Category: Featured

The scientist and author Richard Dawkins is giving away translations of The God Delusion in countries under Islamic rule like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan.

The reason behind the decision is the thirst for atheism in such countries. Whilst 3.3 million copies of the bestseller have been sold since 2006, the unofficial Arabic pdf alone has been downloaded 13 million times.

The rise of atheism in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia is something we have been speaking about for some time now. The Iranian Baztab Now website warned of a tsunami of atheism amongst Iranian youth. The #ExMuslimBecause hashtag initiated by the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain became viral overnight with over 120,000 Tweets from 65 countries.

The hashtag “#Aik crore Pakistani mulhid” (10 million Pakistani atheists) trended around Darwin Day for two years running. Free Mind, launched by Arab atheists promoting atheism, has recorded more than 1 million visits so far.

The now highly visible and vocal ex-Muslim movement (a new Council has just been established in Jordan), the access to atheism and freethought via social media, the deep-seated opposition to theocratic rule that comes from lived experience, the irrationality of religious doctrine, the authoritarianism of religious rule, scepticism about prophets and contradictory tenets, the unrelenting violence, amongst others, make atheism increasingly enticing for a mostly young population.

Remove Islamism’s threats and apostasy and blasphemy laws from people’s lives and even we ex-Muslims will be stunned at the extent of atheism in countries under Islamic rule.

The powers that be have understood the “threat” atheism poses – seeing it as an existential danger, especially since Islam and state power are intertwined, hence why atheists are persecuted (with many others including religious minorities, women’s rights activists, labour leaders and LGBT).

• Iran as one of the most important bases of atheism in the Middle East, with more than half the population using the Internet regularly, has seen a government ban on more than 160,000 social media accounts and websites for  spreading “atheism and corruption” in one year alone.

• Two government ministries in Egypt have been ordered to produce a national plan to “confront and eliminate” atheism. The Egyptian parliament is looking to criminalise atheism.  Recently, Mohammed Hashem was told to see a psychiatrist and kicked off a television show for not believing in God. A mother has even lost custody of her children because she is an atheist.

• A series of laws in Saudi Arabia define terrorism as “calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion.”

• A Malaysian government minister has said that atheists should be “hunted down” and “re-educated.”

• In Pakistan, a High Court Judge has reiterated that “blasphemers are terrorists” in a case that seeks to ban “derogatory” social media posts against Islam and Muhammad, Islam’s prophet. The Islamabad High Court has directed the government to block web pages containing blasphemous content and put the names of “blasphemers” on the exit control list.

Thirteen countries punish atheism with the death penalty, all Islamic states, namely Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, UAE, and Yemen.

And even in countries without the death penalty, like Bangladesh, Islamists kill atheists whilst the government does little or like Tunisia, where Hatem Al Imam, the President of Tunisian Freethinkers has been brutally attacked. Turkish government-backed Islamists in Afrin address “Kurdish atheists,”telling them to repent or face decapitation …

Clearly, to be an atheist, to question or criticise God, prophets, Islam and any religion or dogma is not a crime though too many are being killed or imprisoned for it. It is high time to stop blaming atheists for their persecution under cover of offence, Islamophobia, hurt sentiments… and instead target the states and movements that are hunting down, imprisoning and murdering people for the mere exercise of their freedom of expression and conscience.

Urgent cases that need our immediate attention include:

Bangladesh: Asad Noor, a 25-year-old atheist blogger is facing up to 14 years in prison because he “hurt religious feelings” with his social media posts “mocking the prophet”.

Iran: 20-year-old Sina Dehghan was sentenced to death for “insulting the prophet”. Deghan’s co-defendants, Sahar Eliasi and Mohammad Nouri, have also been convicted of posting anti-Islamic content on social media. Nouri was sentenced to death; Eliasi has been sentenced to three years in prison upon appeal. Soheil Arabi was initially sentenced to death for “insulting the prophet” is on hunger strike and in critical condition. Ruhollah Tavana and Saeed Malekpour have also been sentenced to death for “insulting the Prophet” and “insulting and desecrating Islam” respectively.

Iraq: In Dhi Qar- Al-Nasiriya, a city in the southern part of  Iraq, atheists have been hunted down; in most recent news, one of four has been arrested for “spreading the culture of the absence of God.”

Pakistan: Ayaz Nizami and Rana Noman face the death penalty for “blasphemy.” After the arrest, #HangAyazNizami trended on Twitter. Taimoor Raza, 30, has also been sentenced to death for “insulting the prophet Muhammad.”

Saudi Arabia: Ahmad Al-Shamri, in his 20s, has been sentenced to death for atheism and blasphemy; Raif Badawi has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and a thousand lashes for “apostasy” and “insulting Islam”. Poet Ashraf Fayadhhas been sentenced to eight years imprisonment and lashes for poems containing “atheist ideas” reduced from an initial death sentence.

#AtheismNotACrime #EndBlasphemyLaws #EndApostasyLaws

Sunday 25 November 2018
Conference on Sharia, Segregation and Secularism
9:30am registration for 1030am start
Central London

Join notable secularists and veteran women’s rights campaigners for a conference on Sharia, Segregation and Secularism at a spectacular venue in central London on Sunday 25 November 2018.

The conference will raise key issues surrounding religious arbitration, the veil and gender segregation at schools and universities, including as part of the religious-Right’s assault on women’s rights. It will also highlight the voices of people on the frontlines of resistance, the gains made by secularists both in the UK and internationally, and the importance of secularism as a minimum precondition for equality. Challenges that secularists continue to face and priorities for continued collective action will also be addressed.

The conference will mark the tenth anniversary of the One Law for All Campaign for equality irrespective of background, beliefs and religions.

Confirmed Speakers (Biographies):

Afsana Lachaux, Women’s Rights Activist
Ahlam Akram, Founder of Basira
Amina Lone, Director of Social Action and Research Foundation
Annie Laurie-Gaylor, Co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation
Beatrix Campbell, Writer, Journalist, Broadcaster and Playwright
Bonya Ahmed, Activist, Writer, Blogger at Mukto-Mona
Diana Nammi, Founder and Executive Director of Iranian Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation
Eve Sacks, Trustee of Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance UK
Fariborz Pooya, Bread and Roses TV Producer
Gina Khan, One Law for All Spokesperson
Gita Sahgal, Founder and Director of Centre for Secular Space
Homa Arjomand, International Coordinator for One Secular School System
Houzan Mahmoud, Co-founder of Culture Project
Inna Shevchenko, FEMEN Leader
Marieme Helie Lucas, Algerian Sociologist, Political Theorist and Author
Maryam Namazie, Co-Spokesperson for One Law for All, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and Fitnah
Nadia El Fani, Tunisian film-maker
Nasreen Rehman, Women’s Rights Campaigner
Peter Tatchell, Human Rights Campaigner
Pragna Patel, Founder and Director of the Southall Black Sisters
Rahila Gupta, Writer and Journalist
Rumana Hashem, Women’s Rights Activist
Sadia Hameed, Spokesperson of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Sadikur Rahman, Solicitor
Victoria Gugenheim, Award-winning Body Artist
Yasmin Rehman, Women’s Rights Campaigner

Tickets can be purchased here.  Conference venue will be given to ticket holders closer to the date of the event. Please note that tickets cannot be bought at the door and must be purchased prior to the event.

More information on the conference is available on its website.

Conference sponsors include: Bread and Roses TV; Center for Inquiry; Centre for Secular Space; Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain; Culture Project; Equal Rights Now; Fitnah; National Secular Society; One Law for All; Southall Black Sisters; and Secularism is a Women’s Issue.

For more information, please contact Maryam Namazie, [email protected]

IQ – 1 December 2017

INTRODUCTION

These suggestions are primarily aimed at people that find themselves in need of greater security, privacy and anonymity for their electronic communications. They assume that your computer is running a version of MS Windows, but again the suggestions can apply to other operating systems or platforms that have similar software.

There is no such thing as a 100% secure communication over an electronic medium such as the global internet or telephony network. Many of the suggestions here do provide varying levels of security, privacy and anonymity (SPA). When these tools are implemented properly and used in conjunction with each other, your personal SPA will be greatly improved. By covering your tracks, you can reduce your chances of being on the receiving end of any unpleasantness. Needless to say, great care must be taken with your communications. Even with all the security in place, your SPA can still be compromised by the use of weak passphrases, the opening of attachments from unknown senders, inserting USB drives of dubious origins into your computer systems or careless revelations of identifiable details. The user (ie. you) is often the weakest link. Do stay safe by practising safe computing.

Disclaimer

This is not a complete guide and not all software is covered. Under no circumstances shall the author or CEMB be liable for direct, indirect, special, incidental, or consequential damages resulting from the use, misuse, or inability to use the software, even if the author or CEMB has been advised of the possibility of such damages. Ensure you’ve received the permission of the owner or operator of the computer or other devices before attempting any of the suggestions in this article. Use at your own risk.

Although not covered here, you may wish to invest in a number of Faraday pouches or bags to shield your mobile devices from surveillance or theft.

MOBILE DEVICES

Before you can secure your mobile devices it behooves you to reconsider your approach to contact management which can make things easier during subsequent steps. Although this contact management step is optional, it’s highly recommended. The majority of mobile devices run versions of either the Apple iOS or Google Android operating systems. You need to start by updating your contacts. If they are linked / synchronised with an email address (eg. Gmail), then log in to your email account (on a PC) and update your contacts from there. All changes will then propagate to your linked devices.

To update your contacts, change all telephone numbers to the proper international (E.164/ENUM) format. For example, consider the British phone number 07123 456789, you need to do the following to it:

  1. Drop all leading zeroes.
  2. Remove all non-numeric characters.
  3. Prepend the relevant country code.

The British phone number 07123 456789 will become +447123456789. This is the preferred format so update the telephone numbers for as many of your contacts as you can. Get into the habit of storing numbers in this format. Make a note of your own number in this format, you’ll need it later.

Always apply all software or operating system updates as soon as they become available. These include much needed security fixes. If you’re confident and are technically proficient, you may replace the device’s operating system with a custom one like LINEAGE OS, REPLICANT or RESURRECTION REMIX.

For secure encrypted messaging and calling for Android and iOS devices, go to SIGNAL and follow the link to install the SIGNAL PRIVATE MESSENGER application. This is a free, open-source application that makes use of your smartphone’s mobile data connection or wifi calling features. Note that this application is meant to replace your existing default messaging application. You will need to complete a short activation process using your own mobile number (in the above international format), then you’ll be good to go.

Another application to note for your mobile device is ORBOT. This lets you route your internet browsing over the TOR network. A good privacy-oriented browser is TENTA. There are desktop versions of some of the encrypted instant messaging applications below.

Modify each of your wifi network connections (or better still your router, see below) to ensure that you use the IP addresses at the bottom of the TENTA DNS SETUP GUIDE as your DNS, unless you decide to use OPENDNS or SIMPLE DNSCRYPT (see below).

Disable the wifi and location features if you’re in a public place and they’re not needed, this can easily be done by temporarily enabling the airplane or flight mode feature. Ensure that you encrypt your mobile device. This may take some time, you may want to ensure your device is charging during this crucial step and shouldn’t be interrupted. Afterwards, enable PIN / Passcodes and even SIM PIN and Voicemail PIN to further secure your smartphone.

Before you sell or dispose of your mobile device:

  1. Backup / export all your personal or important information (files, images, contacts, etc) to your encrypted cloud or any other external storage.
  2. Delink your device from your Apple or Gmail account.
  3. Delete all images or other personal files from your device.
  4. Clear all messaging and call history, including any notifications and search or browsing history.
  5. Clear all contacts and password keys from your mobile device, inc. SIM.
  6. Uninstall as many apps as you can, inc. clearing SD storage.
  7. Forget all networks or wireless access points.
  8. Ensure that you then encrypt your mobile device again.
  9. Perform a hard reset of your mobile device.
  10. You may then remove the SIM card and battery (if possible), then physically destroy the mobile device if you wish to dispose of it.

For additional security, consider enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) for various online services using a suitably secure authenticator application (avoid 2FA via SMS). An online guide to securing your iPhone is also available here: SECURE YOUR IPHONE.

DESKTOP / LAPTOP COMPUTERS

If you’re truly concerned that your privacy may have been compromised, don’t use your own computer. Go to an internet cafe or other public service such as a library and use the computer there if you can. Otherwise you should be reasonably safe by using your own computer with the following suggestions.

Avoid using versions of MS Windows; these are a relatively non-secure set of Operating Systems. Try to use secure distributions of Linux such as QUBES OS (preferred), SUBGRAPH OS, KODACHI LINUX, PUREOS or TAILS, the latter can be copied to a USB drive (or optical media such as CD, DVDs, etc) and run on any suitable computer. KALI LINUX is a very useful operating system, geared more towards penetration testing and security auditing. Many of these Linux (and BSD) distributions can be run directly from optical media or USB so you can use them before installing anything on your computer. Take the time to learn about open-source operating systems, start by bookmarking the DISTROWATCH site.

If you’re running a version of MS Windows, encrypt your hard drive (or at the very least the partition / drive that holds your personal files). You can use VERACRYPT.

If you’ve access to the router and can update its settings, log in to it using your computer’s web browser then note the existing DNS IP addresses and write these down in case you need to undo this step. These would be the addresses for your Internet Service Provider’s DNS. Consider changing the existing DNS IP addresses to ones provided by OPENNIC PROJECT, OPENDNS or TENTADNS:

  • 99.192.182.100
  • 66.244.159.100
  • 99.192.182.200
  • 66.244.159.200

Save your updated configuration then restart your router.

If you don’t have access to your router or are unable to update your DNS configuration, then you should use SIMPLE DNSCRYPT on your computer. Remember to modify your adapter settings (via your Control Panel > Network Connections or type ncpa.cpl from the command line, then update IPv4) to ensure that the preferred DNS is set to 127.0.0.1. Once this is configured then go to the following site, you should see a welcome page with an orange tick: AM I USNG OPENDNS?

You may also test whether your computer is leaking your DNS queries, with instructions how to resolve them here: DNS LEAK TEST.

A good free anti-malware and firewall will help keep out any intruders. On MS Windows, a good firewall is GLASSWIRE. On Linux, a good firewall is PFSENSE.

If you want to make use of the Cloud to store your personal files, then opt for secure zero-knowledge services like TRESORIT or even ORC.

To make use of the various anonymisation networks, you can install either:

They may need some configuration but they are recommended if you wish to conduct your online communications anonymously. Take great care to configure them as a Relay, not as an Exit Node. Many well-known social media and other hidden services, including illicit services, are accessible via these anonymisation networks which provide improved end-to-end security.

A very useful application is BATCHPURIFIER. This tool can help remove your hidden information or metadata from multiple files (eg. photos or images). The metadata can be used to trace when, where and how the file was created (among other things). Removing all this information from files before you store or share them will greatly aid your security, privacy and anonymity (SPA).

To hide your messages in other files, you can use free steganography software like:

Share these modified files by first uploading them to an anonymous service (see below).

Another great application is KEEPASS PASSWORD SAFE. This is a free, open-source password manager that lets you store your many passwords securely. There are versions for Android and iOS for use on mobile devices.

Email is a very important service for many reasons. Presently there are many email service providers that offer varying levels of security. However, most suffer from one significant flaw: their metadata is sent with the message in clear text. This does not bode well for your SPA. As a result of recent events, efforts are underway to completely redesign email for the modern era with intrinsic security known as Email 3.0.

The DARK MAIL TECHNICAL ALLIANCE is leading the effort, however the protocols have a name: DIME. To date, there is one provider offering DIME emails: LAVABIT

But what if you’re unable to use the new DIME email services? There is a simple process that you can use to communicate using any email service. Here’s how it works:

  1. Person A registers with a new email account and notes the login credentials (ie. username and password).
  2. Person A logs in and drafts a message, but does not send it. The message is saved in the drafts folder.
  3. Person A logs out.
  4. Person A gives the login credentials to their trusted contact Person B, in person.
  5. Person B then logs in to the same email account.
  6. Person B can then read the saved message from Person A in the drafts folder, then deletes it.
  7. Person B replies by creating a new message and saving that into the drafts folder.
  8. Person B logs out.
  9. Person A can then log back in and read the saved message from Person B before composing a reply as above.

This communication can take place without a single message being emailed through any server or domain, which makes surveillance very difficult. This requires the participants to access the same email account and some degree of coordination between them. Also, remember to change your email settings to disallow tracking and other so-called features. There are many helpful tips available online, specifically how to improve your email’s SPA.

Your browsers are important too. The two major browsers are GOOGLE CHROME and MOZILLA FIREFOX. If your Operating System is a 64-bit OS, use 64-bit versions of these browsers. Firefox is recommended for security. There are many other browsers you may wish to consider, eg. TENTA. Be sure to keep them updated and configured properly at all times.

There are many useful applications, settings and browser tests detailed in PRIVACY TOOLS, RESTORE PRIVACY and HOW’S MY TLS. You may also test whether your browser is protected against online tracking techniques, instructions how to resolve them here: PANOPTICLICK.

Set your home pages in all browsers to either DUCKDUCKGO, STARTPAGE or QWANT and also bookmark and use the following sites:

The OTR site lets you send self-destructing messages and files to your contacts, anonymously. A facility for encrypted chat is also available. This is purely browser-based, no installation of any software is necessary. In each browser you should search for and install the following extensions / add-ons / plugins:

There are also free applications that can be downloaded and installed for secure instant messaging:

You should also consider using services or extensions that function as secure VPNs such as:

These let you route your browsing activities through virtual private networks or remote proxies located in different jurisdictions. Do not access your email, financial or other personal sites through them, unless they have sufficient security in place, nor should you use any untrusted proxy with handling your personal business (ie. those that require login credentials or financial information). The OTR site for secure and anonymous real-time communication is recommended. Ensure that whichever browser you use, you’re familiar with its Incognito or Private Browsing Mode and that it’s configured to clear its cache automatically when it’s closed.

Further information is contained in this excellent article: THE ULTIMATE PRIVACY GUIDE.

After emptying your computer’s Recycle Bin, you may use some useful MS Windows commands, eg. CIPHER ensures that no deleted file in a directory can be recovered.

Other useful software:

  • RING – Alternative to Skype.
  • MASTODON – Alternative to Twitter.
  • DISCORD – Alternative to Skype and TeamSpeak.
  • LIBREOFFICE – Alternative to Microsoft Office.
  • ETCHER – Burn images to SD Cards and USB drives.
  • ZULU – Alternative to Oracle Java SDK.

There is a great deal of information available regarding counter surveillance that couldn’t be included because it’s outside the scope of this article.

SUMMARY

On mobile devices, secure communication is of the utmost importance. Install the free open-source application SIGNAL on your smartphone. There is also a version of Signal available for desktop computers. Phone encryption and periodic clearance of search and location histories are advised. Set a strong passphrase and the remote lock, locate and erase feature.

On computers, many tools can be installed but some websites like OTR can be accessed by any modern browser. Check your browser’s privacy and security settings and schedule it to clear your entire cache and history (especially when your browser is closed) periodically. Limit your cached web content to 0MB and enable tracking protection. Ensure you sign up to a DIME-compliant email service. Updating your DNS / Router settings is highly recommended. Harden your social media privacy settings (SECURE FACEBOOK or FACEBOOK PRIVACY) by placing your associates in distinct groups and setting their permissions accordingly, or better yet try to keep your presence on social media to a minimum. Remember to log out of every site you have logged into when you are done. Be aware that an increasing quantity of your personal information, contacts, views, habits and locations can be scraped from your online presence and sold to third parties. If this point is of particular concern, consider using MASTODON.

Hopefully the information detailed here will help you cover your internet tracks more effectively and assure your personal safety.

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