In the News: Interview with David Rand, Conatus News

Quebec is Currently Leading a Secular Revolution in Canada. Here’s How., Scott Jacobsen, Conatus News, 2018-07-10

In the News: Twenty Years Prison for Removing Her Veil

Iranian woman who protested headscarf gets 20-year sentence, Associated Press, 2018-07-1.0

An Iranian woman who removed her obligatory Islamic headscarf out of protest in December says she has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. Shapark Shajarizadeh posted on her personal website that she had been jailed for “opposing the compulsory hijab” and “waving a white flag of peace in the street.” There was no immediate comment from Iranian officials. […]

Shajarizadeh, 42, was released on bail in late April. Her current whereabouts were unknown. In Iran, women showing their hair in public face penalties ranging from a $25 fine to prison time.

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In the News: New Hampshire Bans Female Genital Mutilation

The AHA (Ayaan Hirsi Ali) Foundation, which campaigns against female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female excision, announces that New Hampshire has recently criminalizes the excision of young girls and thus becomes the 27th state of the United States to do so. But that means that 23 states still have no legislation banning that atrocious practice. Furthermore, even among the 27 which ban it, the legislation requires strengthening in some cases.

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In the News: PDF Québec Intervenes in the Court Challenge to Bill 62, but for the Niqab Ban

From an announcement on Facebook

Great news! In the court challenge to the Religious Neutrality Bill 62, PDF Québec has been recognized as intervener.

As you have learned from media reports, the Superior Court has maintained the suspension of the article of Bill which states that public services much be offered and received with the face visible.

PDF Québec has just been recognized by the Court as intervener in this case. Our goal: defend women’s right to equality and the religious neutrality of the state, by preventing recognition of the wearing of the niqab as compatible with those two issues.

The cause will be heard in early August 2018.

Excellent news! Bravo to the feminist group PDF Québec (For the Rights of Women, Quebec). We must not allow the Islamist veil to be imposed. We must continue to fight against the ridiculous notion that wearing that banner of political Islam is a “right” everywhere and at all times.

In the News: Ensaf Haidar Calls For Ban on Full Veil

Wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi calls for burqa ban in Ontario, Rahul Kalvapalle, Global News, 2018-07-01

The wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has called on Ontario Premier Doug Ford to ban the use of Islamic face coverings in public places. Ensaf Haidar, who along with her three children became a Canadian citizen on Canada Day, took to Twitter to urge Ford to follow Quebec’s lead and outlaw the burqa and niqab from government settings, schools, banks, hospitals and public transportation. […]

In a statement, Haidar told Global News that she wanted to use her first day as a Canadian citizen to raise awareness about the plight of women forced to abide by Sharia, or traditional Islamic law.

“As a refugee in Quebec and Canada I have noticed the fast growth of Islamist groups loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Saudi clergy imposing the Burqa and enforcing Niqab on girls and women as political flags to mark jihadi territory. […] on the first day as a Canadian I have raised the issue of banning the Burqa and Niqab in Ontario as I feel Premier Ford is a man who will listen to my plea and end the war by deception being waged by Islamists against Canadian values.”

Here is Ms. Haidar’s tweet:

Tweet by Ms. Haidar

The response from Twitter was mixed. Although Ms. Haidar received many favorable responses, she also received hostile reactions from those who are dupes of the pro-veil propaganda from the Canadian government and several federal political parties.

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In the News: Denmark and Iceland May Ban Non-Medical Circumcision

Denmark Talks (Reluctantly) About a Ban on Circumcising Boys, Martin Selsoe Sorensen, New York Times, 2018-06-02

In Denmark, any proposal that can gather 50,000 signatures on Parliament’s official petition website is legally entitled to a debate and vote. A citizens’ petition demanding a minimum age of 18 for circumcision to protect “children’s fundamental rights” reached that threshold on Friday. […]

“It will put children’s rights ahead of their parents’ religious rights,” said Naser Khader, a member of Parliament and spokesman on human rights and legal affairs for the Conservative Party, which is a junior partner in the governing coalition. […]

A similar measure has passed an initial parliamentary vote in Iceland, but it is yet to become law and might never do so.

The Danish proposal is unlikely to achieve a majority vote in Parliament, but one recent survey, by the polling company Megafon for the television network TV2, found that 83 percent of voters supported a ban on circumcising boys. Political support for the measure has horrified many Danish Jews and Muslims — the operation is relatively uncommon in Denmark, and carried out almost exclusively for religious reasons. […] A string of Danish organizations working on health or children’s rights discourage circumcision on ethical grounds, […]

The United States Embassy in Denmark has raised concerns about the anti-circumcision proposal “from the perspective of freedom of religion,” according to a statement given by its first secretary and public affairs officer, Daniel J. Ernst, to the daily newspaper Politiken. “While the American government can’t tell Denmark how to legislate on male circumcision, it is making its position clear,” he wrote.

Iceland Plans to Ban Circumcision, Jóhann Páll Ástvaldsson, Iceland Review, 2018-03-29.

Iceland made headlines around the world as a proposed bill to ban the circumcision of young males raised attention. Circumcision of young male has featured prominently in the national debate recently due to the bill. The proposed bill claims that non-medical circumcision of boys violates their human rights, as they have no say in the decision. Circumcision of young females has been banned since 2005, and the bill proposes that the law should also include a ban on the circumcision of young males. The bill has raised quite the furore as both Jewish and Muslim religious leaders have denounced it.

[…] public opinion in Iceland is generally positive towards the bill. The thinking goes so that adults should not affect young children’s lives with a decision that they do not have a say in. Furthermore, the procedure could affect the health of the child, as there is some danger of an infection, or further complications with the surgery. It is first and foremost an issue of protecting the child as the operation is an irredeemable operation that the children have no say in.

The bill has not been without its detractors as they claim it would stifle their religious freedom. […]

Bravo! Genital mutilation should be strictly banned, for boys as well as for girls. It is completely unacceptable that religions be allowed to impose their practices in violation of the physical integrity of children.

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In the News: Denmark Bans Face Coverings in Public

Denmark becomes latest European country to ban full Islamic face veil in public spaces , Telegraph, 2018-05-31.

The Danish parliament on Thursday passed a law banning the Islamic full-face veil in public spaces, becoming the latest European country to do so.

The legislation takes effect on August 1st.

The courage of the Danish government must be recognized. This ban is a strong measure as it applies in public spaces, not just in public services. Nevertheless, it is certainly preferable to the complacency and the crass illogic of the Canadian government which not only permits religious symbols everywhere, even in the RCMP, before the courts and in state ceremonies, but in addition even celebrates them!

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In the News: Government Rejects Petition e-763 Against Religious Exception in Hate Propaganda

The federal government has rejected parliamentary petition e-763, lauched by AFT to request the repeal of the religious exception, i.e. paragraph 319(3)(b), in the Canadian law against hate propaganda (in the Criminal Code). Here is the essential part of the response to petition e-753 which we received from the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould:

The Government does not agree with the proposal to repeal paragraph 319(3)(b) of the Criminal Code.

Paragraph 319(3)(b) provides a defence to the crime of wilfully promoting hatred against an identifiable group for any person who, in good faith, expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text. There are also three other defences to this crime, which are found in paragraphs 319(3)(a)(c) and (d) of the Criminal Code.

In R. v. Keegstra, [1990] 3 SCR 697, the Supreme Court of Canada examined these defences. The Court said that the three defences which include elements of good faith or honest belief–namely, paragraphs 319(3)(b), (c) and (d) –seemed to negate the mens rea or mental fault requirement for the offence, for only rarely would a person who intends to promote hatred be acting in good faith or upon honest belief. The Court also said that the defences found in subsection 319(3) reflect a commitment to the idea that an individual’s freedom of expression will not be curtailed in borderline cases.

We of Atheist Freethinkers are currently preparing our reply.

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In the News: IHEU Corrects Vatican About Freedom From Religion

Actually, ‘freedom from religion’ is a human right, IHEU tells Vatican at the UN, Elizabeth O’Casey, IHEU, 2018-03-09

Humanists at the UN have today strongly rejected claims from the Vatican delegation that ‘freedom from religion’ is not a human right.

In its first statement to the 37th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council this afternoon, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) was responding to comments made last Friday by the Vatican delegation. During a discussion (video) of the latest report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, the Vatican representative, Ivan Jurkovic, had disputed that ‘freedom from religion’ is covered by international law, saying that “Of the utmost concern, the use of the term freedom from religion, which is not contemplated in the international instruments, reveals a patronising idea of religion, going beyond the mandate of the special rapporteur.”

Delivering IHEU’s response today, IHEU Director of Advocacy, Elizabeth O’Casey, corrected the Vatican (known as Holy See in international fora), listing the established rights which constitute freedom from religion, and highlighted why freedom from religion is so necessary for those professing no religious beliefs around the world.

By rejecting the concept of freedom FROM religion, the Vatican shows that it has no respect whatsoever for the freedom of conscience of anyone. It is as if the Vatican were competing with governments of Muslim-majority countries which criminalize apostasy (i.e. leaving one’s religion), sometimes even punishing it with the death penalty, to see who can be the greatest destroyer of liberty. This illustrates that keeping religion out of politics—in this case, making sure that the Vatican and the Catholic Church keep their noses out of government—is so essential for human rights to be respected.

Bravo to the IHEU for reprimanding the Vatican and for asserting the importance of freedom FROM religion.

In the News: Egypt May Imprison Atheists

Égypte : les athées seront-ils bientôt mis en prison ? (Egypt: Will Atheists Soon be Imprisoned?), France 2 Television, 2018-02-27

A French television network reports that Egypt may soon pass legislation which would criminalize non-belief and punish it with fines or even prison.

In Egypt, everyone must declare their religion to authorities and that religion appears on each person’s compulsory identity card. The country is 90% Muslim and Islam is the state religion. Christianity and Judaism are recognized, but there is no tolerance whatsoever of atheism. To question the existence of god is considered blasphemous and atheism is considered to be a form of extremism!

This is an extreme expression of atheophobia, converging with the absolute ban on apostasy which is a core tenet of Islam. The result is the absolute negation of freedom of conscience for citizens of Egypt.

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In the News: Elections Québec Now Accepts Candidates With Head Coverings

Quebec nixes rule forcing political candidates to remove head coverings, CBC News, 2018-02-21

Quebec’s chief electoral officer is changing a regulation that prevented people who wear religious head coverings from running for provincial office. For nearly 30 years, all potential candidates have been required to submit a photo that shows their hair. The photos will appear on ballots used during the upcoming provincial election, scheduled for Oct. 1. But on Tuesday, a National Assembly committee gave its approval to chief electoral officer Pierre Reid to change that regulation. […]

All parties at the National Assembly say they approve of the change. […] One restriction remains: candidates must show their faces.

No political party in Quebec’s National Assembly opposed this decision by Elections Québec. Previously, candidates were required to have both head and face uncovered. But henceforth, only the face need be exposed. This is yet another step away from secularism. It is like an extension of the recently adopted Bill 62 which allows almost all religious symbols in Quebec public services.

In the News: Abortion Law Reform To Be Debated in Argentine Congress

Abortion Debate in Argentina Gains Momentum as Macri Says He Won’t Block It in Congress, The Bubble, 2018-02-23

The Casa Rosada has indicated it will not attempt to block a debate in Congress on proposals to decriminalize and legalize abortions. […]

Abortion is currently illegal and considered a crime in Argentina except in circumstances of a health threat to a woman’s life, cases of pregnancy following rape or sexual abuse of a woman with a mental disability. Lawmakers seeking decriminalization in the coming weeks will table a bill that decriminalizes abortions during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The reintroduction of the bill, the seventh time it has been submitted to Congress, is necessary as each bill expires after two years if it is not passed into law. […]

According to Argentina’s Health Ministry, between 370,000 and 522,000 abortions are performed annually, most of them considered illegal. […]

ARGENTINA – Macri gives a green light to open the debate on abortion law reform, International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion, 2018-02-23

In 2016, 46 women died from unsafe, illegal abortions in Argentina. All of them could have been avoided. Mauricio Macri, President of Argentina, is against abortion, but all around him there is a very strong movement and a new generation that are pushing for Argentina to become a leader in the region on abortion law reform, as they were with gay marriage. The abortion rights movement in Argentina seeks to go well beyond Chile and calls for a law that allows abortion on request in the first 14 weeks.

In the Congress, where resistance to change and the pressures of the Catholic church still have weight, the pressure is growing every day. Last weekend it exploded in a cheerful and organised manner in front of the Congress building and on social media with the slogan #AbortoLegalYa (Legal abortion already!) that gained the support of many famous politicians and journalists, a senior judge, a TV star and some important members of the Government.

The new law, if adopted, would grant every woman the right to decide voluntarily to terminate a pregnancy during the first 14 weeks of gestation.

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In the News: President of Tunisian Tunisian Assaulted

Le président de l’Association des Libres penseurs tunisiens agressé, la Fédération française de la Libre Pensée adresse une lettre ouverte à l’ambassadeur de Tunisie en France (President of Tunisian Freethinkers Assaulted, French Freethought Federation Writes to the Tunisian Ambassador in France), Taieb Khouni, HuffPost Tunisie, 2018-02-26


Click to view full size

On February 21st in Tunis, Hatem Limam, president of the Tunisian freethought organization ALP, was assaulted openly in the street by individuals who followed him to his home and caused him multiple wounds and contusions. The French Freethought Federation (FNLP) has written an open letter to the Tunisian ambassador in France, Abdelaziz Rassâa, condemning the attack and asking the ambassador to urge the Tunisian government to take all necessary measures to protect freethinkers in that country and to see that the perpetrators are brought to justice. The ALP, which promotes atheism and secularism, was officially recognized in October 2017.

The IAFT (International Association of Free Thought), KLF (Kazimierz Lyszczynski Foundation, Poland), IHEU (International Humanist and Ethical Union) and other organizations have also expressed outrage at the attack and solidarity with Tunisian freethinkers.

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Atheist of the Year Contest 2018

Kazimierz Łyszczyński Foundation

Kazimierz Łyszczyński Foundation

Atheist of the Year Contest 2018

Call for Nominations

The nomination period is now closed.

The finalists for the Atheist of the Year Contest 2018:

  • Karrar Hamza, Iraqi ex-Muslim atheist, feminist and human rights activist.
  • Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, founder of Global Secular Humanist Movement, columnist for Free Inquiry.
  • David Silverman, President of American Atheists, author of the book Fighting God.

We are pleased to announce that the Atheist of the Year Award is already held for the fifth time in Warsaw. The Contest aims to honor individuals, organizations or institutions for outstanding achievements in the following fields:

  1. promotion of the atheistic worldview and freedom from religion,
  2. counteraction against discrimination based on belief,
  3. integration of Polish and international atheist movements.

The Title is awarded by the Jury from among candidates submitted to the Organizer of the Contest. The Contest is open to any natural or legal person who accepts the Atheist of the Year Title Regulations and is enrolled as a candidate using the attached nomination form sent to: biuro@lyszczynski.com.pl

Award Category: International

Deadline: February 28, 2018

Jury:

  • Sanal Edamaruku, Rationalist International, Atheist of the Year 2014
  • Christian Eyschen, Council of the International Association of Free Thought (AILP/IAFT)
  • Waleed El-Husseini, Ex-Muslims France, writer
  • Maryam Namazie, Ex-Muslims of Great Britain, Atheist of the Year 2014 (ex-aequo)
  • Michael Nugent, Atheist Ireland, Atheist of the Year 2017
  • David Rand, Atheist Freethinkers Canada, spokesperson of the International Association of Free Thought (AILP/IAFT)
  • Nina Sankari, Kazimierz Łyszczyński Foundation, spokesperson of the International Association of Free Thought (AILP/IAFT)

Award Ceremony: March 24, 2018 at the Atheist Gala Dinner (Atheist Days 2018,Warsaw)

Prizes: Diplomas and Statuettes. The Organizer reserves the right to award special prizes – in kind or cash.

Organizer: Kazimierz Łyszczyński Foundation Board

In the News: Iranian Women Bravely Remove Veils Publicly, Risk Arrest

Elderly Iranian woman removes veil
Click to view video
An elderly Iranian woman removes
and agitates her veil in protest.
She is apparently not
one of those arrested.

Iranian police arrest 29 for involvement in hijab protests, Eliza Mackintosh, CNN, 2018-02-03.

Police in the Iranian capital, Tehran, have arrested 29 people for their involvement in protests against the country’s compulsory headscarf law. Women across Iran have been removing their headscarves in public to protest Iran’s strict Islamic dress code. Videos and photos shared on social media have shown demonstrators standing on utility boxes on street sidewalks, defiantly waving their hijabs.

Tehran police suggested that their actions were incited by foreigners, saying those arrested were “deceived” into removing their hijabs, Iran’s semiofficial Tasnim News Agency reported. The 29 protesters have been transferred to judicial authorities, the report said.

Masih Alinejad, the Iranian activist behind the “White Wednesday” social media campaign against mandatory hijabs, who is now based in the US, told CNN that the movement has not been influenced from abroad. “This is a campaign that’s been going on for years and years. The women of Iran have long been ignored. We’re just giving them a platform.” News of the arrests came just days after the release of Vida Mohaved, a woman who was detained in December after removing her headscarf at an anti-regime protest. The wave of anti-goverment demonstrations last month was sparked by concerns over rising living costs and a stagnant economy, but also provided an opening for Iranian women to push for equal rights. Women have been required to wear the hijab since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Courageous women, who deserve our full support and respect. The response of Iranian authorities is ridiculous in the extreme, accusing the protesting women of ignorance and foreign influence.

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In the News: Supreme Court Rejects Privilege for Aboriginal Spirituality

Top court deals blow to Indigenous peoples, Nathan VanderKlippe, The Globe and Mail, 2017-11-02

The Supreme Court of Canada has declined to grant special protection for religious freedom for aboriginal peoples, ruling that a private ski resort in British Columbia can be built on a site sacred to an Indigenous community. The Ktunaxa Nation had opposed a resort on Crown land near their community in southeastern British Columbia, arguing that it would affect a grizzly-bear habitat and drive away the Grizzly Bear Spirit essential to their faith.

[…] seven judges of nine […] said the Ktunaxa claim fell entirely outside of the Canadian notion of freedom of religion, as established in previous Charter cases, which protects only the right to hold and manifest beliefs. “In short, the Charter protects the freedom to worship, but does not protect the spiritual focal point of worship.”

Read more ›

In the News: Markham, Ontario, Mayor Enables Political Islam

Proclamation, Markham
Click to view full size
Proclamation, City of Markham, Ontario

To the long list of dupes of political Islam, we can now add the name of the mayor Frank Scarpitti of the Ontario city of Markham, who has issued a proclamation, dated 2018-01-29, in which he declares that “Islamophobia, like all other forms of racism, hate, xenophobia, and bigotry, has no place in the City of Markham.” Whatever his intentions may be, the result of the mayor’s proclamation is to validate the use of one of the favourite propaganda tools of Islamofascists—the expression “Islamophobia”—whose purpose is to stigmatize any criticism of their ideology and of the religion Islam which they exploit in order to promote that ideology. Another sad day for Canada.

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In the News: Quebeckers from Muslim Background Denounce Exploitation of January 29

Un an après l’attentat de la mosquée de Québec, apaiser le climat social (One Year After the Quebec City Mosque Attack, Social Climate Needs Calm), Ferid Chikhi, Nadia El-Mabrouk, Ali Kaidi & Leila Lesbet of the Association québécoise des Nord-Africains pour la laïcité (AQNAL: Quebec Association of North-Africans for Secularism), Le Devoir, 2018-01-25

Since the odious attack which occurred at the Quebec City mosque a year ago, something in the social fabric has been broken. Immediately following the murders, defamatory publications showing Quebec personalities with blood-stained hands began to circulate on the internet, and thinly-veiled accusations were made, linking the attack with secularists. In forums everywhere, Quebeckers were accused of racism and Islamophobia, and a consultation on racism and discrimination was announced by the government a few months later. This festival of confusion has simply polluted the social climate, polarized the debate and increased hostility towards Islam and Muslims. […]

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In the News: Djemila Benhabib denounces “indecent” exploitation of January 29

Un drame et son instrumentalisation (A Tragedy and Its Exploitation), Djemila Benhabib, le Nouvelliste, 2018-01-26

Djemila Benhabib

We still do not know the motives of Alexandre Bissonnette, the presumed murderer, whose trial begins on March 26th 2018. Nevertheless, Islamist lobbyists, politicians at every level, the media and elites are doing everything in their power to impose upon us an enormous collective guilt, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the true frame of mind of Quebeckers who have repeatedly expressed their deep compassion for the victims of this horrible tragedy and their families, as well as their total rejection of all forms of violence. But no, this is not enough. Now we are being told that, in addition, we must work to expunge from our society a supposed pathology which has spread among us like an evil virus. It is time for redemption. Quebeckers must atone for a crime which they did not commit and beg forgiveness for a moral turpitude whose nature is a mystery to them. Why?

Read more ›

Days of Atheism 2018, Warsaw, Poland

Days of Atheism 2018
22 — 25 March 2018
Warsaw, Poland

Kazimierz Lyszczynski Foundation

In the News: Relative of Victim Rejects Day Against “Islamophobia”

Attentat à la mosquée de Québec, Il n’y a pas d’islamophobie au Québec, selon une proche d’une victime (Attack on Quebec City Mosque, There is no Islamophobia in Quebec, Says Relative of Victim), TVA Nouvelles, 2018-01-23

A year after the terrorist attack on the Quebec City Mosque, the debate about the proposal for a national day against Islamophobia continues to generate debate.

Appearing on the “Denis Lévesque” show, a relative of one of the victims of the shooting denounces the attitude of Muslims communities who demand that such a day be instituted.

Read more ›

In the News: Fake News of Hijab Scissor Attack

Hijab scissor attack against 11-year-old did not occur: Police, Jenna Moon, Toronto Star, 2018-01-15

Police say the events described did not occur. […]

Toronto Police say they have concluded that an incident reported Friday in which an eleven-year-old girl’s hijab was cut as she walked to school, did not happen. Police had been investigating the alleged incident as a hate crime and now say their investigation is concluded. […]

Read more ›

In the News: Charlie Hebdo, Three Years After

CH#1328
Click to enlarge
Front page of CH#1328

Il has been three years since the attack on the satiric newspaper Charlie Hebdo, on January 7th 2015. In an editorial entitled “Freedom of Expression, What Does It Cost?” and published in no. 1328, 2018-01-04, Riss considers these three years.

It had been hoped that the situation would improve. On the contrary, it has become permanent. Working conditions for the newspaper’s staff will probably never return to normal. Neither will the private lives of some of its collaborators. Charlie Hebdo must sell at least 15,000 copies each week or more than 800,000 per year, just to cover the cost of security for its offices.

“Freedom of Expression, vital and essential for our democracy, is becoming a luxury product,” concludes Riss.


The Twelve Murdered, 2015-01-07
Click to enlarge
The Twelve Murdered, Charlie Hebdo, 2015-01-07
Source: Facebook page of Waleed Al Husseini

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In the News: Iran Claims to Soften Dress Code for Women

Tehran Police Say Women Will No Longer Be Arrested For Violating ‘Islamic’ Dress Code, Hayley Miller, Huffington Post Canada, 2017-12-28.

Police in Iran’s capital are loosening up restrictions regarding dress code after decades of pushback from women in the country.

On Wednesday, Tehran police announced that women will no longer risk arrest for breaching the country’s conservative interpretation of Islamic dress code, which includes a ban on wearing nail polish, heavy makeup or loose headscarves. Instead, violators will be ordered to take police-instructed classes on “Islamic values,” while repeat offenders could still be subject to legal action, reported the Wall Street Journal.

“Based on a society-oriented, educational approach, the police will not arrest those who don’t respect Islamic values,” said Brig. Gen. Hossein Rahimi, according to the country’s official Islamic Republic News Agency. “It will instead educate them.”

For decades, Iranian women have been resisting a government ruling passed in the wake of the 1979 Iranian Revolution that required women to wear headscarves in public. Iranian millennials have been especially defiant of the policy through social media protests and street marches.

The title of the article above, “Women Will No Longer Be Arrested For Violating ‘Islamic’ Dress Code”, is misleading. As the body of article explains, first offenders will no longer be arrested. However, repeat offenders still risk arrest and prosecution. Even for a first offense, the woman will be subjected to re-education classes in “Islamic values.” This is hardly an important victory; rather it is a very minor softening of the government’s policy.

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In the News: Egypt to Ban Atheism

Egypt’s parliament takes serious actions to combat atheism, Marina Gamil, Egypt Today, 2018-01-04

CAIRO – 4 January 2018: Parliament’s Committee on Religion is about to prepare an explanatory note on the draft law to criminalize atheism in Egypt, amongst several steps Egypt takes to combat atheism, said on Thursday the head of committee, Amr Hamroush.

The law consists of four articles; the first defines atheism; the second criminalizes atheism and imposes severe sanctions on atheists; the third stipulates that the penalties would be cancelled if a person eschews his atheist beliefs and the fourth one dictates that the penalties declared in the law are severe.

Hamroush said that he will discuss with Al-Azhar scientists and experts the penalties and the necessary articles in the new legislation that are needed to combat this phenomenon that widely spread in Egypt in recent years.

Previously, a blasphemy law was added to the penal code in 1982 that stipulates prison sentences of six months to five years to “anyone who uses religion to promote, through speech, writing, or any other medium, extremist ideas with the aim of spreading discord or to belittle or disdain one of the monotheistic religions or their different sects, or to harm national unity.” It is important to note that atheism has not been mentioned directly in the constitution; hence, atheists are convicted under the blasphemy law.

Combating atheism

Recently, atheism has become a trending topic in the media as many TV shows have hosted many debates between Christian priests and Muslim sheikhs along with atheists to discuss the main reasons behind abandoning faiths. From 2011 to 2013, Egyptian courts convicted 27 of 42 defendants for declaring atheism, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). Furthermore, a 21-year-old student, Karim Ashraf Mohamed al-Banna, was sentenced to three years in prison in November 2014 for announcing on Facebook that he was an atheist. Police then raided an atheist café and closed it down. Recently, Egyptian Security Forces arrested a 29-year-old computer science graduate, Ibrahim Khalil, on December 21 for administrating a Facebook page that promotes atheism. […]

This is an extreme manifestation of atheophobia, in a country where respect for freedom of conscience is practically non-existent. Although apostasy is not explicitly criminalized in Egypt, apostates (those who leave Islam) risk severe persecution, such as accusations of “blasphemy” or “defaming religion.” These are consequences of the fact that Islam is the state religion.

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