Dissent Dispatch: volume 1
Unbelief Brief
May 7, 2024
Welcome to Dissent Dispatch: an EXMNA Newsletter!

Welcome to Dissent Dispatch, your weekly update on Ex-Muslims of North America’s activities and our curated resources: the Unbelief Brief and the Persecution Tracker.

For those new to our resources, the Unbelief Brief provides EXMNA’s insights on current events significant for ex-Muslims, freethought, and secularism worldwide.

Our Persecution Tracker is a comprehensive database documenting instances of persecution against those accused of blaspheming or leaving Islam. Incidents are categorized based on clearly defined criteria, showcasing the pervasive harm inflicted by Islamic fundamentalism on religious minorities, nonbelievers, and Muslims themselves—merely for exercising their freedom of expression, or in some cases, being falsely accused. It is the only resource of its kind, uniquely focusing on both governmental and vigilante efforts to silence dissent against Islam.

Without further delay…

The Unbelief Brief

In the last week, there have been a number of egregious reports of human rights violations that have come out of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.  

First, the family of a gay man who was previously detained by Qatari officials have publicized new information about the case lodged against him. Manuel Guerrero Aviña, a “British-Mexican” man who had been working for Qatar Airways, was reportedly duped by Qatari authorities who posed as a romantic interest on the gay dating app Grindr. Manuel was subsequently arrested and according to his family, falsely charged with drug possession. Human rights activists and his family assert that he was targeted for his sexual orientation, denied his HIV medication while in custody, and pressured to reveal personal information about other gay men during his 42-day imprisonment. He has been released pending trial, but is unable to leave Qatar as authorities have confiscated his passport. His family reportedly wishes to see the UK government intervene to bring him home.

It is hard to say whether anti-gay or anti-woman hatred is stronger in Islamic theocracies, but authorities in Saudi Arabia and Iran present a strong argument for the latter in two recent cases. Amnesty International reports that Manahel al-Otaibi, a 29-year-old Saudi women’s rights activist, has been sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment—predictably, for the crime of being the “wrong kind” of woman. After speaking against the male guardianship system and dressing “immodestly,” she was convicted on “terrorism” charges. Amnesty makes the point that this case “directly contradicts the authorities’ [recent] narrative of reform and women’s empowerment,” and we agree completely.

As has been a trend in recent years, Iran’s security forces have ramped up their horrific brutality against women and dissidents alike. Readers of this newsletter may know that Nika Shakarami, a 16-year-old girl who had protested the murder of Masha Amini, died in September 2022 after being arrested. A new report from the BBC reveals that she was sexually assaulted while in custody, fought her attackers and was subsequently beaten to death. The regime, of course, habitually lies about its own cruelty and punishes those who dare expose the truth; the BBC also reported that “two Iranian journalists who had commented on the report online said prosecutors had opened cases against them.”

EXMNA Updates

The EXMNA community is familiar with Aysha Khan, and we’re thrilled to announce her appointment as Director of Operations! Aysha recently appeared on the Crossing Faith podcast after attending the 2024 International Religious Freedom Summit. Listen to her interview here!

Earlier this year, EXMNA’s insights were featured in the UN Human Rights Council’s Report on Hatred on the Basis of Religion or Belief where we emphasized the adverse effects of "de facto" blasphemy laws and the chilling effect it has on freedom of religion. Our contributions were discussed at the 55th session of the UN Human Rights Council from February 26 to April 5. Read our press release here or access the full report.

During the same UN Human Rights Council session, our Founder and President, Muhammad Syed, participated in a side-event titled "Human Rights in the Context of Anti-Apostasy and Anti-Blasphemy Laws." Listen to his remarks here.

Persecution Tracker Updates

Recently added to our Persecution Tracker: the case of Iranian artist Atena Farghadani, who was arrested on multiple bogus charges last month —including blasphemy. As an act of protest against the wrongful charges, she reportedly refused release on bail. Her case typifies the paranoid need for Iran to crush any type of dissent, including religious, either real or imagined.

Also last month: the Taliban in Afghanistan arrested Radio Free Europe journalist Habibur Rahman Taseer, purportedly for “blasphemy.” Their true motivation most likely stems from his unflattering reporting of life under the Taliban. View that case here.

On the Horizon

To mark this year’s Draw Muhammad Day on May 20, join us for our inaugural Draw Muhammad Day Contest! Submit your drawings to [email protected] by May 15th for a chance to have your artwork featured on our social media platforms! Text elements are also welcome. Please ensure your entry aligns with Instagram/Facebook guidelines for us to share it. Make sure to include “Draw Muhammad Day Contest” in your subject line.

Until next week,

The Team at Ex-Muslims of North America

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