Iranian Executed for “Insulting the Prophet Jonah”

Only a few days ago an Iranian was sentenced to death for insulting the prophet Mohammad. That person is still alive, and hopefully will be saved, but an execution was carried out today for “crime” of blasphemy. Mohsen Amir Aslani, a prisoner of conscience, was executed today. His crimes include “heresy”, “reinterpreting the Qur’an”, and “insulting the Prophet Jonah”. He used to run sessions of Qur’an interpretation, and in one of them he had said “Prophet Jonah didn’t actually survive in the whale’s stomach”, and this was considered criminal enough to execute him. The tragic part is that he was actually spared execution, but Sadegh Larijani, the head of the judiciary and a hardliner cleric, intervened personally and caused him to die.

The source is here, in Persian.

You know who’s scared right now? Yours truly.

UPDATE: When reacting to this horrible news, consider this too.

Link Round-Up 9/19/2014

Story of the Week: Ayan Hirsi Ali was again the target of ex-Muslim silencing and censorship. Sadly, this time even the Yale Atheists joined the repressive forces. Yale University proved to be brave and didn’t censor her. You can read her talk here. Mohammad Syed and Anish Nair write why the statements made by Yale Muslims and atheists are wrong.

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Iranian Sentenced to Death for Insulting Prophet Mohammad

Via the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran:

A blogger found guilty of insulting the Prophet Mohammad in his postings on Facebook has been sentenced to death. An informed source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the blogger, Soheil Arabi, will be able to appeal the decision until September 20, 2014.

Agents from the Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) Sarallah Base arrested Soheil Arabi, 30, and his wife in November 2013. Arabi’s wife was released a few hours later, but he was kept in solitary confinement for two months inside IRGC’s Ward 2-A at Evin Prison, before he was transferred to Evin’s General Ward 350. Branch 76 of the Tehran Criminal Court, under Judge Khorasani, found Arabi guilty of “sabb al-nabi” (insulting the Prophet), on August 30, 2014.

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According to the source, Soheil Arabi has another judicial case. On September 4, 2014, Branch 15 of Tehran Revolutionary Court under Judge Salavati sentenced Arabi to the maximum punishment of three years in prison on charges of “insulting the Supreme Leader” and “propaganda against the state,” through his writings on Facebook.

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What Choice Is a Free Choice? And Why Religion Destroys the Freedom of Choice.

When we talk about freedom of choice we usually mean that in a legal sense, but we can argue that there are many layers and aspects to what makes a choice truly free, when we think about this concept in terms that are not legal. Freedom is a concept which takes different forms in different aspects of life. We say that people are free to disagree with the scientific evidence, in the legal way. If I “choose” to disbelieve evolution, the government has no right to censor me or to demand me to believe otherwise. But I am not “free” to publish my opinions in a scientificn journal, even if that journal is not owned by private sector. Although I am a taxpayer, I am not free to publish my creationist thoughts in a journal funded by my task money. However I am still free to find evidence against evolution and if my creationist article conforms to scientific standards I will be published in the same journal. So there is freedom among the scientific community to dissent, but that freedom is not the same as civil freedom to dissent. I assume that the reader will agree with this, and I use this as an example merely before bringing up the main topic of this post.

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Obama Is Right to Be Wrong about IS

President Obama made a speech about the terrorist group IS and laid out his strategy about how to gradually “degrade and destroy” IS. Overall I think it was the best one could do in the current situation, and I believe objections to it would come from reality-divorced ideologues from the right (who want more war at any cost and do not consider how being erratic in war against IS could spiral into a disaster) and left (whose opposition to military intervention is an article of faith and have no problem with genocides and rapes if not committed by a western government), as it seems to be prudent, careful, and based on a coalition with the globe, as evident by John Kerry’s travel to Arab countries to gain their support, and would involve Europe as well. You can read a summary of his plan here. Does that mean Obama can prevent a disaster? Who knows? I don’t think it’s unlikely that in spite of Obama’s tactful and rational strategy, all would still fail. It’s a very tricky subject.

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Book Review: On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt

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I’m not someone who’s well-versed in this era of history. I know that the near-consensus of experts is on the other side of the debate, and I know I’m not equipped to judge the merit of this book in a useful way. So this review can only reveal the viewpoint of a layperson who also looks at the things he reads critically and knows it when he sees a good point. And this is a good book.

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When Religions Teach Slaughter, Some People Learn the Lesson

Ed Brayton wrote something in his blog yesterday with which I couldn’t disagree more, and I think it’s the wrong way to look at religions. In a post entitled Yes, President Obama, Some Religions Do Teach Slaughter he wrote:

It’s trivially easy to cite chapter and verse from the Bible and the Quran not just encouraging but demanding the murder of innocents. Does this mean most Christians and Muslims would ever consider doing such things? Of course not. They have a wide range of rationalizations, excuses and interpretations that allow them to ignore such passages. But pretending they aren’t there and that lots of people do take those verses literally and believe they justify barbarism is quite absurd.

As I’ve said many times, we need to stop thinking that there is such a thing as Christianity or Islam. There are multiple versions of each that differ from each other in hugely significant ways. Decent, compassionate people find all the support they need in those holy books to justify being decent and compassionate. Violent, hateful people find all the support they need in those books to justify being violent and hateful. They all pick and choose the parts of their religion that they like and find ways to explain away or ignore the rest. It’s also not reasonable to claim that one or the other of these versions is the One True Religion. [Emphasis mine].

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