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British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran for criticising Islam on Facebook


The situation of a British woman who has been locked up in Iran for five months over claims she posted derogatory comments about the country’s government on Facebook is “very worrying”, her local MP has said.

Roya Saberi Negad Nobakht, 47, from Stockport, Greater Manchester, was arrested in the south-western city of Shiraz last year for “insulting Islamic sanctities”, a crime which can be punishable by death. According to her husband, who is also British, she made a series of statements online about life in Iran before being detained.

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Atheists Classified As Terrorists Under New Saudi Arabian Laws

 

Atheist are being defined as terrorists under a raft of new Saudi Arabian laws, a report from Human Rights Watch states.

The new laws are accompanied by a series of related royal decrees which appear to criminalize virtually all dissident thought or expression as terrorism.

“Saudi authorities have never tolerated criticism of their policies, but these recent laws and regulations turn almost any critical expression or independent association into crimes of terrorism,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW.

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BELIEF THAT GOODNESS REQUIRES GODLINESS LINKED TO POVERTY, EDUCATIONAL DISADVANTAGE AND AGE

A new worldwide study by Pew Research demonstrates a strong correlations between poverty, age and educational disadvantage with the assumption that belief in a god is necessary for morality.
 
The study analyses data from more than  than 40,000 people in 40 countries who were asked: “Do you need God to be moral?”. It found that citizens of poorer countries are far more likely to assume that belief in a god is a requirement for morality. In the wealthier countries of Europe and Asia high proportions of people reject the notion that God is necessary for morality, while Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East (with the exception of Israel) show much stronger opinions that goodness requires godliness. Much of Latin America is also in line with this view. The US however remains an exception and an enigma.  53% of Americans surveyed consider belief in god necessry for morality, this being far more than the citizens of any European country surveyed and far more than the Canadians surveyed, of whom only 31% felt goodness requires godliness.
 
Not surprisingly, the study also found significant divides based on age and education, particularly in Europe and North America. In general, individuals age 50 or older and those without a college education are much more likely to link morality to religion.  In the U.S. for example, a majority of individuals without a college degree (59%) say faith is essential to be a moral person, while only 37% of college graduates say the same.

Islamic Boko Harem Gunmen Kill 40 at Local School

WRITTEN BY CLEOSLICK EMILY, AAI NEWS TEAM

Gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram members have attacked and killed dozens of students at the Federal Government College in Buni Yadi, a town in the Nigerian state of Yobe. Yobe state Police Commissioner Sanusi A Rufai confirmed that twenty-nine male students were killed and twenty-four structures including the administration block, student hostel and staff quarters were burnt down.

 Boko Haram is a militant group known for attacking citizens, government targets, bombing churches, attacking schools and police stations, and kidnapping Western tourists. Former Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf stated before his death his belief that the fact of a spherical Earth is contrary to Islamic teaching and should be rejected, along with Darwinian evolution. He also stated his belief that the fact of rain originating from water evaporated by the sun should never be taught in schools.

(Warning: Graphic photo included at end of article)

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Four men Flogged in Nigeria for Homosexuality

An Islamic Court in Nigeria Found Four Nigerians Guilty of "Homosexuality" and ordered flogged with horsewhips after conviction in a trial held in secret at the Upper Sharia Court in the Unguwar Jaki district of the city of Baluchi.

The four men, aged 22 to 28 years, each was and fined 20,000 naira ($125) and received 15 lashes - also in secret - immediately after the trial.

The four were among seven defendants formally charged by the Bauchi State Sharia Commission on January 6 with belonging to a gay club and receiving $150,000 in donations from the United States for an apparent membership drive. After angry mobs swarmed the opening of the trial, demanding their immediate execution and forcing earlier proceedings to be suspended, the court decided to reconvene and hold the trial and carry out the sentence in secret.

The arrests and trial came only days after Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan had signed a bill banning gay marriage and same-sex unions and criminalising other actions deemed to be 'promoting' homosexuality. The law provides a maximum 14-year prison term for anyone entering same-sex unions and up to 10 years in jail for anyone supporting gay groups and clubs. Many believed the arrests were spurred by the new legislation, providing the Sharia authorities with federal cover to target homosexual behavior.

Sharia law actually makes homosexual behavior a capital offense by stoning if the act is observed by four male witnesses or voluntarily confessed. However, the judge noted that since the alleged behavior was not actually observed by any witnesses to the court, there was no legal basis for passing the death sentence, despite confessions made by two of the defendants.

Israel & Palestinian Territories Hit 6-Year High in Religious Hostilities

Religious hostilities are very high and rising within both Israel and the Palestinian territories. According to a 2014 Pew Research study, social hostilities involving religion (including mob or sectarian violence, religion-related terrorism or conflict, organized attempts to dominate public life with a particular perspective on religion, harassment over attire for religious reasons, and other religion-related intimidation or abuse) have reached 6-year highs in both areas.

Pew uses a tool called the Social Hostilities Index (SHI) to measure social hostilities by country.  The tool measures the presence and intensity of various measures of social hostility on a scale from 0 (no social hostilities) to 10 (all-out civil anarchy).  According to the report, Israel reached a high of 9.4 out of 10 on the Pew Social Hostilities Index in regards to religious violence in 2012.  The Palestinian Territories reached a high of 9.0 out of 10.  This is in comparison to the Middle East & North Africa, which rated at 5.7 out of 10 in 2012; and in comparison to the world, which rated at 2.9 on the Index.

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Ben Baz Released from Prison

Abdel Aziz Mohamed Albaz, also known as "Ben Baz," has been released from prison in Kuwait where he was held (but never tried) on charges of blasphemy for over a year.

Albaz, a 27-year-old Egyptian atheist blogger, was arrested in early January 2013 by Kuwaiti authorities. While Albaz had been known for posting on his blog stories of the relationship between religion, the State and secularism.  The Constitution of Kuwait makes Islam the state religion, and considers Sharia a primary source of legislation. The Kuwaiti parliament passed a law in 2012 introducing the death penalty for Muslims who blaspheme against Islam, while non-Muslims who blaspheme faced ten years or more in prison. The law provides that any Muslim(!) citizen may file a complaint against an author if the citizen believes that the author has defamed Islam, the ruling family, or public morals.

A hearing on Albaz' case had been scheduled for last February 28, but it's unclear what was decided at the hearing or even whether the hearing actually occurred. After a year, Kuwaiti authorities have apparently let him out on his own recognizance - of course, long after he would have lost his job and probably his residence, and without any due process

The Religious Right Subverts the Law to Impose Their View

WRITTEN BY R. CLEVENGER, AAI NEWS TEAM

The Alabama House committee, despite majority opposition, without any regard to the 1st and 14th Amendments of the Constitution, and with complete disregard of McCollum v. Board of Education, has passed a bill that would require public school teachers to open class every morning with a prayer.

The religiously biased politicians in this case have done an end-run to put enforced prayer into public schools in the guise of teaching congressional procedure. They are not invoking religious privilege or claiming discrimination for not being allowed to pray within the confines of the school grounds in this case, but rather are specifying a 15-minute period at the commencement of the first class of each day to study the formal procedures of the U.S. Congress, which must include a verbatim reading of a prayer from the beginning of the House or Senate meetings.

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The Pell Tolls for Sex Abuse Compensation

The Pell tolls for church sex abuse compensation

The Atheist Foundation of Australia welcomes the news that George Pell has been promoted within the Catholic Church to the position of Prefect for the Economy of the Holy See. A main function of this role is management and reform of the Vatican's finances.

The news continues to flow from the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse of the systemic cover ups and stand-over tactics used by churches to prevent justice for the victims. It’s reasonable to anticipate that examples of abuse of this type are going to continue to become public and that the public outrage and compensation claims will continue to grow.

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Faith Killing: The consequences of rejecting modern medicine and trusting in God for healing

WRITTEN BY JO STEPHANIE, AAI NEWS TEAM

In late November 2013 a woman from Kitwe, Zambia’s second largest city, died from pneumonia after allegedly following the advice of her pastor to stop taking her medication. Rather than advise the woman in question to continue taking her medication he recommended that she instead pray and fast. Faith healing was the solution he suggested, not medicine. The woman obliged and four days later she was dead.

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Alex Aan Released from Prison

Religious Prisoner Alexander Aan Released From Indonesian Prison

The Jakarta News reported on 31 January that atheist Alexander Aan had been released early from his prison sentence of 2-1/2 years for "inciting religious hostility" for posting on his personal Facebook page that "there is no god."

According to the article,  Aan was released "on license" (probation), which means that he is required to report regularly and frequently to Indonesian authorities for the foreseeable future. He also still remains liable for a Rp 100 million rupiah (US$8,190) fine imposed as part of his sentence.

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