The Week in Review: April 24 thru 30

Islamists Are at It Again in Bangladesh This Week, as an LGBT Magazine Editor and His Friend Were Hacked to Death

from the BBC

Bangladesh police say a top gay rights activist and editor at the country’s only LGBT magazine is one of two people who have been hacked to death. The US ambassador to Bangladesh condemned the killing of Xulhaz Mannan, who also worked at the US embassy.

Another person was also injured when the attackers entered a Dhaka flat.

Since February last year suspected militants have killed several secular or atheist writers and members of religious minority groups. The two men were murdered two days after a university teacher was hacked to death by suspected Islamist militants.

So-called Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility – but the Bangladeshi government insists there is no IS presence in the country.

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Days Later, Islamists Struck Again by Butchering a Hindu Tailor Who Had Previously Been Jailed for ‘Blasphemy’ Against Islam

by Julfikar Ali Manik and Geeta Anand at The New York Times


Hindu tailor who had been briefly jailed several years ago over accusations that he made an unfavorable comment about the Prophet Muhammad was hacked to death on Saturday near his shop in central Bangladesh, the police said.

Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for the killing, citing the accusations of blasphemy against the tailor, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist websites.

Mohammad Abdul Jalil, the officer in charge of the Gopalpur police station in the Tangail district, a central region where the attack occurred, said in a telephone interview that it was too early to determine the motivation of the assailants or whether they were Islamist militants.

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A Great Article Addressing the Islamist Serial Killings in Bangladesh

by Maajid Nawaz from The Daily Beast

There really is no other way to put this. Free thinkers in Bangladesh are being serially hacked to death in their homes. An infamous hit list appeared in 2013 naming 84 “atheist bloggers.” By the end of 2015 there had been seven such murders across the country, and, tragically, this past week alone claimed three more victims.

Rezaul Karim Siddique, a professor of English at Rajshahi University in the country’s northwest, was set upon outside his house as he left for work. Siddique founded a literary magazine called Kamolgandhar and wanted to start a music school in his village as a way to involve his students in extra-curricular activities. But instead he died where he fell, succumbing to severe wounds after he was hacked in the back of the neck by cowards on a passing motorbike.

Only two days later, U.S. embassy employee Xulhaz Mannan, who was one of Bangladesh’s top gay-rights activists and editor of the country’s only LGBT magazine, Roopbaan, was murdered by machete in his home. His friend, another gay rights activist Tanay Mojumdar was also killed. Xulhaz and Tanay were behind the annual “Rainbow Rally,” held April 14 on the Bengali New Year.

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Abu Sayaaf, the ISIL Affiliate in the Philippines, Killed Their Canadian Hostage for Not Getting Their Ransom Demands Met

from the BBC

A Canadian man held captive by Islamist militants for months in the Philippines has been killed. John Ridsdel, 68, was taken from a tourist resort along with three others by the Abu Sayyaf group in September last year. The group had threatened to kill a male hostage on April 25 if a ransom was not paid.

Confirming the death, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it “an act of cold-blooded murder”.

Mr Ridsdel was kidnapped from a marina near the city of Davao along with another Canadian, Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and a Philippine woman, Mr Hall’s girlfriend Marites Flor.

They were taken 500km (300 miles) to the island of Jolo. Abu Sayyaf released a video of the group in November, in which they demanded $80m (£55m) for their release.

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Albinos in Several African Countries Are on the Verge of ‘Extinction’ Because Religious Nuts Are Hunting Them and Killing Them to Harvest Their Body Parts to Use in Their Magic

by Terry Firma at Patheos

When a superior civilization from a faraway planet finally makes it to Earth, I’m guessing that this will be on their Top-5 WTF list.

In countries like Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania, albinos are routinely hunted and killed. For reasons that don’t make the slightest sense, their paleness, the result of a skin-pigment deficiency, makes their severed body parts desirable for practitioners of witchcraft. White people, despite their often very similar skin tone, have little to fear. Albinos, sadly, have everything to fear — even extinction, says the U.N.

Malawi’s estimated 10,000 albinos face “extinction” if they continue to be murdered for their body parts for use in witchcraft, a UN expert has warned. Ikponwosa Ero said that the situation “constitutes an emergency, a crisis disturbing in its proportions.”

Hold on. The extinction claim is perhaps overdramatic. The BBC says Malawi law enforcement has recorded “65 attacks, abductions, and murders of albinos” since the end of 2014. If the number of killings over 15 months was a “generous” 50 (which would mean that the annual number of albino murder victims is 40), it’ll take 250 years to wipe out a population of 10,000 — and that’s assuming that no more albino children are born in the meantime.

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Did You Know That the U.S. Congress Spends Almost a Million Dollars per Year to Have Their Opening Prayer?

by Andrew Seidel at Patheos

Since 2000, your Congress has spent more than $10 million on prayers, the vast majority of which are to the Christian god (more than 96% of prayers in the House were Christian).

The Senate Chaplain’s Office has a budget of $436,886 this year. The House Chaplain’s budget is similar, but it was not a line item—it was lumped in with $24,980,898 for the “salaries and expenses of the Office of the Clerk, including the positions of the Chaplain and the Historian.”

However, the Senate chaplain has three staffers—a director of communications, a chief of staff, and an assistant—while the House Chaplain only has two staffers—an assistant and a liaison. The salaries alone for the three in the House chaplain’s office top $345,000 according to InsideGov. Add expenses and Congress is spending $800,000 every year on its opening prayers.

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by Ross Murray at GLAAD
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam today signed a bill allowing medical professionals to refuse mental health services to LGBT patients. This follows weeks of outreach and statements urging him to veto by GLAAD, LGBT organizations, business leaders, and leaders of the country music industry.“Denying anyone vital mental health services simply because they’re LGBT isn’t just outrageous, it’s outright dangerous,” said GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “What’s clear, however, is that legislative attacks that target LGBT people are bad for business.

Sadly, the bedrock of Tennessee’s economy – the record companies of Nashville – remained silent throughout the fight to pass this discriminatory law. It’s time that they join the growing chorus of Americans demanding an end to discrimination.”

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Two Journalists in Turkey Have Been Sent to Prison for ‘Blasphemy’

by Damien Sharkov at Newsweek

Two Turkish journalists have been sentenced to two years in prison for stoking “hatred and enmity” after republishing a cover from controversial satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, daily newspaper Hurriyet reports.

Hikmet Cetinkaya and Ceyda Karan, who were both employed by daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, which is often critical of Turkey’s conservative government, used images of a Charlie Hebdo cover story in a joint four-page spread about the French magazine.

The cover image used was the Charlie Hebdo’s first after it became a target of an Islamist attack in January 2015 and featured a weeping Prophet Muhammad. The journalists were accused of insulting religious values by showing images of the prophet, which is a taboo in Islamic culture, and of encouraging “hatred and enmity” among people.

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Young Women Sought Mental Health Care from Christian Counseling Centers and It Didn’t Go Well

by Jennifer Miller at Slate
Life wasn’t easy for Hayley Baker before the rages began, but it was tolerable. She attended a small Christian college near her home in Folsom, California, where she majored in architecture, studied astronomy in her spare time, played the harp, and taught herself to make sushi. But Hayley also suffered from major depression, social anxiety, occasional suicidal ideation, and an eating disorder.
Doctors couldn’t agree on how to help her—since childhood, they’d cycled her through 15 different drugs—though most attributed her problems to childhood abuse. Caretakers had repeatedly molested her between the ages of 3 and 6, and she’d been humiliated at age 4 by a babysitter who tied her to a chair and taped her mouth shut while the sitter’s own kids ran around her in circles. Her anxiety became so extreme that she dropped out of school.
In her mid-20s, Hayley was diagnosed with a heart condition, which doctors told her was a side effect of her medications. But when she stopped taking the drugs, she lost control, punching walls and cutting herself out of frustration. Once, her mother became so frightened for her own safety that she called the police. Hayley spent the night in the psychiatric ward. Meanwhile, the family could barely cover its expenses, let alone Hayley’s therapy. “It was a dark time,” she says.
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by Howard Koplowitz at

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore on Wednesday accused several groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center and “atheists, homosexuals and transgender individuals” of bringing a politically motivated complaint about his administrative order to probate judges not to issue same-sex marriage licenses gay marriage to the Judicial Inquiry Commission of Alabama.

The JIC, which could determine whether Moore is brought up on ethics charges, is the wrong venue to bring the complaint, according to the chief justice and his attorney, Mat Staver. They said the SPLC, Human Rights Campaign and other groups should bring the complaint instead to the U.S. Supreme Court.

After the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling that made same-sex marriage legal in America, Moore ordered the state’s probate justices not to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Moore maintained that the Supreme Court ruling had no bearing on Alabama’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.

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