Atheists cry foul over Facebook censorship on anti-Islam posts

Arab atheists in the Middle East and North Africa are decrying Facebook's censorship of pages containing posts that criticize Islam, calling on the social media giant to change the way it responds to violation claims.

In April, Facebook took down more than six Arabic-speaking atheist pages because they allegedly violated the site's Community Standards. This prompted the Atheist Alliance – Middle-East and North Africa (AA-MENA) to demand a change in the social network's response to violation reports to guard the freedom of speech of their 100,000 members, according to The News Hub.

(Reuters/Dado Ruvic)A 3D plastic representation of the Facebook logo is seen in this illustration in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, May 13, 2015.

This is not the first time that Facebook has censored posts from atheists and freethinkers in the Middle East and North Africa. In February, it can be recalled that the social media giant deactivated ten of AA-MENA's Arabic-speaking groups for similar reasons.

Ayman El Kaissi of the Hub says the complaints against the AA-MENA pages were launched by "cyber jihadist" fundamentalist Islamic groups that simultaneously file false reports on violation of Community Standards. The atheists say the move aims to remove anti-Islamic groups or pages from the social media.

AA-MENA has launched an online petition demanding that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg reactivate the removed groups.

"While Arab atheists, with absolutely no exaggeration, already face all kinds of oppression, torture, restriction of speech and even sentences to death in their countries, Arab atheists are facing a huge risk of losing the remaining freedoms that are practiced secretly or online, which are, including the freedom and the right of thinking and discussing freely, a basic right of a human being, hence being alive!" the atheist group said in the online petition.

Last year, Zuckerberg gained praise from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after he put up a post outlining the difference between Islam and terrorism. The social network tycoon's message defended Muslims who are being discriminated, The Global Post reports.

The pro-Muslim Facebook post came in the wake of the Paris terror attacks and U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering America. Zuckerberg said Muslims are welcome in the Facebook community and that they will fight to foster a peaceful environment in which their rights will be preserved.