Pakistani Taliban threaten Women's Day March organizers
Location: Islamabad, Pakistan
On March 12th, women's rights activists in Pakistan were threatened by the Pakistani Taliban. The activists were accused of demonstrating blasphemy and obscenity during protests held on International Women's Day. The Taliban statement followed many fake images and video clips on social media that suggested that the March 8th protests had insulted Islam. Islamist groups held demonstrations in several Pakistani cities to demand that the government prosecute the march organizers for blasphemy. In some cases, messages spread on social media shared by journalists and politicians with millions of followers included false allegations of waving the French flag at the Women's Day march. Simultaneously, doctored video and audio showed participants chanting slogans viewed as blasphemous against Islamic figures. Hassan Abbas, a security professional at the National Defense University in Washington, said the Taliban statement aims to create fear, gain the sympathy of religious radicals, and recruit extremists in Pakistan's urban centers.
New Zealand likely to accept woman accused of being ISIS
Suhayra Aden, 25, along with her children, are being held in a deportation center in Turkey after crossing the border from Syria illegally. Aden, originally from New Zealand, acquired dual nationality after moving to Australia when she was six and traveled to Syria from there in 2014 to join Islamic State on an Australian passport. That led to Australia stripping her of citizenship in 2020, enraging New Zealand. According to the Turkish Department of Foreign Affairs, she will be extradited to New Zealand with her two children as negotiations about their fate continue. Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, accused Australia of "abdicating" its responsibility by revoking Aden's citizenship. There's no set timeframe for her possible return to New Zealand, but there is an expectation that the situation should be resolved either way within the next month. Under the Terrorism Suppression Act of 2002, Aden can be jailed for up to 14 years for intentionally "participating in a terrorist group," even if it happened abroad; but that depends on the New Zealand justice system proving Aden's offenses.
Yogi Adityanath says secularism is the biggest threat to India’s tradition
On March 6, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said secularism is the biggest obstacle for Indian tradition getting recognition on the global stage. He warned that the misguided people who are betraying the country for their own profit would not be spared. He motivated people not to get involved in petty communal disputes as that might cause damage to the harmonious spirit of Hindustan. The CM's speech took place during the launch of the first edition of the Global Encyclopedia of the Ramayana, one of the two major Sanskrit epics, the other one being the Mahabharata. Adityanath mentioned that the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata give us the best life lessons and provide knowledge about the expansion of Indian boundaries. The CM is known to denounce anyone questioning the Hindu culture. During his visit to Cambodia, he narrated a story of a Buddhist guide found in the Angkor Wat temple and stated that he is confident enough to admit that Buddhism has originated from Hinduism. He considers the existence of Ram in Ayodhya a historical fact and heavily criticizes anyone denying or questioning these ancient stories.
This Instagram account EXPOSES churches’ wealth
Location: Dallas, TX
In 2019, Ben Kirby started posting screenshots of pastors next to price tags and the street value of shoes they were wearing on Instagram. His account, called @PreachersNSneakers had attracted 100,000 followers within a month. Some of the items are as expensive as a $3,600 Gucci jacket, $1,250 Louboutin fanny pack, and $2,541 Ricci crocodile belt. Eventually, Kirby started questioning whether it’s appropriate to generate massive revenue from selling the gospel of Jesus. Even though he initially posted and podcasted without sharing his real name, recently, he decided to share his real identity with the release of his new book, “PreachersNsneakers.” The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated in 2019 that the median salary for clergy was $53,180. However, Kirby’s Instagram feed showcases how a nationwide evangelical market has become lucrative for leaders with celebrity status. His intention is to get people to question the status quo within the church and make their own assessments.
U.S. joins EU In Sanctions Against China
Location: Washington, DC
On March 22nd, the United States joined the European Union’s decision to impose travel and economic sanctions on four Chinese officials in response to hundreds of Uyghur Muslims' imprisonment. The last time the E.U. imposed sanctions was over 30 years ago, in 1989, in protest of China's treatment of the Tiananmen Square demonstrators in Beijing. A foreign ministry spokesperson from China condemned the sanctions, saying that they severely undermine the China-EU diplomatic relationship. The representative went on to say the incidents regarding Uyghur Muslims are nothing but "lies and disinformation." U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the U.S. would continue to stand with its allies around the globe in calling for an immediate cease to the People’s Republic of China’s crimes, and for justice for the many victims.
Chechen police detain 20 to track down gay victims’ parents
Since 2017, activists have shared accounts of the wide scale crackdown on the LGBT+ community in Chechnya. Ismail Isayev and Salekh Magamadov, two Chechnyan brothers, both gay, escaped from Chechnya to Russia in 2020 amid one of these crackdowns. But the brothers were captured by Russian security agents earlier in 2021 and forcibly returned to Chechnya. They stated that the Government framed them with charges of terror-related offenses. The pair faces up to 15 years in prison. According to eyewitnesses, cops raided Komsomolskoye, Urus-Martanovsky, and detained at least 20 of the brothers' relatives. Their mother accused Chechnya's deeply conservative leaders of "fabricating" the legal case against her children. Kremlin-appointed strongman, Ramzan Kadyrov, is the man behind these crackdowns. Kadyrov said in 2017, "We don't have any gays. If there are any, take them to Canada."
Charlie Hebdo: Stabbings suspect 'radicalized by Pakistani groups'
Location: Paris, France
Le Parisien newspaper reported on March 22nd that a Pakistani man, who attacked the former Charlie Hebdo office, was radicalized by videos of preachers in his home country and anti-France demonstrations. The 26-year-old man, Zaheer Hassan Mahmood, spent days leading up to his attack consuming extremist preachers on YouTube and TikTok denouncing France and Charlie Hebdo. The perpetrator was also influenced by Prime Minister Imran Khan, who accused Macron of "attacking Islam." Mahmood did not realize the magazine had changed their office location after the 2015 attack and presumed the two people he attacked were employees of Charlie Hebdo. Both victims sustained serious injuries. Mahmood is from the village of Kothli Qazi in the Punjab province. He entered France with false papers to claim asylum. A video was found on his phone recorded before his attack calling for the decapitation of blasphemers. He received a call from Greece the same day, which appeared to refer to a pre-meditated assault.
Indian Woman Kills Neighbor’s Son to Please Gods
Location: Delhi, India
The Delhi Police reported on March 21st that a woman, Neelam Gupta, killed her neighbor's three-year-old son on an occultist's advice. After being arrested, the 25-year-old told the police that she was under a lot of pressure to conceive a child. To escape the harassment by her in-laws and relatives, she went to seek advice from a tantrik who lived in her native village in Uttar Pradesh's Hardoi. The tantrik suggested that Neelam sacrifice a child and offer it to the gods. In return, she will be rewarded by becoming a mother. The missing boy's parents approached the police on March 20th with a complaint. During a search operation, the police found a bag on the roof of a building in northwest Delhi's Rohini. The body of the missing child with bruises on his neck was found in the bag.
Louisiana Archdiocese asks Catholics to avoid Johnson & Johnson vaccine
Location: New Orleans
The Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans said the recently-approved Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is "morally compromised" and asked Catholics to avoid it. They pointed out that this particular vaccine used abortion-derived cell lines during the development and testing stages. According to Religion News Service, the archdiocese argues that even though several COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers have used cells from an aborted fetus since the 1970s, Johnson & Johnson’s procedure is worse than that of Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. The archdiocese claims that the Vatican, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the National Catholic Bioethics Center agree with their decision. However, none of them have denounced the new vaccine. In contrast, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, who chairs the organization's Committee on Pro-Life Activities, argued that the vaccines are moral.
Article EXPOSING Hindu IT Cells mentions Atheist Republic!
This week, the Atheist Republic team reviews an article from Indian media watchdog Newslaundry titled “Inside the Hindu IT Cell: The men who went online to protect gods.” This articles dives deeply into the extreme mindset of Hindu-Nationalists, who organize groups of volunteer “IT-Cells,” who monitor online content for “hindu-phobic” comments and report individuals to the police with the aim of bringing legal consequences down upon them. When discussing the threats and deluge of online harassment that the victims of the IT-Cells experience, the authors mention Atheist Republic! They discuss how Atheist Republic became a target of the Hindu-IT cells after AR’s founder Armin Navabi tweeted a caricature of the Hindu Goddess Kali and called her “sexy.” The team further discusses the dangerous problem of the Hindu IT-cells and what it means for India’s free expression.