Iran: Scholar and Civil Rights Activist Arrested
Unbelief Brief
March 25, 2024
A “prominent writer and Islamic scholar” was recently arrested in her home by Iranian authorities.

Iran: Scholar and civil rights activist arrested

A “prominent writer and Islamic scholar” was recently arrested in her home by Iranian authorities.

Iran International reports:

Sedigheh Vasmaghi, a prominent writer and Islamic scholar in Iran, was apprehended by the country's security forces on Saturday and subsequently transferred to prison.

The development follows Vasmaghi's outspoken criticism of compulsory hijab laws and her characterization of Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, as a “dictator”, and the ruling regime as “oppressive”.

Mohammad Ebrahimzadeh, Vasmaghi's husband, confirmed her arrest in a conversation with Emtedad News in Tehran, revealing that authorities had confiscated her mobile phone and personal laptop. He expressed concern over the lack of transparent information regarding his wife's situation, whereabouts, and the entity detaining her.

The sequence of events leading to Vasmaghi's detention includes her announcement on March 4 via Instagram of being summoned to the Evin Courthouse, a summons she declared she would not comply with until the reason and the plaintiff were clarified.

Pakistan: Blasphemy accused granted bail

Various Christian organizations have reported on the case of Ashbeel Ghauri, a Pakistani Christian who has been accused of and charged with blasphemy. At only 18 years old, he was arrested earlier this month, but has recently been granted bail.

A “former classmate” of Ashbeel allegedly had pressured him into converting to Islam. In WhatsApp messages, the two had allegedly discussed Islam, and Ashbeel stated that he did not believe in the “Islamic Allah” and questioned some of the religion’s precepts, according to his own attorneys. Afterward, this former classmate accused Ashbeel of blasphemy, and Ashbeel’s arrest followed.

Ashbeel was kept in solitary confinement for a week prior to his release. A case like this should come as no surprise, as religious minorities, including Christians as well as non-believers, are routinely subject to the semi-theocratic law enforcement of Pakistan.

New West Virginia laws “invite teachers to violate student rights”: FFRF

A recently-passed law in West Virginia and another headed to the governor’s desk could be used to undermine secularism in the state.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation explains that the law just passed “is intended to allow public school teachers to discuss intelligent design with students. However, the bill’s language was watered down to avoid openly promoting religious education, and the final version says that teachers may discuss ‘scientific theories of how the universe and/or life came to exist’ … the fact that the bill as introduced openly promoted religion — and was pushed alongside the “In God We Trust” bill for the same reason — may unfortunately be perceived by some teachers as a green light to preach about intelligent design and creationism. The bill’s lead sponsor, herself a public school teacher, reportedly thinks the new law does allow teaching intelligent design, apparently under the false belief that intelligent design is a scientific theory.”

Even more worrisome is the bill that now awaits the governor’s signature or veto. It would explicitly require the display of “the McCarthy-era national motto” In God We Trust prominently in every classroom in the state, an explicitly blatant violation of the separation of church and state written directly into the legal code.

FFRF further notes that these laws are “part of a coordinated nationwide effort known as Project Blitz, which aims to misrepresent America’s secular history, then roll back rights and enact Christian nationalist legislative priorities.”

Christian nationalism and its disdain for the secular values of a pluralistic society is as alive in America as ever, and it demands the same attention and defiance as it always has.

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