- Hindu Priest Calls For Sexual Violence Against Muslim Women in India
On April 2nd, a local Hindu priest in Uttar Pradesh, India, announced via loudspeaker in front of a mosque that if Muslim men harassed Hindu girls, he would kidnap Muslim women and rape them openly. This atrocious comment was captured in a video that was tweeted on April 7th by Mohammad Zubair, co-founder of fact-checking website Alt News. The video shows the priest sitting on the passenger side of a car, broadcasting a speech through a microphone. According to NDTV, a major broadcast and digital news agency in India, the crowd cheered “Jai Shri Ram” [Glory to Lord Rama] as the priest announced his plans. This video shows the priest saying to the local Muslim population, “Neither your place nor you people will remain.” He is seen to be escorted by multiple police officers during his speech in several videos.
- Atheist Meet-Up Postponed Due to Objections from Hindu-Nationalists
Recently, an Atheist meet-up scheduled to take place on April 10th in Maharashtra had to be postponed because of opposition from Hindutva groups. The conference called the “7th Nastik Melava 2022 (7th Atheist Conference 2022)” was organized by the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Vicharmanch. Nitin Hande, one of the event organizers, was informed by the police that “organizing such an event on the day of Ram Navami festival (the festival that celebrates the birthday of Hindu God Lord Rama) may cause law and order problems.” Hande said that the police claimed that various unnamed organizations believe that “the atheist conference is [purposefully] planned on Ram Navami for hurting the sentiments of the believers.” Hande and his team, through a letter, requested the police to assist with the conference, explaining that it was a “non-political program, which does not aim to hurt anybody.” However, the police claimed they had not received any complaint from the Hindu Festival organizers. They still asked the atheist conference organizers to move the event to April 24th. Moreover, the police also demanded a list of the topics and scripts of speeches to be given at the conference, although this was never required for the six previous meetings.
- Taliban Bans the Farming of Opium Poppies
On April 3rd, Haibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban’s supreme leader, announced a ban on the cultivation of opium poppies. He also stated, “If anyone breaks the decree, we will destroy the farm immediately and treat the lawbreaker according to Sharia law.” The announcement also prohibits the trade of alcohol, hashish, and heroin. This banning was announced amidst the crippling economic conditions brought in part by international sanctions. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Afghan opiates supply 8 out of 10 opiate users worldwide. Many farmers in Afghanistan were forced to swap legal crops for opium plants after years of war, drought, and financial sanctions. According to Al Jazeera, the ban on the cultivation of opium poppy and outlawing the selling of heroin is a bid for international recognition. Following the announcement, Abdul Salam Hanafi, the acting Deputy Prime Minister, requested international support in helping Afghan farmers, reliant on opium production, diversify their crops.
- British Teacher Suspended for Using Mug with Image of the Prophet Mohammed
The unnamed teacher from Colchester Royal Grammar School in Essex was suspended over a mug depicting an image of the Prophet Muhammad.The picture on the mug features an image from the weekly comic strip “Jesus and Mo,” which deals in humorous and poignant religious satire. The school after being notified promised to take "robust action" against the incident. The Atheist Republic News team spoke to the creator of the Jesus and Mo comic, who goes by the pseudonym “Mo Jones.” Mo Jones expressed his criticism of the action taken against the teacher, stating, "I do not think the suspension was fair or proportionate, given what is publicly known about the case.” "We should not be encouraging or respecting religious taboos held by a few fanatics," he added. The Daily Mail also reported that the image was taken weeks prior and then circulated online, at which point it picked up viral outrage. The school is reacting with a suspension because of the "growing concern from students." Scarlett Mansfield, a former student who claimed that Colchester Royal Grammar School is plagued with sexist behavior, said, "Everyone has known for ages that this teacher is completely like that.”
- Indian State to Use Blockchain Technology to Issue Caste Certificates
Gadchiroli, a district in the state of Maharashtra, one of India’s most industrialized states, plans to use the Polygon blockchain to issue caste certificates to 1.1 million Etapalli and Bhamragad villages residents. India Times called it the “next big thing in the crypto world.” A decentralized blockchain digital platform provider, LegitDoc, will be used to implement this project. Neil Martis, the co-founder of LegitDoc, said, “70 percent of people in the Gadchiroli district are tribal, which means most of them require a caste certificate,” adding that the blockchain-based caste certificates will allow the government to distribute assistance efficiently.Caste certificates are often required to access different government-funded programs intended to benefit and support various disadvantaged communities. Shubham Gupta, the Assistant Collector of Gadchiroli, stated that these digital certificates would ease the government’s administrative burden. Martis explained that Polygon blockchain has the infrastructure required for connecting “a document issuer, document holders, and document verifiers.” These three elements are necessary for the verification of the digital caste certificates.
- Indian Journalists Forced to Strip for Criticizing Hindu-nationalist Leader
On April 2nd, the local police in Madhya Pradesh arrested eight men, including a journalist and a prominent theater artist, after which they were beaten, stripped, and photographed. According to NDTV, the incident happened when Kanishka Tiwari, a local journalist and YouTuber, tried covering the protest against the arrest of theater artist Neeraj Kunder. Tiwari was arrested along with his cameraman and was interrogated by police. The reason for their arrest was their negative coverage of a local Member of the Legislative Assembly, Kedarnath Shukla, from the Hindu-nationalist BJP party. The politician accused Kunder of creating a fake Facebook account and posting "abusive posts" against him and his son. Majoj Soni, Station House Office of the Kotawali police, explained, "We keep them in jail in this way [stripped] so that they cannot commit suicide using their clothes." However, Mukhesh Shrivastava, the police superintendent of Madhya Pradesh, said the incident is being investigated and "... such action is not acceptable."
- Indian Boycott of Muslims: Sculptors, Mango Sellers, & Cab Drivers Targeted
Across the Indian state of Karnataka, Muslim businesses have been facing increasing anti-Muslim sentiments caused by contentious political rhetoric. This is the same state which made international headlines over the controversy of banning the hijab in government-run schools and is seen by many as an experiment in the open marginalization of the Muslim population. In April, a right-wing Hindu group urged the public to boycott Muslim mango traders claiming that the Muslims supposedly monopolize the mango trade in Karnataka. A call to ban Muslim sculptors from sculpting Hindu idols is gaining traction. Sthanik Srinivasan of the Cheluvanaraya Swamy temple in Melukote said he would campaign across Karnataka to ban Muslim sculptors. “The idols of Hindu gods sculpted by Muslim artists can’t be installed in the Hindu temples; it is against the traditions,” he said. In Bengaluru, Karnataka’s capital, calls to boycott Muslim cab drivers and tour operators are rising. A far-right Hindu group, Bharatha Rakshana Vedike (BRV), leads the campaign. According to Bharat Shetty, president of BRV, dealing with Muslim businesses disrespects Hindu culture and tradition. “They call us kafirs, and just as their religion is important to them, ours is to us,” Shetty said. Saroj Chadha from the Times of India speculates that the hijab row has opened a Pandora’s Box of increasing pressure against Muslims, including Muslim businesses.
- "Fast From 'Whiteness'" at Chicago Church Sparks Massive Backlash Online
A Christian church in Oak Park, Illinois, has gained much attention lately after announcing their "Fasting From Whiteness" for the Easter Lenten season. The First United Church in Oak Park put up a banner announcing this "fast" outside their church. The banner also stated that the church would "build our worship life around the voices of Black people, indigenous people, and people of color." Turning Point USA, a conservative organization, posted a video criticizing the church's decision. TPUSA's reporter said, "In this case, they have decided to separate the White culture from those around it. We want to be creating unity instead of creating a lot of disunity by separating people based on the color of their skin." The video was quickly picked up by conservative news outlets, including the New York Post and Fox News. The church's senior pastor, Rev. John Edgerton, said they "began receiving about five voicemail messages a minute" after being featured on Fox News, and their website crashed. The church's senior pastor, Rev. John Edgerton, who created the program himself, said it is "crucially important for predominantly white churches to take up this work." "In the United States, our voice is the majority voice, and our message is the one that is always going to get a hearing," he said.
- Spain Criminalizes the Harassment of Women Undergoing Abortions
On April 6, Spain’s Senate approved landmark legislation criminalizing the harassment of women who are undergoing abortions. Proposed by the Socialist Party, the new law will help women avoid being harassed when “exercising the right to voluntary interruption of pregnancy.” Abortions through the 14th week of pregnancy are legal in Spain. These abortions do not require medical justifications. Despite being legal, doctors in government hospitals decline from performing the procedure, calling themselves conscientious objectors. This also forces women looking for abortions to seek out private clinics and travel hundreds of kilometers to access private abortion clinics. Most of these private abortion clinics are camped at by anti-abortion protesters. According to the Association of Accredited Clinics for Pregnancy Termination (ACAI), more than 100 women report being harassed when they go into abortion clinics each year. ACAI added that 89% of women seeking abortion reported being harassed, while 66% felt that they were in danger. Some lawmakers argue that the new law will infringe on the constitutional right to freedom of speech.
- Atheist Republic Approved for YouTube Fundraising!
Good news for Atheist Republic! Atheist Republic has recently been approved for fundraising on YouTube. This means that you can donate to Atheist Republic directly through the Atheist Republic YouTube channel, and YouTube will cover 100% of the transaction fees! This is also fantastic because previously viewers could only contribute during live stream events, but now through the fundraising feature, viewers can go to already posted videos and send donations. This new feature will be an excellent tool in Atheist Republic’s ability to fundraise and continue to provide our atheist-centered content!