Atheist Republic News Summary: Ayatollah Khamenei's New Fatwa: 'Fake' Li… P-admin Atheist Republic

Read More Atheist Republic Ayatollah Khamenei’s New Fatwa: ‘Fake’ Likes & Follows Are Banned
Location: Iran
Recently, Ali Khamenei, Iran’s current Supreme Leader, issued a fatwa against “fake” likes and followers on social media. His decision came after his followers posed questions at him through his website, where he often issues religious rulings. When asked what his ruling is on fake likes and followers on social media platforms, he said, “it is not allowed if it is fake and made up.” Shia muslims are now explicitly banned from buying and selling online likes and followers, although “bona fide ones [authentic engagement] remain permissible.” Ironically, according to Facebook’s parent company, Meta, fake accounts based in Iran that posed as Scottish and British locals who supported Scottish independence were removed earlier this year for inauthentic behavior. Ben Nimmo, global threat intelligence lead for influence operations for Meta, said they have “seen a range of operations coming from Iran over the last few years.”
South African Threatened With Being FIRED for Posting “Happy Atheist Day”
Location: South Africa
Recently, a South African posted on the Reddit forum r/atheism that they were threatened with termination of their employment “for being openly atheist.” The threat came after the person shared a “Happy Atheist Day” picture on their WhatsApp status, which they believed to be only viewable to friends and family. “I was forced to remove the status. I now have a “consultation” with our (Christian and offended) HR lady on Friday,” the post said. I “need to be prepared for this,” the individual said. Although the post has since been deleted, and the individual who posted it was using a “throw-away” account, the comments on the original post in r/atheism are still available for viewing. One Redditor quickly advised the original poster to “make sure to get it in writing so you can sue them.” At the same time, others recommended referring to existing laws in South Africa for legal remedies. In their official statement, the Atheist Republic Cape Town Consulate said they are “outraged at the blatant case of discrimination in our backyard.” The Atheist Republic Cape Town Consulate also reminded everyone through their statement that South Africa’s constitution “guarantees all citizens the right to freedom of and from religion.” “The veiled threat of job loss for failing to conform to dogma is unacceptable,” they added.
The Jewish Journalist Who “Infiltrated” Iran: Atheist Republic Interviews
Location: Iran
Iran is shaken by a scandal involving a Jewish journalist who had an interview with then-presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi. According to an article published by Iran International, Catherine Shakdam, a French-Jewish writer and commentator, “infiltrated” Iran. In 2021, Shakdam published a story in the Times of Israel about her 2017 interview with current President of Iran, Ibrahim Raisi. At the time, Shakdam had converted to Shia Islam and Raisi was running for the presidency in the previous election cycle, when she “ended up where few Jews were ever allowed to enter.” She explained that she was introduced to Raisi “by one of the main propagandists of the Islamic Revolution.” Iran’s strict rules towards foreign journalists, especially female journalists, were overruled by the propagandist’s vote of confidence, Shakdam added. She described Iran as an “unwelcoming place for the Jewish people” and compared her visit to walking “right into the belly of the beast.” The scandal with Shakdam’s alleged infiltration has caused several high-ranking Iranian officials to deny being in contact with her. 
Atheist Republic was recently granted a special interview with Catherine Shakdam, as Atheist Republic’s founder, Armin Navabi, had actually met Shakdam in person several years prior, while she was still a Muslim She even revealed that Armin played an important role in her leaving Islam and becoming an atheist! Shakdam disclosed during the Atheist Republic interview that she was somehow accused of “spying” for both Iran and Israel, and that she believes that the parties accusing her of being a spy “do not believe their own story.””All these competing powers are basically using me as ammunition,” she added. You can view the full interview on the Secular Jihadists YouTube channel, titled “The Jewish Journalist Who “Infiltrated” Iran: Catherine Perez Shakdam Ignites a Firestorm!”
Accused of Spreading Atheism & “Contempt for Islam,” Libya Abuses Activists
Location: Libya
Amnesty International recently published a report shedding light on Libya’s dreadful repression of young Libyans who were expressing their right to freedom of expression, many persecuted under the explicit accusation of being, or associating with, atheists. The Internal Security Agency (ISA), a state-affiliated armed group, arrested at least seven individuals from November 2021 through March 2022 and detained them without due process. In a Facebook post, the ISA claimed that they successfully fought “immoral behaviors.” The arrested individuals were accused of “spreading contempt for Islam and communicating with foreign organizations.” The ISA also claimed that these individuals have been “conspiring to spread atheism, incite youth to travel outside Libya and promote “unorthodox” sexual practices.” Videos of the arrested individuals’ self-incriminating confessions, which the United Nations says were produced under torture, were circulated by the ISA. In the videos, the individuals identify themselves as “atheist, areligious, secular, and feminist.” Liz Throssell, the spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, explained that the actions were justified by the ISA in a statement accusing those arrested of opposing Libyan and Islamic values. According to Throssell, these arbitrary arrests and the defamation on social media “are having a seriously chilling effect on human rights defenders, humanitarian workers, and other civil society actors.” Accusations of atheism are particularly dangerous in Libya, as apostasy is punishable by death in the nation.
Taliban Opens, and Then Immediately Recloses, Schools for Girls
Location: Afghanistan
On March 17th, the Taliban announced that they would allow female high school students back to school. A week after the announcement, they backtracked on their decision. An education ministry notice informed “all girls’ high schools and those schools that have female students above class six that they are off until the next order.” The education ministry explained that schools would reopen after a decision regarding female school uniforms is made based on “Sharia law and Afghan tradition.” The initial announcement of resuming secondary education for girls thrilled many in the nation, but it was not without conditions. The spokesman for the Taliban’s Ministry of Education explained that female students will be assigned in a separate classroom and only be taught by female teachers. Despite the Taliban’s best efforts to have its Islamic Emirate recognized as a legitimate government, most countries, especially western nations, are reluctant. The education of girls and the rights of women are a central sticking point in their relationship to the new rulers of Afghanistan. The Taliban’s sudden U-turn on girl’s education caused deep anger and resentment from many parents and students. Recently a video posted on Twitter went viral which showed a girl crying after being sent home. The girl can be heard sobbing while saying “Mother, they didn’t let me go to school today. They said girls aren’t allowed to go to school.”
Indian State Gov Makes Hindu Scripture Part of Curriculum for Grades 6-12
Location: India
On March 17th, during a legislative assembly, the state government of Gujarat, India, announced that the Hindu holy scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, will be integrated into the compulsory curriculum for grade 6 to grade 12 students. During a press conference, Jitu Vaghani, Gujarat’s education minister, explained that despite the Bhagavad Gita being a Hindu scripture, “all faiths have accepted the moral values and principles outlined.” The announcement was quickly condemned by representatives from other religions, despite Vaghani’s claims that other faiths have accepted the state’s decision. Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit priest, accused Gujarat’s government of majoritarianism by stating “The study of any and every religious or holy book needs to be welcomed all at all times … but introducing only the study of Bhagavad Gita smacks of majoritarianism.” A.C. Michael, the founder of the United Christian Forum in India, recommended that students should be given the option to choose which religious scripture they can learn about. After Gujarat’s announcement, the state of Karnataka’s assembly is also considering establishing the same policy. If passed, Karnataka’s curriculum will make the Bhagavad Gita compulsory for all grade levels.
Indian Muslim Shopkeepers Banned From Selling At Hindu Festival
Location: India
Organizers of the Kote Marikamba Jatra, a celebration held every two years in Shivamogga, Karnataka, recently banned Muslim vendors from setting up stalls. The center of the celebration is the Marikamba Temple, a temple dedicated to the Hindu goddess Marikamba Devi. According to The Hindu, local leaders of the hardline Hindu groups BJP, Bajrang Dal, and Vishwa Hindu Parishad pressured the organizers of the festival into making the decision. The Suggi Mari Pooja, another yearly festival, has also banned Muslims, allegedly because they had protested against the Karnataka High Court’s ruling that supported allowing hijabs to be banned in government schools. “We agreed to their [Hindu hardliners] demand in the interest of smooth conduct of the festival,” a festival organizer said. Before the announcement, some Muslims shopkeepers had already paid for renting out stalls and the sudden ban under right-wing gang pressure is causing issues. Several Hindu festival committee members are unhappy with this decision as they were forced to take this decision. Channabasappa, a leader of the local BJP group in Shivamogga, said the banning is justified because, according to him, the local Muslim community failed to properly condemn the recent murder of a Hindutva activist.
US Judge Rules Against Christian Clerk Who Denied Gay Marriage Licenses
Location: US
On March 18th, David Bunning, a U.S. district judge of the Eastern District of Kentucky, ruled against a Christian county clerk, Kim Davis, who was charged with violating the rights of same-sex couples. In 2015, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling that federally legalized same-sex marriage, Davis continued to deny same-sex couples marriage licenses. She announced, a day after the landmark Obergefell vs. Hodges ruling, that her office would no longer issue marriage licenses. After the announcement, Judge Bunning issued a preliminary injunction ordering Davis and her office to resume issuing marriage licenses. Davis declined to follow the order and was sent to jail. She was released a couple of days later. Davis argued that issuing marriage licenses to “such couples” is against her religious beliefs. She said “that she could not give them a marriage license under God’s authority,” NPR reported. David Ermold, one of the men who was denied a marriage license by Davis, expressed his relief on Twitter, stating, “After S-E-V-E-N years, Judge Bunning finally ruled that Kim Davis intentionally violated our constitutional rights. Now, the question is will they hold her financially responsible for the insensitive and irrational legal mess that SHE created.” Liberty Counsel, the Christian legal organization representing Davis, pointed out former Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin’s executive order that allowed county clerks not to “issue marriage licenses that conflict with their religious beliefs.” Mat Staver, founder, and chairman of Liberty Counsel said that Davis’ case “raises serious First Amendment” concerns.
Atheist Republic Mourns the Loss of Leaders Silvia Gerger & Termeh Nashvan
Location: US
Atheist Republic is saddened by the recent passing of two important leaders within the international Atheist Republic community; Silvia Gerger and Termeh Nashvan. Termeh Nashvan was the co-host and organizer of the Atheist Republic Persian YouTube channel, a subversive political activist, a passionate LGBT rights activist, and an atheist. Almost four years ago, along with Sam Gerami, she proposed to Atheist Republic’s founder, Armin Navabi, to form a section of the organization dedicated to providing content and community to Persian speakers. The Persian wing of Atheist Republic has since become a thriving and influential community with a large following. Ghasem, a moderator on the Atheist Republic Persian YouTube channel, said, “Termeh helped to enlighten the Persian-speaking community by helping to set up the Persian section of Atheist Republic. Personally, I owe it to her for the great changes that have been made to my beliefs and values with this [YouTube] channel. May her memory live on.”
Silvia Gerger was the consulate administrator and founder of the Atheist Republic Vienna Consulate. Silvia had a particular interest in the cause of assisting Ex-Muslims, and the Atheist Republic Vienna consulate became a meeting place for many Ex-Muslims who had fled to Vienna from abroad in pursuit of freedom and safety. Silvia was also the founder of Atheist Refugees Austria, which offered specialized asylum services and consultations that were tailored to address the specific needs of atheist refugees, a very under-served group. She was known for her passion for fighting for the LGBT community and prosecuted free-thinkers, and could frequently be seen at the weekly vigils in support of Saudi liberal blogger, Raif Badawi. Members of the Atheist Republic Vienna consulate expressed their grief in reaction to this unfortunate news and shared memories of how they felt like Silvia was like a mother to them.
Indian High Court Compares Atheist Republic to Trump! Location: India
Atheist Republic’s ongoing legal battle over “blasphemous” tweets recently made headlines in India. In the latest chapter of the saga, on March 28th, the Delhi High Court asked Twitter why it had not banned accounts that posted objectionable content against a Hindu goddess. This referred to a complaint filed last year against Twitter which targeted several posts by Atheist Republic that contained “hurtful” images of the Hindu Goddess Kali. In this latest hearing the petitioner also further sought to ban Atheist Republic’s Twitter account in total. Both judges remarked that the issue is about how people feel about the sensitive content. “If these kinds of things were done in relation to another religion, you would be much more careful, more sensitive,” the judges said. 
Sidharth Luthra, Twitter’s senior counsel who appeared during the hearing, explained that Twitter “cannot block any individual.” Twitter cannot take down content without a court order, Luthra added. “If this is the logic, then why have you blocked Mr. Trump,” the court countered. The court also challenged Twitter to present their policy behind Trump’s suspension from Twitter, claiming that they should have done the same with the Atheist Republic. 
On the same day, Atheist Republic received an email from Twitter Legal which stated “Twitter has received a court order from the High Court of Delhi at New Delhi regarding your Twitter account, @AtheistRepublic, that claims [that] content violates the law(s) of India.” Importantly, the email also noted that, “In order to comply with Twitter’s obligations under India’s local laws, we have withheld this content in India; the content remains available elsewhere.”
Atheist Republic’s lawyers intervened and argued that the petitioner’s original wish to have the “offending” tweets removed has been fulfilled as they were now blocked to Indian users, so the court should not go forward with banning the Twitter account in total. They also argued that Atheist Republic must be made a party to the proceedings if coercive action will be taken against the organization, and that any blocking by either Twitter or the government of India should only occur after Atheist Republic has been heard in court. Their submissions were taken into account and the intervention was allowed. The court also ordered Atheist Republic to submit an affidavit, within two weeks, detailing its status, location, presence of any place of business, and authorized representatives in India. The matter will be heard in court again on Sept. 6, 2022.
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