The Week in Review: April 10 thru 16

Wife of Imprisoned Saudi Blogger Raif Badaw Says His Health Is Deteriorating

by Allison Lampert at Reuters

Imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, recent recipient of a prestigious European human rights award, has suffered fainting spells and deteriorating health because of a hunger strike, his wife said on Thursday.

Ensaf Haidar, who was granted asylum in Canada with the couple’s three children, said by phone she hoped her husband would end a hunger strike he had initiated more than 20 days ago to protest against his transfer to a different prison in Saudi Arabia.

A member of Amnesty International in Canada and a spokeswoman for the Canadian government both said by email they were not able to confirm the hunger strike.

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An Academic in Kuwait Has Been Charged with Blasphemy over TV Interview

by Sebastian Usher at BBC

Sheikha al-Jassem was summoned to the public prosecutor’s office after legal complaints were filed against her over a recent interview she gave on TV. She asserted that the constitution of Kuwait should be above the Quran and Islamic law in governing the country. The public prosecutor still has the discretion to decide whether or not Ms Jassem will be put on trial.

The interview was broadcast on Kuwaiti Al-Shahed TV on 8 March. Its theme was the rise of Islamic extremism. During the interview, Ms Jassem was asked about radical Islamists who said that religion was more important than the Kuwaiti constitution.

She responded by saying that this was dangerous and that, in her opinion, politics and religion should be kept apart.

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A Gang Rape Victim in Saudi Arabia Has Been Sentenced to 200 Lashes & Six Months in Jail

by Hemley Gonzalez at United Humanists

Saudi Arabia defended a controversial verdict sentencing a 19-year-old gang rape victim to 200 lashes and six months in jail. The Shi’ite Muslim woman had initially been sentenced to 90 lashes after being convicted of violating Saudi Arabia’s rigid Islamic Sharia law on segregation of the sexes.

The decision handed down by the Saudi General Court more than doubled her sentence last week. The court also roughly doubled the prison sentences for the seven men convicted of raping her, Saudi media said.

The upholding of a decision to punish the victim triggered international outcry.

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Ireland’s Blasphemy Laws Inspire Countries Like Pakistan to Sentence Christian to Death for Drinking from the Same Water as Muslims

by Roy Greenslade at The Guardian

Ireland is the only country in the developed western world to have introduced a blasphemy law in the 21st century.

The disgraceful law, passed in 2009 and introduced in January 2010, carries a maximum fine of €25,000. It prohibits the “publishing or uttering [of] matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion”.

A government promise of a referendum about the law was broken despite the then prime minister, Enda Kenny, previously agreeing that one was necessary.

The failure to do so outraged Irish atheists and secularists. Michael Nugent, chairperson of Atheist Ireland, believes blasphemy laws are inimical to free speech, and regarded the failure to hold a plebiscite as “a betrayal”.

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A Christian Was Caned in Indonesia for Violating Sharia Law by Selling Alcohol

from Asian Correspondent

A 60-year-old Christian woman was whipped nearly 30 times for selling alcohol in Indonesia’s conservative Bandar Aceh, a semi-autonomous province governed by Islamic Shariah law.

This is the first time that a non-Muslim person was punished under the religious code, which involves corporal punishment for breaching its laws.

The woman faced the caning before a crowd of hundreds that gathered in the province on Tuesday. She was whipped along with a couple who faced about 100 lashes for committing adultery.

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Terrorist Group Responsible for Easter Attacks Against Christians in Pakistan Promises More to Come

by Debapriya Chatterjee at Atheist Republic

The terror group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar recently threatened Pakistani Christians with even more devastating attacks, following the Easter Sunday bombing in a park in Lahore that killed at least 70 people, most of them women and children.

Ehsanullah Ehsan, spokesperson for Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, an affiliate of the Pakistani Taliban, clarified in an interview that the terror group was planning even more devastating attacks against Christians and other religious minorities in the country. Identifying the suicide bomber that executed the attack in Lahore on March 27 as Salahuddin Khosrani, Ehsan described him as a martyr and said he was trained in a desolate region in Afghanistan before being transported to Pakistan.

Dismissing any link with Islamic State, Ehsan said that Jamaat-ul-Ahrar carries out its own operations ever since it split from Taliban in 2014. Ehsan explained that the terror group decided to carry out its Easter Sunday attack as revenge for Jamaat-ul-Ahrar founder, Maulvi Omar Khalid, who was gravely injured by NATO airstrikes in Nangarhar Province in 2014.

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Chino Valley Town Council Finally Agrees to Stop Praying During Public Meetings

by Ken Sain at the Chino Valley Review

With the threat of lawsuits looming, the Chino Valley Town Council voted to change its invocation policy at its meeting on Tuesday, April 12.

Mayor Chris Marley, who had defiantly said at the Feb. 9 meeting that he was drawing a line in the sand against those who wanted to change the town’s policy, suggested the alternative that the rest of the council unanimously approved [Councilmember Jack Miller was absent from the meeting]. Going forward, the council will meet in private before meetings begin to hold an invocation out of public view.

“This has been a long process, this wasn’t done as a knee-jerk reaction,” Marley said during the meeting. “Although legal costs are a factor, they are not the deciding factor, since we cannot put a price on our Constitution.”

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Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the UN Defends Law That Labels Atheists as Terrorists During Interview

by Hemant Mehta at Patheos

It was two years ago when Saudi Arabia passed new laws saying atheists were considered enemies of the state, equivalent to violent terrorists. It didn’t make sense then, and it still doesn’t today.

So when Al Jazeera America’s Mehdi Hasan had a chance to interview Saudi ambassador to the UN Abdallah al-Mouallimi, he attempted to get an answer as to why atheism and other “thought-crimes” were such a problem.

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Bangladesh’s Prime Minster Announces that writing against religion will not be tolerated

from The Daily Star

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said hurting religious sentiments of others by writing something is not acceptable. “We perform our religious rituals. But why should we tolerate anyone writing filthy words against our religion?” she questioned.

The PM was addressing the Awami League leaders and workers on the occasion of Pahela Baishakh at the Gono Bhaban on Thursday. She said writing something against religion as part of freethinking has become a “fashion” nowadays.

“I don’t consider such writings as freethinking but filthy words. Why would anyone write such words? It’s not at all acceptable if anyone writes against our prophet or other religions…. I hope no one would write such filthy words.”

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German Chancellor Agrees to Demands from Turkey’s Islamist President to Have Comedian Prosecuted for Satirical Poem About Him

by Philip Oltermann at The Guardian

Angela Merkel, has been criticised by members of her cabinet after acceding to a request from Ankara to prosecute a comedian who read out an offensive poem about the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The German chancellor insisted her government’s decision did not amount to a verdict on whether Jan Böhmermann was guilty or not, but should be understood as a reaffirmation of the judiciary’s independence.

“In a constitutional democracy, weighing up personal rights against freedom of the press and freedom of expression is not a matter for governments, but for public prosecutors and courts,” Merkel said in a press conference on Friday.

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