, ‘oppressed’ or ‘persecuted’ faith organizations that are negotiating for attention and space.

But as soon as some politicians from … Read the rest

Atheism in Ethiopia

Jun 17th, 2016 | By Leo Igwe

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center has revealed that Ethiopia is the world’s most religious nation. According to this survey, nine-eight percent of Ethiopians thinks that religion is the most important part of their life. This development should not surprise anyone because Christianity and Islam are the dominant faiths in Ethiopia, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity accounts for most of the Christian population.

Though belief in God is pervasive, atheists, agnostics or freethinkers exist in Ethiopia and they are beginning to organize under different umbrella groups. Some of the atheist groups are visible online and they have Facebook pages, with hundreds and thousands of members, where they express themselves and socialize with people of like minds.

Recently … Read the rest

Selective Outrage: The Silence and Denial about Muslim Homophobia

Jun 13th, 2016 | By Adele Wilde

Fifty people were gunned down in a mass terrorist shooting in Orlando; USA. They were deliberately targeted by a Muslim man, Omar Mateen,29, because they were gay. Outrage and shock followed the shooting which has been described as one of the worst mass shootings in US history. I will leave the issue of the gun ownership laws in the USA to one side, which are definitely a big part of the problem.

However, since the news broke I have noticed yet again those on the Regressive Left; Muslims and Religious Right, stating that ‘we should not ‘exploit’ the crime and talk about Islamic homophobia. As Hassan Raza put it:

If one thing that stays consistent every time there is

Read the rest

Beheading a Woman for Prophet Muhammad in Northern Nigeria

Jun 6th, 2016 | By Leo Igwe

Some bloodthirsty Muslim fanatics, who wanted to please Allah by all means and get into the good books of Prophet Muhammad, have been on a rampage in Northern Nigeria. The savage quest by those who are drunk with ‘Allah delusion’ and who are desperate to inherit the phantom paradise that was promised to the Ummah in the afterlife has been on obvious display in the past weeks. The Mujaheddin of northern Nigeria have been on the loose and the horrific consequences of their actions are graphic and glaring.

The criminal silence of the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, the Kano state Governor, Umar Ganduje, and the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi 11, is deafening and sends worrisome signals about the threat … Read the rest

Blasphemy and Killing in the Name of Islam

Jun 4th, 2016 | By Leo Igwe

The recent murder of a Christian trader in Northern Nigeria who was accused of blasphemy underscores the threat of Islamic extremism and the fact that Muslims with a Boko Haram mindset are not only in Sambisa forest. The mob reaction that led to the burning of churches and looting of shops shows that this murderous act enjoyed a wider support amongst the local Muslim population. This is unfortunate.

People may interpret what the Christian trader did in any way they can; there is not justification for this horrific killing and other cases of religious bloodletting in a civilized society. It is difficult to understand why any Muslim could decide to take the life of a fellow human being for making … Read the rest

Witchcraft, Magical Spells and Humanism in 21st Century Malta

May 26th, 2016 | By Leo Igwe

After reading Carmel Cassar’s article on Witchcraft Beliefs and Social Control in Seventeenth Century Malta, one could easily conclude that magical beliefs and occult claims are actually a thing of the past in this country. This is because Cassar analyzed witchcraft belief as if it were merely a phenomenon that manifested centuries ago, not a contemporary issue that lurks in some sectors of the society. Some would argue that Cassar’s article which was written over a decade ago focused on a particular period, the 17th century Malta. Now what about this piece in the current (May 2016) edition of the Air Malta magazine. Titled The Inquisitor’s Palace and the Inquisition, this article suggests that witchcraft belief is history, Read the rest

What Missionaries Imported to Africa

May 26th, 2016 | By Kirumira Mpagi

I have lived all my life in Africa, Uganda to be specific, but I must say, on many occasions I travel to other parts of Africa, I travel to Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania. I find that the citizens of these countries are warm, welcoming and friendly in most scenarios, until the moment when they detect your GLBT rights stand and approval. It becomes even worse when you are atheist. Usually atheists are not targeted in the mainstream yet I have been pushed into the wall and doors shut on me, for no particular reason but being atheist. I approve GLBT rights and am willing to walk an extra mile for them. I envision an African … Read the rest

Scapegoating Homosexuals: Is President Buhari Really Committed to Changing Nigeria?

May 15th, 2016 | By Leo Igwe

The recent arrest of six young men in Nigeria for the ‘supposed crime’ of homosexuality has once again demonstrated the misplaced priorities of the Buhari-led government. The arrest casts serious doubt on its supposed commitment to transforming Nigeria.

Going by recent developments, hope is fading very fast and disillusionment is setting in as many people are beginning to realize that the change mantra may end up being a ruse, a strategy that was used to win an election. The proposed change is a farce, at least when it comes to the dignified treatment of gay persons otherwise, how does one explain the current detention of some young men by police in Benin for engaging in homosexuality?

As if the arrest … Read the rest

Bangladesh: Freethinkers vs. Assassins

May 5th, 2016 | By Tasneem Khalil

He reached into his rucksack and said with a smile, “I have something for you.” I extended my hand and took the gift. A small book, 96 pages – a Bengali translation of Am I a Monkey?: Six Big Questions About Evolution by the Spanish-American evolutionary biologist and philosopher Fransico J Ayala. I looked at the illustration on the cover: a sad ape evolving into a human.

One of the translators of the book, Ananta Bijoy Das, was hacked to death by machete-wielding assassins in May 2015, outside his home in Sylhet, north-eastern Bangladesh. The other translator, Siddhartha Dhar, was standing in front of me, somewhere in Stockholm. A few months after the murder of his friend and mentor, Siddhartha … Read the rest

Who is Afraid of Atheism in 21st Century Kenya?

May 4th, 2016 | By Leo Igwe

Recent reports from both local and international media have highlighted strains between a small atheist group, Atheists in Kenya (AIK) and mainly christian religious organisations in the country. These reports have focused mainly on the controversies surrounding the efforts of the group to gain local recognition and be registered under the Kenyan law. This move has elicited opposition from religious organisations and state officials. In this piece, I argue that these controversies, though understandable, are completely unnecessary and unhelpful to the nation of Kenya. The hostile reactions that the registration of AIK has generated are clear indicators of intolerance, fear and fanaticism. This is highly unexpected of a democratic Kenya that claims to uphold the rights and freedoms of its … Read the rest

Witchcraft Revolution? Witch finding Journalism in Africa

Apr 9th, 2016 | By Leo Igwe

If the outcome of the recent investigative journalism project on the topic of witchcraft in Africa is anything to go by, then there is an urgent need to investigate ‘investigative journalism’ in the region. This is because the findings of this team are laughable in one sense and disturbing in another. They are laughable because they have reaffirmed the same old contradictory superstitious fantasies that have made Africans a laughing stock in the global intellectual market. They are disturbing because they are presented as products of investigative journalism! The resolution and manifesto issued at the end of the meeting in Accra are just uncritical rendering of commonplace witchcraft beliefs (I guess of the journalists), not a reflection of the region’s … Read the rest

Why I define myself as a feminist – rather than an ally

Apr 8th, 2016 | By Bruce Gorton

In a lot of liberal parlance there is this idea of being an “ally” which I find just a wee bit less than satisfactory.

The thing about an ally is that they’re not there because they actually believe in your cause, but because they feel they can benefit in some way.

Hence for example during WWII the US and the USSR were allies – even though for most of the rest of the century they were on the brink of ending the world over each other’s continued existence.

Allies are not friends; they’re people who seek mutual benefit in order to achieve strategic goals. That is an important distinction when we talk about social justice.

When we say we’re being … Read the rest

Can Atheism Reduce Maternal Mortality in Nigeria?

Apr 3rd, 2016 | By Leo Igwe
If you are one of those who think that atheism is of no benefit to Africa and Africans, that disbelieving in god has no social value or significance for this people then you may rethink your position after reading this. You may be aware that the government of Cross River State in Southern Nigeria is waging a fierce campaign against the practice of ‘church birth’ and this practice highlights the dangers of theism particularly when it is applied to maternal health issues. You may ask : What is church birth? Church birth is a practice where pregnant women go to  churches or faith clinics, instead of hospitals, to deliver their babies. A BBC report on one such church, The Land Read the rest

Interview with Meera Nanda

Jan 29th, 2016 | By Stefano Bigliardi

Stefano Bigliardi interviewed Meera Nanda, who has just published Science in Saffron, for the Italian rationalist magazine L’Ateo. Meera and Stefano invited me to publish this translation here.

SB: Which points do you prefer to be mentioned in my general presentation of your studies and career? If I describe you as atheist, can we expand a little on the roots and reasons of your atheism?

MN: My intellectual/career trajectory and my “faith” trajectory are completely intertwined, each acting upon the other.

I grew up amid multiple pulls-and-pushes between tradition and new ways of thinking,  between patriarchy and a faint glimmer of my own potential as a person, between an intense nationalism (my father had spent his youth fighting … Read the rest

Why ‘Identity Feminism’ Divides Rather Than Conquers

Jan 9th, 2016 | By Adele Wilde-Blavatsky

Women’s rights and feminism has come a long way in the past 100 years. Many women worldwide now have the right to vote, to travel freely without a male companion, to get an education, to work, to marry and divorce out of choice, to take control of reproduction, sex and family planning and get a decent wage for their work. There is still much work to be done though, with some countries still suffering from unacceptably low levels of gender equality and human rights for females.

For some on the bourgeois ‘Liberal­-Left’, or what feminists like Aayan Hirsi Ali accurately call the Regressive Left, the reason why women of colour still lag behind on human rights and freedom in … Read the rest