Bulletin # 141 (14 February 2005)



Dr. Younus Shaikh and Richard Stallman join Rationalist International

Taslima Nasreen applies for Indian citizenship

Vatican: Exorcism for beginners!


Dr. Younus Shaikh and Richard Stallman join Rationalist International

Rationalist international welcomes Dr. Younus Shaikh and Richard Stallman as Honorary Associates.

Dr. Younus Shaikh Richard Stallman
Dr. Younus Shaikh Richard Stallman

Born in a Muslim family and educated in Muslim schools, Dr. Younus Shaikh found his way to rationalism and liberalism through books. After studying medicine in Pakistan and in Ireland, he returned to his country and worked as a medical doctor and college lecturer. In 1992, he founded the rationalist organization The Enlightenment and served as its president. He fought in public meetings and newspaper articles courageously for freethought and free speech, for separation of state and religion and for women's rights. He also founded and led the South Asian Fraternity, which aims at promoting understanding, goodwill and harmony, religious tolerance, interaction, and people-to-people contact amongst the countries of South Asia.

In October 2000, he was arrested in a cooked-up blasphemy case. Islamic fanatics accused him falsely of having made derogatory remarks about the Prophet during one of his lectures on 7th century Arabia. They filed a criminal complaint against him under the draconian Blasphemy Law (Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code), which carries mandatory death penalty. Sentenced to death in August 2001, he was languishing in solitary confinement in one of the dreaded death cells of Rawalpindi Central Jail for more than two years, before he was acquitted and released in greatest secrecy and under heavy security. He had to leave his country because fundamentalists threatened his life and now lives in Switzerland as a recognized refugee. [Visit our web site for details about the case and for Dr. Shaikh's essay "Islam and Women"].

Richard M. Stallman is the creator of the Free Software Movement, a progressive worldwide movement fighting for transparency and public accessibility of computer software. In a world where computers increasingly define and control our life, the codes that are running them should not be secret and under exclusive control of some multinational copyright holders. Free Software is open for everybody to understand, to use and to modify. It allows the free flow of creativity, serves democracy and social justice and contributes to create a free society.

Richard Stallman has been called the "philosopher king of software". He is an internationally reputed computer scientist and powerful speaker, lecturing all around the world. His many awards include the MacArthur-Foundation "Genius Grant" Fellowship in Computer Science (1990) and the Takeda Award in Techno-Entrepreneurial Achievements for Social / Economic Well-Being (2001, shared with Ken Sakamura and Linus Torvalds). He earned a B A from Harvard University and was a researcher of M.I.T.'s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. He resigned in protest of increasingly restrictive copyright policy and launched the revolutionary GNU Project. GNU with Linux was the first freely distributable operating system with source code protected by the GNU GPL.


Taslima Nasreen applies for Indian citizenship

Taslima Nasreen
Taslima Nasreen

Taslima Nasreen, author, activist and Honorary Associate of Rationalist International, has applied for Indian citizenship. "I dream of living in Bengal, either East or West", she says. The Indian government considers meeting her wish; the final decision is still pending.

Meantime a writ petition has been filed in the high court of Calcutta, the capital of the Indian state of West-Bengal, challenging the decision of the communist government of the state to ban Taslima Nasreens's autobiographical Novel Dwikhondito (Twilight) for allegedly denigrating Islam. The author, though personally not party to the case, attended the first hearing in order to 'support the effort to upheld freedom of expression'. "In this country, one can at least fight for ones rights", she said.

Taslima Nasreen had to leave her own country, Bangladesh, after Islamic fanatics threatened in 1994 to kill her for her alleged blasphemous writings. Several of her books are banned. A court case against her for hurting religious sentiments is still pending after several hearings in absentia.


Vatican: Exorcism for beginners!

For the coming semester, the Vatican University has a special offer: take a two-month crash course in exorcism and be up to the devil's tricks. Besides some lessons in psychology and law, the course at the prestigious Athenaeum Pontificium Regina Apostolorum will focus on "theological, spiritual, liturgical and pastoral" aspects of exorcism and equip the candidates for the holy battle against Satan.

The fading medieval practice of exorcism got a big boost during the papacy of John Paul II, who ruled that every diocese of the Roman Catholic church the world over should appoint at least one exorcist. The current Pope even tried his own hand in exorcism. And though none of his three encounters with the devil - the latest taking place in September 2002 - have been successful in bringing the "possessed" back to normal behavior, the papal enthusiasm for the occult spread like wildfire.

In recent times, there have been several spectacular cases of Satanism in Italy. Next week - in a case that has captured the public imagination - a court outside Milan is due to consider murder charges against a group of young people accused of killing two teenagers as part of a Satanic rite. The case confirms the belief into the power of evil, said Father Giulio Savoldi, Milan's official exorcist for more than 20 years. Reverent Gabriele Amorth, the Roman Catholic church's leading exorcist and president of the International Association of Exorcists, is of the opinion that most wars are caused by the devil. Hitler and Stalin, for example, have been consecrated to Satan, he feels. Among the living victims, whom he generally prefers not to mention, he counts the Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who defected temporarily from the Roman Catholic church and married a follower of Reverend Sun Myung Moon in New York, some years back.

Father Amorth, author of the best-selling book "An Exorcist tells his Story", describes the typical symptoms of "possession" as violent aversion to the sign of the cross, inhuman strength and speaking in tongues. The exorcist's only weapons against the evil are the cross, holy water and extra-virgin olive oil. After successful exorcism the victims would sometimes rid themselves of their tormentor by spitting out strange objects. During his long practice, Father Amorth has amassed a proud collection of such diabolic objects, including locks of hair, shards of glass ropes and pieces of radio equipment.

Copyright © 2005 Rationalist International.
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President: Sanal Edamaruku
Honorary Associates
Dr. Pieter Admiraal (The Netherlands), Prof. Mike Archer (Australia), Katsuaki Asai (Japan), Sir Hermann Bondi (UK), Prof. Colin Blakemore (UK), Prof. Vern Bullough (USA), Dr. Bill Cooke (New Zealand), Dr. Helena Cronin (UK), Prof. Richard Dawkins (UK), Joseph Edamaruku (India), Jan Loeb Eisler (USA), Prof. Antony Flew (UK), Tom Flynn (USA), Jim Herrick (UK), Christopher Hitchens (USA), Ellen Johnson (USA), Prof. Paul Kurtz (USA), Lavanam (India), Dr. Richard Leakey (Kenya), Iain Middleton (New Zealand), Dr. Henry Morgentaler (Canada), Dr. Taslima Nasreen (Bangladesh), Steinar Nilsen (Norway), Prof. Jean-Claude Pecker (France), James Randi (USA), Prof. Ajoy Roy (Bangladesh), Dr. G N Jyoti Shankar (deceased, USA), Dr. Younus Shaikh (Pakistan), Barbara Smoker (UK), Richard Stallman (USA), Prof. Rob Tielman (The Netherlands), David Tribe (Australia), K Veeramani (India), Barry Williams (Australia), Prof. Richard Wiseman (UK) and Prof. Lewis Wolpert (UK).