A man who posted a video online of himself ripping up a Koran and beating the shredded holy book with a shoe is to be beheaded in Saudi Arabia for renouncing his Muslim faith.
The unnamed prisoner, in his 20s, was given the death sentence by the country’s Sharia courts for the offence of apostasy – abandoning Islam – the Saudi Gazette reported.
Deviation from the nation’s enforced Sunni faith is harshly punished, according to Human Rights Watch.
Public worship by adherents of religions other than Islam is banned and anything deemed an insult to the faith can be treated as a crime.Saudi Arabia is the home of Mecca – one of Islam’s two holy cities – and enforces religious law
The country’s interpretation of Wahhabism demands capital punishment for a wide range of crimes, including murder, rape, armed robbery and drugs smuggling.
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Death can also be the sentence for internationally condemned religious “crimes”, including apostasy, sorcery, blasphemy and idolatry.
Executions are often carried out by public beheading. That was the fate of a Burmese woman in May who was dragged through the streets of Mecca and killed in front of crowds of people in January.Protesters simulate a flogging in front of the Saudi embassy in Washington DC in protest against the 10-year prison sentence given to a blogger
Laila Bint Abdul Muttalib Basim protested her innocence until the moment of her death, shouting “I did not kill. I did not kill” before she was executed by sword while being held down by four police officers.
She had been convicted of the sexual abuse and murder of a child.
Human rights groups say the Saudi justice system suffers from a lack of transparency and proper process that sees defendants often denied basic rights such as legal representation.Saudi Arabia’s two-million-strong Shia minority is one of the religious groups persecuted and discriminated against (AFP)
Although the government has made limited reforms to its judicial system, it has defended it as fair and shows no sign of reducing the number of executions.
In 2014 the number of rose to 87, from 78 in 2013, and seven people were killed in the first two weeks of this year alone.
Saudi Arabian ministers will be holding talks with the British government during a UK tour this week.
Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef will have dinner with Foreign Secretary tonight at the start of the three-day visit and is scheduled to meet Defence Secretary tomorrow and then the Prime Minister and Home Secretary on Thursday.Saudi Arabia has close ties with Britain, as Prince Charles’ recent visit demonstrated
David Cameron has defended Britain’s close ties with the kingdom, especially in relation to counter-terrorism intelligence and defence, despite human rights concerns.
Asked if the fate of imprisoned liberal blogger Raif Badawi and other issues would be raised, the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said: “We have consistently raised concerns that we have and will continue to do so at every level because no issues are off the table.
“We have been very clear about those views – including in the ongoing case that many people have in mind – and we will continue to raise that.”
Mr Cameron recently travelled to Saudi Arabia for the funeral of King Abdullah and Prince Charles also visited rulers on a recent tour.
The couple that tours together, stays together.
Nicki Minaj took to Instagram Tuesday (February 24) to announce her bae Meek Mill will join her on the U.S. leg of her ‘Pinkprint’ tour this summer.
The heartfelt Instagram post featured famed choreographer LaurieAnn “Boom Kat” Gibson and contributing fashion editor for L’Uomo Vogue and Vogue Italia Rushka. Both women have been instrumental in Minaj’s success and who will no doubt help with the production of the tour.
After expressing heartfelt gratitude towards both women, Nicki slipped in Meek will join her, as well as Trey Songz during her European portion of the tour.
Omeeka have been quite the quite couple to watch as of late, making their budding love affair known while sitting court side at this year’s All-Star game.
This story first appeared in the March 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Hollywood’s racial and gender diversity is increasing. But it’s not increasing quickly enough, says Darnell Hunt, lead author of the second annual Hollywood Diversity Report by UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, set for release Feb. 25. “Hollywood is not progressing at the same rate as America is diversifying,” says Hunt, the center’s director and a sociology professor. The U.S. population is about 40 percent minority and slightly more than half female, but, in news to no one, women and minorities are represented onscreen and behind the camera in drastically lesser proportions, the study indicates.
The problem isn’t audiences: During the years the study surveys — 2012 and 2013 — viewers preferred films and television shows with moderately diverse casts, according to Nielsen ratings and box-office reports. “Audiences, regardless of their race, are clamoring for more diverse content,” says co-author Ana-Christina Ramon.
The study blames the lack of diversity on agencies, guilds, studios and networks — “an industry culture that routinely devalues the talent of minorities and women,” reads the report.
The authors recognize the report’s time window limits its relevance, especially as racial diversity has shown big gains on TV during the 2014-15 season, but they predict their findings will encourage more progress. The study surveyed the top 200 films by global box office in 2012 and 2013, excluding foreign movies, and every broadcast, cable and digital TV series of the 2012-13 season (1,105 total).
In movies, minorities were underrepresented more than 2-to-1 (less than half as much as their share of the U.S. population) in lead roles and 2-to-1 as directors, and women lagged 2-to-1 as leads and 8-to-1 as directors (female-helmed films included 2012′s Zero Dark Thirty and The Guilt Trip and 2013′s Frozen and Carrie). Meanwhile, films with casts about 30 percent diverse did best at the worldwide box office.
The diversity gaps mostly were smaller than in 2011. “There are pockets of promise,” says Hunt, citing best picture winner 12 Years a Slave for upping the share of Oscar wins to 25 percent for films with a minority lead; Gravity, with seven Oscars, evened out the wins for male- and female-fronted releases. But after a 2014 Oscars race with all white acting nominees and only one best picture nominee with a black lead, “this year was a step backward from what might otherwise have been optimism from 2013,” admits Hunt.
Viewers like diversity, with broadcast scripted shows 41 percent to 50 percent diversely cast scoring the highest ratings in black and white households alike in 2012-13, while on cable, white and Latino viewers preferred casts with 31 percent to 40 percent diversity. Black households preferred cable shows with more than 50 percent diversity, a figure buoyed by BET programs including The Game and Kevin Hart‘s Real Husbands of Hollywood.
But TV remained white-heavy onscreen and behind the camera, with minorities underrepresented nearly 6-to-1 in lead roles on scripted broadcast shows and nearly 2-to-1 as leads on cable (relative to their share of the U.S. population), more than 3-to-1 as cable series creators and more than 6-to-1 as broadcast creators. Women were underrepresented about 2-to-1 as broadcast and cable creators, and their frequency as leads on broadcast dipped below 50 percent; they also remained outnumbered on cable. Both groups were underrepresented in reality programming.
Hunt is hopeful, though. “Film has always been a step or two behind television in terms of its willingness and ability to open up and diversify,” he says. He feels the medium is becoming more inclusive with the bevy of new distributors and producers, particularly such digital platforms as Netflix and Amazon. “It’s creating a chance for people to get in who had no shot before,” says Hunt. “But they’re still not getting in at the rate the tried-and-true names are.”
He is “very optimistic” regarding this pilot season’s push for diversity — with numerous minority-led projects ordered, several through overall deals with diverse talent including Eva Longoria and producer Will Packer — as well as the recent success of Empire, Black-ish, How to Get Away With Murder, Fresh Off the Boat and other diverse programs.
This year, for the first time, the study surveyed diversity in 2013 in the executive ranks of TV networks and studios (96 percent white and 71 percent male) and major and mini-major film studios (94 percent white and 100 percent male). The past year’s executive moves, such as Stacey Snider‘s jump to 20th Century Fox and Amy Pascal stepping down as co-chair at Sony Pictures, aren’t reflected in this snapshot.
The report was backed financially by a half-dozen major studios and networks including the Walt Disney Co. and Time Warner. In addition to publishing the study online, Hunt and Ramon will present it to executives from each sponsor, as they did the first report in 2014. That study helped some executives make changes at their companies, including the creation of HBOAccess, a mentorship program for diverse writers and filmmakers, which Time Warner executive director of diversity and corporate social responsibility Jonathan Beane says was inspired largely by the report. “I want to make sure that what I’m preaching, I have data to support it. [The report] does that,” he says.
He agrees with the researchers that the problem stems from executive attitudes during the hiring process, which perpetuates the lack of diversity in executive suites — even if unintentionally. “I don’t believe it’s malicious,” says Beane. “It’s just that people have a better eye for talent when it looks like them and has the same background as them.”
Says Hunt: “It’s a high-risk industry. People want to surround themselves with collaborators they’re comfortable with, which tends to mean people they’ve networked with — and nine times out of 10, they’ll look similar. It reproduces the same opportunities for the same kind of people: You’re surrounding yourself with a bunch of white men to feel comfortable.”
He adds that the industry won’t change until that does. “It’s not like there’s this general trend upward, this wave everything is riding. It’s very precarious,” says Hunt. “It’s getting better, but it’s not getting better fast enough. And it’s still a big problem.”
Funkmaster Flex has been eating a lot of shrimp. Since November, the legendary New York DJ has dropped more than 45 pounds. And when he rolls into the Yonkers Tennis Center—an hour late, he had business to attend to with his ex-wife—Flex flashes a smile that says, I know I look good. Slim and trim in white shorts, a snapback Yankees cap, and a gold chain with a pendant that says SHAKE THE BLOCK, Flex is ready to play tennis.
“Normally I don’t wear the chain to hit, but I had to for GQ,” he says. “The chain makes it so gangster and gully, you don’t even understand.”
A fixture at the preeminent New York hip-hop station Hot 97 since 1992, Flex got on his diet, The 40 Day Reset, at the urging of Cipha Sounds, a fellow Hot 97 veteran who recently left the station. The idea behind the diet, if you believe the marketing department, is to speed up your metabolism and rewire your brain and body to overcome hormonal imbalances that cause weight gain. For the 47-year-old Flex, that meant no breakfast, loading up on lean proteins and vegetables, and eating portioned meals at three-hour intervals. That’s how he rediscovered his love for shrimp.
“I didn’t know there were so many different ways to eat shrimp,” he says. “We go hard on the garlic.”
But we came to play tennis. And Flex, who has a fierce backhand, is rallying with his instructor because I can’t keep pace. When I do get on the court, he drops signature Flex Bombs, shouting “BOMB!” every time I sail a forehand over the backstop. After our court time is up, we hop in his 2008 Funkmaster Flex Ford Expedition—because of course Flex has an eponymous limited edition Ford Expedition—to grab lunch at a nearby diner where the staff crows his name when he walks through the door.
Before we can sit down over soup and salad to talk about dropping weight, roller skating, and mid-life crises—and before we tackle his now famous Jay Z rant—Flex needs to take care of one thing: the nasty effect this brutal winter has had on his truck. “Got to get this ride looking clean,” he says, as we head to his local carwash.
GQ: Why the sudden urge to take care of yourself?
My mom passed away. I was eating a lot. I was depressed. My weight was up to 256. I was going through a slump. Part of my weight loss was because I missed my mom. I didn’t want to go through the holidays in a bad place.
How quickly did you take to the 40-Day Reset?
I loved it. I’ve been a fat bastard for like 20 years. The old me would have had home fries and a burger. Now, I’ll do vegetables. I do onions. I do greens.
The 40-Day Reset is a diet program that focuses on food, not fitness. But you still exercised, despite what the program called for?
Yeah, I roller skate. I play tennis. I walk. I go on the treadmill. I was too heavy, man. I was out of breath.
Does roller skating bring you back to your early days growing up in the Bronx?
Am I having a mid-life crisis? Absolutely. I want to revisit my youth, to be honest. I understand what a mid-life crisis is—it’s having emotional and physical feelings like you did when you were young. In the beginning, roller skating rinks were the only places doing hip-hop parties. Roller skating was more how you could hear the music. I saw Grandmaster Flash. I saw Red Alert. I saw so many celebrities back then, man. Two weeks ago, Alicia Keys and Swiss Beatz came in. So I love it. Skating’s tough. I go two hours without coming off the rink.
When you showed up at the studio and the rink after you started dropping weight, what did people say?
Girls love me. Guys ask me about the diet. But you know when I realized I was in a better place? I woke up one morning and realized that I normally needed my hands to sit up out of bed. For some reason, I woke up and got up off the bed without using my arms for leverage. I used to use my arms to get up until I was like, I was so fat.
Photo: Jace Lumley
I’ve sold gold and platinum albums. I’ve got a number one radio show. Weight was always my Achilles heel. But you know what? I’m just big on doing things people say I can’t. It was almost like, man, I don’t want this to beat me.
People doubted you could lose weight?
I think nobody believed me because a lot of people did it, but didn’t stay on it . I was able to stay on it, which was really exciting.
But now that the 40-Day Reset is over, you’re just applying what you learned to your everyday life?
Yeah. You know what it really did, though—it weans you off of that sugar and pasta. The potato and the bread isn’t the main part of the meal for me anymore. Believe it or not, I’ll still do Chipotle. I’ll get the chicken and salad, with no onions and no toppings—no nothing. We still go to Ruth’s Chris. My girlfriend will go. We’ll just get a steak and share it. And we’ll get vegetables—some spinach, carrots, broccoli. When you cannot feel you have to have a potato, pasta, rice, or bread at every meal, you stay slim.
You caused a bit of a stir last month with your Jay Z rant. Have you heard from Jay since you went at him?
[Laughs.] You mean past the time that he hit me with the capital letters in a text? I love Jay Z. And I respect him. This is the first time I’ve talked about this, by the way. You know how when some things happen you go, eh, water under the bridge? But when I got that email [from Jay Z's website Life + Times], for some reason I felt like a lot of the other things that had happened were not water under the bridge. And maybe you think I’m stupid or you think I’m a bitch. Either one I don’t like.
So have we sat down? No. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure if I care about his opinion and what he feels in this situation. I will play his records to the grave. ‘Cause I’m a fan. It doesn’t affect anything I do professionally. Just don’t capitalize and talk to me in a text.
So he texted you like you were some sort of lackey?
Absolutely. And I enjoy getting in the ring with everyone and anyone. I think sometimes people forget I have a rule if you’re an on-air personality or a rapper. You’re allowed to come at me three times. And I count them. One, all good. There’s two, all good. You ever notice, people never call me a bully? But I bait you, cause the first and second time, they go, “This dude’s soft. Flex is soft.” And the third time they go, “Oh my God, this guy is lashing out on me.”
What you’re saying is, there won’t be a come-to-Jesus meeting with Jay anytime soon?
You know what? I’m past it if he’s past it. But—and you can go to print with this—should he say anything about me in an interview, I’m going to fire off that night. The choice is really his. I’m going to come 150. He only felt 100. He’ll feel 150. Any slick punch line, any slick interviews—we’re gonna do what we do. We’re gonna spar.
THIS LOOKS GOOD AND I LOVE THE CASTING
- “NE Heartbreak The Movement” is creative team that comprises of New Edition fans, who hope to eventually produce a feature film that tells the groups story. To help raise awareness for the project, The Movement has put together what they’re calling a “sneak peek” trailer, asking that, if you’re as much of a New Edition fan as they are, you should help spread the word about the collective’s efforts to bring the R&B group’s story to the big screen.
- The film will be directed by Bobby Huntley, an independent filmmaker from Atlanta, and produced by Nikki Wade. The rest of the production team includes cinematographer Calisha Prince; lighting designer Mark Alston; sound technician Brandon Cordy & hair professional Jameelah Crump. All of them are part of a team of New Edition fans who spent 6 weeks auditioning for the cast, and another 6-week period of rehearsals, to shoot the fan-made trailer embedded below, which they say was created with no budget.