Dissent Dispatch: volume 7
Unbelief Brief
June 21, 2024
From Turkey to Pakistan to Afghanistan. And what are the negative effects of Eid al-Adha?

It's great to see you again

Welcome back to the 7th edition of Dissent Dispatch!

This week, our Unbelief Brief takes you on a journey from Turkey to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Plus, we have a fresh Persecution Tracker Update just for you. And don’t miss our deep dive into Eid al-Adha, where we uncover some of the holiday's lesser-known negative impacts.

The Unbelief Brief

While Turkey is one of the few Muslim-majority countries with at least a veneer of secularism, and crucially one of the few where homosexuality is not criminalized, it is far from a paradise of tolerance. Holding Pride events of any kind has been illegal in the country since 2015, thanks to the efforts of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s socially conservative and Islamist-adjacent government. This Pride Month, however, a number of human rights organizations have called on Turkish authorities to reverse this ban: “to fulfill their obligations regarding the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of association guaranteed in the Turkish Constitution and the international treaties Turkey is a party to.” While the government is unlikely to budge anytime soon, any pressure is good, and this is a wish we at EXMNA share.

Still, woeful as the rights situation in Turkey is, its LGBTQ+ residents can count themselves lucky that they they do not live in Pakistan. There, homosexual relations are illegal and punishable with imprisonment—which means this next story is not exactly surprising, though no less saddening. A man in Abbottabad filed an application with authorities to establish a “gay club” which would have been the first of its kind in the country and would have prohibited sex on the premises, such that “no legal constraints … would be flouted.” The result of this effort? The man was promptly institutionalized in a mental hospital.

The unusual cruelty of the case in Pakistan differs from punishments normally exercised by brutal governments like the Taliban in that it is psychological rather than physical in nature. Yet, in its attempt to publicly humiliate LGBTQ+ people, the punishment is comparable to an event that recently took place in Afghanistan. There, a man was “publicly flogged” and sentenced to a year and a half of imprisonment “for having a sexual relationship with another man.” The victim in Pakistan may very well face a similar prison sentence if he is found to have engaged in homosexual behavior—Pakistan has simply opted for a more medicalized form of cruelty than the Taliban, who, as this case exemplifies, prefer good old-fashioned brute violence.

EXMNA Insights

Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, is a significant Islamic holiday commemorating the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to murder his son in obedience to his God — considered by many as the ultimate test of faith. Muslims honor this commitment on Eid al-Adha by sacrificing goats, sheep and cows and then distributing the meat to the poor.

However, this charitable act conceals a disturbing origin story: the rejection of the basic human instinct to protect a child from harm and instead, embracing the delusion that taking a child's life is a commandment from God. Modern moral sensibilities would surely require that a person claiming to hear voices instructing them to kill their child in the name of God be arrested and immediately receive psychiatric care.

Critiquing Eid al-Adha from a contemporary and secular perspective also involves examining the economic and environmental impacts of the holiday. The often severe financial burden imposed on the average Muslim to purchase live animals for the required ritual sacrifice underscores its inherent inequity. Moreover, Muslim majority countries are also beginning to grapple with the amount of food and plastic waste generated during feasts on Eid al-Adha as well as the environmental impact of raising large numbers of livestock for slaughter on a single day.

Climate change is already impacting the annual five-day Hajj pilgrimage with deadly consequences. Over 1,000 people, mostly unregistered pilgrims, died from heat stroke while performing Hajj rituals this year. Many of the deceased were poor Hajj goers from low-income countries who were unable to afford the costly registration needed to access state-provided cooling spaces, choosing to sacrifice this expense to fulfill one of the five main pillars of Islam. This conundrum is indicative of a pattern seen throughout Islamic history: poor Muslims sacrificing and dying for the sake of religious elites. The Hajj has always been an economically-driven religious obligation: that is, it is meant to keep pilgrims, and their wealth, flowing into Mecca to pray to the Kaaba. In the wake of incredibly dangerous heat, the economic boon created by the pilgrimage took precedence over the welfare of its pilgrims.

While Eid al-Adha’s problematic origin story has been critiqued by skeptics and secularists alike, the recent focus on its environmental and economic burdens can no longer be ignored by the Muslim world. After all, even rituals crystallized in the 7th century will at some point face 21st century consequences—whether it be the impact of large-scale animal sacrifice or a steadily warming planet.

Persecution Tracker Updates

In Indonesia: the time-tested tale of religious authorities feeling threatened by comedy is illustrated anew. A comedian has received a prison sentence of seven months—merely for telling a joke involving the name “Muhammad.” Read about it here.

Thanks for joining us for another volume of Dissent Dispatch!

Until next week,

The Team at Ex-Muslims of North America

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