- US Panel Recommends Sanctioning India Over Religious Freedoms Violations
For the third year, an American panel on international religious affairsaccused India and other countries of engaging or tolerating "systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations" of religious rights. On April 25th, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its annual report, which noted that religious freedom in India has "significantly worsened." USCIRF recommended imposing "targeted sanctions on individuals and entities" directly involved in the violations of religious freedom. The recommendation added barring an individual's entry to the United States. The report states that in 2021, the Indian government "escalated its promotion and enforcement of policies that negatively affect Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and other religious minorities." The list of countries with worsening religious freedom also included China, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, among others. India's Ministry of External Affairs dismissed the committee's findings calling it biased propaganda and a product of anti-India lobbyists in the U.S.
- Florida Atheist Petitions Schools to Ban the Bible
In a letter dated April 19th, Chaz Stevens, an artist and Florida's resident political stunt activist, requested the Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Broward County Public Schools ban the Bible. According to Pen America, Florida has the third-highest number of banned books, most of which touch on race, sexuality, sexual orientation, and gender identity. In his letter to Jose Dotres, MDCPS's superintendent, Stevens eloquently described that the Bible contains "age inappropriateness, social-emotional learning, mentions of bestiality and rape." Stevens stated, "As is often the case with banned books, I ask your agency lay flame to that giant stack of fiction in a pyre worthy of a Viking sendoff.” He also challenged the appropriateness of teaching Bible's position on slavery, stating that if white students “read such passages.. [they may] wake up to civilization’s sordid past,” and this would be too “woke” for a state so preoccupied with Critical Race Theory (CRT). Stevens commented that "The government can't pick and choose religion, but can they choose which books they review for banning and which ones they don't."
- State-Enforced Starvation: Moroccans Arrested for Eating During Ramadan
On April 27th, Moroccan police raided a cafe in Casablanca and arrested individuals who were eating and drinking. According to the local news agency Morocco Latest News (MLN), the individuals were arrested for “breaking the Ramadan fast without a legitimate reason.” The police reportedly arrested employees of the cafe as well. In Morocco, breaking a Ramadan fast in public is a crime punishable by up to six months in prison under Section 222 of the penal code. An online video on Facebook shows the commotion caused when police escorted more than ten individuals from the cafe towards a police van. The Forum for Modernity and Democracy (FMD), an advocacy group condemned the arrest and called it a “blatant violation of freedom of expression and belief.” The Twitter hashtag #STOP222 is also gaining traction among groups opposed to Section 222 of Morocco’s penal code. There are numerous campaigns started by Ex-Muslims that protest the state-mandated fasting, which are meant to show their solidarity with those who are flogged, beaten, imprisoned for eating and drinking during Ramadan. Some of these campaigns include #RamadanNOTKareem, #DontGiveaDamn4Ramadan, and #FastDefyingMyRight.
- Atheist Adoptive Couple in Alabama Face Discrimination for Non-Belief
Alaina Browning and her husband, an atheist couple, were refused by a private adoption agency in Alabama, simply due to their lack of religion. A digital investigative reporter, Lee Hedgepeth, at CBS, reported that the Brownings have always been transparent with their lack of religion. The agency is run by Richard and Susan Wyatt. Once the couple disclosed during an interview by the agency that they were not religious, Susan Wyatt responded with “I’m sorry, we could not work with you.”She explained, “We are not specific about one’s faith, but the biological families we work with a request that our adoptive families have a spiritual life,” adding, “Most of our mothers come to us asking that the adoptive families have a belief system.” All of this is completely legal as the Alabama Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act prohibits the state from discriminating against private child placing services who decline service to anyone on the grounds of conflicting religious beliefs.
- Ex-Muslim's Home Set on Fire by Hindu Thugs for Marrying Hindu Girl
Location: UP, India
On April 15th, a mob, led by a local right-wing Hindu group, set the house of an ex-Muslim gym instructor, Sajid, on fire in a village in Uttar Pradesh, India. Sajid was accused of kidnapping a Hindu girl, who turned out to be a 22-year-old woman. On April 11th, Sajid and his girlfriend Rikita eloped, and certified their marriage as well as Sajid’s conversion to Hinduism and name change to “Sahil.” He even made a newspaper ad that announced his conversion and name change. When the woman’s family couldn’t find Rikita, they filed a police report claiming that their daughter was missing and kidnapped. On April 13th, police were able to recover the woman but were unable to locate Sahil, who had fled. NDTV reported that a fringe Hindutva group called Dharam Jagran Samanvay Sangh, burned down Sahil’s house and well as the adjoined home of his family members, accusing Sahil of “Love-Jihad.” Later, videos began circulating online of the woman explaining that she consented to the marriage and she went with Sahil of her own volition. A probe has been launched to investigate the police’s failure to maintain law and order, and some have already faced disciplinary action for negligence. Eight individuals have been arrested in relation to the arson.
- Egypt Bans New Marvel Movie due to Openly Gay Character
In a tweet on April 23rd, a chain of movie theaters in Egypt announced that they wouldn't be offering Marvel's newest flim, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" over the gay character, America Chavez, featured in the film. A Muslim-dominated country, Egypt's cultural acceptance of homosexuality is almost non-existent, and homosexuality is effectively criminalized. In an interview with The New Arab, an anonymous source privy to the matter explained that the ban is over a gay character. "The film was banned because of the presence of the openly homosexual character America Chavez," the source said. This attitude led the country to ban Eternals, an earlier blockbuster Marvel film, for having a scene that features two males kissing. The ban was confirmed by Ahmed Abdel-Geleel, the head of the Egyptian Censorship Authority. Saudi Arabia also objected to the film, and requested an edit from Disney. Nawaf Alsabhan, the General Supervisor of Cinema Classification for Saudi Arabia, said, "It's just her talking about her mums because she has two mums." But "being in the Middle East, it's very tough to pass something like this," Alsabhan added. Disney refused the edits, and thus the film did not receive clearance to be shown in Saudi cinemas.
- French Court Rejects Government Order to Forcibly Close Mosque
On April 26th, France's highest administrative court dismissed the Interior Ministry's appeal to continue closing down a mosque accused of “radicalization.” The Interior Ministry has been shutting down mosques all over France, with the closures coming in the wake of the anti-separatism law that was enacted last year, which were designed to "bolster France's secular system." On March 14th, France's Interior Ministry ordered the 6-month closure of a mosque in the city of Pessac, accusing the mosque of promoting radical Islamist ideology, inciting hatred, and justifying terrorism. According to Reuters, this is the first instance where a court has declined to uphold a government decision based on documents prepared by the French intelligence services. Fionnuala Ni Aolain, the UN's special rapporteur on protecting human rights while countering terrorism, compared the French government's actions as "Kafkaesque." "The flirtation with secretive evidence is worrying, but it also breaches provisions in international treaties," Aolain added.
- India's First Openly Gay Indian Prince Fights to Ban Conversion Therapy
India's first openly-gay prince has vowed to fight conversion therapy. After surviving the horrors of conversion therapy, Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil said he would work on making conversion therapy illegal in India. Gohil announced through a local newspaper that he is gay in 2006. Speaking recently to Insider, Gohil recounted the events that led to and followed his coming out more than a decade ago. His effigies were burnt, and protests erupted. "People took to the streets and shouted slogans saying that I brought shame and humiliation to the royal family and the culture of India," he said. His parents disowned him and went so far as to publish newspaper advertisements announcing that his status as heir was revoked due to "activities unsuitable to society." Today, Gohil leads the fight for India's liberation against conversion therapy. He is also leading the battle against "decades of regressive mentality, ignorance, and judgment." After homosexuality was decriminalized in India in 2018, Gohil opened his 15-acre palace grounds and created a center that offers assistance and refuge to members of the LGBTQ community.
- Hindus & Muslims March for Interreligious Peace in New Delhi
Location: New Delhi, India
In a welcome display of communal harmony, on April 24th Muslims and Hindus joined hands for a “Tiranga Yatra,” a parade featuring the tri-colored flag of India, in Jahangirpuri, Northwest Delhi. Hindus and Muslims, in a collective desire for peace, waved the national flag, the design of which symbolizes courage and growth, as well as unity between Muslims and Hindus. 100 attendees, with approximately 50 Hindus and 50 Muslims, attended the parade. Celebratory flower petals were thrown on the paraders from the apartment buildings above. Police deployed hundreds of personnel to keep the event secure. Attendees were chanting “Victory to Mother India” and slogans about the brotherhood between religious communities during the event. The parade for unity followed violence broke out during the celebration of Hanuman Jayanti on April 16th. Crowds of Hindus and Muslims were seen throwing stones at each other, and at least 23 individuals were arrested. According to India Today, the parade was conducted in the C Block area of Jahangirpuri, the same area where the previous violence had started.
- Atheist Republic Emojis!
We have some fun news to share with you this week! Atheist Republic has added personalized emojis that are now available to members of our YouTube channel. Now, those who support Atheist Republic through YouTube Memberships can use fun emojis like “Allah is Gay!,” a cute Goddess Kali, and even a Quran-licking emote! These emojis can be used during livestreams and also commenting on the channel. You can get this fun reward for supporting the Atheist Republic YouTube channel here.