Read More Atheist Republic Kuwait Cracks Down on “Depraved” Yoga Retreat
Recently, the Kuwaiti government canceled a desert wellness yoga retreat organized by Eman Al Husseinan, a yoga instructor. Lawmakers and Islamic scholars are strangely fixated on the “lotus” and “downward dog” yoga poses, calling them a danger and depravity to women. Some have even gone as far as labeling the practice of Yoga an attack on Islam. Eman stated that the retreat was canceled because she did not have a permit. She also came under fierce media attacks over this incident. Eman was contacted by the interior ministry, which clarified the importance of these permits. Hamdan Al Azmi, a conservative lawmaker, said the desert wellness yoga event is “alien” to “Kuwait’s conservative society.” Hamdan went on calling Yoga “an attack on the Arab heritage” and a “cultural travesty.” On February 7th, women’s rights groups and other advocacy groups protested at Erada Square outside Kuwait’s parliament. Alanoud Alsharekh, the founder of Abolish 153, an advocacy group against honor killing, said the hostility against women’s rights is becoming more apparent and public.
Mexican Woman in Qatar Faces 100 Lashes After Reporting Rape
Paola Schietekat, a 28-year-old Mexican Muslim woman, who worked for a company responsible for organizing the 2022 FIFA World Cup was forced to leave the country after being sexually assaulted. Paola was attacked by a colleague and after she reported the assault was made to go through a humiliating three hour long interrogation process in Arabic and was asked for a virginity test. Reportedly, her attacker flipped the investigation on her by claiming they had a romantic relationship prior to the assault. Once the Qatari officials heard about their alleged relationship, the investigation turned from a sexual assault complaint to a investigation into an extramarital affair. “Although I had the forensic evidence of the beatings and everything, they believed him and applied the crime of fornication to us in an extramarital relationship,” Schietekat explained. Paola’s attacker was acquitted of the assault charges. Meanwhile, Paola fled the country with the help of her employer and local consulate and later learned that her case would be heard before a criminal court, where she faces up to seven years in jail and 100 lashes.
Hindu-nationalist Party Tweets Cartoons of Muslims Hanging from Noose
On February 20th, the ruling party of India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Twitter account for the Indian state of Gujarat tweeted a cartoon of a group of Muslim men being hanged. The tweet was taken down by Twitter the next day, but news outlets captured images of the post. The cartoon was referencing the recent death sentence handed down to the perpetrators of the 2008 Ahmedabad Blasts, where more than 21 bombs exploded in different sites in Ahmedabad in one day, killing more than 56 people and injuring hundreds. Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, an Islamic terror group based in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attacks. Siddharth Varadarajan of The Wire said that the BJP could be “signaling to its supporters that this is the fate of Muslims in the future.” On February 21st, Dr. Rutvij Patel, a BJP spokesperson, announced that the cartoon did not target any specific religion or community. Patel explained that it was based on actual photographs of the convicts published by newspapers a day after the verdict. Others sounded the alarm on the startling cartoon, drawing comparisons to early 20th century postcards celebrating the lynching of African Americans and anti-Jewish propaganda.
Egyptian Journalist Accused of ‘Contempt of Islam’ After Questioning Prophet’s Ascension
On Friday, February 18th, Ibrahim Issa, an Egyptian journalist and critic of Muslim groups, claimed that the Prophet Muhammad’s journey to Jerusalem never happened. He was referring to the Israʾ and Miʿraj, the Islamic story of Muhammad flying from Mecca to Jerusalem on a winged donkey with a human face, and then ascending to heaven where he met with Allah, before returning to his followers with instructions on how to pray. During his TV show he told his audience that some scholars have been debating the ascension of Prophet Muhammad. According to Issa this journey is a “completely delusional story.” He claimed that the preachers that cite only literature that supports the purported evening excursion and ignore contradictory sources are subscribers to Salafist fundamentalist views. Issa’s statement sparked outrage among Egypt’s hardline Islamists. An investigation into Issa and his alleged campaign against Islam was launched by the public prosecutor’s office of Egypt. In response, Dar Al-Ifta, Egypt’s Islamic advisory and governmental body, stated the journey “undoubtedly occurred and cannot be denied in any manner.” Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media Regulation will launch legal action against Issa as well.
Shia Muslim Man Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy
On February 23rd, Wasim Abbas, a man from the minority Shia Muslim community in Pakistan, was given the death penalty and a fine of almost $3000 (PKR 500,000) for blasphemy charges. He was charged with “insulting the Prophet [Muhammad].” A failure to pay the penalty will result in an additional two years imprisonment. Abbas was arrested in June 2020 in Faisalabad after allegedly insulting the Prophet and his companions. A 2016 report by Amnesty International shows that the blasphemy laws in Pakistan are broadly worded and therefore, abused often. Recently, a Hindu teacher was sentenced to life imprisonment and a mentally disabled indivual was murdered by a mob. Both of them were accused of committing blasphemy.
New Zealand Bans Conversion Therapy!
Location: New Zealand
On February 15th, New Zealand’s parliament passed a bill that will ban conversion therapy. The bill was introduced in August 2021 and it passed its third reading with a massive offset of 112 to 8. The bill will prohibit conversion practices that seek to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The Labor Party eagerly announced “We promised to ban conversion practices in our 2020 election manifesto, and now we’re delivering on that promise.” Once implemented, the bill will criminalize conversion therapy practices. Anyone proved to conduct it on a child or young person under age 18 or with impaired decision-making capacity will be subjected to three to five years imprisonment. In support of this new bill, Paul Hunt, Chief Human Rights Commissioner, said they would establish a conversion-practices response services team.
Report: Most LGBT Christians Don’t Feel Free to be Themselves in Church
According to the 2021 Safeguarding LGBT+ Christians survey, in the UK, only a minority of the 754 respondents felt safe to be themselves in their local church. The survey was conducted by the Ozanne Foundation, an advocacy group that works with religious institutions to “eliminate discrimination based on sexuality or gender.” The report found that although an overwhelming majority of the participants, 68.71%, said they regularly go to church, only 36.86% feel safe to be themselves in their local church. 17.40% of the respondents said they used to express their sexual orientation in their church but no longer feel safe about it.Reverend Paul Bayes, a former chair of the Ozanne Foundation, acknowledged the survey’s finding by saying “Silence has a price, and we now see clearly who has been paying it.” Dr. Sarah Carr, the research’s independent monitor, mentioned that belief systems could be beneficial for the mental health of many individuals but the LGBTQ community might experience the opposite as “so many have experienced exclusion or judgment by various faith communities.”
Amid Hijab Row in India, Sikh Girl Asked to Take Off Her Turban
Recently, in Mount Carmel College in Palace Vasanth Nagar, a 17-year old baptised Sikh girl was allegedly asked to take off her turban while attending class. Lately, there has been a lot of controversy around students’ religious garments at schools. Last year, six Muslim female students, who refused to take off their hijab, were barred from joining their classes. Mount Carmel College denied the allegations and clarified that they did ask the student to take off her turban but did not bar her from joining her classes. On February 10th, the three-judge high court in the state of Karnataka declared that the interim order regarding the hijab applies to colleges that have an existing uniform code. Karnataka’s high court is still hearing the petitions submitted by Muslim students regarding this issue. The court stated that petitioners must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, “as to what is compulsory to be followed in Islam.”
Kuwait Strikes Down Anti-Trans Law!
On February 16th, the constitutional court of Kuwait overturned Article 198 of the Kuwaiti Penal Code which criminalizes “imitating the appearance of a member of the opposite sex.” In a publication in 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Committee insisted that Article 198 is a violation of the Yogyakarta Principles guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In December 2021, the Constitutional Court of Kuwait accepted a legal challenge against Article 198. The major ruling was warmly welcomed by human rights activists and advocacy groups for the LGBTQ community. Amnesty International called the verdict a breakthrough for transgender rights. Shaikha Salmeen, a lawyer involved in the case of a Kuwaiti transgender woman who has been arrested 6 times for her gender presentation, welcomed the ruling and also warned by saying “the fight back is going to be vicious for sure.”
Update on Atheist Republic’s Legal Battle in India
Here is the latest update on one of Atheist Republic’s many legal battles in India! Here’s the background; starting in 2021, petitioners filed complaints in court to have Twitter remove some of Atheist Republic’s tweets that were blasphemed against Hinduism. The High Court agreed with the petitioner and demanded that Twitter remove the tweets. In response, Twitter’s legal counsel asked for a week’s time to file an affidavit demonstrating that they have removed the tweets (to this day, the tweets are still publicly visible on the platform). The next court hearing was set for December, then got pushed back again to occur on February 17th 2022, which brings us to the present. Atheist Republic’s attorneys in India appeared in court, prepared to intervene against any coercive orders taken against us. Upon arrival, they learned that the bench wasn’t sitting that day, and that the matter has been moved to March 28th. The Indian legal system is known for its lengthy delays, which is why we have opened up a fundraiser to help with the costs of our legal expenses. Our intention with putting up this fight is to stand up against those who seek to use legal means to enact a chilling effect on all those who wish to criticize religion in India. If you would like to contribute to our legal fundraiser, you can donate here!
Read More Atheist Republic Kuwait Cracks Down on “Depraved” Yoga Retreat