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Guest Post by Nemat Sadat: “We must kill you gays to teach Afghanistan youth a lesson.”

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Guest Post by Nemat Sadat

Shaheen is a 25-year gay Afghan man in Kabul, Afghanistan. On March 6, 2017, his family confronted him was about his sexuality after his cousin saw him being intimate with another adult male. Shaheen was promptly dragged back to his parents’ house where his uncle, father, brother and cousin smashed his legs with a leather belt and other objects until he confessed being gay and committing a carnal sin.

The next morning, Shaheen, still reeling from the previous night assaults, was blindfolded by his uncle, and along with his father and several unknown men, and was taken to a nearby deserted area where he was supposed to be stoned to death. After being thrown to the ground, in the middle of nowhere, Shaheen’s uncle, showing no remorse, stated, “We must kill you so that we teach Afghan youth a lesson. Make sure they do not become filthy faggots like you.”

Having lost all hope for mercy, Shaheen accepted the fact that he was going to die alone with no one in the world who would care or know what happened to him. In a last minute effort right before the first stone was thrown and surging with “do or die” adrenaline, he bit his uncle’s hand and fled, sprinting hard for the next 30 minutes. After losing his executioners, he collapsed and hid and then wandered around aimlessly until finally finding his way out. 

He is currently still hiding inside Afghanistan with no friends or money to escape. I wired $125 US dollars to him as an emergency lifeline of support. We need to help him get a visa for Turkey, an airline ticket to Ankara, and support him for the first several months in the new country until he can recover from this trauma. A queer Afghan couple (a trans woman and gay man) have offered to pick Shaheen up from the airport, host him, and help him file for asylum at the local UN office.

Once he arrives safely to Turkey, he will make a video and share with you this harrowing experience (and hopefully his success story). Until then, he is forced to stay in a country that wishes his death. Shaheen’s family has reported him missing and is actively searching for him.

Shaheen’s uncle wanted nothing more than to murder his nephew to restore their family’s honor and set an example so no other LGBTQ Afghan will try to be free and live a meaningful life honoring their true nature.

I have known Shaheen for over a year. I know he is a kind and hard-working young man, who completed his studies in engineering and had big dreams for himself.

This past week as the money in his bank account dwindled, he wanted to kill himself or turn himself in to the authorities. After he contacted me on Facebook to share his story in weeping sobs and say goodbye, I convinced him to live and escape.

Let’s rescue Shaheen to show, that despite his family trying to annihilate everything good inside him, that the decent and dignified people of this world stand in solidarity with him. Let’s make sure that he escapes safely and that his courage becomes a source of inspiration for the millions of LGBTQ Afghans inside Afghanistan who are criminalized to death and trapped in perpetual turmoil.

As the first public figure to come out gay and campaign for LGBT rights in Afghanistan, I personally know the beneficiary and can vouch that he is gay and has gone through all the hardships that I have described. Shaheen and I have corresponded by Facebook, Instant Messenger, and Skype. I plan to wire the money raised to him via international wire/remittance to his bank account in Afghanistan. Since I am a US resident with a valid US social security number, I will go ahead and fundraise on behalf of the beneficiary. 

Shaheen’s life matters. Please show your generosity and support. Thank you.

Donate here:  Rescue Shaheen

Nemat Sadat was a professor of political science at the American University of Afghanistan, where he came out as gay and became an LGBTI Rights activist. His story has been featured in the Guardian Magazine, BBC, El Mundo, Global Post, GT, Diplomat, Gay Times, Out, Voice of Israel, Voice of America Dari, and the Washington Post. He has appeared on segments of CNN, NBC News, TOLO News, and on Huff Post Live, and has worked at ABC News Nightline, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria Show, and The UN Chronicle. He has graduate degrees from Harvard, Columbia, and Oxford.


Written by Caleb Powell

April 27, 2017 at 2:01 pm

Currently We Are Trying to Steer Clear from Blogs on Blasphemy

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Last month an editor from The Express Tribune asked me if I wanted to write a blog on United Airlines barring two girls wearing leggings from boarding. I responded:


This article is interesting, and it seems just absurd that an airline would ban anyone for wearing leggings, however I’m not sure if I’m the right person for it, I’m much more interested in writing about a different topic. The #HangAyazNizami hashtag is exploding ever since he was arrested. Blasphemy is one of the more important issues in Pakistan, and the extremists are pulling down the entire country with their ideology. I also realize how sensitive the issue is, and would be respectful both of Islam and its followers in the context of speaking against judicial executions. This goes back to the dialectic between fundamentalists and Salmeen Taseer for his support of Asia Bibi. I would examine compulsion in religion and how this contradicts punishment for blasphemy. Let me know if you’re interested.



But The Express Tribune responded thus:

“Currently, we are trying to steer clear from blogs on blasphemy.”

We know the danger, as the BBC reports, “At least 65 people have been murdered in Pakistan after being accused of blasphemy since 1990.” This goes back to Rushdie and Egyptian Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz, who wrote on topic:

“No blasphemy harms Islam and Muslims so much as the call for murdering a writer.”

Then Pakistan then experienced another tragedy. A young student, Mashal Khan, was murdered on campus.

“Students beat classmate to death while screaming ‘Allahu Akbar'”

PEW reports that 64% of those in Pakistan support capital punishment for those who blaspheme, and section 295C of the Penal Code also mandates the penalty. So it’s not mere cowardice to avoid polemics if you are on the ground in Pakistan.

We fight those who support blasphemy laws, for they are at the forefront of the dialectic between benevolent humanity and the evils of religious chauvinism. We also fight those who obfuscate in their condemnation, out of cowardice, ignorance, or complicity. Many in Pakistan and the West are guilty (a tangent that runs too deep for a short blog).

Therefore, those who have freedom of speech, non-Muslims and Muslims alike, must challenge the evil of blasphemy laws and recognize many “blasphemies” are actually not evil at all, but calls for tolerance.

To double down on the above, just like I have no desire to burn the American flag, use racial slurs, or mock the religious, I also claim my right to criticize the United States, culture, and religion. Those who criticize are often falsely accused of being unpatriotic, racist, and blasphemous when in fact they are pushing ideas that will help humanity progress. That’s why not enough can be written in support of free speech and against blasphemy, whether secular or religious.

Such evil ideology can only flourish in a vacuum of speech. From Mao’s China to North Korea, those who control speech control society. And right now, in Pakistan, evil is flourishing.

Pakistan, we realize the danger you face and we support you, but please write about blasphemy. Be convincing, be strong, be courageous, spread the risk. We who have speech support you.

Written by Caleb Powell

April 15, 2017 at 10:01 am

Guest Post by Waseem Altaf: The Condemned

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The Condemned

Sabeen Mahmud was a human rights activist. Human rights activists are respected in countries ruled by “non-believers.” But since she was involved in human rights activism in a country where perhaps it was not required, she was murdered by the “believers!”

Doctor Mehdi Ali Qamar belonged to a minority community who came all the way from the US and was voluntarily giving treatment to his poor countrymen. Minorities generally enjoy equal rights in countries ruled by “non-believers.” But since he was from a minority community working in a country where perhaps minorities have no right to be treated as humans, he was murdered by the “believers.”

Alisha was a transgender from Peshawar. A transgender generally enjoys equal rights in countries ruled by “non-believers.” But since she was living in a country where perhaps transgenders have no right to live, she was murdered by the “believers.”

Saleem Shahzad was a bold journalist. Bold journalists are generally held in high esteem in countries governed by “non-believers” But since he was working in a country where perhaps bold journalism is not required, he was murdered by the “believers.”

Doctor Shabbir Hussain Shah was a liberal professor at the University of Gujrat. Liberal and progressive thought is greatly appreciated in countries governed by “non-believers.” But since he was promoting his liberal thoughts in a country where perhaps liberalism is not required, he was murdered by the “believers.”

Amjad Sabri was a renowned artiste. Artistes are highly revered in countries ruled by the “non-believers” But since he was performing in a country where perhaps art is not required, he was murdered by the “believers.”

–  Waseem Altaf

Letter to Ali A Rizvi

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Ali A. Rizvi, author of The Atheist Muslim (forthcoming from St. Martins), and man with a sense of humor, shared the following:

Letter to Ali:

How do you manage to look at your Muslim family, knowing your (sic) supporting men that want to strip away Muslim human rights and the dignity of your family, stop Islamic immigration (As highlighted in Sam Harris’s Letter to a Christian Nation) and other things. You think religion is inherently evil? Fine. But Islam isn’t unique in it’s teachings on this subject in any way.

Ali Hanging with the Fundamentalists

Maajid Nawaz at least acknowledges that, (sic) there is a religious component, but also political.

You wonder why Kashif ‘Mr. Banana‘ Chaudhry gets on your ass so much? This is why.”

Ali’s Response: 

The only people who actually wanted to take away my Muslim family’s rights or mine were the governments of Muslim majority countries, as well as the societies within them. Secular society is the only system that gives both Muslims and apostates the rights they deserve.

As for the false religion-politics dichotomy: the Abrahamic religions are inherently political. Holding masses of billions to archaic codes of belief and behavior, and manipulating them with promises of eternal reward or horrific torture – is inherently political – and fascist.

I don’t judge Islam by the acts of a few, whether it’s people like you and Reza Aslan, or ISIS and Al Qaeda. I judge it by the one thing that is common to all of them – the Quran. And I assume its writer actually meant the words he wrote. If everything has 20 different interpretations, the writer is either grossly inarticulate or grossly incompetent. I don’t buy the idea that distortions of words and sentences to mean the opposite of what they say is a form of ‘interpretation’. If you’re interpreting ‘beat your wife‘ to mean ‘women are equal to men’ – you lose credibility.”

Written by Caleb Powell

August 6, 2015 at 12:24 pm

The PEN Six vs. Charlie Hebdo: The “Conditionalists”

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“I think most people would agree on what to do about PEN and Charlie Hebdo if they could agree on the question: Were there racist or bigoted cartoons in Charlie Hebdo?”- Caleb Crain

Are the PEN Six and followers cowards? Probably not, but.

They open themselves to scrutiny. At the Express Tribune I suggest they excised their “vertebrates.” There has to be a reason why they misjudge CH as bigoted, perhaps a lack of nuance combined with misplaced empathy, but to question their courage nowhere near as egregious as their misjudgment.

Charlie Hebdo stood/stands with the homosexuals in Iran, the blasphemers in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the Raif Badawis of the world, the bloggers in Bangladesh, all the oppressed. Hebdo shouldered the threats with courage. They knew they had been targeted, and still supported the right for any Muslim to say, “I disagree with this interpretation, here’s why.” Or, “I think apostasy and blasphemy laws and suicide bombings are wrong.” Or, “Muslim women have equal rights.” And Hebdo made fun of the religious bigots.

Those who would kill Charlie Hebdo are the same who imprison Raif, the same mentality that shot Salman Taseer. They silence w/violence. The idea that Hebdo was “racist” or “bigoted” lessens the meaning of these words. Hebdo did not believe any individual was inferior to another based on race.

The PEN Six:  NPR reported that six authors have recused themselves from attending a PEN awards ceremony “in protest against the free-speech organization’s decision to give the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo its annual Freedom of Expression Courage Award.” The PEN six, along with cartoonist Garry Trudeau, err.

Racism:  “The belief one race is superior to another.”

One of the PEN Six, Teju Cole, said Hebdo “has gone specifically for racist and Islamophobic provocations.” What? Not by definition. Mr. Cole, you misdirect your rage. Cole is joined by Peter Carey, Rachel Kushner, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, and Taiye Selasi. These six, along with later signatories, have betrayed the mostly Muslim bloggers and dissidents who write for universal peace and face threats, assassinations, and imprisonment because they support coexistence and tolerance of agnostics, atheists, apostates, homosexuals, Jews, Christians, and all religious minorities.

Further: On May 5th I became a member of PEN.

“Why we’re honoring Charlie Hebdo” – Andrew Soloman & Suzanne Nossel, The New York Times
“Is Charlie Hebdo racist?” – Laura Miller at Salon
“What everyone gets wrong about Charlie Hebdo and racism,” – VOX
“Charlie Hebdo, Pen, Ondaatje” – Stan Persky at
Pen has every right to honor Charlie Hebdo“- Adam Gopnik at The New Yorker
The Wrong Kind of Free Speech” – 33 Revolutions
“Dee Jay NDN Is a Racist Hypocrite” – GSpellchecker
Hebdo Turds That Won’t Flush” – Gerasites
If Charlie Hebdo is Racist…so Am I” –  Zineb al Rhazoui
In Paris, Pen Boycott Makes Americans Look Like Crude Provincials” – Tablet
Living in Diversity” – Kenan Malik
CH Receives Standing Ovation” – NYTimes
Charlie Hebdo Issue Skewers PEN Critics” – NYTimes
Apologist to the left, bigots to the right” – Pangea
Defend Free Speech” – Ian McEwan, TIME

Written by Caleb Powell

May 4, 2015 at 6:08 am

Judging Aasia Bibi, Judging Islam

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State Sanctioned Murder:  The Pakistani courts, after a lengthy trial, verdict, sentencing, and appeals regarding Aasia (Asia) Bibi’s alleged blasphemy, ruled in support of “Judicial Murder.” The accused will not be the only one to receive judgment. My take at the Express Tribune:

“Aasia Bibi, mother of five, sits in prison hoping one last appeal will save her from death row. If she is executed, as with the lynching of Shahzad and Shama Masih and the assassination of Salman Taseer, Islam will be judged…” Will Islam be judged if Aasia Bibi is executed?

Further Thoughts:  The injustice with blasphemy cases are two fold. First, they often are flimsy, the guilt of the accused is dubious, and the accusers often are settling scores. Second, even if the accused is guilty, the accused should not face capital punishment, not to mention that any penalty can seem absurd from the outside. More later.

Related:  Pakistan’s blasphemy laws legitimize intolerance – The Economist

Pakistani Woman Facing Death – The Guardian

Blasphemy Law Highlights Pakistan’s Hypocrisy – The Daily Beast

Written by Caleb Powell

December 4, 2014 at 4:46 pm

The Islamophobia of CAIR vs. The Honor Diaries

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“To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”Voltaire

Support those who engage in the dialectic between benevolent Islam and misanthropic fundamentalism. These include Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Sushmita Banerjee (assassinated), Firoozeh Bazrafkan, Marwa Berro (Between a Veil and a Dark Place), Mona Eltahawy, Tarek Fatah, Pervez Hoodbhoy, Rana Husseini, Kenan Malik, Irshad Manji, Hamid Mir, Azar Nafisi, Maryam Namazie, Asif Mohiuddin, Taslima Nasrin, Maajid Nawaz , Ali A. Rizvi, Raza Rumi, Nawal El Saadawi, Zaiuddin Sardar (Critical Muslim), Kunwar Khuldune Shahid, Amina Wadud, Malala Yousafzai and many others. Unfortunately, CAIR (The Council on American-Islamic Relations) too often refuses to engage.

Honor Diaries:  The film Honor Diaries, “a movement meant to inspire viewers to learn more about issues facing women in Muslim-majority societies, and to act for change,” focuses on nine women, Zainab Khan, Raheel Raza, Juliana Taimoorazy,  Nazanin Afshin-Jam, Raquel Saraswati, Fahima Hashim, Nazie Eftekhari, Jasvinder Sanghera, and Manda Zand Ervin. CAIR should want you to hear their stories:

“CAIR supports free enterprise, freedom of religion and freedom of expression.”CAIR’s principle #1

Courage:  “The ability to face danger, difficulty, uncertainty, or pain without being overcome by fear or being deflected from a chosen course of action.”For examples, see Pakistani journalists battle imbeciles who cannot argue with words and thus use violence.*

CAIR protests Honor Diaries:

“The screenings were not canceled by CAIR. They were canceled by the screening sponsors after they were informed (by CAIR) of the hate agenda and Islamophobic history of the film’s producers.” CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper

The Islamophobia of CAIR:  You would think CAIR would be against Women Doused in Acid for Turning Down Marriage Proposals (Honor Diaries posted on their Facebook Page). Either CAIR fears those whom Honor Diaries might offend or they disagree with the message and want to suppress it. In the former they are cowards, in the latter they are fascists.

CAIR Principle #10:CAIR supports equal and complementary rights and responsibilities for men and women.

CAIR, on principle, should protest unequivocally honor killing, FGM, acid baths for refusing marriage proposals, not to mention laws that mandate women needing spousal permission to travel, drive, or work. According to the UN, over 90% of honor killings are within Islamic cultures, this persecution extends to homosexuals, apostates, and blasphemers. Therefore, CAIR should look at Islam with a focus on changing the culture.

Criticism:  Criticizing religion has helped the evolution of universal rights, and today the West knows more peace now than ever (See The Better Angels of our Nature:  Why Violence Has Declined). The Western media supports the rights of minorities, women, and homosexuals, especially in the West, and protests loudly against discrimination in non-Muslim majority countries like Uganda. However, the same media is not as loud when it comes to rights in Islam. The Western media allows CAIR to instill fear that “deflects from a chosen course of action.” This defines cowardice, and includes Brandeis University‘s President Fred “Urine Pants” Lawrence, who changed plans to give Ayaan Hirsi Ali an honorary degree. (For two takes on Brandeis, see Sudanese journalist Nesrine Malik at the New York Times (Freedom to Offend) and Roger Scruton at Forbes (A Triumph for the Boston Bombers).

philomena-og-badgePhilomena vs. the Catholic Church:  Philomena, a film about an unmarried young woman whose infant was taken from her by Catholic nuns, showed the crocodile’s belly of Catholicism. But did the Catholic Church protest? No. Why? Because the Catholic Church is more secure than CAIR.

Does CAIR condemn Anwar Al Awliki or Nidal Hasan? No. When the FBI searched Nidal Hasan’s mosque CAIR and Ibrahim Hooper protested: ABC News

“Nidal Hasan is a hero…The heroic act of brother Nidal also shows the dilemma of the Muslim American community. Increasingly, they are being cornered into taking stances that would either make them betray Islam or betray their nation.”  – Anwar Al Awlaki, NYTimes

It’s not censorship, but…The Honor Diaries, so far, have not been literally censored. They have been quieted. CAIR has a right to protest, but CAIR must protest ALL hate speech or none. CAIR should support the Muslim women in Honor Diaries, yet within they see a “hate agenda.” This is perplexing.

Conclusion:  CAIR spreads Islamophobia and religious chauvinism, propagating a culture that fears fundamental terror; and a society where citizens fear speaking.


7 Ways Westerners Can Help Ex-Muslims – Patheos

64% of Muslims in Egypt and Pakistan Support Death Penalty for Leaving Islam – Washington Post (Hirsi Ali may be anti-Islam, but as an ex-Muslim, how should she feel? Who carries the greater hate?)

1,600 Pakistani women murdered, 370 raped in 2013 – The Nation

*Al Jazeera:  Journalism in Pakistan, a threatened existence

*A failed assassination attempt on noted Pakistani journalist

*Pakistan not safe but producing Brave Journalists

The Phobia of Being Called Islamophobic – Ali A. Rizvi @HuffPo

*Run for Your Life“Equipped with just enough religion to hate those with another faith — but not enough to love their coreligionists — Pakistanis have mostly turned their backs on religious atrocities. ” – Pervez Hoodbhoy

*The Hamid Mir Cased:  ‘In Pakistan, they used to censor journalists, now they shoot us’ – The Guardian UK

*When Words Can Kill

On Facebook:  Between a Veil and a Dark Place, Honor Diaries, Muslims Facing Tomorrow

HuffPo:  (Interview with Producer Paula Kweskin and subject Zainab Khan) ‘Honor Diaries’ Film Shows Islamic Honor Code Forces ‘Systemic, Institutionalized Misogyny’ On Women 

Written by Caleb Powell

April 23, 2014 at 2:46 pm