What was Epictetus’s favorite snack?

In other “pesky brown foreigners wanting to come here” news, it turns out you have to pass a test to be a humanist.

A Pakistani man who renounced his Muslim faith and became a humanist has had his application for asylum in the UK rejected after failing to correctly answer questions about ancient Greek philosophers.

The Home Office said Hamza bin Walayat’s failure to identify Plato and Aristotle as humanist philosophers indicated his knowledge of humanism was “rudimentary at best”.

Uh…what? Who says Plato and Aristotle even are humanist philosophers? Especially in any modern sense that an ex-Muslim would have in mind? Aristotle is a largely secular philosopher perhaps; Plato isn’t even that. They’re considered part of a broad humanist education, I’ll buy that, but that’s because of the long history of humanist education as meaning drawing on the Greek and Roman classics. Very few modern humanists would put them on a basic humanism reading list, I should think. Maybe the Euthyphro, but more likely a modern version with mention of the Euthyphro.

Walayat, who has lived in the UK since 2011, said he had received death threats from members of his family and community in Pakistan after integrating into secular British life, forming a relationship with a non-Muslim partner and refusing to conform to the expectations of conservative Islam.

Apostates are subject to discrimination, persecution and violence in Pakistan. In March last year, a student who had stated he was a humanist on his Facebook page was murdered at his university.

Yes yes yes but did he know who Anaxagoras was?

Walayat claimed asylum in July last year after being served with removal papers for overstaying his student visa.

After an interview with immigration officials, the Home Office said he had “been unable to provide a consistent or credible account with regards the main aspect of your claim, namely that you are a humanist”.

When tested on his knowledge of humanism, Walayat gave a “basic definition” but could not identify “any famous Greek philosophers who were humanistic”.

That is simply ridiculous. People who want to kill him for being an apostate won’t be fretting about his familiarity with the Greek philosophers, I can assure you.

The Home Office concluded: “Your knowledge of humanism is rudimentary at best and not of a level that would be expected of a genuine follower of humanism.”

Hey! The requirements are nowhere near that stringent. They are simply non-belief in Islam, non-worship of the prophet, non-compliance with Sharia, non-attendance at a mosque, non-observance of Ramadan, not-praying five times a day, and the like. They’re negative; they’re refusal; they’re saying No. The Home Office really ought to know that.

Walayat joined the Humanists UK organisation in August, but said he had believed in the basic principles of humanism from childhood.

According to Humanists UK, “humanism is not a ‘canonical’ belief system, where adherents must learn and follow a strict set of behaviour codes. As a descriptive term, humanists can be someone who has simply rejected religious belief but holds some positive conception of human values.”

In a letter in support of Walayat’s asylum application, Bob Churchill, of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, said: “For many, the broad descriptive ‘humanist’ is just a softer way of saying atheist, especially if you come from a place where identifying as atheist may be regarded as a deeply offensive statement.”

Andrew Copson, of Humanists UK, said the move “set a dangerous precedent for non-religious people fleeing persecution. The Home Office is simply incorrect to claim that non-religious people seeking asylum don’t get the same protection in law as religious people do.”

The questions put to Walayat “reveal a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of humanism”, he added.

Or, more cynically, just an underhanded excuse for denying someone asylum.

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