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A group of former Muslims created the first council in France to represent atheists and non-believers who have been persecuted for abandoning their faith. The group calls for tolerance, full equality and the separation of church and state.
On Saturday, members of the Council of Ex-Muslims in France gathered to publicly launch their group and discuss their mission: to promote freedom and equality for all, regardless of their faith. Their Facebook page explains:
“We are a group of atheists and non-believers who, as a result, have been threatened or faced with restrictions in our personal lives. Many of us have been arrested for blasphemy.
The group was formed in memory of Frenchman Jean-François Lefebvre de la Barre, who was executed in 1766 for refusing to take off his hat when a religious procession passed by him.
The Council asserts that “today, countless Barres are threatened, tortured, imprisoned and killed for apostasy, blasphemy, heresy and refusal to conform to Islamist norms.
Palestinian blogger Waleed Al-Husseini first organized the council, after being accused of making blasphemous remarks against the Prophet Muhammad and seeking refuge in France.
The Council is made up of around thirty members, representing nearly a dozen nationalities.
It follows on from the British Council of Former Muslims in Great Britain, led by Maryam Namazie. A similar council also exists in Germany.