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Islamic State takes up stoning in Syria

Activists say the Al-Qaeda breakaway group stoned a woman to death for adultery in an incident shrouded in 'mystery'

According to aljazeera, fighters from Al-Qaeda-breakaway group the Islamic State have stoned a woman to death for adultery, in the first such execution of its kind in rebel-held northern Syria.

The stoning, first reported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and confirmed to Al Jazeera by two activists, took place in a public square Thursday evening in the town of Tabaqa, Raqqa province. Activists said the woman was tried in an Islamic sharia court, but that witnesses to her alleged offense were never identified and that the man involved was not charged with any crime.

“Mystery surrounds the whole thing,” said Abu Khalil, an activist in Raqqa who runs the anti-Islamic State group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, which obtained a cell phone photograph that purports to depict the incident.

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Muslim group seeks blasphemy charge against Indonesian newspaper

According to UCA News, an Indonesian Muslim group filed a complaint yesterday against an English-language newspaper which it has accused of blasphemy for an editorial cartoon in its July 3 print edition.

The Jakarta Post cartoon criticized the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has reportedly committed executions and other acts of violence in Iraq. The cartoon's phrase "La ilaha illallaah" (there is no God but God) was presented on a flag with a skull, which is typically identified with pirates.

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Pakistani Man Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy

Photo: AP

According to VOA, a court in Pakistan has sentenced a man to death on blasphemy charges.

Lawyers say a judge in the eastern city of Lahore rejected Mohammad Zulfiqar's defense of mental illness and convicted him for violating the country's blasphemy laws of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Zulfiqar was arrested for reportedly writing derogatory language against the Prophet on the walls of a public park in the Islampura area of Lahore in April of 2008.

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“Africa Has Too Much Religion”: the Amazing Journey of John Adewoye

WRITTEN BY MARK KOLSEN, GUEST WRITER OF AAI NEWS TEAM

John Adowye’s story is almost unbelievable. A gay Catholic priest who could never overcome his fear of hell, he left Nigeria for the United States, hoping he could turn straight. After three futile years, John not only has accepted his sexual orientation but has become a strong, critical voice of religious oppression.

A gay Nigerian boy who enrolled in seminary and became a priest to escape bullying? Who didn’t grasp Catholicism’s anti-gay doctrine until the age of 22? And who, fearing the fires of hell, immigrated to the United States after reading an Exodus pamphlet promising him he could “convert” from gay to straight? Yet, a Nigerian who today says, “Africa has too much religion”?

John Adewoye’s life story includes these, and many other, remarkable events.

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The Catholic Church still does not get child abuse

By Jacky Jones

The conviction of Rolf Harris is a reminder that child abuse is an abuse of power. The crime persists because perpetrators are not challenged and dealt with speedily by the criminal justice system. Children are still abused in Ireland every day.

According to the article by Irish Times, the HSE Annual Report 2013 shows that 6,462 children were in care at the end of 2013 and 1,547 children were on the Child Protection Notification system.

The HSE expects to receive about 40,000 referrals to the Child and Family Agency in 2014. Between April 2013 and the end of March 2014, 164 allegations were made against priests and religious to the National Board for Safeguarding Children.

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Think Twice, Lady Hale

Think Twice, Lady Hale

WRITTEN BY COEL HELLIER AND MARK KOLSEN, GUEST WRITERS OF AAI NEWS TEAM

Obama’s overhaul of America’s health care system required employers offering medical insurance to their employees to cover some costs of their birth control. A controversial move. The crafts retail chain Hobby Lobby (along with 80 other groups) sued the American government in protest (due to religious objection), and the Supreme Court ruled in their favor: 5-4.

Did this decision open Pandora’s box? Will religious believers now object to every government mandate that violates their “consciences”? Justice Kennedy has said “No,” that the decision is strictly limited to family-run businesses that object to providing certain contraceptives to their employees. But Justice Ginsberg has said that the decision opens the door to the many religious groups now demanding “conscience” exemptions in every conceivable area.

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More Than 60 Women, Girls Escape Islamist Abductors in Nigeria


Maiduguri, Nigeria:  More than 60 women and girls abducted last month by Boko Haram militants in northeast Nigeria have escaped their captors, sources said on Sunday.

According to ND TV, local vigilante Abbas Gava said he had "received an alert from my colleagues ... that about 63 of the abducted women and girls had made it back home" late Friday.

A high-level security source in the Borno state capital Maiduguri, who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, confirmed the escape.

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China’s Ambiguous Atheism

WRITTEN BY MICKEY KEENAN AND MARK KOLSEN, GUEST WRITERS OF AAI NEWS TEAM

In a country that suppresses all forms of religious discussion, “scientific” studies about religion in China are almost impossible to conduct. The internet does, however, permit some measurement of Chinese religious sentiment, though even on the net Chinese citizens may be reluctant to speak openly.

What follows is one recent non-scientific study conducted by a courageous Chinese citizen who also interviewed several local experts on the subject. Her findings seem consistent with available sources on the subject.

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Malaysia: NUCC defends protection for atheists and Muslims alike in proposed new law

The National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) today hit back at criticism made by a coalition of Malay groups that its proposed anti-discrimination law recognises atheism and contravenes the Rukun Negara principle of belief in God.

According to The Malay Mail Online, NUCC’s law and policy committee member Mohd Zharif Badrul said the interpretation of religious beliefs in Section 4 of The Racial and Religious Hate Crimes Bill should be read with Section 5 and 6 which criminalises hate crime based on religion.

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Iranian Child Bride Faces Execution For Killing Abusive Husband

 An Iranian child bride, forced to marry at the age of 14, is facing execution after a court found her guilty of murdering her husband when she was just 17 years old

Razieh Ebrahimi was forced into marriage at the age of 14. She gave birth to her husband’s child just a year a later. Ebrahimi claims she endured years of mental and physical abuse before she shot him in the head while he was sleeping.

Razieh faces imminent execution, despite international laws prohibiting execution for crimes committed by juveniles, and Amnesty international take an action to save the life of this child bride. Join here

"I didn't know who I am or what is life all about," she said soon after being arrested. "My husband mistreated me. He used any excuse to insult me, even attacking me physically.", The Guardian reports

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Intuition and Humanism: A Dilemma for Science?

WRITTEN BY CHRIS K, AAI NEWS TEAM

What do you get when you cross a computer scientist with humanism? Naturalistic transcendentalism, of course.

Naturalistic transcendentalism, a nascent humanist philosophical approach, is the brainchild of Peter Bishop, PhD, a long-time humanist who worked in the semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley. Bishop, who spoke at the recent American Humanist Association (AHA) meeting in Philadelphia, noted that transcendentalism gained traction in the 19th century, primarily from the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. But Emerson’s philosophical approach, which had room for intuition, lost favor in the next century to science, the philosophy of science, and humanism.

“As we look at these issues today, we notice that our naturalism is much more complex than it was in the early 19th century,” Bishop said. “Naturalism today is so oriented toward scientific thinking that modern science has declared that human intuition should not be studied until we can understand the natural law that causes it to work.”

But naturalistic transcendentalism does not accept this view. Rather, Bishop’s philosophical approach deems it “appropriate to study intuition using the most powerful observations that exist of intuition: our subjective observations of our inner beings.” However, science measures what it can observe and subjective experience cannot be observed from an external vantage point. If scientists alone cannot study the personal experiences of intuition (or other subjective experiences), who else can? Bishop suggested turning to the humanities for help, as these disciplines “deal more with the subjective lives of people than do the sciences.”

Reason, Emotion, Intuition

One of the first steps along this path is to acknowledge that the human spirit is real, Bishop said. In other words, one’s subjective experience should be considered valid. The scientist can record the subjective experience as an event, but should not attempt to determine its meaning merely from its observation. This way, “we can remain on solid scientific footing.”

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