Atheist Afghani

Danielle Cohen
By Danielle Cohen Immigration Law Solicitor Linkedin
Danielle Cohen has over 20 years of experience as a lawyer and a reputation for offering professional, honest and expert advice. 17 May 2016

We are acting on behalf of a student from Afghanistan who is seeking asylum. As he no longer wishes to live in Afghanistan and follow Islamic law. He believes that his life will be in danger if he is not be practising Islam and he will not be able to express his opinions openly and freely or live his life as he wishes. This is a unique case of a person seeking asylum because of lack of religious belief or faith. There has been a precedent of such a case before, where another man claimed asylum stating that if he returned to Afghanistan he would face persecution, even possibly a death sentence for blasphemy or apostasy under Sharia Law. It was argued that even living discreetly as an atheist may prove impossible, given that every aspect of daily life and culture in Afghanistan is influenced and controlled by Islam. Our case is another example of the plight of people who cannot live without facing systematic persecution, exile or death, especially in the aftermath of the Arab Springs.

Usually we assist Christian communities who live as a minority in Muslim countries and now it is equally important to defend those who cannot practice their right to freedom of thought, conscience or religion which includes the freedom not to have religion or belief. We take it for granted that religious beliefs or lack of them is a matter of personal choice and conscience. Therefore, the notion of forcing someone to adhere to a particular religious doctrine strikes most people in the United Kingdom as absurd. However, in many Muslim countries, including some Western allies such as Saudi Arabia, the right to criticise or dissent from the prevailing religion does not exist. This suggests that potentially many people could, like our client, justifiably claim a well-founded fear of persecution because of their lack of religious belief.