Paul Hedges, author of Towards Better Disagreement, considers asylum, philosophy and human rights in light of the recent situation with Hamza bin Walayat.
If somebody asked you to prove what you believed – whether that is belief in a religion like Christianity, Islam, or Buddhism, or a non-religious stance such as atheism or Humanism – how would you do it? Maybe you would mention how many times you go to church or meetings, mention your membership of particular organisations or communities, or show you have a lot of knowledge about your tradition, movement, or belief system.
Facing Death Threats and Asylum
This was the situation that faced Hamza bin Walayat, except for him it was not an idle exercise about his Humanism. Rather, it was an asylum hearing where he had to prove to the authorities that he was a Humanist or face deportation back to Pakistan from where he had received death threats.
In February 2018, Walayat met with British immigration officials, who questioned him on his knowledge of Humanism. According to the report on his hearing, because he was not able to identify Plato and Aristotle as Humanist philosophers his asylum claim was denied. The case has gathered both national and international support, and the British Humanist Association in particular has garnered support for him to seek to overturn the decision. A petition of over twelve thousand signatures was delivered to the Prime Minister at Downing Street, while an open letter was written to the Home Secretary Amber Rudd signed by over fifty philosophers and academics across the country.