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CFI defends the right to blaspheme with controversial magazine issue and lecture by ex-Muslim leader

Council for Secular Humanism

The magazine Free Inquiry is celebrating International Blasphemy Rights Day with a vehement defense of the rights of expression about religion and printed images of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Every year since 2009 the magazine's parent organization, Center for Inquiry, has celebrated International Blasphemy Rights Day on September 30. The holiday commemorates the 2005 publishing of cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad by one of Denmark’s largest-selling newspapers.

The tradition continues Wednesday night with a celebration and special lecture at CFI’s Amherst headquarters featuring Executive Director of Ex-Muslims of North America Muhammad Syed. CFI Vice President for Media Tom Flynn explained that Syed “went public as a Muslim apostate in 2007 and he began by organizing ex-Muslim groups up and down the northeast, and now he’s taken it national.”

Credit Ex-Muslims of North America
Ex-Muslims of North America
Muhammad Syed

In his talk titled, “Blasphemy and the Importance of Dissent,” Syed will speak about the pervasiveness of blasphemy laws and their social effect.

Flynn said the event helps fullfil part of CFI’s mission “to create a challenging, stimulating intellectual atmosphere outside of the university community.” He said they make that atmosphere available locally in Western New York.

In the past, CFI’s International Blasphemy Rights Day events have featured slogan and essay contests. Flynn said the organization is expecting a solid turnout Wednesday night in not only sheer numbers, but a variety of attendees.

“We’re a national publication and we have subscribers in the Western New York area, and they’re pretty well represented. We have a local friends of the center group that does various intellectual and social activities,” said Flynn. “But we’re right across the street from the [UB] North campus. We get a lot of curiosity-seekers from students and faculty and just people from the community interested in the subject matter.”

Admission to the event is free and open to the public. Syed’s lecture is scheduled for 7 p.m. at CFI’s headquarters, 1310 Sweet Home Road in Amherst.

Avery began his broadcasting career as a disc jockey for WRUB, the University at Buffalo’s student-run radio station.