Why do Islamists hate free women? The Times, 27 May 2017
Why do Islamists hate free women? The Times, 27 May 2017
2 months to “Glastonbury of Freethinkers”
There is less than 2 months left for our 22-24 July conference in London which is being called the “Glastonbury of Freethinkers”. With over 70 speakers, comedians, musicians and artists, it’s going to be the largest ever gathering of ex-Muslims and freethinkers in London and will reaffirm the right to think and live outside the confines of religion. (Read an interview, which discusses the importance of the conference at a time when atheists and secularists are increasingly under attack). As our spokesperson, Maryam Namazie says:
“If anyone feels there is no hope, it is only because they are not familiar with the resistance. Everyone knows Khamenei, Bin Laden, al-Baghdadi but why are Raif Badawi, Avijit Roy, Nadia El Fani, Fauzia Ilyas, Waleed Al Husseini or Zineb el Rhazoui not household names? This conference is the conference of the resistance and resistance to totalitarianism always brings hope”.
Help us mark the 10th anniversary of the CEMB with a celebration of apostasy and blasphemy. Get your tickets today and support our important work.
In the run-up to the conference, please also send 30 second videos or photos that defend freedom of conscience and expression, notably the right to criticise and reject religion, to [email protected] using hashtag #IWant2BFree.
CEMB Pride London
CEMB is pleased to announce it will be taking part in the Pride in London parade on Saturday 8 July 2017 and will use the event to protest Islamism’s violence, including the death penalty, directed towards LGBT people. In particular, CEMB will focus on the harrowing roundup, detention and torture of LGBT people in Chechnya where its president, Ramzan Kadyrov, has expressed the desire to “eliminate” gay people before the start of Ramadan. By participating in Pride in London, CEMB hopes to highlight the persecution of LGBT under Islamic law, defend LGBT equality, and increase solidarity between ex-Muslims, Muslims and LGBT in defence of basic human rights. To join the CEMB contingent, please contact Daniel Fitzgerald at [email protected], telephone 07952 593 227.
Feminist Enlightenment Founding Congress in Sulaymaniyah
Maryam Namazie spoke at Dabran’s Founding Congress of Feminist Enlightenment in Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan during 22-24 May. Dabran’s slogan for this year’s conference was “Religion for the Individual; Democracy for All”. At the Congress, Maryam spoke about Islam and Islamism as the greatest stumbling blocks for women’s emancipation and how Islamists target women and girls first – whether in Tehran, Peshawar or Manchester. Speaker upon speaker reiterated the importance of secularism and universal human rights as a challenge to Daesh and in defence of women’s rights. You can read Maryam’s speech and see photos of the historic event here.
In a related event, CEMB’s next monthly meet-up will be with Journalist and Activist Rahila Gupta who will speak on Rojava, Northern Syria and secular space in the middle of a war.
Actions and Petitions
Over the past few weeks, we have called for support of Mohamed Salih, a young Sudanese accused of apostasy for filing a request for the removal of mention of Islam from his official ID and adopted a Declaration on Apostasy and Blasphemy at “Days of Atheism 2017 – For the Right To Choose” in Warsaw in defence of Sina Dehghan and Mohammad Nouri sentenced to death for apostasy in Iran and Ayaz Nizami and Rana Noman arrested on charges of blasphemy in Pakistan, amongst others.
Moreover, we have reviewed Sayeeda Warsi’s book and its shockingly blinkered view on Islamism in the Evening Standard, issued a statement about hate preacher Yasir Qadhi‘s visit to London, as well as joined petitions against Facebook’s censorship of ex-Muslims and Denmark’s blasphemy ban.
Please take some time to volunteer with us if you have time to spare. We are currently in need of volunteers who can help with poster and book graphic and layout design. We also could use help in getting the word out about our international conference in July.
If you can, please donate to our organisation. No amount is too small and much of what we do has been made possible with your donations. You can donate to CEMB here.
Thanks again for all your support; a special thanks to those who donate on a monthly basis. We hope to see you at some of our events.
Company limited by guarantee and registered in England and Wales under company number 8059509.
The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) is pleased to announce it will be taking part in the Pride in London parade on Saturday 8 July 2017.
CEMB will use the Pride in London Parade to protest Islamism’s violence, including the death penalty, directed towards LGBT people. In particular, CEMB will focus on the harrowing roundup, detention and torture of LGBT people in Chechnya where its president, Ramzan Kadyrov, has expressed the desire to “eliminate” gay people before the start of Ramadan.
CEMB Spokesperson Maryam Namazie says: “All the states which punish apostasy and homosexuality with the death penalty are Islamic states, including Afghanistan, Iran, Islamic State, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, UAE, Yemen. Pride in London parade will be an important space for us to highlight the violence and hatred against LGBT and demand that people’s rights and lives trump religion and religious rules”.
CEMB Pride parade organiser Daniel Fitzgerald adds: “It is crucial that we do not shy away from challenging Islamism as well as homophobic religious beliefs, including Islamic beliefs, that discriminate and incite violence against LGBT”.
CEMB was established in 2007 to oppose apostasy and blasphemy laws, break the taboo that comes with leaving or criticising Islam and religion, defend secularism as well as universal rights, and provide support to ex-Muslims in Britain and internationally. The public renunciation and “coming out of the closet” as protest as well as gestures of “solidarity” and “pride” mirror the LGBT movement.
Like LGBT still do in many parts of the world and until quite recently in Britain, those leaving Islam face violence, threats, discrimination, shunning and ostracisation. Many of our members continue to flee persecution and the death penalty, including for being LGBT and atheists.
By participating in Pride in London, CEMB hopes to highlight the persecution of LGBT under Islamic law, defend LGBT equality, and increase solidarity between ex-Muslims, Muslims and LGBT in defence of basic human rights.
Religion is fundamentally patriarchal and anti-woman, The Freethinker, 25 May 2016
Our spokesperson, Maryam Namazie, was invited by Dabran Platform to speak at the Founding Congress of Enlightenment Feminism in Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan (photos below). She spoke about Islam and Islamism as the greatest stumbling blocks for women’s emancipation and how Islamists target women and girls first – whether in Tehran, Peshawar or Manchester. Here’s her speech:
Islam and Islamism – the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women’s emancipation*
(Suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton said: “The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women’s emancipation.”)
The First Enlightenment Feminism Congress, Sulaymaniyah
It’s such an honour to be here at the founding Congress of Enlightenment Feminism. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak about how Islam and Islamism are the greatest obstacles to women’s emancipation.
The first time I realised Islam and the Islamists hate women was when I was around 12. Prior to that, my ‘Muslim’ family and friends were secular and practiced religion in various ways – some fasting, some drinking alcohol whilst others not, mostly women not wearing the veil and never any segregation at our social gatherings, schools, workplaces… Then it all changed.
The Hezbollah came to my school, which was mixed, in order to segregate the boys from the girls – though we ran circles around them. It was the beginnings of the Islamic movement’s suppression of a left-leaning revolution against the Shah’s dictatorship and beginnings of the notorious ‘morality police’.
Even though at the time we were children – though not to them – they saw us girls as the source of fitnah in society.
As you know, In one Hadith Mohammed, Islam’s prophet says: ‘I have left behind no fitnah more harmful to men, than women'(Al-Bukhari, Muslim).
Of course hatred of women is a recurring theme in all major religions. There is a Jewish prayer recited by men that says: ‘Blessed are you, Lord, our God, ruler the universe who has not created me a woman’. In the Bible: ‘A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be quiet.’ (1 Timothy 2:11-14) This is also evident in Hinduism, Buddhism…
As US Suffragette Elizabeth Stanton said: ‘Every form of religion, which has breathed upon this earth has degraded women’.
Women are the first targets of religion in power and it’s always a sign of worse to come, hence the saying: ‘the freedom of society is measured by the freedom of women’.
For those who only see the surface, there is an apparent contradiction that is often not understood.
On the one hand, Islamic law and states are the beginning of the end of women’s rights, freethought and democratic politics.
A pillar of Islamist rule is the attempt to erase women from the public space.
Artist Phillip Toledano has done a series on Iranian Censorship of women calling it “Portraits of Absence”. It shows how black markers erase women’s bodies from packaging, magazines, adverts.
The chador or the burqa and niqab are really the fabric version of this black marker. Erased, devoid of humanity, Disappeared.
Like the disappeared of Argentina, or the thousands buried in mass graves in Khavaran during the massacre of political prisoners by the Iranian regime in the 1980s.
A perfect world for the Islamists is a world devoid of women in the public space. Bound, gagged, not seen or heard.
As Egyptian writer Mona Eltahawy says: ‘All religions are obsessed with [a woman’s] vagina’ and women are ‘traumatised into feminism’.
So on the one hand, Islamists want to erase women from the public space; on the other hand, women are everywhere – making sure they are seen and heard:
• This Enlightenment Feminist Congress is a perfect example.
• Or nude protest, which is the opposite of the commodification/objectification of women and an important form of resistance given Islam’s hatred of women’s bodies.
• Or the unveiling movement in Iran even though veiling is compulsory and punishable with up to two months in prison and fines. There is an app called Gershad to warn you of the locations of the morality police in Iran.
• Discarded veils are strewn on route by women who have fled Daesh-held territory.
• And the burst of colours underneath the black shrouds being removed once women have reached liberated areas have become iconic. As have images of Kurdish fighters breaking Daesh signs telling women to wear a mobile prison.
This female presence is palpable in all areas, including against gender segregation – for example in the demand to end segregation in stadiums – to abolishing Sharia family laws – such as in Rojava and Algeria.
The extent of control of women and their bodies is a measure of the power and influence of the Islamists just as the extent of women’s autonomy is a measure of the resistance against Islam, Islamism, and religious ‘morality’.
The protests in Afghanistan against the killings of Farkhunda and Rokhshana are another perfect example with banners reading: ‘We must get rid of the filthy hands of the merchants of religion from our country so that we are not daily witness to the murders of Farkhundas and Rokhshanas’.
Those only looking at the surface, see women’s active presence and resistance and wrongly credit Islam and Islamism.
In Iran, for example, they credit the ‘reformist’ faction of the Iranian regime.
They will also claim that women’s condition in Iran is better than women in Saudi Arabia as if it is thanks to the regime and Sharia law!
To me, it’s like crediting apartheid in South Africa for the black liberation movement or segregation in the US for the civil rights movement.
Have you noticed also how when it comes to women’s rights, it’s always compared to the lowest common denominator – never the highest? Why compare the status of women in Iran with Saudi Arabia; why not with Iceland?
This absurdity is only possible today because of identity politics and cultural relativism, which no longer acknowledges citizens and human beings but homogenised religious identities that unsurprisingly coincide with the impositions of Islamists and the ruling class.
This is why everything from gender segregation to the veil and Sharia are sanitised and legitimised at the expense of women’s rights.
And criticism deemed ‘Islamophobic’ – a political term used to scaremonger people into silence.
Or we are accused of ‘hurting public sentiment’ as if ‘the public’ is one mass and does not comprise of individuals with as many sentiments as there are people.
Only in a world where identity politics and cultural relativism reign supreme can the likes of Islamic feminism be given any credence.
But in my opinion Islam can never be feminist.
Religion can never emancipate women.
The late Iranian worker-communist Mansoor Hekmat said in an interview entitled ‘Islam is part of the lumpenism in society‘:
‘…no theology is liberating. Theology is the antithesis of liberation. It signifies keeping people ignorant, obstructing their independent thought and consigning them to an unknown creator and world. Liberation theology is nonsense. It is like saying liberation fascism; it is a contradiction in terms. Theology cannot be liberating, regardless of whether it is the Christian, Buddhist or Islamic version. For 19th century intellectuals, liberation before anything else meant liberation from religion and the fetters of imposed thought. Now, theology has become liberating?’
The US Suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton once said: ‘The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women’s emancipation’.
Today, we can clearly say: Islam and Islamism are the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women’s emancipation.
In fact any positive change in women’s condition, is not thanks to Islamic laws, states or Islam but despite it. It’s in fact thanks to women’s resistance against Islam and Islamism.
Of course that is not to say that believing women, Muslim women, cannot be feminists. Of course they can – just as men can be feminists and women misogynists – but one can only be feminist if women’s emancipation trumps religion. Whilst people – even believers – can be feminists, religion cannot. Religion is fundamentally patriarchal and anti-woman.
It aims to police women’s behaviour and sexuality and defend male and by extension community and national ‘honour’. In identity-based ‘politics … women are seen not as individuals with rights but as bearers of their community’s honour, to be protected or raped, depending who they are‘. Daesh’s Yazidi sex slaves are the most heinous case in point.
‘Islamic feminists’ like Shirin Ebadi will say that women have full rights under Islam and if they don’t it is ‘not Islam at fault but patriarchal culture that uses interpretation to justify whatever it wants’.
Yet the Quran and Hadith are overflowing with anti-women rules and regulations. Stoning to death for adultery, for example, is in a Hadith, while wife beating is in the Quran.
Islamic feminists will say the mistreatment of women is because of ‘bad’ interpretations. The problem with ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ interpretations is that yours is just one of many. Even if you have a ‘good’ interpretation, it is the Islamists who decide. They run the state; they make the laws. But more importantly, are there ‘good’ interpretations that are good enough for 21st century women?
If you follow the ‘good’ interpretations, you will soon realise the absurdity of this line of defence.
Take Sura al-Nisa (the women), [the fourth chapter] in the Quran 4:34, where it says: ‘As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly) . . . ‘
‘Islamic feminists’ will say that men have been made to wait, are not obliged to beat their wives, and when they do, they must not leave marks and beat their wives with thin sticks…
These are the justifications of those who are more concerned with defending Islam, than defending women’s rights.
From a women’s rights perspective, no woman should be beaten – ‘disobedient’ or not. Full stop. End of story.
If you want women’s liberation, you cannot leave women’s rights and lives at the mercy of religious rules and interpretations.
You have to choose – do you side with women’s rights or religion – you cannot defend both as they are antithetical to each other.
The fight for women’s liberation is a fight against Islam and Islamism.
Also, it is a fight for secularism – the complete separation of religion from the state. Secularism is a precondition for women’s emancipation. Secularism is a women’s issue.
Rather than excuse and justify ‘good’ religious interpretations and ‘moderate’ or ‘reformist’ Islamists, it would serve our societies better to defend citizenship rights irrespective of beliefs. It would serve our societies better to insist on secularism and women’s equality – not western, not eastern but universal.
Long live women’s freedom.
‘I Find That Offensive!’ – The Reasons Behind Millennial Outrage, Conatus News, 22 May 2017
Q&A on Ex-Muslim Experiences – Session 1, Yasmeen, Conatus News, 18 May 2017
I Find That Offensive by Claire Fox, Philosophy Now, 17 May 2017
Ensaf Haidar joins London vigil for her husband, blogger Raif Badawi
Wednesday 17 May, 1:00 pm—2:00 pm
English PEN and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) are honoured to be hosting author and activist Ensaf Haidar, the wife of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi, in London this month.
Join us for a special vigil at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia on 17 May, a month ahead of the fifth anniversary of Raif Badawi’s arrest, to continue calling for his immediate release.
Vigil for Raif Badawi
1-2pm, Wednesday 17 May
Embassy of Saudi Arabia, London*
RSVP: [email protected]
English PEN has been holding regular vigils at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London since blogger Raif Badawi was first flogged more two years ago, on 9 January 2015, calling for his release and for his sentence to be quashed. Our colleagues at RSF joined forces on these vigils shortly after the opening of their UK bureau last year.
This month’s vigil is also co-sponsored by Bread and Roses TV, Campaign Against Arms Trade, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, Index on Censorship, One Law for All, PEN International, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, the Publishers Association, and the Society of Authors.
We are delighted to be joined by Ensaf Haidar for a special vigil: please come along to show your ongoing support for Raif and his family and help spread the word. #FreeRaif
* 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, W1J 5DZ).
Spread the word
If you’re unable to join us in person you can still show your support for Raif Badawi by sharing details of his case and calling for his freedom on social media. Please use the hashtag #FreeRaif and follow @raif_badawi
Take part in our ongoing photo action
English PEN and the Raif Badawi Foundation for Freedom are inviting individuals and organisations all over the world to show their ongoing support for Badawi and his family by sharing a photo of themselves holding a poster or message of solidarity.
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).
Send us your photos
Please share your photo with the hashtag #FreeRaif and tag @englishpen
Please tag English PEN Writers at Risk in your photos, and use the hashtag #FreeRaif
Please email your photos, with the subject line ‘Free Raif photo’ and details of where it was taken (eg Saudi Embassy, London, UK) to [email protected] Please also send copies to the Raif Badawi Foundation for Freedom – [email protected]
In a very brave step, Mohamed Salih, a young Sudanese, filed an official request for all mention of Islam to be removed from his documents, including his national ID. As a result, he was charged with apostasy, per Article 126 of the Sudanese Criminal Code, which states: “Whoever propagates the renunciation of Islam or publicly renounces it by explicit words or an act of definitive indication is said to commit the offence of Riddah (apostasy).”
Salih was, therefore, arrested on 8 May 2017 and held in Alqadisiyah police station, Ombada, a suburb of Omdurman. Since Aristide Nononsi, the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Sudan, was on a visit, the Sudanese government released Salih after declaring him mentally unfit.
Salih is currently in hiding given that he is at serious risk of mob violence. Though his request was declined by the court, he insists on continuing his case. He is also calling for his mental capacity to be properly assessed.
The grounds for his legal defence is the contradiction between Article 126 of the criminal code and Article 38 of the 2005 transitional constitution, which allows for the freedom of choice of religion and belief: “Every person shall have the right to the freedom of religious creed and worship, and to declare his/her religion or creed and manifest the same, by way of worship, education, practice or performance of rites or ceremonies, subject to requirements of law and public order; no person shall be coerced to adopt such faith, that he/she does not believe in, nor to practice rites or services to which he/she does not voluntarily consent.”
Whilst Salih’s Facebook page was initially removed, it is now back online raising once again concerns about Facebook’s compliance with governments aiming to censor and silence those deemed apostates.
The Council of Ex-Muslims calls on the Sudanese government to comply with Mr Salih’s request to remove Islam from his documents and protect his safety and security. We also call on the public to stand in firm support of Salih’s brave move in defence of freedom of conscience, which includes the right to leave Islam and atheism.
For more information:
Maryam Namazie and Sadia Hameed
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
BM Box 1919, London WC1N 3XX, UK
tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
email: [email protected]