- Atheist Republic Suspended From Twitter!
On November 14th, Atheist Republic's Twitter (@AtheistRepublic) was incorrectly suspended from the platform due to multiple false copyright claims. AR's Twitter account began getting hit with provably false copyright claims in late August 2021, and the number of these false claims began accelerating through November. Several pieces of content taken down due to claimed copyright infringement were reinstated after Twitter determined that the copyright claim was incorrect. The copyright claim system was exploited due to the period of review for counter-notifications taking much longer than the process to make a claim against an account. This allowed the false claimers to hit the Atheist Republic account with claims more quickly than they could be reviewed. This is clearly an abuse of Twitter's copyright claim system and must be corrected. This incident highlights the importance of having personal contacts at large social media companies, as there is little hope of remedying issues otherwise. If you or anyone you know has connections to Twitter, please reach out to Atheist Republic's CEO at Susanna@AtheistRepublic.com.
- Atheist Activist Soheil Arabi Freed from Prison!
Atheist Republic celebrates the recent release of Iranian atheist activist and blogger Soheil Arabi from prison! Originally arrested in 2013, and later sentenced to death for "insulting the Prophet Muhammad" in Facebook posts, on November 16th, Soheil's lawyers announced that he was released from Rajaie Shahr prison after nearly eight years of incarceration and torture at the hands of the Iranian regime. However, Iran has imposed an additional sentence of two years of "internal exile." For this period of exile, Soheil will be held in the southern city of Borazjan, in what Reporters Without Borders calls "illegal judicial and disciplinary harassment." While Soheil is still facing legal hurdles before he can be truly free from the stranglehold of the Islamic Republic of Iran, his recent release is a massive victory and relief for Iranian atheists and their allies across the globe!
- Unveiling of New "Unisex" Hijab Sparks Backlash
Location: Milan, Italy
During Milan Fashion Week, the fashion brand The United Colors of Benetton released a new fashion innovation headpiece dubbed the “unisex hijab.” The headwear is a part of the fashion company's collaboration project with Tunisian-Italian rapper Ghali Amdouni. The piece was met with backlash online. Ex-Muslim activist Yasmine Mohammad commented on the headwear saying, “Now men can also cover their shame. No need for them to be walking around immodest and naked like animals. #Equality.” According to the fashion company's website, their collaboration with Ghali aims to promote "creativity and dialogue with the new generation." Ghali stated that he is tired of hearing about how everything Arab or Tunisian is associated with negativity, and he defended the unisex hijab saying it represents the diversity of Europe.
- Catholic Church Begins Tracking Rising Vandalism
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has recently begun tracking vandalism and other forms of attacks on Catholic churches and monuments across the country. They created a dedicated section on their website that lists all the incidents of vandalism and other forms of attacks on Catholic sites. According to their website, since May 2020, there have been 111 recorded incidents of such attacks. Aside from sites and statues vandalized with various hateful messages, other incidents listed by the USCCB included arson, religious statues that are beheaded and shattered, defaced gravestones, and other forms of property damage. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma issued a joint statement, calling for dialogue between the church and the perpetrators to discuss the message of the Catholic church, adding “Where misunderstanding of our teachings has caused anger toward us, we must offer clarity; but this destruction must stop.”
- Lawsuit Exposes International Human Trafficking in Hindu Temples
Location: United States of America
A recent expansion to a lawsuit originally filed against a New Jersey temple of the Hindu organization Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), has revealed a human trafficking scheme that spans across oceans and five U.S. states. The lawsuit now also includes BAPS-affiliated temples in California, Illinois, Texas, and Georgia. The organization is accused of luring mostly Dalit men (known as “the Untouchables”) from India and making them work in grueling conditions for little more than $1.00 per hour. BAPS brought the workers to the U.S. under the R-1 Nonimmigrant Religious Workers visas which are intended for individuals who work in religious capacities, not manual labor. The death of a worker known as Mohan Lal triggered a worker strike against the unsafe working conditions. Workers claimed their passports were stolen, and that they were forced to live and work in a guarded compound and threatened with violence if they left unescorted. The lawsuit triggered a federal raid of the New Jersey property and three U.S. federal agencies are involved in the investigation including the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Labor.
- Hindu Devotees Bathe in Toxic Yamuna River
On November 10th, Hindu devotees gathered on the banks of the hazardously polluted Yamuna river in New Delhi to celebrate Chhath Puja, as the water of the river was covered with toxic foam. The foam is so plentiful that it gives the river the appearance of being covered in snow and ice glaciers. On Chhath Puja, devotees take what is supposed to be a self-cleansing dip in the Ganges River, including its tributary rivers. Unfortunately, the Ganges and its tributaries, including the Yamuna, are some of the most polluted rivers in the world. Factories and other industrial plants are known to dump their waste directly into the river, despite government regulations. Unfazed by health hazards due to the polluted water, some people stood knee-deep, reciting prayers while others submerged themselves completely and drank the water. One devotee told reporters, “What fear? If we are scared, then how can we pray?”
- Mosque Vandalized in San Francisco
Location: San Francisco
On November 12th, police responded to a report of vandalism at the Islamic Center of San Francisco, the oldest mosque in San Francisco and the first in the Bay Area. According to the report, members of the mosque were inside the building after Friday Jummah prayers when they heard the sound of glass being shattered. The police observed that a window had been broken by a beer bottle that was thrown through the glass. Shahbaz Shaikh, a religious scholar and one of the Islamic Center of San Francisco board members, said that the community is distressed by the incident, saying, "We're scared, we were uncertain, we didn't understand what was happening." London Breed, the mayor of San Francisco, tweeted her support for the local Muslim community. "When any community in San Francisco is attacked, we must stand together, and I stand in solidarity with our Muslim community,” she stated.
- 500+ Hindus Threaten Mass Self-Immolation Over Comedy Show
On November 14th, a comedy club in Goa canceled controversial comedian Munawar Faruqui’s sold-out show after over 500 Hindus threatened to set themselves on fire if he was allowed to perform. Faruqui became an international symbol of India’s suppression of free expression earlier this year when he and four other artists were arrested for allegedly making “indecent” remarks against Hindu deities. Despite the police openly acknowledging that they had no evidence that Faruqui told such jokes, he spent 35 days in jail. The case against him was motivated by his Muslim background. After his release, extreme right-wing Hindu groups have continued to target Faruqui over his stand-up comedy, and numerous shows have been cancelled after credible threats. Earlier this month, the Hindutva vigilante gang Bajrang Dal threatened to burn down a Mumbai venue if Faruqui continued his performance. While the militant Hindus attempt to stifle his domestic performances, their attacks have garnered an international audience for Faruqui.
- Hindu Extremists Burn Home of Ex-Minister Who Compared Them to ISIS
On Monday, November 15th, a group of ultra-nationalist Hindus set fire to the home of Salman Khurshid, the former Foreign Minister of India, after he published a book in which he compares radical Hindutva groups to Islamist groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram. The book titled Sunrise over Ayodhya: Nationhood in Our Times centers around the Ayodhya judgment in which the Supreme Court of India unanimously granted rights for constructing a temple to Lord Rama over the demolished Babri mosque, a site that is in many ways a symbol of the nation’s interreligious conflicts. Khurshid's book actually praises the humanist elements of Hinduism and supports the controversial Ayodhya judgment, saying that it is "an opportunity to find closure on the unpleasant past and look forward to a shared future." Police say 20 hardline Hindus gathered outside his house, shouted slogans, threw stones, broke windows, set fire to a door, and burned an effigy of Khurshid. Four suspects linked to the attack have been arrested.
- Research Reveals Most Banned Religions
A study recently published by the Pew Research Center explored the global restrictions on religion across 198 countries and territories. The data analyzed by Pew Research Center included reports from the United Nations, human rights groups, conflict and terrorism analyses, and reports related to religious freedoms. According to Pew, 55% of countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have religion-related bans, making the MENA region the region with the highest share of religious bans. Among all religions, the Jehovah's Witnesses, a Christan-based group, are considered the most restricted religious organization in the world. Bahaism is another highly restricted faith, with bans in six countries across three regions. The Islamic off-shoot community of the Ahmadiyya are also among the most highly persecuted groups, with bans in four countries and amendments in the Pakistani constitution that prohibit them from declaring themselves Muslims.