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Supporting the right to choose your religion or none

In Australia today, hundreds of people live in fear because they have chosen to change their religion or chosen to believe in no religion. Many more other residents and citizens would like to do the same, but fear to do so because of a very real danger that they will be attacked and possibly killed, or see their family or home attacked.

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” Article 18 (emphasis added)

Despite this, converts from different religions, especially apostates from Islam, risk violence should their conversion or lack of religious belief become known by their family, employers, colleagues or community. There are numerous examples of criminal threats and attacks on ex-Muslims, their families, their homes or their property.

… parts of the community or family will often illegally undertake to punish the offender.

All five schools of sharia (Islamic law) treat apostasy as a major crime. In some Muslim countries it is illegal under the criminal code to leave Islam – with capital punishment the mandatory sentence. In countries not subject to sharia, such as Australia, parts of the community or family will often illegally undertake to punish the offender.

Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir in Australia has a position that those “guilty of apostasy from Islam are to be executed” as stated in Article 7.3 of their draft ‘constitution’ for our country. Uthman Badar, spokesman for the group in Australia, said at a public meeting in Bankstown library on 25 March: “The ruling for apostates as such in Islam is clear, that apostates attract capital punishment and we don’t shy away from that.”

Across the world, converts can face extreme hostility both from the state and from society.

All threats, incitement to violence or actual attacks should be treated very seriously by the police. These attacks on converts are crimes which are made more serious because of the element of hate, hostility or prejudice towards the victim (or their property) because of the victim’s religion or beliefs. However, police often seem to ignore the religious hatred behind these crimes and actually treat them more lightly, as just a cultural or community issue. Police policy and directives on this should be tightened up and not treated lightly because of community ‘sensitivities’.

Across the world, converts can face extreme hostility both from the state and from society. Converts to Christianity are attacked and sometimes killed. Vulnerable and unprotected in their own country, they need asylum in other countries like Australia where they can practice their faith in freedom.

Please join us by signing the Freedom 18 petition and encourage family, friends, neighbours and colleagues to do likewise. We would also encourage you to contact your local government representative and to raise your concerns on this issue.

This petition draws the attention of the Australian Government to the plight of converts from other religions, especially from Islam:

  1. To fulfil its obligations under article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) to protect the rights of all Australian residents who have converted from other religions including Islam.
  2. To promote and protect UDHR article 18 through Australia’s UN engagement and foreign aid policies, to ensure no one shall be subject to coercion which would impair their freedom of religion or belief.
  3. To give priority status to asylum applications from those at risk in their own countries because they have converted, and to fully recognise the complementary protection provisions and non-refoulement obligations under international human rights law.
  4. To consider religiously persecuted minorities – especially converts from other religions whose lives are at risk due to their domestic or religious laws – to grant protection visas under Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian programme.

More copies of this petition are available from PO Box 3527, Loganholme, Queensland, or at the link below.

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