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One Step Back: Brunei Enacting Law Against LGBT

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Brunei LGBT situation

As other countries take a step forward by defending and upholding the rights of our sisters and brothers from the LGBT community, Brunei takes a step back and decides it’s “okay to whip them in public or to throw stones at them until they die.”

The Brunei government is enacting a strict Sharia penal code that’s, not only barbaric but is also violating multiple human rights liberties. The said law was reportedly first published in 2013 but was further delayed due to an international outcry. However, the law will finally implement phase 2 and 3, which are the most controversial sections of the law, on April 3.

Once implemented, men who are proven to be gay or have intimate relations with the same sex are punishable by stoning to death while lesbian sex is punishable by 100 whips.

The small Islam-dominant kingdom is the first country in the east or southeast Asia to have a sharia penal code at the national level. Other countries like Saudi Arabia and some Middle Eastern countries also follow sharia law.

The law also introduces harsh penalties such as amputation of limbs for stealing, and imprisonment for dressing as someone of a different gender.

Overall, the sharia law requires death by stoning for extramarital sex, anal sex, and abortion; and penalizes thieves by amputation of the right hand for the first offense and a left foot for the second. Children who have reached puberty and are convicted of these offenses can receive the same punishments as adults; certain younger children may be subjected to whipping. All of which adheres to extremist Islamic beliefs.

“Brunei’s new penal code is barbaric to the core, imposing archaic punishments for acts that shouldn’t even be crimes,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “Sultan Hassanal should immediately suspend amputations, stoning, and all other rights-abusing provisions and punishments” The Human Rights Watch reports.

However, current Sultan and acting Prime minister Hassanal Bolkiah said in a statement that Brunei is “a sovereign Islamic and fully independent country and, like all other independent countries, enforces its own rule of law.”

Moreover, the government’s website quoted him as saying that his government “does not expect other people to accept and agree with it, but that it would suffice if they just respect the nation in the same way that it also respects them.”

The LGBT Community

The most vulnerable sector of society in Brunei is the small LGBT community that decides to live in the country. Prior to the draconian sharia penal code, members of the community are already repressed by laws that prohibited homosexuality which is punishable up to 10 years in prison.

A report from the Guardian says that living as a gay person in Brunei meant living in a ‘pink bubble,’ you can still act and look gay but should not “rock the boat, have parades and announce [their] sexuality.”

Grindr, the gay meeting application, allowed gay men to meet each other in secret from the looming government that tries to remove them from society.

Imagine trying to live a life that you are not. Forced to function in a society where its norms are limited to that of a woman’s or a man’s; a black and white perspective into how a person should act and look. It’s an outright invalidation of your personality and blatant disrespect to one’s human rights.

Upon the approach of April 3, fear looms over the LGBT community as not only their freedom is at stake but also their lives. The pink bubble has popped.

Not even Grindr can provide a safe haven; as police officials may also be using the application to track down gay men, a report says.

But Brunei is not only hostile towards the LGBT community as women are also very vulnerable. In the new sharia law, women who have abortions can be imprisoned, having children out of wedlock are imprisoned, and even extramarital sex.

Women will be forced to live within the confines of appeasing a man she marries. It’s not a likely living situation that hinders a woman from developing her own sexual interests.

The world cries shame on the law that prohibits both men and women from living their true selves.

Celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, George Clooney, and Elton John have announced their strong condemnation of such laws and has instigated a campaign from boycotting business the Sultan is involved.

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FCC Chair Ajit Pai Slammed China’s Anti-Islam Policy, Called For Protection Of Religious Freedom

Pai claimed that China built a two-million strong army to police the internet and violate the rights of its citizens.

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Photo by أخٌ في الله ... on Unsplash

In a recent statement, Federal Communication Commission Chairperson, Ajit Pai, accuses the “communist China” of building a massive army to police the internet and to survey their citizens, violating their rights.

Speaking during the U.S. State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom on July 17, Pai said that china has an army of “two million-strong” people to police the internet. For context, Ajit Pai said that the United States only has 500,000 on-duty and active personnel to protect the American people.

“China has built an army two million strong to police the Internet,” said Pai. “For context, the actual U.S. army has 500,000 active-duty personnel, and we have about 1.3 million active personnel across our active services.”

“So, China employs a significantly larger group of people to violate the rights of their citizens than the United States employs to defend rights like free expression and freedom of assembly militarily.”

Pai slammed China’s anti-Islam policies

In the same speech, Pai talked about technology being a double-edged sword. In one hand, Pai discussed how technology could be used by the religious community to connect, spread their teachings, learn, and deepen their faith. On the other hand, Pai highlights how technology can be leveraged by governments to control and limit people’s religious freedom, citing what the Communist Chinese government is doing.

Pai has highlighted the continuing attacks against the Muslim community in China. He opens a discussion about the more than two million Uighur Muslims who have been sent to Communist reeducation/concentration camps.

Only recently, investigative reporters said that some Chinese cities are forcing tourists to install malware upon entering the border. The malware has the capability of scanning the phone and reading all the files and archives saved in the device. They are particularly looking for Islamic content and those that indicate support to the Islamic community.

“[This app] provides yet another source of evidence showing how pervasive mass surveillance is being carried out in Xinjiang. We already know that Xinjiang residents—particularly Turkic Muslims—are subjected to round-the-clock and multidimensional surveillance in the region,” Maya Wang, China senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said. “What you’ve found goes beyond that: it suggests that even foreigners are subjected to such mass and unlawful surveillance.”

Other human rights organizations have also slammed the policy, saying that it is “most unlawful.” “This is yet another example of why the surveillance regime in Xinjiang is one of the most unlawful, pervasive, and draconian in the world,” Edin Omanovic, state surveillance program lead at Privacy International said.

“Modern extraction systems take advantage of this to build a detailed but flawed picture into people’s lives. Modern apps, platforms, and devices generate huge amounts of data which people likely aren’t even aware of or believe they’ve deleted, but which can still be found on the device. This is highly alarming in a country where downloading the wrong app or news article could land you in a detention camp,” he added.

On February 1, China has released an updated regulation to define the administrative framework around religious activities in China was imposed. The framework is supposed to “to protect citizens’ freedom of religious belief.’” However, according to Ajit Pai, these regulations are being used with bias against other religious organizations, like Islamic factions.

Pai slammed Xi Jinping rule’s ulterior motive that aims to regain control of the country’s religious infrastructure even though Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution states, “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy the freedom of religious belief. No State organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion.”

Call to protect freedom of expression and religion

Furthermore, Pai called for reforms in protecting freedom of expression as it is non-separable with freedom of religion. He said: “Our top priority must be to safeguard the freedom of expression. After all, the freedom of speech and free exercise of religion are practically intertwined; one supports the other.”

“When a government has the power to restrict free expression, religious minorities too often pay the price,” he added. “It is vital for countries that believe in religious freedom to join together on the international stage, to fight for an Internet where freedom of conscience is respected. This also means joining together to speak out against those governments.”

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Outpouring Support For KyoAni After Arson Attack

Fans call for support and help via the hashtag #HelpKyoAniHeal.

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A photo of Kyoto Animation Co., Ltd.'s building entrance. Photo: Thibaut120094 | Flickr.com | CC BY 2.0

A fire broke out in Kyoto Animation Co., Ltd.’s headquarters in Fushimi-ku district, Kyoto at 8:35 PM (CT), which resulted in at least 33 people dead and dozens injured.

The fire was successfully put out after five hours. Since the company’s studios are located in a residential area, neighboring establishments and private spaces were the ones who called the firefighters after hearing a loud explosion, followed by smoke rising from the building shortly. Local authorities investigated and concluded that the fire was brought upon by arson.

A 41-year-old man, who was identified by multiple witnesses as the suspect, is being treated at the hospital. The police apprehended him before being rushed to the hospital.

The motive of the crime is not yet determined since the police cannot interrogate the suspect due to his extensive injuries. Based on the suspect’s records, there is no direct connection between him and the animation studios. A witness informed authorities that the man shouted “Die!” repeatedly as he carried out his attack.

Reports have shared that the man brought 40 liters of petrol in two containers into the building. He proceeded to douse the lobby of the 1st Studio building using the gasoline he purchased at a nearby gas station.

Aside from petrol, the suspect carried several knives, which were found in the backpack discarded in the aftermath.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent via Twitter his condolences to all casualties and wished those that were injured a speedy recovery. He also stated that the crime has rendered him speechless.

The studio’s president and co-founder Hatta Hideaki spoke to reporters later in the day, in front of the studios’ burned building. He has expressed his disappointment and frustration over the incident. He said, “This has just broken our hearts.”

Kyoto Animation Co., Ltd., also known as KyoAni, estimates that there were 70 people already in the building when the suspect launched his attack. Several members are still in the hospital in critical condition.

Worldwide Response

Fans worldwide mourn with grief upon hearing the news of the incident.

Fans posted on Twitter with #PrayForKyoAni, expressing their grief and support to the affected. Most of the Twitter users posted artworks from KyoAni’s anime series and movies and shared how much the company’s art has touched them.

Others called for support by asking fans to purchase merchandise from the company’s site to help KyoAni financially. Another hashtag, #HelpKyoAniHeal, is trending on Twitter.

Sentai Filmworks, an American licensing company that brings Japanese animation and film into the American Market, has set up a GoFundMe account, titled as Help KyoAni Heal, as a response to the incident. GoFundMe’s target goal is $750,000. Within 10 hours, the fundraiser has already raised $724,000.

The President of Sentai Filmworks, John Ledford, shared his thoughts about the incident in the GoFundMe page’s website. He wrote, “Although the situation is still developing, it is clear that our friends at Kyoto Animation (KyoAni) have suffered greatly. In addition to the loss of life, many lives will be forever changed. Like all of you, we wanted to take action to help; however, we can.”

Ledford goes on, stating that many of KyoAni’s works have “inspired, influenced, and entertained us over the years.” Sentai Filmworks is already coordinating with their counterparts in the Japanese anime industry to ensure that the funds they have collected will reach KyoAni and its employees.

KyoAni was founded by couple Yoko and Hideaki Hatta in 1981. Instead of establishing a studio in Tokyo, as most animation studios do, the couple made Kyoto their business’ home.

The company is considered one of the highly-competitive and employee-friendly animation studios. Unlike others, the studio does not pay its animators per frame, but rather as an employee with a monthly salary. KyoAni has indeed embodied its philosophy, such as “Keep our corporation a humanitarian one” and “Do our best.”

Fans have known KyoAni for their high-quality animation pieces. The studio has brought life to A Silent Voice: The Movie and Violet Evergarden. The latter can be streamed on Netflix. Other works, such as K-On!, Sound! Euphonium, and Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu gained popularity and have reached worldwide success.

Fans also noted that KyoAni’s films and TV series often spread the message of love, helpfulness, and hope. In KyoAni’s time of need, many have responded to give back to the beloved animation studio.

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President Trump VS ‘the Squad’: Here’s What Both Sides Are Saying

Both sides have aired their responses on Twitter and press conferences.

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Photo: Michael Vadon | CC BY 2.0

Political figures and celebrities are weighing on President Donald Trump’s tweets over the weekend.

President Trump tweeted a comment about “Democrat Progressive Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe.” He goes on, suggesting that these Congresswomen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”

The tweet, which was posted last Sunday, drew both positive and negative criticisms.

Though no names were included in President Trump’s post, the public has identified that his statements were directed to Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York), Ilhan Omar (Minneapolis), Rashida Tlaib (Michigan), and Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts).

The following Congresswomen have responded to the President’s tweets on their Twitter accounts as well.

The Congresswomen were united in calling out the President’s tweet as “racist.” Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, and Pressley were born in America; while Rep. Omar had gained citizenship when she came to America during her childhood.

Officially, the women responded to the President via a press conference yesterday.

Rep. Pressley asked the public to “not take the bait” to steer the conversation away from the current issues at hand. “This is a disruptive distraction from the issues of care, concern, and consequence to the American people that we were sent here with a decisive mandate from our constituents to work on,” Rep. Pressley said.

Rep. Omar stated that the President is dividing the country. “He would love nothing more than to divide our country based on race, religion, gender, orientation or immigration status because this is the only way he knows he can prevent the solidarity of us working together,” she continues.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s message was directed for children of the US. She shared an anecdote from her childhood memory when her father reminded her that this is her country. The representative goes on to highlight the agenda of Congress to bringing service to the public, especially the children. She reiterates, “No matter what the president says, this country belongs to you.”

Rep. Tlaib echoed the sentiments shared by the others. “We cannot allow this hateful actions, by the President, to distract us from the critical work to hold this Administration accountable to the inhumane conditions at the border,” she emphasized.

All Congresswomen reminded the public about the issues on immigration needs additional focus, more than ever.

President Trump Clarified his Tweets

President Trump addresses the issue in a Made in America showcase on Monday. Reporters asked the President about his statements during the events’ Q&A portion.

The President pointed out that if the Congresswomen are not happy with the country, the lawmakers can leave. “If you’re not happy in the U.S., if you’re complaining all the time, very simply, you can leave. You can leave right now. Come back if you want, don’t come back, it’s OK too. But if you’re not happy, you can leave,” President Trump clarifies.

From the President’s perspective, the lawmakers do not love their country based on the statements the women released. “I’m sure that they’ll be many people that won’t miss them, but they have to love our country. They’re Congresspeople,” the President further adds.

The President also reiterated that he didn’t use any names in his tweets.

Positive and Negative Reaction to the Tweet

Political figures such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and some Republicans spoke against the President’s Tweets.

Schwarzenegger, the former California governor, issued a statement urging the President to rise above his personal attacks to do his job as America’s leader. “At some point, you have to dial down Donald and dial-up President Trump,” Schwarzenegger wrote. “I know it isn’t easy, but the job you hold is bigger than you. It is bigger than any man or woman. The American people put great trust in you to serve, and it is time to rise to their trust instead of dragging them down and tearing them apart.”

House Speaker Pelosi shared her opinions via a Dear Colleague letter to House Democrats. The Speaker urged his fellow lawmakers to join in “condemning the President’s xenophobic Tweets.

Republicans also shared their disappointment regarding President Trump’s tweets. Senator Lisa Murkowski shared that the comments were “spiteful.” Senator Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania) commented that “We should defeat their ideas on the merits, not on the basis of their ancestry.”

Celebrities like Susan Sarandon, Chris Evans, Janelle Monáe, and Stephen King also tweeted support for the Congresswomen.

Meanwhile, other politicians also came out to defend President Trump’s tweets. Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, reiterated to reporters that the President is “not racist.” He further cited that the President appointed an Asian woman of color in his cabinet, referring to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Representative Andy Harris (Maryland) emphasized that the President’s message were not racist. “They’re obviously not racist. When anyone disagrees with anyone now the default is to call them a racist and this is no exception,” Harris repeats.

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