Category: Press Releases

The Future belongs to blasphemers

International Blasphemy Day has just past. Watch this inspiring video made by ex-Muslims in various countries: The Future Belongs to Blasphemers.

Also see the world’s first group bodypaint captured by both ground and drone in solidarity with ex-Muslims.

Some will ask why we must celebrate blasphemy when it is “hurtful” and “offends”.

The answer is simple:

Because people can be killed for blaspheming and human life is more important than hurt sensibilities and offence.

As the Jordanian atheist, Mohammed Al Khadra said at the largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history, “Where are your priorities? While we die, you are all thinking about Islamophobia?

Islamophobia is a political term used to scaremonger people into silence; it imposes de facto blasphemy and apostasy laws where none exist. Where such laws exist, there are no accusations of “Islamophobia” but rather imprisonment, persecution and execution.

Another speaker at the July conference, Zineb El Rhazoui, who survived the attack on Charlie Hebdo because she was back in Morocco says “the right to blasphemy [marks] the boundary between barbarism and civilisation.”

As the new edition of CEMB’s publication: “The Political and Legal Status of Apostates in Islam” shows, it is especially dangerous for ex-Muslims living under Sharia.

CEMB is organising a protest at the Pakistani and Iranian embassies in London on 10 November to highlight a number of cases facing the death penalty such as that of Sina Dehghan, Soheil Arabi and Ayaz Nizami.

We are also campaigning for activists like Iraqi atheist Karrar Al Afsoor who has fled to Greece where he is being detained in awful conditions.

Despite the targeted persecution and slaughter of freethinkers, though, it is we who are still being blamed for the threats we receive and even when we are murdered – like the woman whose rape is blamed on the length of her skirt.

We are outrageously even compared to Nazis for marching for LGBT and ex-Muslim rights at Pride in London by “progressives” who prefer to side with Islam and Islamism than with dissenters. [As an aside, Pride in London is still deciding whether to allow CEMB back at Pride next year given complaints(!) by the homophobic East London Mosque. CEMB has called on Pride to do the right thing.]

Spokesperson Maryam Namazie exposed the hypocrisy, double standards and racism of lower expectations at the 40th convention of the Freedom from Religion Foundation when she accepted the Freedom from Religious Fundamentalism award.

Thankfully, there are many who continue to support our work and the right to freedom of conscience and expression. This support has meant a great deal to us and enabled us to continue the important work we do.

Please continue to support us via donations (no matter how small), volunteering your skills (we especially need help with film editing and graphic design), as well as attending our protests and events. Sadia Hameed and Maryam are speaking at a number of events in Belgrade, Cambridge, Koln, Massachusetts, Melbourne, Nottingham, Pennsylvania and Rome.

In London, at our monthly meet-ups, we have everything from an ex-Muslim art workshop to “coming out parties” for ex-Muslims who decide to go public.

We hope you can join us at some of our events, including our 10 December End-Year event with food, drinks, speeches, music and dancing. Get your tickets to join us as soon as you can.

By the way, Deeyah Khan’s film, Islam’s Nonbelievers, which was about the work of CEMB and the situation of ex-Muslims in Britain and internationally has been shortlisted for the Asian Media Awards in Investigative Journalism.

Thanks again for your support.

Looking forward to hearing from you or seeing you at some of our events.

Warmest wishes

Maryam Namazie
Sadia Hameed
Spokespersons
CEMB
BM Box 1919
London, WC1N 3XX
United Kingdom
[email protected]
ex-muslim.org.uk

UPDATE:

Good news! Karrar has been released from detention. Thanks to everyone who advocated on his behalf. Here is a message from Karrar himself:

*****
Karrar Al Asfoor (Karrar Hamza, number 550) is an atheist from Najaf, Iraq who has been  active with Arab Atheists and the Forum for Humanitarian Dialogue , a Facebook discussion group of 44,000 members that promotes the right to freedom of belief and expression in the Middle East and North Africa.

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and other ex-Muslim organisations have worked with Karrar for several years, including around Facebook’s censorship of Arab atheist pages.

Karrar was an invited speaker to the July 2017 International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression in London, the largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history, but his visa was denied.

He was forced to flee Iraq soon after due to threats to his life. He is currently being detained in abysmal conditions at Hotspot, Kos Island, Greece where he has applied for asylum.

Karrar is a known ex-Muslim activist who has a well-founded fear of persecution. In Iraq, atheists face threats and intimidation. Islamic parties have increased rhetoric against atheists.

Ex-Muslim organisations and activists call on the Greek government to release Karrar and grant him protection and asylum immediately.

We ask also that the public contact the authorities and advocate on his behalf.

You may write to:

Greek Ministry of Migration Policy: [email protected]

Greek Asylum Unit Kos: [email protected]

UNHCR, Greece: [email protected]

Greek Ministry of Foreign affairs: @GreeceMFA and Contact form

Amnesty International Greece: [email protected]

Greek Council for Refugees: [email protected] or [email protected]

Please also contact Greek embassies in your country of residence.

 

Created as a finale to the groundbreaking International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression, the largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history, this is the world’s first group bodypaint captured by both ground and drone. Conceived by award-winning bodypainter Victoria Gugenheim in support of and solidarity with ex-Muslims and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB).

A message from ex-Muslims to mark International Blasphemy Day

Some people believe that disagreeing with deeply held beliefs is hate. It is not.

I want to remind you that many of the most powerful ideas, ideas that changed our world were once heretical.

I want to remind you that many of the most radical thinkers and reformists in past eras were blasphemers against the established order of their day.

Galileo who rewrote our place in the universe, Darwin who rewrote our place amongst our animal family. Even a religious figure such as Mohammed caused offence when he blasphemed against the pagan gods of Arabia.

It was not too long ago that those in the west, were right where ex-Muslims are now.
When losing your life because of a perceived insult to religion was commonplace. Every inch of progress made, every freedom won , every right enshrined, that are now assumed as a birth-right were never simply handed over – they were fought for, tooth and nail.

Like those of us fighting today, these rights were fought for by freethinkers and dissenters, those who fought for the right to blaspheme by blaspheming themselves – and not accidentally. By blaspheming with purpose and determination, out of a belief that it is a matter of individual liberty to contest every idea, no matter how sacred it may be to some – and that only by granting every individual the freedom to explore and uphold their own opinion and belief do WE as a society progress.

I know it is frightening to stand up in the face of the rage of countless believers and dozens of countries but there is light ahead. We are much stronger than they think. While they succeeded in silencing us for over a thousand years we will be silent no more. While they sought to silence us by isolating us, we now know better. We know there are millions of us standing defiantly with our ranks swelling.

Even though we miss those that were taken from us, those that are imprisoned today and those that will face a difficult road tomorrow we will never lose hope. We will make a better world where all of humanity is free to follow their conscience.

28 July 2017

Michael Salter-Church
Alison Camps
Co-Chairs – Pride in London

Dear Michael Salter-Church and Alison Camps

Thank you for your letter dated 21 July addressed to CEMB’s Pride Organiser, Daniel Fitzgerald (available below).

The crux of the issue, which you have failed to recognise, is this:

Pride in London has taken complaints against the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) by the likes of the East London Mosque – a centre of homophobia – seriously because of a cultural relativism and tone policing that is only applicable to critics of Islam and never critics of Christianity.

Moreover, complaints have been given credence because of the erroneous conflation of criticism of religion and the religious-Right with bigotry against Muslims.

We remind Pride that “tolerance, acceptance and recognition” are for people (whether LGBT, Muslims or ex-Muslims), not beliefs or regressive political movements and States. Whilst we must hold all human beings – even those we disagree with – in high regard, this is not the same as accepting all beliefs without criticism. Clearly, Pride is able to make distinctions between criticism of beliefs and an attack on people when it comes to non-minority groups and religions other than Islam so it should not be too difficult for you to understand our position.

In your letter you say, protest “does not give people in our parade the freedom to ostracise, discriminate against or humiliate anyone else taking part.” But the question that remains is how has our presence and placards criticising Islamic homophobia, the East London mosque, States that murder LGBT and apostates ostracising, humiliating or discriminating against anyone? Are placards critical of Christianity, the Church, Jesus, the Pope… “ostracising, humiliating and discriminating against” Christians? It seems Pride has bought into the Islamist narrative that betrays the persecuted and defends the persecutors. This is a politics that rewards bullies and blames victims.

You add: “…Pride celebrates diversity and will not tolerate any individual making derogatory remarks about a person’s sexuality, gender, gender identity, race, age, nationality, disability, appearance, religion or any other factor.” Again, you confuse criticism of religion as being the same as attacking someone because they are Muslim or gay or a woman. You merely need to change any of our placards critical of Islam to ones critical of Christianity to see how absurd your position is.

You say: “there were some placards we feel may have the potential to breach our code of conduct. These placards may be seen to reject the existence of Islamophobia, to make defamatory statements about a specific group of people, and overall could have been seen to proactively question the ability to be LGBT+ and Muslim.”

This is more disingenuous nonsense and merely an attempt to justify your unjustifiable position. Islamophobia is a misnomer that conflates criticism of religion and belief with discrimination against Muslims; we can be critical of Islamophobia as a political term used to silence dissent whilst opposing racism. We certainly don’t need a lesson in racism from Pride; our members live it every day. Also we can be critical of Islam; this doesn’t mean one cannot be Muslim and LGBT. In fact, some Bangladeshi Muslims marched with us on the day. Unlike Pride, CEMB fights on several fronts, including against Islamism, the far-Right and racism. You say some of our placards were “defamatory”? Which ones? Presumably, the defamed can take us to court; we welcome it.

As for your determining whether CEMB has broken your code of conduct and will be able to march again in future parades, we must say this: your decision will be more important for you than for us. After all,  we don’t need your permission to march for LGBT rights or the rights of apostates. But your decision will determine whether Pride, which has been a source of inspiration for LGBT globally, will continue to be a beacon by showing the courage to give LGBT ex-Muslims the right to self-expression alongside our Muslim friends and family and as a respite from our daily experience which are intrinsically linked with fear, violence and intimidation, or whether it will remain firmly corporate Pride more concerned with causing “offence” that the rights and lives of ex-Muslim and Muslim apostates and LGBT.

As a follow up to a resolution on Pride adopted at the 22-24 July International Conference on Freedom of Expression and Conscience, we ask Pride to do the following:

1) Provide evidence for the serious allegations made against CEMB

2) Make a statement against all laws criminalising homosexuality, apostasy and blasphemy and against incitement to hate and murder by preachers at mosques like the East London mosque

3) Clarify whether by condemning ‘Islamophobia’, Pride meant to side with Islamists supporting the judicial murder of ex-Muslims and gay men

4)  Affirm CEMB’s continued presence at Pride in London to show that they side with dissenters and those defending the right to think, live and love as they choose.

Thankfully, as you point out, you don’t have a role in making “a legal judgement about offense or freedom of speech.” If you did, you would have already imposed de facto blasphemy laws on those of us who have fled de jure blasphemy and apostasy laws which call for our murder.

You do, however, have the chance to do the right thing. Whether you do is another matter.

Sincerely

Maryam Namazie
CEMB Spokesperson
Daniel Fitzgerald
CEMB Pride Organiser

LETTER FROM PRIDE IN LONDON

21 July 2017

Dear Mr Fitzgerald,

Thank you very much for your email.

As you are aware, we have received a number of complaints regarding some of the placards your group chose to carry during the Pride in London parade.

 

At its heart, Pride is a movement of acceptance, diversity and unity – a safe place that celebrates difference and rejects intolerance.

Our parade has always been a home to protest, and not just to celebrate, which means we are used to seeing conflicting points of view. The tolerance, acceptance and recognition that we demand for ourselves as LGBT+ people, can only happen if we are also prepared to offer those whose opinions we don’t agree with the same courtesy.

It is also incredibly important to Pride in London that groups are able to use our platform to protest, to challenge authority and stand up for all LGBT+ rights. It is especially important that groups are able to challenge governments and states that continue to persecute, torture, imprison and even kill people simply because of their sexuality.

However, this does not give people in our parade the freedom to ostracise, discriminate against or humiliate anyone else taking part. If any individual or any group does this, they undermine the very principles on which we exist.

Our code of conduct, which every group agreed to as part of taking part in the parade, is very clear on this matter. All volunteers, staff and parade groups agree that Pride celebrates diversity and will not tolerate any individual making derogatory remarks about a person’s sexuality, gender, gender identity, race, age, nationality, disability, appearance, religion or any other factor.

LGBT+ Muslims play a vital and important role in London and in Pride. We recognise that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Muslims face discrimination on both sides, from people within their faith and also from within the LGBT+ community.

Over the years the parade has been a place of acceptance for LGBT+ Muslims and this year Imaan, the LGBT+ charity, was voted the winner of the best walking group in the parade for the diversity and passion they displayed. What’s more, this year we supported the ‘Big Gay Iftaar’ as part of the Pride in London festival. We also hosted a vibrant and positive discussion about Islam and the LGBT+ community on the faith episode of our Facebook Live series. This is part of our dedication to supporting the full spectrum of the LGBT+ community.

Equally, it is also very important that individuals who once did but no longer follow the Muslim faith have a welcome place in the Pride parade. We acknowledge the difficulties individuals leaving the faith can sometimes encounter and do not in anyway seek to diminish the significance of those experiences.

To specifically address the complaints we have received, we want to be clear that we do not feel it is our role to make a legal judgement about offense or freedom of speech. However, it is our role to determine if a group has broken our code of conduct and whether they can be permitted to march again in future parades.

It has been argued that some of the placards are a legitimate form of protest. However, there were some placards we feel may have the potential to breach our code of conduct. These placards may be seen to reject the existence of islamophobia, to make defamatory statements about a specific group of people, and overall could have been seen to proactively question the ability to be LGBT+ and Muslim.

We have referred these complaints to our Community Advisory Board, who assess every parade entry after each year and decide on which groups will be allowed to march again. This decision will be taken prior to the opening of parade entries in 2018. Both the CAB and Pride in London commit to ensuring you are able to engage fully in this discussion, and welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss further.

We believe Pride in London must continue to play a vital role in supporting LGBT+ Muslims, as well as those who have left the faith. We want to work with community groups and charities to further these efforts, and would encourage any organisation that can play a role in building a vital bridge to get involved.

We also want to thank you for any support you can provide in the fight against hatred and bigotry. We are eager to stand side-by-side with you in this battle, supporting any actions you take to support LGBT+ people, but we also feel that the LGBT+ community can equally do more to tackle hatred and bigotry in all its forms, especially Islamophobia.

Together, I hope we can build common ground to stand up for communities that are more harmonious and supportive, valuing all citizens, no matter their faith or sexuality.

Sincerely,
 
Michael Salter-Church
Alison Camps
Co-Chairs – Pride in London

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