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Admins of Kerala Facebook group face death threats over anti-religious posts

Screenshot source: naradanews.com

The administration panel of Kerala’s biggest anti-superstition and rationalist Facebook groups has come under death threats for prompting believers to desert the Islamic faith.

The blog, named Mujahir 2015, is written in Malayalam, the language spoken in Kerala.

“Those who insult the Prophet must be killed,” the blog said. “To carry out (such an act), a Muslim does not require anyone’s permission.”

The blog also gives the photographs of the administrators of the Facebook group.

NOT THE FIRST TIME

This is not the first time that the group, Freethinkers, has come under attack from religious believers.

Though about 55% of the posts in the group are targeted against superstitions and so-called logical fallacies in Islam, the remaining posts target other religions including various Hindu religions and Christianity.

Freethinkers, not surprisingly, has earned the ire of right-wing groups across the religious spectrum, including Hindu, Christian and Islamic.

The group has a long history of rubbing strict believers the wrong way, and Facebook used to shut down the group every three months after it used to be mass-reported by religious believers under Facebook’s ‘credible threat of violence’ heading. Since 99% of the posts and discussions happen in Malayalam, Facebook perhaps faced a challenge in assessing the credibility of the complaints.

However, as a result of repeated outrage in the media and outside, Facebook has stopped shutting down the group. The last group, Freethinkers 6, was shut down about six months ago, while the seventh edition has continued to function for the longest duration of all the groups.

At one time, Freethinkers had close to 80,000 participants. Freethinkers 7 reached over 65,000 recently. However, of late, the admins seem to have removed around 10,000 members, bringing the total membership to 55,000. At present, it has 57,000 members.

COMPETITION

The group, begun by a group of engineers and IT workers, set the standard in Malayalam online world in terms of user engagement and social impact. Many prominent politicians, including Congress Party’s VT Balram, often participate in the discussions on the group.

It also created many lookalikes as well, as people tried to set up similarly named groups in an effort to confuse ‘sharers’ into thinking their’s was the original one.

Religious Facebook users also tried to counter the impact of Freethinkers by coming up with their own groups.

While those following Islam came up with ‘Right Thinkers’, those aligned to Hindutva came up with ‘True Thinkers’. Leftists came up with ‘Different Thinkers’. There is also a group called ‘Real Thinkers’.

Recently, ‘True Thinkers’ was shut down via mass reporting, but the organizers have managed to bounce back with a new group that now has over 55,000 members.

Despite having so much competition (including from other ‘Freethinkers’), the original Freethinkers tends to set the bar in terms of audience engagement.

Many of the people who use the group have created profiles under pseudonyms to avoid threats of violence from those whom they criticize, while many other groups ban such profiles.

Freethinkers has links to Kerala’s Rationalist Association, which works to spread the scientific temper among the masses. Before the advent of social media, the Rationalist Association used to organize seminars, debates and book exhibitions to put forward their agenda.

At present, a retired school teacher, E A Jabbar, is seen as the ‘spiritual head’ of the Freethinkers.

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