Atheist Republic News Summary: Iranian Atheist Political Prisoner Soheil… P-admin Atheist Republic

Read More Atheist Republic Iranian Atheist Political Prisoner Soheil Arabi Re-Arrested
Location: Iran 
Atheist Republic has received word that well-known Iranian atheist and ex-Muslim Soheil Arabi was re-arrested by Islamic Republic security forces from his home on January 2nd, 2023. Sources have informed us that he was so violently beaten during the arrest that he suffered a heart attack. He was taken to Imam Sajjad Hospital and then transferred to the Greater Tehran Prison on January 7th. We have also been informed that he was denied the ability to bring the medication that he needs due to custodial torture with him to prison. Soheil Arabi is an Iranian blogger and activist who was initially imprisoned in Iran in 2013 and charged with “insulting the prophet” and “spreading propaganda against the regime” and sentenced to death. In November 2021, Soheil was released from prison but sentenced to two years of “internal exile.” A group of over 40 ex-Muslim, atheist, secularist, and freethought organizations, have joined together to politically sponsor Soheil. As Soheil Arabi’s political sponsors, we will continue to advocate and mobilize support and solidarity for him and put pressure on the Islamic regime of Iran to free him immediately and unconditionally.
You can be Soheil’s voice by posting about his situation and using the hashtags #SoheilArabi #FreeSoheil #WhereIsSoheil and #FreePoliticalPrisoners. Stay tuned and up to date with Atheist Republic because we will be continuing to make up to date announcements about actions that we can take as as community to fight for Soheil’s freedom.
Iran’s Bizarre New Plan to Enforce Mandatory Hijab Laws
Location: Iran
According to state media reports, Iran is implementing new methods of enforcing the wearing of hijab in public. Several lawmakers have floated the move after the first attempts to enforce the law more strictly gained tremendous backlash after the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September 2022. In December, Hossein Jalali, a hardliner lawmaker and member of the cultural committee of Iran’s parliament, announced that the regime plans to inform women who do not wear hijab via SMS. “After notifying them, we enter the warning stage, and last, the bank account of the person who unveiled may be blocked,” the lawmaker added. Ali Khan-Mohammadi, the spokesperson of Iran’s Headquarters For Enjoining Right And Forbidding Evil, also announced hijab laws will be implemented “in a more modern framework.” On Sunday, January 1, an unnamed police officer announced a new stage of surveillance that will enforce wearing hijab in public. The new surveillance is being “rolled out across the country,” the officer claimed. An Iranian news agency reported that five business establishments in Qazvin, a city in northwestern Iran, were shut down as “punishment for serving women who were not wearing hijabs.”
Sweden’s Ban on Religious Schools Accused of Targeting Muslims
Location: Sweden
Sweden’s government has been criticized for enacting a policy that would seek to halt the establishment of denominational schools in the country, coming under fire for allegedly selectively targeting Muslim schools. “It is time to ban independent religious schools. The school should not be a place for religious schooling and encourage religious segregation. Neither Christian sects, imams, nor shareholders should govern the school,” said Lisa Nåbo, the Social Democrats Youth Union Chairman. Anadolu Agency reported that around 20 schools in the country with an Islamic orientation were closed down since 2019, with only three remaining, two of which have filed a lawsuit against the Swedish government. The Islamic Schools Association also claimed that the policy was motivated mainly by politics and hate against Muslims. Although Muslims criticized the policy, Christians also previously expressed their concerns regarding the bill. Fredrik Sidenvall, a Swedish priest and the vice chairman of the Christian Independent Schools Council, described the tone of the proposal as approaching “incitement against ethnic groups” and “institutionalized bullying.”
Probe Reveals Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Schools Are Exploiting Special Funding
Location: New York, United States 
A new investigation released by the New York Times revealed that Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish schools in New York City are using funds intended for special education for other purposes. The report referred to a 2014 New York City government policy created under former Mayor Bill de Blasio, which made it easier for private school students to receive state-funded special education. But as the Times reported, the policy led to “a windfall of government money for services that are sometimes not needed, or even provided.” The New York Times also reported that dozens of Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish schools, also known as yeshivas, have urged parents to have their children diagnosed with disabilities. Two yeshivas sent mass emails to parents encouraging families to apply for funding. Another school reportedly gave out sample prescriptions to parents, which they could give to their children’s doctors, allowing them to be diagnosed and receive more government resources for the yeshiva. Unsurprisingly, many Hasidic Jews attacked the New York Times and mounted a media campaign against them, accusing the media outlet of bigotry and threatening the lives of Hasidic Jews. However, many advocates of yeshiva school reform welcomed the investigations, saying that they are necessary to force these schools to change.
Should Jews Be Worried About the Rise of the Black Hebrew Israelites?
Location: United States
The Black Hebrew Israelites (BHI), a fringe religion, once again made headlines in the United States at the end of 2022. The group is composed of different sects which essentially agree that African Americans are the direct descendants of the Biblical Israelites. In the latest viral video, the group was marching in support of Kyrie Irving, returning from an eight-game suspension by the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Brooklyn Nets. Irving received his suspension after posting a link to a documentary by a Hebrew Israelite, which is perceived as antisemitic. The documentary “exposes” that African Americans are the true Biblical descendants and that the people who call themselves Jews today are imposters. Some more extremist sects depict light-skinned people as “agents of Satan” and are unabashedly homophobic and misogynistic. The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified 144 chapters of the BHI on its annual hate group list. According to the Director of the Law Center’s Intelligence Project, Heidi Beirich, “This is a movement that has been growing pretty rapidly in the last three or four years, largely in reaction to Trump and white nationalism. (BHI) have used these developments to recruit into their movement.” No reliable polling exists to determine how many members there are but some sources estimate there are well over a million Black Hebrew Israelites in the United States.
Indian Supreme Court Rules Religious Conversion Can’t Be Purpose of Charity
Location: India
The Supreme Court of India recently called charity “with the intention of religious conversion” dangerous. There is nothing wrong with charity by religious groups, but the same cannot be said if the purpose behind that act is for religious conversion, said the Supreme Court on December 5. The division bench of Justice M.R. Shah and Justice C.T. Ravikumar approved the petition of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ashwini Upadhyay, which moved the court against deceitful religious conversion and rejected all kinds of interventions. The matter at hand is “very serious,” the bench insisted while stating how conversion by offering food, grains, and medicine is wrong and alluring is dangerous. “If you believe that particular persons should be helped, help them, but it can’t be for conversion. Allurement is very dangerous. It is a very serious issue and is against the basic structure of our constitution. Everyone who stays in India will have to act as per the culture of India,” the bench said. “The purpose of charity should not be conversion; every charity or good work is welcome, but what is required to be considered is the intention.”
Hindu Nationalist Indian MP Calls to Keep “Sharpened Knives” at Home
Location: India
On December 25th, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliment Pragya Thakur of Madhya Pradesh made controversial remarks on “Love Jihad” and also told the Hindu gathering to prepare themselves in case someone attacks them by sharpening their “weapons.” Thakur spoke about an incident last February when a Bajrang Dal (a Hindu nationalist militant organization) worker was stabbed to death by two Muslims. She addressed the crowd, “Keep weapons in your homes. At least keep the knives used to cut vegetables sharp. Don’t know what situation will arise when. Everyone has the right to self-protection. If someone infiltrates our house and attacks us, it is our right to respond to them. Just like how knives cut vegetables, it will also chop mouths and heads.” Pragya Thakur said to the gathering that Hindus have the right to retaliate against the attackers who hurt their dignity. “Love jihad. They (Muslims) have a tradition of jihad. If they get nothing, they will do love jihad. Even if they love, they do jihad in that. We (Hindus), too, love. We love god…” On January 7th, over 100 ex-civil servants penned an open letter requesting action in response to her speech. “She is obviously fomenting hate against non-Hindu communities and advocating violence against them.” the letter stated.
Bangladeshi Man Receives 7 Years in Jail for “Insulting” Prophet Muhammad
Location: Bangladesh
On January 3rd, a Bangladeshi man was given a seven-year prison sentence for sharing an allegedly blasphemous post on Facebook in 2017. Reportedly, Rakesh Roy is a Bangladeshi Hindu and an organizing secretary of a Hindu group operating in the Muslim-majority country. Aside from the lengthy prison sentence, Roy was also given a hefty fine of 100,000 Bangladeshi takas. Roy was arrested in June 2017 after Fujayel Ahmed, a Muslim, filed a case against him, accusing Roy of insulting the Prophet Muhammad and Islam in his complaint. A screenshot of his Facebook post was widely shared, leading to protests calling for his arrest. Although the court sentenced him based on his guilt being proven by forensic evidence and witness testimony, Rakesh Roy vehemently denied these accusations. He said adversaries framed him by creating a fake Facebook account in his name and sharing the offensive post with the public. According to Roy, the “blasphemous” post was made after he objected to an extremist named Abdul Aziz planning to convert Hindus to Islam. Roy’s legal counsel was disappointed with the verdict and said he would appeal to the higher court.
19-Year-Old NYC Machete Attack Suspect Wanted to “Carry Out Jihad”
Location: United States of America
A 19-year-old man named Trevor Bickford is accused of assaulting New York Police Department (NYPD) officers using a machete on New Year’s Eve of 2023. Bickford was on the FBI’s watchlist before the attack and had previously been interviewed by federal agents in Maine after saying he wanted to travel overseas to help his Taliban Muslim brethren in Afghanistan. Bickford said that he was willing to die for his religion. During the attack, Bickford pulled out a machete and started attacking the police officers. A criminal complaint report claims that during his interview, Bickford told the authorities that he said “Allahu Akbar” before walking up to the officer and hitting him with the machete. He tried to snatch a gun from an officer but could not get it out of the holster. He was later shot in the shoulder by an officer and taken into custody. Bickford has been charged with multiple counts of attempted murder and assault,and has no previous criminal record. The department said that the three injured NYPD officers were hospitalized in stable condition and were later released.
Survey Reveals that US Congress is More Religious than Most Americans
Location: United States of America
A new report from the Pew Research Center reveals that the 118th US Congress is more Christian and religious than the general public. The new report says that around 88% of all members of Congress are Christian, compared to only 63% of Americans who identify as such. That includes 57% of Congress members who identify as Protestant and 28% who are Catholic, both higher than the national percentage. Even though the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans has risen since 2007, only one member of Congress, independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, explicitly stated that she belongs to this category. Another member of Congress, Democratic Representative Jared Huffman, identifies as a Humanist. The report also listed 20 Congress members as having an unknown religious affiliation since they either did not answer the CQ Roll Call’s query, which served as the primary data source for Pew’s analysis. Pew Research Center also said in its report that the US Congress has been “largely untouched” by two significant trends in America’s religious life; the gradual, decades-long decline of Americans who identify as Christian and the steady increase of Americans who have no religious affiliation.

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