Author: CEMB

In Toronto LGBT Iranians were branded as ‘Islamophobes’, The Freethinker, 5 July 2017

At Toronto Pride on June 25 some ‘anti-fascists’ surrounded Iranian refugees and LGBTQ activists and absurdly chanted ‘No Hate at Pride’ – as if defending LGBTQ people in Iran or countries under Islamic rule is ‘hateful’.

Police intervention ensured that they weren’t able to stop the Iranians from joining Pride as the video below shows.

The irony of “anti-fascist” activists accusing an Iranian holding a sign saying “I am Muslim and condemn the persecution of LGBTQ+ in Islamic countries” of “Islamophobia” was clearly lost on them. It’s just another example of how criticism of Islamism or even Islam is conflated with bigotry against Muslims at the expense of dissenters and to the advantage of Islamists.

If you cannot condemn the persecution meted out by Islamic states and Islamists, well, that’s a pretty good deal for those in power and a pretty raw one for those who want to defend human rights.

That Iranian LGBTQ participants needed police intervention in a place where they must feel safest says much about the world we live in today.

Which makes it all the more important to emphasise that the only states which punish homosexuality with the death penalty are Islamic ones, including Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, UAE, and Yemen. And that Islam is used as a justification for murdering LGBTQ people (as are all religions – though we don’t have, for now at least – a Republic of Gilead).

Of course that does not mean that all Muslims are homophobic –gay Muslims at Toronto Pride is a good case in point. After all, people are more than the religions they were born into out of very little choice of their own.

It also doesn’t mean that bigotry doesn’t exist – of course it does. But what on earth does defending LGBTQ people (including gays Muslims ) in countries under Islamic rule have to do with bigotry?

The Iranians at Toronto Pride were told their defence of LGBTQ rights “emboldens” “anti-Muslim racists”,  but those making this convoluted linkage assume that Muslims are automatically anti-LGBTQ and that they are one and the same as the Islamists – which seems to me to be promoting the very bigotry they feign to resist. (Unless of course they believe former President Ahmadinejad when he said “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country”.)

On July 8, members from the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and I will be marching with others, including Muslims, at Pride in London to highlight the persecution faced by LGBTQ people  in countries under Islamic rule. We will be focused in particular on the harrowing roundup, detention and torture of homosexuals in Chechnya where its president, Ramzan Kadyrov, has expressed the desire to “eliminate” gay people by the start of Ramadan.

Those who will gasp in horror to see us criticise Islam and Islamism at Pride in London whilst they regularly protest the Pope and poke fun at Christianity and the religious-right would do well to remember that rights are universal and applicable to everyone irrespective of where we live.

The argument that Islam and Islamism cannot be criticised because Muslims are a minority in Canada or the UK is akin to telling an Iranian woman that she cannot criticise Trump’s or May’s misogynist policies because Christians are a minority in Iran! It’s absurd when you use this line of argument for any other situation but it has become the new normal, particularly when it comes to Islam and Islamism.

This perspective denies desperately needed internationalism and real anti-fascism (which must include being anti-Islamist to be worthy of its name).

It defends silence rather than condemnation and solidarity.

What was the saying during the height of the AIDS crisis? Silence = Death.

Well, yes exactly.

See CEMB’s Pride in London page. For more information, please contact Daniel Fitzgerald  at [email protected], telephone 07952 593 227 or visit our website.

The upcoming International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression being held in London during 22-24 July 2017 will also discuss the links between LGBTQ communities and ex-Muslim movements among other timely issues. For more information of the conference, visit its website.

Editor’s notes/Updates:

Antifa denies targeting the Pride participants:

Also please note that some have said the reason the group were targeted by ‘anti-fascists’ was because of the far-Right JDL which were invited to join by the group organisers. This has been denied by ICHR:

No Apologies

This is CEMB Spokesperson Maryam Namazie’s letter published in sister-hood, 27 June 2017.

This is my letter to you.

Not you, the Islamist, who wants me silent or dead whilst dreaming of your vile caliphate, nor you, the racist, who wants my Muslim and migrant family out whilst dreaming of your contemptible white, Christian Europe. To me, you are two sides of the same coin.

This is my letter to you who I should consider a friend, an ally, but who refuses to make a stand with me. You: the progressive, the anti-racist, the supposed defender of human rights.

How come your defence of freedom of conscience and expression never includes my right to reject and criticise Islam?

You exclude, bar, ban, blame and shame me – or at the very least – remain silent, simply because of who I am: an ex-Muslim, an atheist, a critic of Islam.

Of course, you have a right to your silence.

You are not responsible for my persecution. Only those who threaten, kill and harm freethinkers in countries and communities under Islamist control are directly responsible; justice, after all, can never be about placing collective blame.

But I do accuse.

I accuse you of blaming me and never the perpetrators.

They always seem to have some ‘legitimate’ grievance or ‘hurt’ sensibility that justifies their incitement to violence or mass murder.

I, on the other hand, am always at fault:

If only I had not offended’ Your religion offends me but I am still able to stand with you and defend your right to religion.

‘If only I had not provoked’ Islamists kill, maim, silence and I am the one provoking them by saying what I think? Is that you speaking or them?

‘If only I had respected Islam’ You don’t respect my atheism; why must I respect your religion? In any case, one is not required to respect beliefs but the right to belief.

‘If only I had kept my opinion about Islam to myself’… You do not keep your opinions to yourself. Every day, from every corner I hear how ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ and that ‘Islamists are not practising real Islam’. Religion is shoved down my throat until I suffocate; yet I must keep my opinions to myself? Do I not also have the right to speak and think as I choose? Until Islamists stop threatening me, I will shout my atheism from every rooftop.

‘I am aiding racism because I criticise Islam’ Are you promoting terrorism because you defend Islam? I do not blame you for terrorism; stop blaming me for racism – which, by the way, affects me too.

Dear ‘friend’,

Is it really so hard to grasp that freedom of conscience is not just for the believer? That it includes the right not to believe, the right to reject Islam – publicly or otherwise. That freedom of expression is not just for those who defend and promote Islam. It is also my and our freedom to criticise Islam, mock it, and even see it as the regressive ideology of the Islamist movement.

And to do so publicly without fear.

Frankly, when I hear the Quran recited, it feels like a kick to my stomach.  It reminds me of executions in Iran and the totalitarian nightmare from which I have fled and sought refuge.

Nonetheless, I can still make a distinction between beliefs and human beings. I can still defend the right to religion; I can still stand with you against fascists of all stripes.

Why can you not defend my right to reject religion?

Why can you not stand with me?

Can you not see that freedom of religion is meaningless without freedom from religion? These are corresponding freedoms. They cannot exist fully without the other.

Maybe you can afford your silence. After all, religion and its defenders have always been privileged and freethinkers have always been persecuted throughout the ages. But I and we cannot.

Because we have no choice.

Because we have a right to think and live freely – even if it offends you.

Because if we don’t speak for ourselves, who will speak for us? You certainly won’t.

Because we must speak for ourselves, our loved ones, for those who cannot speak, for those who are beaten into submission in homes in London, imprisoned in Riyadh or are facing the gallows in Tehran and Karachi.

For Raif Badawi, for Sina Dehghan, Sahar Ilyasi, Ayaz Nizami, Ahmad Al-Shamri, Taimoor Raza, Avijit Roy…

Because we are the tsunami that is coming…

Yes, I don’t blame you for my persecution, but I do often wonder how much of a role your victim blaming and silence play – even if unwittingly – in normalising the open season on Islam’s atheists and freethinkers.

I wonder. If you were not so tolerant of the culture of offence and so intolerant of my criticism, would the world not be a different place?

I accuse.



Maryam Namazie is an Iranian-born writer and activist. She is the Spokesperson of One Law for All and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, hosts a weekly television programme in Persian and English called Bread and Roses and is organising an international conference on free conscience and expression dubbed the “Glastonbury of Freethinkers” during 22-24 July 2017 to defend the right to be free from and reject religion. #IWant2BFree.

This month marks five years since the Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi was arrested in Jeddah in June 2012. Almost two years later, in May 2014, Badawi was sentenced to ten years in prison, 1000 lashes, a huge fine, and two additional penalties – a ten-year travel ban and ten-year ban from participating in visual, electronic and written media, both to be applied following his release.  Raif has now served nearly half of his ten-year prison sentence and the campaign for his release, championed by his remarkable wife Ensaf Haidar, continues.English PEN was honoured to co-host Haidar during a recent trip to the UK, along with our colleagues at Reporters Without Borders. Haidar met with key human rights and free expression organisations active on her husband’s behalf, took part in a number of media interviews, and attended a special vigil at the Saudi Arabian Embassy, joined by many of her and her husband’s friends and supporters.

Haidar also spoke at an event hosted by Doughty Street Chambers, at which she delivered a moving statement about her husband’s ongoing detention, translated by Bayan Abughaida:

Today I carry a message from my husband and my three children who have been deprived of their father for exercising a natural right to express his opinion.

I bring you a message of hope that one day, I will see my husband, Raif Badawi, standing among you on this platform, to talk to you about freedom and human rights, to tell you how freedom cannot be incarcerated, flogged, or executed. No matter how hard some try.

I also carry a message of determination:

A determined Saudi woman, standing here, and saying that a peaceful transition in Saudi Arabia is possible. With this new generation, the generation of globalisation, Internet, and blogs; ideas can no longer be prevented or blocked. It is a new change, a new revolution, from Morocco to Jakarta, young people today will determine the future and we must support and stand by them. Thus, your role here is participating in this change.

Raif Badawi’s message can be summed up as follows: The peaceful expression of opinion and thought is a non-negotiable human right, which is the right of all human beings with no exception.

However, the real prisoners are those who can defend freedom but do not….

Raif has not lost hope, but he is mentally and physically suffering from this unjust sentence. I can tell you that he is fine and very optimistic, but I will be lying. His mental health is worsening. So I beg you for more mobilisation and solidarity. What frightens every detainee is to be forgotten by the supporters of freedom.


Join our protest at the Saudi Embassy

9-10am, Friday 16 June

To mark the five year anniversary of Raif Badawi’s arrest and the birthday of his lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair, who himself is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence, English PEN will be hosting a vigil at the Saudi Embassy in London and continuing to call for their immediate release.

We will be joined by colleagues from Bread and Roses TV, Campaign Against Arms Trade, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, Index on Censorship, One Law For All, the Peter Tatchell Foundation and Reporters Without Borders. Please join us if you can.

NB Activists are asked to meet at the Curzon Street entrance to the Embassy. (note: the postal address of the Embassy is 30-32 Charles Street, Mayfair, London).

Spread the word

Please keep sharing details of Raif Badawi’s case and calls for his release on social media. Follow @Raif_Badawi on Twitter and tweet your support with the hashtag #FreeRaif

Join the photo action for Raif Badawi

We are aiming to get 1000 images to represent the 1000 lashes to which Raif has been sentenced. As well as helping to raise and maintain awareness of his case, these photos will serve as a powerful visual representation of the widespread support for Raif and his family .

Please share your photo, ideally with details of where it was taken (eg Embassy of Saudi Arabia, London, UK), with us before the 17 June 2017.

Download our #FreeRaif poster

Send us your photos

Via Twitter: Please share your photo with the hashtag #FreeRaif and tag @englishpen

Via Facebook: Please tag English PEN Writers at Risk in your photos, and use the hashtag #FreeRaif

Via Email: Please email your photos, with the subject line ‘Free Raif photo’ to [email protected]

On 23 June 2017 at 14:00, we will meet at Green Park station and go on to “eat-in” at the Saudi, Iranian, Egyptian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Moroccan and other embassies in London in solidarity with those defying fasting rules during Ramadan. This is hugely important given that there are many people across the globe who are arrested, beaten and fined for eating during the month; many others are pressured into fasting, including in Europe. Join us at the ‘eat-in’ if you can.

Alternately, you can upload photos of yourself eating during fasting times or holding signs with messages of solidarity using hashtag: #IWillNotFast #لن_اصوم #روزه خوارى #Ramadan until the end of Ramadan. Happy fast-defiance!

To participate, just show up. Email [email protected] for more details.

Here are photos of this year’s fast-defying:

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