- ‘I'm an atheist, y’all’: Britney Spears Comes Out as a Non-Believer
Britney Spears, the 90s princess of pop, stated that she no longer believes in god. In an audio recording uploaded on Instagram and then deleted, she stated, "I'm an atheist, y'all." Britney's comment came after the airing of a 60 Minute Australia broadcast that featured an interview with her ex-husband Kevin Federline. In the audio, the singer-songwriter went on a tirade against her family and the trauma she received from how they treated her. Previously, in 2008, Britney's father, "Jamie" Spears, was granted control over her finances after a period of mental instability. The erratic behavior followed the pop star's divorce from Kevin Federline in 2007. Last year, the court finally decided to end the conservatorship, which many believed was inherently illegal, corrupt, and the setting for an abusive high-control environment of mental torment over the singer. Britney said, "God would not allow that to happen to me if a god existed." She added, "I don't believe in God anymore because of the way my children and my family have treated me, and there is nothing to believe anymore."
- Muslims Harass Protest Against Death Penalty for Iranian Lesbians
Location: Cologne, Germany
Recently, a group of young Muslims aggressively heckled a group protesting the death sentence of Iranian LGBTQ activists Zahra Sedighi-Hamadani and Elham Chobdar in Cologne, Germany. An Instagram video posted by veteran activist Maryam Namazie showed the angry youth shouting "Allahu Akbar" as the group tried to explain their intentions. In an interview with the Atheist Republic News Team, Namazie said she was about to give a speech when the incident happened. "I was holding an ‘Allah is a Woman’ sign," she said. It was just one of the signs the protesters were holding, while most signs in the protests supported Zahra and Elham. "They saw the sign, and that's when they started shouting ‘Allahu Akbar,’" Namazie explained. The caption of her video reads, "Let me repeat, they were not offended by two women being executed in Iran by an Islamic regime but by a sign." Namazie saw beyond the hateful speech by the hecklers. "They were mixing [sexes], they were dressed in the western style, they were in the public spaces, and [one was] not wearing a hijab," she described the group of young Muslims who heckled their protest. "For me, these are young people who are stuck in these positions, who obviously want to live the life they want but are held by identity politics and culturalism," she said. She compared the realities of the two activists they are fighting for, Zahra and Elham, to that of the hecklers. "Dogma and hate were so strong it could have warped their minds," she said. She said there are times that she gets mad with people that are unwilling to listen to opposing opinions. But this time, she did not feel anger towards them. "I find their reaction heartbreaking; it did not anger me; I felt heartbroken," she said.
- Thief's Fingers Chopped Off in Islamic Punishment in Iran
In Iran, convicted robber 28-year-old Morteza Jalali, had four fingers amputated by a guillotine-type device installed at Tehran's Evin Prison despite calls for leniency from surgeons and human rights groups. Mohammad-Hussein Doroudi, the chief prosecutor of Iran's Khorasan Razavi province, stated, "The judiciary does not show mercy to those who break the norms of the society and disrupt the public order." The Quran justifies this ruling as it states in Al-Ma'idah (chapter 5), verse 38: "As for the thief, the male, and the female, amputate their hands in recompense for what they committed as a deterrent (punishment) from Allah." The head of the Iranian Association of Surgeons, Iraj Fazel, called on the judiciary not to amputate, calling it "worrying and horrifying." Morteza is the most recent victim after reports from Amnesty International confirmed the amputation of the fingers of prisoners Pouya Torabi on July 27th and Sayad Barat Hosseini on May 31st. Amnesty says Sayad Barat lost consciousness due to pain and blood loss and suffered an infection. He has been held in isolation since.
- "Inciting Hatred;" Turkish Pop Star Arrested for Joke on Religious Schools
Recently, Gülşen Çolakoğlu, a 46 years old Turkish pop star, has been under house arrest and facing prosecution for a simple joke about Turkish religious schools that she made on stage. During a concert in April in Istanbul, Gülşen made a joke in which she said that her bandmate's "perversion" could be explained by his attendance in an "Imam Hatip" religious school. A video of the singer's comment went viral, with a hashtag calling for her arrest. Following the outrage, Gülşen was arrested for questioning and later detained. She was subsequently placed under house arrest after four days in jail and then indicted for "inciting hatred." The outrage reached the senior members of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AKP). Gülşen later apologized for her comments and said it was a joke that was never meant to hurt anyone. Gülşen's lawyer requested her release from house arrest but was rejected.
- Circumcision "Gone Wrong" Results in Almost Completely Amputated Genitals
On September 5th, a baby was rushed to the hospital in northern Israel after his circumcision went wrong, with his genitals being almost completely amputated. The baby was taken to Haifa's Rambam Health Care Campus, where three surgeons performed a long and incredibly complicated operation. Dr. Akram Asadi stated that he had never seen such a severe injury due to circumcision in his 20 years as a surgeon. Later it was found that the mohel (the person who performs the Jewish rite of circumcision) was uncertified and did not undergo the required training. Israeli media reported that it is too early to say if the surgery was successful; however, permanent damage is expected. Fortunately, the injury wasn't life-threatening, and the baby is reportedly in stable condition. According to media reports, the child's parents knew this mohel, who also circumcised their eldest son. But such accidents can still occur, especially if the mohel isn't well-trained.
- Failings of New York Hasidic Education Exposed by Investigative Report
Location: New York
The New York Times has released a report after a lengthy investigation into New York's Hasidic Jewish schools, also known as yeshivas. Hasidic leaders have denounced the summary findings, calling it cherry-picked data and outright lies that portray the Hasidic community as "villains." Young Advocates for Fair Education (YAFFED) began petitioning the New York State Education Department in 2011, alleging that children attending these schools are left "completely unprepared to work in, or interact with, the world outside his community." In 2019, the state Department of Education released a statement that of the twenty-eight schools they visited, only two met the "substantially equivalent" status, while others were "developing." YAFFED said it is typical for a Yeshiva graduate to have abysmal skills in basic math, writing, and English, as Yiddish is spoken in school and at home. According to the New York Times, "Only nine schools in the state had less than 1 percent of students testing at grade level in 2019, the last year for which full data was available. All of them were Hasidic boys' schools." Theultra-Orthodox Jewish community sees the investigation as a religious freedom issue and fiercely resists curriculum changes. Leaving the Hasidic community is extremely difficult as former members have inadequate job skills and are usually forced to break ties with everyone and everything they've ever known. Footsteps, founded in 2003, is the only organization in North America designed to help transition former ultra-Orthodox into society and helps provide hope and vocational services to those who make the brave decision to leave.
- Islamists Behead Six & Shoot Nun in Mozambique
On September 6th, at least six people were beheaded, and an Italian nun was shot and killed in Mozambique’s Nampula province. According to reports, Daesh has claimed responsibility for the attacks. In June 2021, due to an escalation of Islamic State-linked insurgency, the 16-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) approved the deployment of troops into Mozambique. A Telegram channel (an encrypted messaging app) associated with the group also issued a statement saying that Sister Maria De Coppi “went too far in spreading Christianity,” according to Reuters. The insurgency has displaced almost 800,000 people and caused a $20 billion natural gas project to halt entirely. President Filipe Nyusi said this latest killing spree occurred as insurgents fled from SADC soldiers. The insurgents often attack security force posts and convoys, as well as civilian state workers and facilities such as schools and clinics. They also injure, kill and kidnap residents, especially young children and women. Mass beheadings take place as revenge for resisting recruitment or assisting the authorities.
- Christians Escalate Harassment of Pagan Festivals
During Witchfest, held annually in mid-July, dozens of aggressive Christian preachers stormed into the gathering of pagans and witches celebrating their community. Witchfest is a nonprofit organization that raises funds for various pagan groups and strengthens community bonds. Some members of conservative Christian groups and street preachers always make it into pagan celebrations. Still, their numbers were far larger this year than expected, with around 30 evangelists showing up. The organizer of WitchsFest USA, Starr RavenHawk, was extremely upset by the disruptions. A Christian group gathered on a street corner near one of the workshop stalls around 10 am, later entering the event space itself. Many vendors left early, feeling threatened. The group began preaching to the attendees to rectify their ways. RavenHawk called the police, but according to her, the cops did nothing. She said, "(The officers) treated us as if we were invading the Christians' space as if they had more rights than we do." RavenHawk said that the people that came this year were not just protesting, adding, "They are collectively at war with us. They made that clear." Attendees at an Atlanta Mystic South conference were also harassed similarly on the same weekend as this year's Witchfest.
- EuroPride Canceled in Serbia After Horrific Christian Backlash
Due to opposition from right-wing groups, the Serbian government recently announced that the EuroPride parade would be essentially banned. The parade was scheduled to take place on September 17th in the capital city of Belgrade. Bishop Nikanor of Banat urged the orthodox groups in the country to help stop the ones who were "desecrating the holy city of Belgrade." In a YouTube video, Nikanor said, "I will curse all those who organize and participate in something like that," He added. "I can do that much. If I had a weapon, I would use it, I would use that force if only I had it, but I do not." Thousands of Serbian Orthodox Church members and traditionalist, extreme right-wing groups, gathered to counter EuroPride. The church's clergy has tried to bar many pride walks and even "blessed" the violent counter-demonstrations. In response, the Serbian government announced that the pride celebration would be canceled or postponed. President Aleksandar Vucic said, with the rising tensions and the concerns of the former province of Kosovo, Serbia is "pressured with all kinds of problems" and that it is impossible to "handle everything," referring to their inability to provide adequate security for the pride march.
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