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This week young Arabs are turning away from religion and LA only sentences PoC to death

24 Jun 2019

Do the Tories have a problem with violence against women? A manic Mark Field made headlines after a video surfaced of him grabbing and shoving a stranger by the neck because she interrupted a black tie dinner. The Greenpeace activist only did so to remind our slow-to-act politicians that the earth is dying. Later, police were called to Boris Johnson’s home after concerned neighbours heard his girlfriend shout “get off me”. The couple provided a recording of the altercation to the press as further evidence that Boris’ harmless buffoon act is fake.

It’s only fitting that these men are shown to be brutes in how they conduct themselves when they think their policies have of course enacted violence. As Sisters Uncut has highlighted through their campaigns against this government, two women per week are killed by a partner or ex-partner, one in two survivors are turned away from refuge and funding for refuge has been slashed by a quarter since 2010.

Here’s what else went down this week.

Is the Arab world becoming less religious?

New figures suggest that around one in five young Arabs have turned away from religion. The Arab Barometer research network conducted the largest ever in-depth survey across 11 countries and territories across the Middle East and North Africa. More than 25,000 face-to-face interviews were conducted aided by researchers from BBC News Arabic. While in 2013, the number of self-described “no faith” Arabs accounted for 8% of the responses, in 2018-2019 the figure has jumped to 13% overall, and 18% for those under 30.

For a country where religion and politics are so intimately intertwined, openly speaking out as a non-believer has not always been easy. In fact, in the Middle East and North Africa, 18 of the region’s 20 countries treat blasphemy as a criminal offence. The punishments can be brutal, 20 people in Iran were executed for “enmity against God,” according to a U.S. State Department report.

Figures have previously estimated 93% of Arabs follow Islam, alongside sizeable Christian communities. The shift in figures may be small to us in the UK, where under 70% of the population is religious, but it’s palpable.

The survey also noted new attitudes towards gender and power. In all territories except Algeria, the majority of interviewees said they were open to a woman as president.

Dima Dabbous, human rights org Equality Now’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, told the Guardian: “Women in the Middle East and North Africa are getting more educated and participating increasingly in the labour force, but their empowerment will remain incomplete as long as they are still excluded from decision-making positions and political participation.”

Death row in LA only kills people of colour

Out of all the US counties, LA holds the record for the most people sentenced to death. Despite being a black woman herself, the region’s current prosecutor Jackie Lacey has pushed for 22 defendants to be killed and all of them were people of colour.

Thirteen of those killed under Jackie were Latinx, eight were black and one was Asian. The sentences also disproportionately targeted cases involving white victims. Although 12% of homicide victims in LA county are white, 36% of Lacey’s death penalty wins involved white victims.

Looking at these troubling numbers goes some way to illustrating how sometimes it is not enough to have more “brown faces in higher places”. Adding a small number of PoC to a broken system is not an instant fix when institutional racism is the bedrock, particularly in crime and punishment.

Cassy Stubbs, director of the ACLU Capital Punishment Project, told the Guardian that we should find this “profoundly troubling”. “Los Angeles is really in a class of its own … It is just such an enormous producer of death sentences in a way that really does not make sense for where we are today.”


• According to new research, black and minority ethnic Brits are more likely to be lonely.

• Angela Saini’s new book, Superior, charts the worrying resurgence of racist science and eugenics in tech and genetics research. This Wired long read delves into the new trend.

Fast Color, a film that chronicles three generations of black women with superhuman abilities, directed by Julia Hart, is available for digital download on Amazon and iTunes.

• Seventy-two police officers have been taken off the streets in Philadelphia, as well as police in other states, over racist and violent Facebook posts as part of the Plain View Project that monitors the social media of the police.

• Joe Biden, aka Obama’s BFF currently running for president in 2020, refused to apologise for previously working with racist senators.

• A Twitter user is calling for a boycott of the budget airline Ryanair after staff allegedly racially abused a woman in front of him.

• Indie publisher Jacaranda has revealed a plan to publish 20 black British writers in 2020

Moment of the week

What did we do to deserve Rihanna? She elevated late night television by day drinking with TV host Seth Meyers, and when he asked her for advice on “how to blow his wife away on a date”. “What do I do?” he asked. “You said it,” Rih responded. “Blow your wife”.