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"Saudi Liberals" website founder sentenced to 10 years in jail, 1,000 lashes

 Original sentence was for seven years, 600 lashes

* Lawyers say sentence too harsh, ruling subject to appeal

* Two other Saudis sentenced to six and five years in jail (Adds two separate rulings)

DUBAI, May 7 (Reuters) - A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced the editor of an Internet forum he founded to discuss the role of religion in the conservative Islamic kingdom to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes, Saudi media reported on Wednesday.

Raif Badawi, who started the "Free Saudi Liberals" website, was originally sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in July last year, but an appeals court overturned the sentence and ordered a retrial.

Apart from imposing a stiffer sentence on Badawi in his retrial, the judge at the criminal court in the Red Sea City of Jeddah also fined him one million riyals ($266,600). Badawi's website has been closed since his first trial.

His lawyers said Wednesday's sentence was too harsh, although the prosecutor had demanded a harsher penalty, news website Sabq reported. The ruling is subject to appeal.

The prosecution had demanded that Badawi be tried for apostasy, a charge which carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. The judge in last year's trial had dismissed the apostasy charges.

Badawi was arrested in June 2012 and charged with cyber crime and disobeying his father - a crime in Saudi Arabia.

His website included articles that were critical of senior religious figures such as Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti, according to Human Rights Watch.

In a separate ruling on Tuesday, the court also convicted the administrator of a website on charges of supporting Internet forums hostile to the state and which promoted demonstrations, Sabq reported on Wednesday. It said he was sentenced to six years in jail and a 50,000 riyal fine.

The news website said another Saudi was sentenced to five years in jail for publishing a column by a prominent Shi'ite Muslim cleric on his website.

The world's top oil exporter follows the strict Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam and applies Islamic law, sharia. Judges base their decisions on their own interpretation of religious law rather than on a written legal code or on precedent.

Rattled by the uprisings that destabilised the Middle East in recent years, Riyadh intensified a crackdown on domestic dissent with arrests and prosecutions.

In April, prominent Saudi rights lawyer and activist Waleed Abu al-Khair was detained incommunicado after appearing in court in Riyadh on sedition charges, according to his wife.

Also in April, a Saudi court sentenced an unidentified activist to six years in jail on charges including taking part in illegal demonstrations and organising women's protests.

Another was sentenced to three years in jail for spreading lies against King Abdullah and inciting the public against him.

($1 = 3.7505 Saudi Riyals) (Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Andrew Roche)

 

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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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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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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AAI Hiring Social Media Administrator

Atheist Alliance International (AAI) is seeking a candidate to manage its social media channels and campaigns and to assist in membership management.

This is considered to be a part-time contract position consisting of 15-20 hours per week.

 

This position will be responsible for:

  • Posting AAI campaign- and image-directed messages for AAI to social media channels, including Facebook; Twitter; Google+; and AtheistNexus.
  • Coordinating AAI News Team and posting new articles from Team to the AAI website.
  • Crafting campaign messages to be disseminated through email and social media, as directed by other AAI officers.
  • Executing campaigns through AAI's social media platform as directed by other AAI officers.
  • May also be responsible for scheduling & arranging for Secular World podcast co-hosts and guests as directed by other AAI officers.

 

The position will be as a contractor to AAI and be paid a rate of US $800-$1,200 per month, depending on experience and other skills brought to the position.

 

Requirements:

 

The successful candidate must:

  • Have reliable access to the internet.
  • Be comfortable with internet technology and applications.
  • Be well-versed in English.
  • Be familiar with social media abilities and uses.
  • Be familiar with on-line marketing concepts and approaches.
  • Be able to self-manage work without direct supervision.
  • Be prepared and able to track and report on activities completed each week.
  • Be in agreement with the mission and goals of Atheist Alliance International.

 

Preferences given to candidates:

  • With past experience in social media marketing, campaigning, and/or fundraising.
  • With track record in working independently.
  • Who know more than one language.
  • Who live outside the United States.

 

Position to be open until filled. Interested candidates should submit a resume and up to a page explaining your interest and the background you bring to this position to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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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Top Religious Influence Stores of 2013

Religion continued to wield undue influence in world culture and politics, with a number of seismic shifts felt throughout 2013. Here are the top stories of 2013 noted by Atheist Alliance International:

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Saudi Blogger & Activist To be Tried for Apostasy

On 25 December 2013, a Saudi judge recommended that a liberal activist and blogger Raef Badawi be tried again in a higher court for apostasy - a charge that could carry the death penalty, rights campaigners say.

Raef Badawi was already convicted and sentenced in the ultra-conservative kingdom in July to seven years in jail and 600 lashes for setting up a "liberal" network and for allegedly insulting Islam.

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Christian Zealots within the Republican Party

 Christian Zealots within the Republican Party

 

WRITTEN BY R. CLEVENGER, AAI NEWS TEAM

 

The Christian zealots, who gained control of many government seats with the Tea Party push back in 2010, are taking stands and actively impeding progress toward acceptance and tolerance across the U.S. and replacing it with biblical-based intolerance.

 

In my home state of Pennsylvania, there is a bill that has been brought forth by Rep. Rick Saccone, a republican from Allegheny County, that would force every public school in the state to display “In God We Trust” upon a plaque or through the display of student artwork on school property. This is an obvious attempt to propagate their religious beliefs onto young, developing minds before they reach the age of reason. Just as churches target youth and those who are vulnerable and in need, the Republicans are misusing their offices to further their religious views.

 

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AAI & PATAS Coordinate Typhoon Relief Efforts


In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, the largest typhoon on record, barrelling through the Philippines, Atheist Alliance International and our Philippines affiliate, Philippines Atheists and Agnostics Society, have teamed up to provide disaster relief to the typhoon-stricken communities on the islands of Leyta and Cebu.

For more information on the program as well as donating, visit this page.