Weirdo Zealot Groups Popping Up Around The World
We're lucky to live in these enlightened times when the Oreo flavors to choose from are plentiful, and you can order breakfast at McDonald's after noon. Unfortunately, we're still lacking in other areas, like, uh, governments letting religious zealots take over entire countries and terrorize anyone who isn't like them.
If you'd mistakenly thought that we'd left that bullshit back in the Middle Ages, well, we're sorry to tell you it's happening right now in places like ...
India Is Ruled By A Hindu Nationalist Group Once Tied To The Nazis
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS from now on, because we don't feel like copying and pasting all that) is an Indian right-wing group that was originally inspired by European fascism -- and not in a dumb David Bowie-esque "Hey, those are some cool uniforms" kind of way. They saw what Hitler and others were doing and figured India needed more of that, only instead of going on about the supremacy of one race, they focused on Hinduism.
At first, the RSS would openly praise the Nazis and talk about kicking out or killing Muslims and Christians. They've been banned in India several times due to their tendency to spark murderous riots, but like a troll who knows how to use VPNs, they keep coming back. They also have some wacky-ass training routines, which are somewhere between military marches, open-air yoga classes, and K-Pop dance numbers.
The stupider these look, the more afraid you should be. It means their disconnect from reality is complete.
Notable former members of the RSS include the guy who murdered Ghandi and ... India's current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who's been stacking the government with his guys. They've even started changing the names of places from Muslim to Hindu, which is like if Trump ordered Los Angeles to be renamed "The Angels."
As soon as Modi was elected, the RSS felt emboldened and dropped the flimsy "We're not hateful bigots anymore!" mask they'd been wearing for decades. As a result, the country now has a big problem with "cow vigilantes." Sadly, not cows dressing up as bats and fighting crime, but crowds of Modi supporters who go around lynching random people (mostly Muslims) for alleged cow-disrespecting crimes.
Then, when a terrorist attack killed 40 Indians in Kashmir, Modi pinned it on Pakistan and rode the "India First" wave to a re-election landslide -- despite record unemployment and zero accountability, because nationalism is worse for your brain cells than huffing paint. After that, Modi took away Kashmir's autonomy, shut down the internet, and cut off all journalism in the area. The people of Kashmir are now second class citizens. Did we mention they're mostly Muslim? That's probably a coincidence.
Things have gotten even worse for non-Hindus since the re-election. Modi's government has been gradually taking away Muslims' right to vote, exactly as he promised during his campaign. Those who disagree with these decisions are free to protest ... and be violently repressed by the government. Which, of course, has led to even angrier protests. A female student who was brutally beaten up by Modi fanboys has become a symbol of the growing protest movement, despite efforts to censor her. That sounds like a pretty badass origin story for a political leader, so here's hoping India gets its shit together within the next decades or so.
Republican Matt Shea Coordinated With Militias To Launch Attacks On "Communists"
Washington state representative Matt Shea first made the news in 2018 when he distributed a document called "Biblical Basis for War," which starts with the words "God is a warrior" and gets more bonkers from there. According to the document, if your enemy doesn't agree to cut it out with all their gayness, abortion, and communism then Warrior God commands you to retaliate by, uh, killing everyone with a penis.
Shea defended himself saying that these were just notes for a sermon about war in the Old Testament, and there was nothing more to it. You'll be shocked to learn that there was everything more to it. Last year, it was revealed that Shea was part of a secret chat group with other right-wing lawmakers, activists, and podcasters, where he used the name "Verum Bellator" (our Latin is a little rusty, but we believe that translates to "He Who Masturbates With Vegetables"). In the chat, Shea's buddies prepared for an inevitable holy war against godless Antifa communists by talking about stringing women up by their nipples from flagpoles and ripping out their hair.
Shea himself enthusiastically volunteered to run background checks on potential enemies (read: his constituents), even planning to buy GPS trackers to spy on them. When a chat member suggested sending severed wolf testicles to an environmental activist, Shea objected ... to discussing the idea "electronically," instead offering to continue that fascinating wolf balls conversation in person. In leaked emails, he also offered to help train children for "biblical warfare," which sounds gross under every possible interpretation.
A state investigation on Shea's shadiness revealed it to be even worse than everyone already thought: turns out he not only helped plan Ammon Bundy's 2016 takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, but two other whole-ass armed conflicts against the government. Even then, his fellow Republicans refused to kick him out. Merely suspending him from the caucus and pushing it on voters to flush this particular toilet.
The most depressing part? Being labeled a domestic terrorist might actually be helping him. He has received an outpouring of support and been hailed as a "hero" by right-wing groups. And even if he does get voted out, we have a feeling he has a long and lucrative career ahead of himself as an InfoWars host.
Evangelical Terrorists Are Running Wild In Brazil
When we say "Brazilian evangelicals" most of you probably imagine a bunch of people in colorful suits, loudly praising the lord, while samba dancing in the street -- but the reality is far more violent. Ever since the country elected its proudly homophobic far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, violent evangelical groups have been terrorizing people with impunity.
To quote the Washington Post, "Priests have been killed. Children have been stoned. An elderly woman was seriously injured. Death threats and taunts are common." That sounds like the opening crawl of a '90s beat-em-up video game, not everyday life in the year 2020. Radical evangelicalism has spread through Rio's crime-ridden favelas, leading to brutal attacks on religious minorities, leading to the authorities just shrugging and focusing on more important problems -- like removing "gay" words from textbooks.
Homophobic hate crimes in Sao Paulo rose 75 fucking percent in the months leading to Bolsonaro's election, but this has been building for decades. The second-largest TV station in Brazil is owned by an Evangelical and uses televangelism to radicalize viewers, even encouraging them to stop listening to all other media sources (especially when they're involved in blatant corruption scandals).
Meanwhile, Bolsonaro's government is very concerned with ending "ideological indoctrination," by which they mean making sure that "boys wear blue and girls wear pink," as a minister who is also an evangelical pastor put it (with an impressive lack of self-awareness). Anyway, good thing something like this could never happen in the US!
The Maldives Has A Serious ISIS Problem
Typing "Maldives" on Google brings up images of crystalline water, cruise ship ads, and honeymoon recommendations. What those ads usually leave out is the fact that this sunny archipelago is producing a disturbing number of people who want to go off and die for ISIS. According to their own security services, about 1,400 Maldivians would consider it an honor to kill for Islam (in a nation of 436,000, giving it the highest sane-people-to-ISIS-nutjob proportion of any country). Since 2013, at least 423 residents have tried to enter Iraq and Syria to fight for ISIS. Again, these people live here:
Others prefer to stay home and kidnap women and children to radicalize them in secluded islands, or simply go out and stab people (that old recruitment technique). So what makes this paradisiacal location a hotbed for extremism? Probably the fact that it isn't so paradisiacal for the people living there. The Maldives has been described as "a tourism apartheid state" and "a tropical human rights hell," which are not lines you want on your Yelp review. It was ruled by a dictator for 30 years, with all the fun torture and repression that entails. Then their first democratically elected president was ousted under shady circumstances and replaced by the former dictator's half-brother (we're assuming he looked like the same guy but with a mustache).
The overcrowded prisons and slums create the perfect conditions for ISIS to swoop in and offer Maldivians a way out of this misery (by blowing themselves up). Something similar is happening in Indonesia, where ISIS takes over and expands local extremist groups like Walmart coming to town and buying your local supermarket.
Indonesians joining ISIS are probably less about the glory of Jihad and more about feeling excluded from Indonesian society. Again, many are recruited in the overcrowded prisons, where 250,000 people have nothing to do but take turns knifing each other or shoot the shit with the local ISIS public relations agent. Indonesia is "tough on crime" and executes drug dealers, but it's still the largest drug market in Asia, and growing.
And speaking of countries that shoot junkies: ISIS took over a city in the Philippines in 2017, leading to a months-long battle that left over 1,000 dead. Two years later, the city was still in ruins, creating a perfect breeding ground for even more extremists. ISIS also has a strong presence in other non-destroyed parts of the country. In all these cases, ISIS is taking advantage of political vacuums to attract those left behind by the malice and/or ineptitude of their leaders. So, uh, try not to live in a country with really shitty politicians, we guess? (Good luck.)
China Has "Thought Transformation" Camps For Ethnic/Religious Minorities
When China allowed some Western journalists into their "voluntary" totally-not-concentration camps last year, they made sure everything looked nice and proper for the cameras. Problem is, even the stuff they want you to see is intensely creepy. Check out the singing/dancing/unconvincing "everything is fine" acting in this video:
These camps hold around a million members of minority groups, mostly Uighur Muslims. The idea is to "get rid of their extremist thoughts" (read: anything vaguely religious) while making them repeat phrases like "I love the Communist Party of China." One video shows them singing a song written by President Xi, a real banger with lyrics like "Resolutely refrain from doing bad deeds." Nothing religious about that!
Some camp-goers have been sentenced to up to 20 years in captivity, while others are held without even being charged with a crime. So what do you have to do to get "invited" to one of these camps? It could be anything from growing your beard to not setting your clock to the official Beijing time to "complaining about people's porn habits."
To detect these totally serious crimes, the government uses mass surveillance methods straight out of a heavy-handed sci-fi story. Almost 2 million people were flagged by the government's algorithms simply for having a data sharing app, and then 40,557 were reviewed one by one to look for suspicious beards and such.
And how are you allowed out of these camps? According to a leaked memo reviewed by the BBC, by changing your behavior, beliefs, language, and basically everything about yourself. Also, note that the "one million" figure is only what the government will admit to. Activists and journalists have used Google Earth to show that there are 1) way more camps than China admits, and 2) way fewer mosques than there used to be even a few years ago. They're what, just magically vanishing?
So if you're planning to visit China, try to shave constantly, don't forget to change your clock, and watch as much porn as humanly possible. We're gonna start doing all that at home, just to be on the safe side.