- 14-Year-Old Texas Teen Choked by Mother For Not Wearing Hijab in Social Media Post
Location: United States
In Kingwood, Texas, a disturbing incident highlighting the grave implications of honor violence came to light when a Muslim woman, Sittarh Mazhar Khan, was arrested for allegedly assaulting her teenage daughter. Honor violence, deeply rooted in various cultural and religious communities with conservative traditions, is driven by the motive to safeguard or reclaim perceived honor. Such acts often revolve around victims' behaviors that are deemed to breach cultural or religious norms. In this case, Khan reportedly assaulted her 14-year-old daughter after seeing her without a hijab on Instagram, an act she might have perceived as dishonorable. The hearing officer stated, "The defendant, upset the complainant did not wear her hijab at school, beat and choked the complainant, causing her to lose consciousness.” Additionally, Khan is accused of burning her daughter for overcooking pita bread. This tragic incident serves as a reminder of the continuous presence and dangers of honor violence, even in Western nations, with victims often targeted for actions that are deemed to violate deeply held cultural or religious norms.
- India's Nonreligious Paradox
In a country with a millennia-old history of nonreligious movements, most atheists and rationalists in India find it safer to remain silent about their skepticism, despite the nation's deep-rooted tradition of questioning and skepticism. Avinash Patil, a religious skeptic and leader of an anti-superstition group, comments on the shrinking space for debating religious authority and belief, attributing this to rising religious tensions and growing Hindu nationalism. While there is a global rise in the number of nonbelievers, or "nones," India's nonreligious, despite their historical significance, face challenges and risks in being vocal about their beliefs, especially amidst the recent surge of Hindu nationalism. Patil says, “When you are open about it and engage in activism, it can get challenging, and even dangerous.” This sentiment captures the atmosphere as many "nones" still seek justice for the murder of rationalist, Narendra Dabholkar, a decade ago.
- Satanic Temple Holds Devilish Concert Inside Indiana’s State Capitol Building!
Location: United States
Amidst the grandeur of Indiana's state capitol, Lucien Greaves and his band, Satanic Planet, delivered a head-turning performance, drawing in a mixed crowd from Satanists to state employees. This concert was not just a musical act, but a pointed protest against an earlier “Let Us Worship” event spearheaded by Christian nationalist Sean Feucht. Feucht's religious gathering, which even saw Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch being prayed over, had been perceived by many as blurring the church-state boundary. In retort, Greaves took to the stage with songs like “Unbaptism” and an "unbaptism" ritual, emphasizing that if doors were opened for one religious perspective, they should be open for all. As he passionately declared, “When Suzanne Crouch opened the doors for Feucht, she opened the doors for Satanic Planet.” Indiana's capitol had certainly witnessed a day of unparalleled fervor and religious discourse.
- The Caste Bill that Split California's Hindu Community
Location: United States
On October 7, 2023, California's Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that sought to explicitly outlaw caste-based discrimination, a topic that gained traction following events like "Caste Con" and the legal case involving CISCO Systems in California. If passed, California would have been the pioneer U.S. state to enact such legislation, especially considering institutions like Brandeis University and the California State University system have already incorporated caste in their anti-discrimination policies. The bill's intent was to protect individuals, especially Dalits, from bias in housing, education, and the tech sector. Newsom defended his decision, referencing existing provisions in California's laws that cover discrimination on grounds such as sex, race, religion, and more, deeming the bill “unnecessary.” The debate over caste discrimination and its implications, including concerns about inadvertently reinforcing caste distinctions or further stigmatizing the U.S. Hindu community, has deeply divided the Indian American community. Many, including key voices at events like "Caste Con" and representatives from Hindu organizations, express apprehensions about potential biases against Hindus and people of Indian descent due to such legislation.
- "Blasphemy, Threats, and Jail: The Hidden Lives of Nigeria's Atheists
In Kano, northern Nigeria's largest city, nonbelievers live under the constant threat of persecution. A business owner, once a Muslim and now an atheist, commented, “If I ever come out in northern Nigeria to say I am an atheist, it will be an automatic death sentence.” The divide in Nigeria is evident, with its 210 million population nearly split between Christians in the south and Muslims in the north. Atheists in the north have reported heightened threats and attacks since Mubarak Bala, the leader of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was arrested and subsequently imprisoned for blasphemy. “Bala’s imprisonment rolled our movement underground,” said Leo Igwe, a founder of the humanist association. While Nigeria's constitution upholds freedom of religion and expression, the reality is bleak, especially in the north where blasphemy can result in a death penalty in Islamic courts. Isa Sanusi, director of Amnesty International in Nigeria, expressed deep concern over the increase in blasphemy-related killings and urged the authorities to uphold their international human rights obligations.
- Organized Religion's Biggest Threat? The Explosion of America's 'Nones’
Location: United States
The phenomenon of "nones" — individuals who claim no religious affiliation — is rapidly reshaping America's religious landscape. Recent surveys by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research indicate that 30% of U.S. adults identify as nonreligious. This group, which has seen a steady increase over the past three decades, includes atheists, agnostics, and those who label themselves as "nothing in particular". Interestingly, while atheists and agnostics each make up 7% of U.S. adults, "nothings in particular" constitute about 1 in 6 or roughly 17%. Ryan Burge, a political science professor, underscores the significance of this trend by stating, “the most important story without a shadow of a doubt is the unbelievable rise in the share of Americans who are nonreligious.” Notably, young adults show the highest representation in this category, with nearly 40% of those under 30 identifying as nones.
- The Secret Atheists of the Arab World
In the Middle East and North Africa, many nonbelievers, or "nones"—ranging from agnostics to atheists—navigate their existence in a region deeply intertwined with religious beliefs. The societal fabric of these regions is permeated by religious practices, from the omnipresent call to prayer to references in everyday greetings. Nonbelievers often hide their views to avoid potential repercussions, including ostracism, threats, or even retaliation from authorities. A 27-year-old Tunisian woman encapsulated the sentiment, stating, “I have a double life all the time. It’s better than having conflict every day.” Many find solace and community in online spaces, albeit fraught with their own risks. Mustapha Kamel al-Sayyid, a Cairo University professor, highlighted the region's historical ties to religion, stating, "The Middle East is the birthplace of the three heavenly religions," and noted the negative perception many have of those without religious affiliation. Despite atheism not being directly criminalized in countries like Egypt, other laws, like those against blasphemy, can be used to target nonbelievers. For instance, Iran recently executed two men on blasphemy charges, and Saudi Arabia sentenced another to 10 years and 2,000 lashes for expressing atheism on Twitter. In this delicate landscape, some nonbelievers aim for a harmonious existence. Ahmad, a Lebanese now living in Qatar, shared, “We have an unspoken agreement: I don’t criticize religion and you don’t criticize my lack of religion.” However, societal challenges remain a daily struggle for many.
- The Silent Surge of Secularism in Israel
In a nation like Israel, renowned for its religious fervor, it's striking that a significant portion of its population is secular. A 2021 Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics survey highlighted that among Israeli Jews aged over 20, about 45% identified as secular or non-religious. Furthermore, 33% practiced "traditional" religious worship, while ultra-Orthodox Jews, or Haredim, constituted 10%. Naor Narkis, founder of Enlightened Israel, champions the notion that for many secular Israelis, Jewish identity is more cultural, rooted in the Hebrew language and shared history, rather than traditional religious worship. He asserts, “What defines us is our language, and our heritage, but doesn’t involve faith in a god.” This sentiment is reinforced by the fact that approximately 4,000 people in Israel, or one in seven Haredi education system graduates, depart the ultra-Orthodox community annually, underscoring the evolving nature of religious identity within the country.
- Why Secular Japanese Can't Resist the Lure of Shrines
In secular Japan, the allure of temples and shrines isn't just about faith; it's about tradition and collecting beautifully designed stamps known as Goshuin. Momo Nomura, who's made a hobby out of this tradition, mentions, “It’s a mindfulness kind of thing for me,” highlighting her non-religious perspective. With around 70% of the Japanese populace sharing similar sentiments, the connection to such places often leans more towards familial and communal ties rather than strict theological beliefs. As Ryosuke Okamoto, a religion professor, insightfully points out, “In Japan, faith is not considered an important element of religion."