Friday, February 23, 2007

Dr. Fred Whitehead: "Freethought Solidarity Bulletin #8"


January 26, 2007

This bulletin, edited and produced by Fred Whitehead, Kansas City, Kansas, U.S.A, for the International Committee to Protect Freethinkers (ICPF) is FREE. If you do not wish to receive this, see instructions at the end of this message.


(1) Campaign against Islamic laws in the Kurdish parliament

(2) Nazanin case, Iran

(3) Vandals attack museum, Russia

(4) In Memorian: Hrant Dink (1954-2007)

(5) The Book Pastor of Katlenburg

(6) Resources


(1) Campaign against Islamic laws in the Kurdish Parliament

Please send letters to support our campaign to remove Article No. 7 from the proposed constitution for Kurdistan.

To all women's groups, secularist organizations, trade unions and political activists, we need your help to prevent Islamic Sharia law being implemented in Kurdistan.

In December, we declared a campaign to repeal Article 7 from the proposed constitution of Kurdistan. In our view, Article 7 clearly states that Islam is the main official religion, and that laws should be based on it.

As we said then, this will only lead to the violation of the most fundamental and basic liberties of the people of Kurdistan, and most of all undermine the rights and freedoms of women. We thank all of you who have already signed our petition: you have been a great support for our campaign.

Here is the link to our petition again:

Now we are asking organizations and activists to write letters in support of our campaign to repeal Article 7 and in favour of the separation of religion from the state and education, as well as equality and freedom for women.

Please send your letters of support to me directly.

Houzan Mahmoud, representative abroad of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (and campaign coordinator):


(2) Nazanin case, Iran

In early January, Nazanin Fatehi, previously sentenced to death for stabbing one of three men who tried to rape her, was granted a release in a rehearing by a Tehran provincial court. An international support campaign produced 232,492 signatures delivered to the Iranian government. The ICPF joined this campaign last year.

Sources: The Independent, Jan. 6, 2007; Khaleej Times, Jan. 15, 2007


(3) Vandals attack museum, Russia

A Moscow museum dedicated to the Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov was vandalized and mostly destroyed in late December, 2006. Bulgakov, who died in 1940, was the author of the satirical novel, The Master and Margarita, which has been condemned by the Orthodox Church as "the fifth gospel, that of Satan." The museum was vandalized by a critic of Bulgakov's work who lives in the same building as the museum. He threw a number of museum objects out of a window, including signed illustrated editions.

Source: Moscow News, Dec. 26, 2006


(4) In Memoriam: Hrant Dink (1954-2007)

On January 19, this respected newspaper editor and activist was assassinated outside his office in Istanbul by a young opponent who was quickly identified from a surveillance video, and arrested. The assassin confessed, indicated no regret for his actions.

Dink was born in Malatya in the eastern Anatolian region of Turkey. He was expelled from this first secondary school for "leftist" political activity, but later did university studies in zoology and philosophy, before going into journalism full-time. He gained a noted reputation as an activist for the truth in the Armenian genocide, and went through several judicial prosecutions.

His funeral services were thronged by 50,000 people, and it seems that this latest murder has produced some unified revulsion among the broad masses of the Turkish populace.

His friend Fatma Muge Gocek honored him for "his unwavering belief in the fundamental goodness of all human beings regardless of their race, ethnic origin, regardless of what they had personally or communally experienced; his unwavering vision that we in Turkey were going to one day be able to finally confront our past and come to terms with our faults, mistakes and violence as well as our so bandied about virtues; his unwavering trust that we all would manage to live together in peace one day."

Sources: New York Times, Jan. 23, 2007; Guardian, Jan. 22, 2007; Open Democracy website ( Jan. 19, 22, 2007


(5) The Book Pastor of Katlenburg

A Reflection by Fred Whitehead

I am sometimes asked if Christians or other religious people can be Freethinkers. The quick response, especially from those of the atheist persuasion (which includes me) is No, but a respect for the historical record will suggest Yes.

A remarkable contemporary instance of such a person is the German pastor Martin Weskott, who has a church in the small village of Katlenburg, in the Hartz region northeast of Goettingen.

In 1991 he read in a newspaper that a landfill near Leipzig had received a great number of books being discarded. As the German Democratic Republic ["East Germany"] had recently collapsed, apparently libraries or publishers were throwing out much of their collections or stock, in anticipation of soon receiving "better" books from the West.

With years of effort, he saved 700,000 books from oblivion. Among the authors are Stefan Heym, Ernesto Cardenal, Leo Tolstoy, etc. The books are sorted into categories in a warehouse, but he does not publish lists, though he does answer queries. The books are apparently free for the asking, but only at the site, and some donations are requested for the pastor's Bread for the World project.

His website: (mostly in German, but with short welcome and background in English and French).


(6) Resources

The South Asian Citizens Web has the text of an important lecture by the physicist and educator Pervez Hoodbhoy, "Re-Imagining Pakistan." This is an eloquent appeal for (1) "minds that can deal with the complex nature of truth," (2) many more Pakistanis who accept diversity as a virtue," and (3) "that Pakistanis learn to value and nurture creativity." Read it all at

The January/February 2007 issue of The Humanist magazine, journal of the American Humanist Association (AHA) has a long interview with Noam Chomsky, "one of America's great dissenters." In a series of books ranging over several decades, Chomsky has stedily documented the rise and fracturing of the America Empire. A short excerpt is available at the AHA website: Of particular interest is Chomsky's perspective on working with religious people (this is from the text in the magazine): "This may surprise you, but when I visited Nicaragua in the 1980s, it was at the invitation of the Catholic Church. I spoke at a Jesuit university; I lived in a Jesuit house. And you know how religious I am. But I see no reason to insult them. I respect what they're doing. I don't share some of their beliefs. If they ask, it's open for discussion--I'm secular, and so on. But for them it's important to read the gospels and read them for peasants, and so on, and that's their way of carrying on."

On December 10, 2006, the Israeli scholar Menachem Milson presented a lecture on the life and work of the exiled Tunisian writer and educational philosopher Lafif Lakhdar. In previous issues of this Bulletin we have reported on Lakhdar's situation in France. Milson documents Lakhdar's secularist views at length, and how he views the questions of cultural integration and assimilation. The lecture was published by the Memri website as no. 314 of its Inquiry and Analysis series, Jan. 5, 2007. Go to

Brave Minds, journal of the ICPF, edited by Dr. Marvin F. Zayed, is available from PO Box 41153, Elmvale, 1910 St. Laurent Blvd., Ottawa, Ontario K1G 5K9, Canada. This is a large format printed magazine, for which a subscription is required, but it is now established as a major source of international documentation and analysis concerning the status of Freethinkers and Freethought in many countries, with a focus on the situation in the Islamic ones.

In addition, Brave Minds and the IPCF now have a website! Go to: Parts of the site are still under construction. We need your interest and support for this project.

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