- Taliban Orders Government Workers: "Do Not Shave, Must have Beard to Work"
On March 28th, the Taliban ordered government officials in Afghanistan to wear a beard and adhere to Islamic and Afghan dress code. According to Reuters, members representing the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice were patrolling the entrances of government offices to make sure that employees complied with the new rules. Government employees were also ordered to stop wearing suits and instead wear peran, a long loose top, and turbans. Bilal Sarwary, an Afghan journalist, tweeted a photo showing men gathered around the entrance of the foreign ministry office, who were not allowed to enter unless their looks matched the Taliban’s demands. The Taliban also announced that parks would be segregated by sex, and all foreign shows would be banned. This ban includes blocking media outlets like the BBC, Voice of America, and Deutsche Welle. According to the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, women will be allowed to visit parks for three days out of the week, while men can visit during the remaining four days of the week, which means that even married couples and their families cannot visit parks together.
- Nigerian Atheist Mubarak Bala Sentenced to 24 Years in Prison for Blasphemy
On April 2nd, Mubarak Bala, the president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his alleged crime of blasphemy. On April 25th, 2020, Mubarak on Facebook that the Prophet Muhamad was a terrorist. Three days later he was arrested. Prosecutors in Kano High Court accused Bala of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, which “caused a breach of the public peace” to which Bala responded by maintaining his innocence and denounced the charges against him. Bala was not granted access to a lawyer until five months after he was arrested. In March 2021, a hearing was made for his charges without him present in court. His first court appearance was in February this year. In court, Bala requested to change his plea to guilty, to the surprise of his legal team. Leo Igwe, the founder of the Nigerian Humanist Association, said Bala changed his plea because of the “It was impressed on him by authorities in Kano that the only way his family could be safe was if he admitted that he was guilty.” With Bala’s conviction, atheists and humanists in Nigeria are now in danger of being thrown into jail just for expressing their views.
- Iran Bars Women From Entering Sports Arena Once Again
On March 29th, during an Iran vs Lebanon soccer match, security guards of the Imam Reza Stadium in Mashhad, Iran, denied women access to the stadium. A tweet by Radio Farda, the Iranian arm of Radio Free Europe, showed hundreds of women, some holding their tickets in hand, protesting for access to the stadium. Iran Student News Agency reported more than 2,000 Iranian women were denied access. Many women were even pepper-sprayed for attempting to utilize their tickets and enter the stadium, causing massive outrage throughout the country. Women have been barred from attending soccer matches since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Global soccer organizations have put pressure on Iran to change their practices. Back in January, in an effort to secure Iran’s entry into the 2022 Qatar World Cup, Iran allowed 2000 women to watch a game in the Azadi stadium. However, Iran quickly backtracked on its efforts, especially in Mashhad. Iran International reported that Mashhad is home to numerous extremely conservative Muslim clerics who are influential in barring women from “male-dominated places.”
- Indian Restaurant in Bahrain Shuttered for Denying Entry to Hijabi Woman
According to the Tribune News of Bahrain, the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibition Authority (BTEA) shut down a restaurant after a manager refused entry to a woman wearing a hijab. Bahrain’s authorities took notice of the incident after a video of a woman explaining what had happened at the restaurant circulated on social media. Lanterns Lounge & Restaurant issued a public statement on their Facebook page stating that the manager’s behavior was unacceptable and he had been suspended. The Deccan Herald, a Karnataka-based news agency, reported that the manager who blocked the woman was of Indian descent and he had been suspended indefinitely. In India, persecution of Muslim minorities has become an increasingly normalized in public life. Currently, India is grappling with controversies surronding female Muslim students wearing the hijab in government run schools, and many people believed that this discriminatory incident was a reflection of this anti-hijab attitude making its way beyond India’s borders. However, the Independent UK, in an update to their article regarding the incident, said the manager was British and not Indian. This did not stop people from throwing harsh criticisms against the supposed Indian identity of the manager.
- Local San Diego Muslim Imam Survives Knife Attack, Called "Terrorist"
Location: San Diego
Recently, Sheikh Uthman ibn Farooq, a San Diego based Muslim imam, was followed and confronted after his public preaching. The imam was stabbed after an altercation that started with the suspect verbally abusing him. Farooq has been preaching since his early 20s and he is known to engage in conversation with both Muslims and non-Muslims on his YouTube channel. Farooq posted a video explaining the situation and announcing he is “doing fine” since the attack. Last year, a famous ex-Muslim YouTuber, Apostate Prophet, invited him to a debate. Farooq did not respond to the invitation, and the two figures have gone back and forth ever since. Sheikh Uthman released a video on his YouTube channel after the attack, in which he criticized famous critics of Islam, like Apostate Prophet and David Wood, who, according to Farooq, do not properly condemn attacks on Muslim preachers like himself. Apostate Prophet and David Wood released a video responding to Farooq and strongly condemning the attack. Lt. Adam Sharki of the San Diego Police Department said that San Diego PD is aware of the video and is working closely with Farooq. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) San Diego chapter condemned the incident and called it a “bias-motivated stabbing.”
- Female Students Kill Teacher Over Blasphemy in Pakistan
On March 29th, Safoora Bibi, a teacher at a religious seminary school in the city of Dera Ismail Khan in Pakistan, was stabbed to death by two of her students and a colleague. The attackers were Umra Aman, 24-years old, her nieces, Razia Hanfi and Ayesha Nomani, 21-years and 17 years old respectively. The perpetrators are members of the Mehsud tribe living in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Najam Hasnain Liaquat, a District Police officer, said that one of the murderer's relatives, a 13-year old girl, dreamt that "the victim had committed blasphemy against the Prophet and that the Prophet had ordered them to slaughter the victim." Police rushed to the crime scene after they were notified of the attack. They recovered the knife used for the stabbing. They arrested the attackers in their homes hours after the murder. The victim's uncle said Safoora’s body was found in the street with her throat cut. According to the police report, the three planned their attack against Safoora, with Aman leading the plan. Investigators stated that Safoora might have been attacked due to a possible personal grudge.
- Pope Finally Gives Apology for Canadian Indigenous Residential Schools
On April 1st, the Catholic Church finally issued an official apology after years of muted response to calls from Canadian indigenous leaders. The pope was addressing a delegate of survivors which included leaders of the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit community members. The apology came after multiple Canadian delegates met with Vatican officials and the pope to express their demand for an apology. In 2015, Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission declared that the residential school system was a cultural genocide which operated from 1883 to 1996. Catholic institutions ran more than two-thirds of those residential schools. The New York Times reported that the commission claimed that "at least 4,100 students died while attending the schools, many from mistreatment or neglect, others from disease or accident." In most of those cases, the families were not notified. The pope has plans to visit Canada and issue another apology. He said he intends to travel to Canada, where he "would be able better to express" his closeness.
- Four Sentenced to Death for Murder of Bangladeshi Secularist Blogger
On March 30th, a Bangladesh court sentenced four men to death for the brutal killing of a secular blogger, Ananta Bijoy Das, in 2015. Ananta was a contributor to Mukto-Mona, a Bengali blog for secularists, atheists, and freethinkers. Along with Ananta, two other Bangladeshi secular bloggers were killed in 2015. Judge Nurul Amin Biplob in his verdict, said “if these accused are not given exemplary punishment, people of other terrorists, extremist ideologies will be encouraged to commit such killings,” adding “The main purpose was to spread fear and apprehension among writers who wrote or spoke about liberalism, progressivism, science, and prejudice prevalent in the society through the brutality and horror of the killing.” Bangladesh, a dominantly Muslim country, is a distressing place for advocates of human rights and freedom of speech. Das’s brother-in-law, who was present at the verdict, called for the arrest of the remaining suspects who are still at large.
- Victory! Canada Confirms Atheists are Eligible for Expedited Refugee Policy
On March 24th, Canada's Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship confirmed that atheists and other non-religious refugees are eligible for Less Complex Claims (LCC), an expedited refugee application process. In an interview with the Atheist Republic News Team, Robert Hamilton, President of Humanist Ottawa and Treasurer of Atheist Republic, said the LCC had previously listed religion and religious persecution among the "acceptable reasons" for the refugee applicant to qualify for the special program. However, the policy did not specify that atheists and nonbelievers are part of the persecuted group. At the time Doug Thomas, a lobbyist and the president of Secular Connexion Séculière (SCS) and his team reached out to Marco Mendicino, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship at the time for clarification, but Mendicino did not respond. After getting no response, they launched a petition which gained 2,500 signatures in 90 days but was sidelined by the 2021 federal election. The second edition of the petition was presented to the House of Commons on February 8, 2022. The LCC policy now includes individuals who "have chosen to be disassociated from a religious denomination or community, or those who hold no religious conviction, including nonbelievers!"
- Atheist Republic Suspended From Twitter Without Notice!
Atheist Republic’s Twitter account, the largest atheist account on the platform, has been suspended yet again. Susanna McIntyre, the CEO of Atheist Republic, reports that she was met with an “Account Suspended” notification when she tried logging in to Atheist Republic’s Twitter on Friday, April 1st, 2022. There is the possibility that this suspension may be related to Atheist Republic’s ongoing legal battle in India over a selection of “blasphemous” tweets. Twitter’s suspension of Atheist Republic without any explanation makes it much more difficult to determine what led to this action against the account and how to correct it. According to McIntyre, Atheist Republic will “pursue every possible legal avenue to get our Twitter account back.” This will include hiring additional legal representation that will greatly increase Atheist Republic’s expenses. Atheist Republic has set up a fundraiser to help cover the cost of the ongoing legal fees. Finding and retaining quality lawyers is vital to ensuring that we are treated fairly by social media platforms, as well as by the Indian government. Contributions towards our legal fund are an immeasurable help in our fight against the pressures of the Hindu-nationalists that want us silenced and gone from the public sphere. This incident highlights the importance of having personal contacts at large social media companies, as there is little hope of remedying issues otherwise. If you or anyone you know has connections to Twitter, please reach out to Atheist Republic's CEO at Susanna@AtheistRepublic.com.
You can help Atheist Republic by tweeting and tagging “@TwitterSupport” and asking Twitter to look into the cause of the suspension and to issue an explanation for the suspension. Here is an example tweet:
“.@TwitterSupport the user @AtheistRepublic has been suspended without any written explanation of which policies the account supposedly violated and were cause for the suspension. Please correct this.”