- "Send Nudes;" NASA to Send Human Nudes into Space to Tempt Aliens
On March 25th, NASA published a project titled "A Beacon in the Galaxy," which provided an updated binary-coded message developed for transmission to extraterrestrial intelligence in the Milky Way galaxy. The message contains "basic mathematical and physical concepts, followed by information on the biochemical composition of life on Earth," including nude depictions of a male and female human waving. The new message composed by NASA scientists is an update to the first messages broadcasted to outer space in 1974. According to the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute, the 1974 Arecibo message was "the most powerful broadcast ever deliberately beamed into space." Jonathan Jiang of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory explained that they wanted to "deliver the maximum amount of information about our society and the human species in the minimal amount of message." The team aims to create a transmittable message that will remain relevant regardless of human technological advancement. The paper explained, "The message's ultimate goal is to start a dialogue with extraterrestrial intelligence, no matter how far in the future that might occur."
- Hindu Man Murdered for Marrying Upper-Caste Muslim Woman
In an episode that has caught national attention in India, on May 4th, a Dalit Hindu man (more commonly unknown outside of India as part of the "untouchable" caste), 26-year-old Billipuram Nagaraju, was beaten to death by his in-laws in Hyderabad, India. Nagaraju was attacked because he married a Muslim woman against her family's wishes. The victim's wife, Syed Ashrin Sulthana, said she and her husband had been in a relationship since tenth grade. "He even told my mother that he would convert to Islam, but they never accepted the proposal," Sulthana said. Sulthana's family belongs to the Syed caste, a Muslim upper-caste who claims to be a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. After getting married on January 31st of this year through a Hindu ceremony, the couple moved several hours away from their hometown due to the threats from the bride's family. Sultana claims that at least five individuals attacked them. The police were able to arrest Sultana's two brothers. The national spokesperson for the ruling right-wing BJP party, Shehzad Poonawala, stated that if the attack were the other way around, the U.N. would accuse India of "Islamophobia." "But since a Hindu has been killed & in Hyderabad - the crime is 'secular,'" he added. On the other hand, many point to the inter-caste aspect of their relationship, as opposed to the inter-religious dynamic, as the primary motivation for this killing.
- Taliban Orders All Women to Wear Face-Covering Burqas in Public
On April 30th, Hibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban chief, announced that women should wear a burqa that covers the person from head to toe, including their face. According to Akhundzada, the new dress code is "traditional and respectful." The Taliban is slowly imposing severe infringements on women's rights despite promising to respect and uphold them after taking over. The order instructs all women to cover their face, except the eyes, as per sharia directives, to avoid provocation when meeting men who are not related to them. The male chaperone of a woman caught showing her faces would be warned first, then jailed for three days, and if the violations continue he would receive a stricter sentence. In an attempt to justify the order, the announcement explained that burqas are part of Afghan culture and it has been used for ages. Critics warned the Taliban leadership that such announcements could scare off foreign aid and delay international recognition of the Taliban government. However, Khalid Hanafi, acting minister for the Taliban's propagation of virtue and prevention of vice ministry, said they only want their "sisters to live with dignity and safety."
- Bikini Wax Ban: Crackdown on Female Beauty Treatments in Iranian Holy City
Recently, the Women’s Hairdressers Union in the city of Mashhad, Iran announced a ban on the waxing of private parts, tattoos, piercing, injecting Botox and other cosmetic sub-dermal fillers, nail enhancements, eyelash extensions, “unconventional” dress code, and playing western music at the salons. Other women’s hairdresser unions have announced similar bans across the country after being threatened with legal penalties for non-compliance. Many attribute this restrictive measure to the many hard-liner clerics that live in the holy city of Mashhad, and are notorious for their efforts to police women. The Iranian government is known for its long history of controlling women’s dress codes. Sayyid Ahmad Alamolhoda, a senior Islamic cleric in Mashhad and father-in-law to the current president, Ebrahim Raisi, urged people to admonish women with ‘poorly-fitting hijab,’ going so far as to say that they should not “feel secure.” This is not the first time salons have been threatened with legal actions from the government. Back in 2015 there was a crackdown on men’s styles; “homosexual” and “devil-worshipping” hairstyles were banned, along with tanning, tattoos, and plucked eyebrows, all of which were deemed “un-Islamic.”
- Indian Professor Suspended for Question on Hindutva & Fascism Similarities
On May 6th, Waqa Farooq Kuttay, an assistant professor at Sharda University, in Uttar Pradesh, was suspended for a test that asked students about similarities between fascism, nazism, and right-wing Hindutva. The question in the test asked the students, "Do you find any similarities between Fascism/Nazism and Hindu right-wing (Hindutva)? Elaborate with arguments.” The university issued an official statement through Twitter announcing Waqa's suspension. The university's statement emphasized the possible public outcry that may arise from the issue. A source privy to the matter spoke to local media and stated that Kuttay had no intention "to hurt anybody's sentiments,” and that he had expressed an apology over the issue. The University Grants Commission (UGC), India's higher education regulatory agency, demanded an explanation from the university. Even though a spokesperson from the Sharda University mentioned that there were no complaints filed by students; UGC's statement to Sharda University contradicted the spokesperson's statement. UGC stated, “Needless to say that asking students such a question is against the spirit and ethos of our country, which is known for inclusivity and homogeneity.”
- Corpse-Worshiping Cult Leader Arrested In Thailand
On May 8th, Thawee Nanra, a 75-year-old cult leader, was arrested on trespassing charges in a jungle in Chaiyaphum province in northeastern Thailand. One of the additional charges still pending against him is unlawful disposal of bodies. The authorities were alerted by Khun Jenjira, who claims that her 80-year-old mother has been living with the cult and has been barred from returning home. When investigating, local authorities discovered at least 11 corpses on the property. Police determined that the bodies were of his former followers. He also had at least 12 people living with him. Nanra’s devotees believed that the leader’s urine, mucus, even his excrement, could cure disease and would regularly consume them. As Nanra was escorted to a police vehicle, his devotees harassed the officers and tried to prevent his removal. Nanra has been denied bail while the investigation continues.
- Indian Politician Says Muslims Should "Burn Like [Demon] Effigies"
On May 7th, Haribhushan Thakur Bachau, a politician from the right-wing BJP party and Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from the State of Bihar, India made a violent remark that caught headlines. Speaking at a public event he said, “We need a Hanuman ji [Hindu monkey god] so that our youth could be strong, the people of our country could be strong. Just like Ravana’s [a demon king] Lanka [fortress] was burnt by Hanuman ji, the demon-like Ravanas, who are hovering over Bihar and the country, should also be burnt.” This comment refers to characters from the foundational Hindu epic the Ramayana, and many interpret the phrase “demon-like Ravanas” to refer to the minority Muslim population of India. He further added that the violence done by “demons” is no less intense than the violence in Kashmir. This is not the first time that Bachau has made anti-Muslim statements, as he has previously called for Muslims in India to be stripped of voting rights.
- Female Student Killed by Mob for Blaspheming Prophet Mohammad in Nigeria
On May 12th, two suspects were captured for the murder of alleged blasphemer, Deborah Samuel, by police in northern Nigeria. A police spokesperson explained that a WhatsApp group was being used by the students of Shehu Shagari College of Education, wherein an Islamic piece was posted, which Deborah, who is a Christain, criticized. Allegedly, her voice message that she sent in reply contained blasphemous statements against the Prophet Mohammad. Deborah was attacked by a mob on her college campus, which led to her death and her body was then set on fire. Even though security was present during the incident and tried to defend her, they were overwhelmed when students began throwing sticks and stones at them. The footage of the gruesome event has gone viral where her lifeless body can be seen before and after being burned. Many perpetrators can be heard yelling “Allahu Akbar” while her body burns. The college has announced that they have closed the school indefinitely after the “rampage.”
- The Pastor Wears Prada: African Preacher Says God Ordered Him to Wear Heels
A Togolese pastor, known as “the high heels pastor,” is gaining attention across Africa after images emerged on social media of the clergyman preaching in high heels. According to local media, the pastor used to suffer from body pain and many illnesses. Once he switched to wearing heels, as God commanded, his sufferings went away. Rumors spread that he also wore women’s clothes, of which the pastor said, “I don’t wear women’s clothes like people have said on social media, but I wear all kinds of shoes, according to the calling I received.” The pastor is known for owning more high heel shoes than most women. Local media reported that “the high heels pastor” is applauded for breaking the norms of how people think a pastor should dress.
- Richard Dawkins: Restore Atheist Republic's Twitter Account!
Many of you are already familiar with how Atheist Republic’s Twitter account was suspended without notice in April 2022, and now we have another major update! Atheist Republic was recently approached by the Richard Dawkins Foundation (RDF) for Reason & Science. They inquired about how they may assist us in our many legal battles,particularly regarding the blasphemy battles we face in India.One result of these discussions is that the in-house legal counsel for RDF has written a legal letter that outlines how Atheist Republic’s cases before the courts in India may have influenced this suspension and asks Twitter in specific terms how to best redress this unexplained suspension. This letter was signed by Robyn Blumner, President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, and by Dr. Richard Dawkins himself! You can read the full letter here. Speaking of this letter, Atheist Republic’s CEO Susanna McIntyre said it was a great pleasure to work with the Center For Inquiry and Richard Dawkins Foundation team and expressed her gratitude for their involvement. Atheist Republic’s founder, Armin Navabi, stated that this is an essential step in raising awareness about the threats to secularism in India and how he appreciated their intervention.