- Muslim Outrage Forces Canadian University to Pull Poster of Lesbian Hijabis
On May 17th, also known as International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOTB), Western University posted a graphic featuring two women in hijab who appeared as if they were about to kiss. The university immediately faced outrage from Ontario’s local Muslim community. Many Muslims condemned the poster stating that the content was “inappropriate” and “disrespectful” because the hijab holds religious and spiritual connotations. The backlash forced the removal of the post from the University’s social media pages after a petition against the imagery received over 2,000 signatures. A local Muslim leader, Imam Abd Alfatah Twakkal, stated, "While we appreciate that the intent is to promote inclusion, the poster is doing the opposite. Singling a Muslim religious symbol in that setting is inappropriate." Opiyo Oloya, a diversity and equity specialist for the university, said "We believe this presents an opportunity for genuine, thoughtful discussion about how we can best support members of the Queer Muslim community and those from all faiths and backgrounds within the 2SLGBTQ+ community." "In order to promote that discussion, we have removed the image from the post to not distract from these important conversations."
In the end, it seems Western University's promotion of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia resulted in submitting to Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.
- Hindu-Nationalist Influence in Australia; PM Wears Symbol of Hindutva Group
During an event hosted by the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) Australia, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese have been photographed wearing saffron scarves bearing a Banyan tree symbol used by a militant right-wing Hindu nationalist group. Previously, Home Affairs Minister Kristina Keneally wore the same scarf while attending a function hosted by the same organization. Australia's national elections are to be held at the end of May. It is speculated that these faux-pas result from Australian politicians trying to pander to the rapidly growing Indian-Australian population while seemingly unaware of the bigoted ideology behind the VHP. VHP's Hindutva political ideology is based on the explicit desire to consolidate Hindu identity, "protect" Hindu dharma, and combat conversion to Christianity and Islam, and the implicit desire to establish India as an ethnic Hindu Nation-State. Back in India, this has even resulted in the murder of missionaries and their children. Unfortunately, these Australian politicians are unwittingly lending legitimacy to this organization and its ideology, both in Australia and abroad.
- Debate Over "Burkini" Proposal Sparks Controversy in French City
Recently, Grenoble, a city in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of southeastern France, has moved to allow the "burkini," women's swimwear that only leaves the face, hands, and feet uncovered, in public swimming pools. In the weeks before the Grenoble council voted to allow burkinis in public open-air pools, the city's mayor Eric Piolle was met by fierce resistance after tabling the motion. Piolle proposes to let people dress "how they like" at outdoor pools, including allowing women to be topless. Most of France's public pools have strict swimwear policies, such as requiring men to wear tight-fit racing trunks instead of longer swim shorts. Right-wing politicians in France believe that "burkini," is a form of Islamism. Laurent Wauquiez, head of the Regional Council of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, threatened to pull funding from the town by stating, "Not a cent of regional money will finance your submission to Islamism." Mayor Piolle maintains that this is merely a "feminist" choice to let people swim however they feel most comfortable.
- Leaked Data Reveals Uyghur Region in China Has World's Highest Prison Rate
Recently, the Associated Press (AP) acquired more than 10,000 names of Muslim minority Uyghurs from Konasheher County who were imprisoned due to China's "war on terror." The leaked data reveals that nearly one in 25 Uyghurs in that county received prison sentences based on trumped-up terrorism-related charges, achieving the highest incarceration rate in the world. Konasheher is only one of several counties in southern Xinjiang that form the Uyghur bosom of China, with more than 267,000 Uyghurs. This list exposes how China depends on the "war on terror" ruse to keep more than a million Uyghurs suppressed with long-term imprisonment or internment camps. By interviewing eight Uyghurs who recognized 194 of those named, the Associated Press verified the authenticity of the evidence. The list revealed that the prison terms handed out to those convicted were between 2 to 25 years, with an average nine-year sentence. Some charges even include vague offenses like "picking quarrels and provoking trouble." The spokesman for Xinjiang, Elijan Anayat, denied these statistics and stated, "We would never specifically target specific regions, ethnic groups or religions, much less the Uyghurs."
- Mob Sets Mosque on Fire in Madhya Pradesh, India
On May 16th, a violent mob set ablazed a mosque in Neemuch city in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India. The mosque is located in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood. Rioters also threw stones at Muslim homes and assaulted Muslim citizens. The riots reportedly started after a Hanuman (a Hindu monkey god) idol was installed in the area next to a Muslim holy site. Suraj Kumar Verm, Superintendent of Police, stated "We are looking at the CCTVs to identify the miscreants who desecrated the mosque." A total of four FIRs (police reports) were registered after the attack.
- Hindu Nationalists Intimidate Indian Atheist Conference
Members of the atheist organization “Shaheed Bhagat Singh Vichar Manch” received threats from Hindu nationalists who objected to their seventh annual conference being held at the same time as Ram Navami, a holiday that celebrates the birthday of Hindu god Rama. As tickets went on sale, members of the organization started to receive even more threats. Despite the conference selling out exceptionally fast after a two-year pandemic postponement, the number of threats was so overwhelming that the conference had to be postponed. When the meeting finally occurred on April 24th, many of the seats sold were empty out of fear. The conference date had to be changed partially due to concerns from local law enforcement. A member of the organization, Nitin Hande, stated, “Police denied the permission to host the event on April 10th, saying that they had pressure from many right-wing fringe groups.”
- Christian Homework Asks Kids to Explain How to Make Their Friends Straight
Recently, students in a Christian middle school in Kentucky, USA, were assigned homework where they must outline how they would use biblical morality to speak to a hypothetical gay friend and try to persuade them to stop being gay. The syllabus states: "Essay: Write a letter to a friend of your same gender who is struggling with homosexuality." The assignment's stated objectives are to persuade the "friend" that God's design for them is good, that homosexuality will not satisfy them, and that the Christian loves them even if they disapprove of the gay person's "lifestyle." A parent of one of the students given this assignment took a screenshot and sent it to JP Davis, an LGBTQ+ activist, where he shared it on Twitter. Darin A Long, Superintendent of Christian Academy of Louisville, said the assignment was taken out of context. According to his statement, "This particular assignment, in context, was how a person could discuss homosexuality with a friend from a biblical perspective with compassion and love."
- English Police Arrest 3 After Reports of Female Genital Mutilation Emerge
The police arrested three individuals in West Midlands Region, England, over suspicion that Female Genitalia Mutation (FGM) may be taking place in an unregistered school. A West Midlands Police spokesman stated that they received a call on May 10th from an investigator looking into an unregistered school. According to the Police, the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (OFSTED) discovered a room with a table and medical equipment during an inspection of the unregistered school. "There were concerns raised about possible illegal practices which may have taken place at the premises," the police spokesman said, adding, "As part of our inquiries, two men, aged 32 and 61, have been arrested on suspicion of being involved in female genital mutilation." West Midlands Police also acknowledge the possible social implication of the incident, stating, "it's important to stress we're still working to establish whether any offenses have occurred." Those arrested have been released from bail on strict conditions while the investigation continues.
- Call to Action: Help Nigerian Imprisoned Atheist Mubarak Bala!
Many members of the Atheist Republic community have asked about what they can do to support Mubarak Bala, the Nigerian atheist activist recently sentenced to 24 years in prison for blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad. Humanists International has written an open letter to Kano State Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje regarding the unjust conviction and sentencing of Bala, and they are welcoming everyone to add their signature to show support and gather more attention. Bala was initially arrested in April of 2020 over Facebook posts deemed blasphemous. James Ibor, Bala's lawyer, confirmed that Bala had been denied access to health care, kept in solitary confinement, and forced "to worship the Islamic way" since he's been imprisoned. The open letter urges the Nigerian government to quash his conviction and immediately and unconditionally release Bala. You can add your signature to the open letter here.
Humanists International is also encouraging supporters of Bala to send virtual or physical letters to Bala's family to lend international moral support to them during this difficult time. If you would like to share your support directly with Mubarak and his family, you can find the information do so here.
- Atheist Republic Persian YouTube Channel Hits 15k Subscribers!
Atheist Republic's Persian-language community, known as Jomhooriehe Bi Khodayan, recently accomplished a significant milestone when the YouTube channel surpassed 15,000 subscribers! This is a substantive number considering the proportionally smaller size of the global Persian-speaking audience in comparison to the global English-speaking population. When discussing this milestone, Atheist Republic's CEO Susanna McIntyre spoke of the tremendous value of promoting Enlightenment values to people living under restrictive governments in their native language and her joy that Atheist Republic is a leader in providing this type of programming. Jomhooriehe Bi Khodayan has built an incredible and welcoming community dedicated to promoting freethinking and challenging taboos and is garnering growing influence in Persian-speaking intellectual circles!