Category: Press Releases

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

Response to East London Mosque Statement dated 20th July 2017 and Muslim Council of Britain Statement, dated 26 July 2017

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) represents former Muslims who are from Muslim-majority countries or diaspora communities. Frequently, these are refugees seeking asylum as they are being persecuted for leaving Islam or for being LGBT. We are committed to calling out oppressive narratives, racism and anti-Muslim hate and homophobia – all of which directly impact our members.

Ironically, CEMB’s presence at Pride in London has been labelled ‘Islamophobic’ by the East London Mosque (ELM), a word we reject as a disingenuous misnomer and which conflates criticism of a set of beliefs (Islam) or the religious-Right (Islamism) with bigotry against a group of people (Muslims). This word is used by religious fundamentalists to silence criticism of Islamic doctrine – even if that doctrine explicitly calls for the death of apostates and homosexuals. Juxtapose it with ‘Christianityphobia’ or ‘Hinduismphobia’ – words which are never used despite ample criticism of both ideologies.

CEMB maintains that its placard accusing the ELM of inciting murder against LGBT was entirely appropriate given that the theme of CEMB’s Pride march was solidarity with LGBT in Chechnya, with an alarming resurgence of concentration camps for gay men, as well as those persecuted and facing execution in 14 states under Sharia (15 if you count ISIS-held territories). The ELM has hosted a number of speakers who have publicly called for the persecution of homosexuals and apostates and has even been criticised for this in the past by activists such as Peter Tatchell and organisations such as Oxfam. Unbelievably ELM hosted a speaker’s presentation which contained slides titled “Spot the Fag” and hosted Yasir Qadhi who stated on homosexuals “…I know that his punishment is death. This is all a part of our religion. This doesn’t mean we go and do this in America but I’m saying if we had an Islamic state we would do this.”

CEMB maintains that the ELM’s hosting of Islamic preachers that promote the persecution and murder of homosexuals is incitement to harm and murder of LGBT individuals. Furthermore, we highlight the absurdity of ELM’s victim narrative accusing us of incitement against ELM, when in fact we are exposing their incitement to violence against LGBT ex-Muslims and Muslims.

The MCB says our banner “’East London Mosque incites murder of LGBT’ is utterly fictitious and is tantamount to inciting hatred against this religious institution” which apparently “has a track record in speaking out against homophobia”. If this is the case, we look forward to receiving public statements from ELM and MCB, which rejects the execution of gays and apostates under Sharia law in any country, including in an ideal Islamic caliphate.

Jimmy Bangash
On Behalf of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain

See this email online.

The International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression, the largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history, was held during 22-24 July 2017 in London.

Over 70 notable speakers from 30 countries or the Diaspora gathered in what was dubbed “The Glastonbury of Freethinkers” and “a Conference of Heroes” to honour dissenters and defend apostasy, blasphemy, and secularism.

The sold-out conference highlighted the voices of those on the frontlines of resistance – many of them persecuted and exiled – and included the first London film screening of Deeyah Khan’s film, Islam’s Non Believers, a public art protest of 99 balloons representing those killed or imprisoned for blasphemy and apostasy, a body-painting action, and crucial discussions and debates on Islamophobia and its use by Islamists to impose de facto blasphemy laws, the relation between Islam and Islamism as well as communalism’s threat to universal rights, art as resistance and Laicite as a human rights. The conference hashtag, #IWant2BFree, trended on Twitter during the two days.

At the conference, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) honoured ten individuals to mark its tenth anniversary, namely Bangladeshi freethinker Bonya Ahmed, Saudi freethinkers Ensaf Haidar and Raif Badawi, Moroccan atheist Zineb El Rhazoui, Philosopher AC Grayling, Centre for Secular Space’s Gita Sahgal and Yasmin Rehman, Algerian Sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas, Jordanian Atheists’ Founder Mohammad AlKhadra, Egyptian Atheist Founder of The Black Ducks Ismail Mohamed and Author and Scientist Richard Dawkins.

The conference issued resolutions against the no-platforming of Richard Dawkins by KPFA radio station, in defence of Ismail Mohamed who was prevented from leaving Egypt to speak at the conference by the Egyptian government, and on CEMB’s presence in Pride in London as well as a Declaration of Freethinkers (see below).

The event was live-streamed, which can be seen here. Professional video footage will be made available soon as well photos and more details of the event.

Resolution on Richard Dawkins

The International Conference on Free Expression and Conscience in London, the largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history, is concerned that Richard Dawkins, an invited speaker at the conference, has been de-platformed by the radio station KPFA in Berkeley, California because of his alleged “hurtful” comments on Islam.

Professor Dawkins is a well known critic of all religions, whose long-standing attacks on Christianity have never resulted in anything approaching de-platforming. Indeed he has aired his views on KPFA itself. Belatedly, KPFA seems to have noticed that Islam is not exempt from his criticism. They have applied a hypocritical double standard in cancelling his appearance in Berkeley, and have disappointed the large numbers of people who had bought tickets to hear him.

Given that most of the speakers and delegates at our conference are Islam’s apostates, many from countries where the legal penalty for apostasy is death, we find it necessary to remind KPFA that criticism of Islam is no different from criticism of Christianity or Judaism. Also, criticism of Islamism is no different from criticism of the Christian-Right, Jewish-Right or Hindu-Right. Criticism of religious ideas as well as violent religious political movements isn’t bigotry but integral to free conscience and expression and vital for human progress.

We call on those – like KPFA – who should be our natural allies and ‘progressives’ whose freedoms and rights are largely the result of the fight against the church and Christianity not to betray or deny the same right to Islam’s critics, non believers, and dissenters.

Progressive politics means fighting on many fronts, including against bigotry, xenophobia, the far-Right, which includes Islamism, and for freedom of conscience and expression.

Resolution for Ismail Mohamed

The International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression is outraged to learn that the Egyptian government has prevented Ismail Mohamed from speaking at our conference, where he would have been a crucial voice. We demand that the Egyptian government allow Ismail freedom of movement and end his persecution and that of all freethinkers.

Resolution on the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain at Pride

The Council of ex Muslims of Britain (CEMB) is part of a world-wide movement that supports people who wish to leave Islam and declare themselves ex-Muslim. We use the term ex-Muslim to highlight that the danger of leaving Islam risks death for apostasy. CEMB works to ensure that people are safe from hate and violence from their families, communities and states. CEMB joined Pride in London this year to highlight anti-LGBT persecution as well apostasy and blasphemy laws. 14 Islamic states (15 if ISIS-held territories are included) punish homosexuality with the death penalty. Moreover CEMB aimed to expose Islamist-affiliated mosques, like East London Mosque (ELM), which have given a platform to hate clerics who have justified the murder of gays and apostates.

After Pride, the ELM made a formal complaint over CEMB’s ‘Islamophobic’ banners. The complaint was referred to Pride’s community advisory board to “decide on whether CEMB will be allowed to march again in the years ahead”. A Pride Spokesperson added: “If anyone taking part in our parade makes someone feel ostracised, discriminated against or humiliated, then they are undermining and breaking the very principles on which we exist… Pride must always be a movement of acceptance, diversity and unity. We will not tolerate Islamophobia.”

At the International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression, we  commit to the defence of  LGBT+ Muslims and ex-Muslims. It is imperative to act against  homophobia: 15 Islamic states and territories punish homosexuality with death. Vigilantes are encouraged to ‘eliminate gays’ in the words of Ramzan Kadyrov of Chechnya. In Britain, institutions like the East London Mosque have hosted preachers who incite hatred and justify the murder of  LGBT and apostates.

The LGBT+ movement and worldwide Pride marches have been an enduring source of inspiration. ‘Pride’ shows that human rights can progress by people coming out and challenging prejudice through humour, outrage and politics. It was in this spirit that CEMB, for the first time, joined the 2017 Pride in London march.  Pride is one of only events where LGBT+ ex-Muslims and Muslims can safely articulate their criticism, especially when their daily experiences are intrinsically linked with fear, violence and intimidation. Death threats are all too common. Nor do we need lessons in racism or anti-Muslim hatred, we experience these too. Our presence was widely welcomed and the courage of gay ex-Muslims affirmed with love and support. For old campaigners and new, the experience of the march was life changing.

CEMB’s work is founded on universal human rights:  the right to freedom of religion or belief and the right to free expression. Laws against homosexuality, blasphemy and apostasy and the terror associated with them are grave violations of human rights. Human rights do not advance unless perpetrators are named. Defending human rights: the right to life, the right to love and the right to free speech do not incite hatred. They constitute opposition to the politics of hate and fear.

Islamists use accusations of ‘Islamophobia’ to deceptively conflate criticism of a set of beliefs (Islam) and the religious-right (Islamism) with bigotry against a group of people (Muslims) in order to silence dissent. But we will not be silenced. We will continue to fight on several fronts: against racism and anti-Muslim hate and homophobia, for the rights of migrants and refugees, while simultaneously defending the right to apostasy and blasphemy.

If Pride in London is indeed a movement of ‘acceptance, diversity and unity’, it should vigorously oppose all laws which criminalise homosexuality, apostasy and blasphemy. Pride in London has a historic opportunity to  render fundamentalist intimidation and  bullying ineffective and make a stand that demonstrates that human rights trump religious hatred.

We call upon the organisers of Pride in London to:

1) 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

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

3)  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.

Declaration of Freethinkers

Freethinkers stand for the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of expression and belief and freedom from fear and want. We believe in the universality and indivisibility of human rights. These rights flow from human reason and conscience. Without the free exercise of conscience and expression, all other rights are nullified.

Thirteen Islamic states and territories punish apostasy and blasphemy with death. Many freethinkers spend years on death row, or are lashed simply for the views that they hold. Apostates and freethinkers are murdered by vigilantes, or have fled their homes and countries. They experience numerous abuses, including violence, coercion and shunning in their families, exorcism, psychiatric ‘treatment’, forced marriage and sexual abuse.

At the International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression, we note that there is a tsunami of freethinking and atheism that is challenging religious fundamentalism, especially Islamism.  The Internet is doing to Islam what the printing press did to Christianity.

This peaceful resistance movement is often characterised as ‘offensive’ against religion, nation, tradition or culture. Labelled as ‘secular fundamentalists’ or ‘Islamophobic’, victims are told that they are the cause of the violence whilst the organised networks of fundamentalists and extremists are projected as victims. Laws against ‘defamation of religion’ and accusations of ‘offence’ and ‘Islamophobia’ aid the extremists in silencing dissent and imposing de facto blasphemy laws.

Human rights organisations give scant attention to these violations. They have failed to investigate transnational networks that promote and perpetrate violence. They do not examine the ideologies of religious fundamentalism or make a case for the importance of freethinking in the face of a sustained religious assault. Governments, too, are failing to defend and protect freethinkers, either leading the assault or often choosing to side with killers and persecutors.

We honour the memory of all those who have died for freedom of conscience and expression, and stand in solidarity with our friends who cannot be with us because they are in prison, in hiding or have been denied visas.

The struggle for freedom of conscience is also a struggle against racism, xenophobia and far-right extremism. To be denied the simple right of conscience creates a human rights void, where all protections cease to exist. So we fight against all forms of bigotry and for universal human rights, including secularism.

The International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression calls for the following:

  1. End the killing of apostates and blasphemers
  2. Release those on death row or in prison simply because they are atheists, freethinkers, apostates or blasphemers
  3. Repeal apostasy and blasphemy laws
  4. Clarify that freedom of conscience and freedom of belief guarantee the right to freedom of and from religion; and that religion is not an excuse for silencing dissent or threatening other rights and freedoms
  5. Protect the right of freedom of expression to ‘offend’, without which no human progress is possible
  6. A declaration of principles showing that the human right to freedom of conscience is explicitly embedded in human rights documents and is not limited by any right to religious belief.

For more information, contact the Conference Organising Committee.

To donate to CEMB, please visit our website.

The conference is sponsored by Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe; Atheist International Alliance; Bread and Roses TV; Center for Inquiry; Centre for Secular Space; Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain; Culture Project; Euromind; Equal Rights Now; Fitnah; Freedom from Religion Foundation; National Secular Society; One Law for All; Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science; Southall Black Sisters; and Secularism is a Women’s Issue.

By Maryam Namazie, CEMB Spokesperson

East London mosque has filed a formal complaint regarding the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain’s presence in Pride in London and stated that our placards, including “East London mosque incites murder of LGBT” were “inciting hatred against Muslims” and that the mosque had a “track record for challenging homophobia in East London”.

In fact, though, the very reason CEMB was at Pride was to combat hate and to highlight the 14 states under Islamic rule that kill gay men (15 if we include Daesh-held territories). We included placards on the East London mosque to bring attention to the fact that there are mosques here in Britain that promote the death penalty for homosexuality and apostasy.

As ex-Muslims, we are at risk from hate preachers that speak at some mosques and universities; our  gay members are at an increased risk.

The East London Mosque has a long history of hosting hate preachers who incite against blasphemers, apostates and homosexuals so we felt naming and shaming them was very apt.

In our experience, whenever incitement to hate and violence has been exposed, it is explained away as mere “theology”. Here, too, the East London Mosque spokesperson says: “Yes, there might be theological topics dealing with homosexuality in Islam, but that’s clearly very separate from promoting hatred and homophobia”.

We beg to differ.

Given the context of executions for homosexuality and apostasy in many countries and the threats, violence and shunning that ex-Muslims, including LGBT, face here in Britain, the hate preaching can be considered incitement to murder though it is ignored because it is done under the cover of the “right to religion”.

Moreover, the East London mosque is merely using double-speak. Their supposed “track record for challenging homophobia” only seems to extend to white gay men in East London and never to Muslim and ex-Muslim LGBT or LGBT persecuted outside of Britain in countries under Sharia.

This is because the mosque is part and parcel of the Islamist movement. The East London Mosque (and its affiliate, the London Muslim Centre) share the ideology of the Jamaat-e-Islami – the Salafis of South Asia so their promotion of an Islamist worldview that imposes the death penalty for homosexuality, apostasy and blasphemy is business as usual.

Why are we inciting hatred by exposing their incitement to murder?

And why is criticism of Islam off-limits?

Self-appointed “Muslim leaders” say our placards were “Islamophobic”.  But in our point of view, Islam, like all religions, is homophobic. Why is it not possible to say this without accusations of Islamophobia?

The only reasons our signs are seen to be “provocative” are because criticism of Islam is deemed to be impermissible, because there is the constant threat of violence by Islamists against ex-Muslims but also dissenting Muslims and others in order to silence and censor, and because criticism of Islam and Islamism is erroneously conflated with an attack on Muslims.

Pride is full of placards saying “God is Gay”, “Jesus had two fathers”, as well as those mocking the church and priests and pope, yet CEMB members hold signs saying “Allah is Gay” – as we did – and the police converge to attempt to remove them for causing “offence”.

Offence has become the catch-phrase to impose de facto blasphemy and apostasy laws here in Britain. Yet aren’t we all offended at least some of the time? Some of us are offended by religion but we don’t ask believers to stay away from Pride or stop praying because of it. Why is it that what offends us is irrelevant? Because we do not back our offence with threats and violence?

The politics of offence is a politics that rewards bullies and blames victims.

Critics say our presence in Pride is a provocation in the weeks following the attack at Finsbury Park. But why must our criticism be linked to an attack on a mosque? Did anyone tell those holding “Jesus had two fathers” signs that it was a provocation given that a priest was murdered in Normandy and Christians killed in Egypt? There is no connection, except of course it seems when it comes to Islam.

Believers are not told to stop any expression of their beliefs because of an attack on children at a concert in Manchester but our placards apparently have some link with an attack on Muslims and a mosque. Why?

This is the Islamist narrative that equates criticism with an attack on Muslims. Its aim is not to stop bigotry but to silence dissent.

And by the way, bigotry affects us too. We were Muslims once; our loved ones are Muslims. And fascists and bigots cannot tell any of us apart anyway. We all look the same to them.

But as a minority within a minority facing serious threats to our lives, shunning, ostracisation, discrimination (and that’s only in Britain), is it fair to ask us to remain silent because of other forms of persecution or bigotry? Why can we not confront racism AND homophobia, bigotry AND hatred against apostates, women, blasphemers… To do that, we have to be able to criticise the far-Right (including our far-Right – the Islamists) and religion and regressive beliefs.

We ex-Muslims, including LGBT ex-Muslims, are fighting for our lives. We too have the right to live, think and love as we choose. And to fight for that right, we have to be able to confront apostasy and blasphemy laws as well laws that criminalise and execute apostates, LGBT, and freethinkers.

We owe it ourselves but we also owe it to those living under Islamic rules who are in prison, on death row or being murdered by vigilantes for doing just that.

The right to religion is a basic human right that must be defended but what is often forgotten is that there is a corresponding right to be free from and to criticise religion. As long as we can be killed for being ex-Muslims, LGBT, apostates and blasphemers, we have a duty to speak up – especially for those who cannot.

****

As an aside, the Pride spokesperson has said that the East London mosque’s complaint has been referred to the community advisory board to assess whether CEMB can join Pride next year and added: “While our parade has always been a home to protest, which often means conflicting points of view, Pride must always be a movement of acceptance, diversity and unity. We will not tolerate Islamophobia.”

A note to Pride: There were for sure some Muslims who were offended by our presence and others who supported us, as there were some Christians who were offended by placards poking fun at Christianity and others who found them funny. This is what real diversity looks like.  For too long, self-appointed Islamists feigning to represent the “Muslim community” have stifled dissent via threats and accusations of offence and Islamophobia. CEMB has fought for ten years now to bring real diversity into the debate, which is a matter of life and death for many of us.

Criticism of Islam or Islamism is not anti-Muslim bigotry just as criticism of Christianity or the DUP is not anti-Christian bigotry. CEMB plans to be at Pride next year and every year and hopes the community advisory board sides with dissenters and those fighting for LGBT rights and not those inciting hatred against Muslim and ex-Muslim LGBT.

For those on the community advisory board who are interested in finding out more about the East London Mosque beyond the double-speak, there is a wealth of information on their links to Islamism and their incitement to violence, hate and yes murder:

In this piece: Almost immediately after Jamaat’s  arrival in government, attacks against religious and ethnic minorities in Bangladesh began to be reported. A British peer and parliamentary human-rights representative, Eric (Lord) Avebury, said that “Bangladesh is an increasingly dangerous place for women, minority faiths and ethnic groups, opposition parties and secular organisations”. He argued that at the root of these problems lies the “cancer of a maverick branch of Islamism” that aims to “transform the country into a Taliban-style dictatorship”.

The ELM/LMC’s reaction to requests to ban these hatemongers was to “go quiet” for a few months, and then return to hosting the worst of Britain’s extremists. It is pretty clear that promoting hatred is part of the ELM/LMC’s core mission. Ibrahim Hewitt: – a “reformed” white racist, who now works for the Hamas fundraising charity, Interpal. He wrote  “What Does Islam Say?”, a pamphlet explaining what he sees as the Islamic approach to several social and political issues. Apostates and proven adulterers get the death penalty.  Sexually active gays must face “severe punishments” for their “great sin”, possibly including death.

Open letter posted online by 12 LBGT campaigners, including writers Julie Bindel and Paul Burston, which lists a series of events hosted by the East London Mosque allegedly attended by  anti-gay Muslim clerics. These included Abdullah Hakim Quick, a supporter of the death penalty on gays and Abdul Hattin who incorporated a ‘Spot the Fag’ contest into his sermon in 2007.

Andrew Gilligan in The Telegraph: The East London Mosque’s response to accusations of extremism has three stages. First there are the injured protestations of its deep commitment to community cohesion, democracy, etc, often accompanied by straightforward lying…Then there are silly legal threats from its libel lawyers, again often based on lies: tedious, but perfectly easy to see off if you know what you’re doing. Finally, if none of that works and their backs are absolutely against the wall, the mosque will crank out one of their statements claiming they’ve banned hate preachers. The supply of bad guys will dry up for a month or two, then as soon as the coast is clear they’ll start creeping back again. Let’s hope it’s different this time. But you’ll forgive me, I’m sure, for being a little sceptical about the East London Mosque’s “good faith.”

The charity Oxfam cancelled an event at the East London Mosque after it learned the headline speaker had declared gay people should be “severely punished” under Islamic law.

At the East London Mosque, the Friday sermon was delivered by hate preacher Assim al-Hakeem who teaches that apostates must be killed (“As long as they have been Muslim, once they reject it, their Devine punishment is execution. This takes place on the instruction of the ruler after a panel of judges talk to him and try to convince him. His execution is due to his betrayal to Islam which is like grand treason.”)

In Police ‘covered up’ violent campaign to turn London area ‘Islamic’ it says: Khalid Yasin, a hate preacher who describes Jews as “filth” and teaches that homosexuals must be killed has spoken at least four times since 2007 at the East London Mosque. Although the mosque claims to be against extremism, discrimination, and violence, it has hosted dozens of hate, extremist or terrorist preachers and also hosted a “Spot The Fag” contest. In the same week that it issued a press release condemning the anti-gay stickers, the mosque was also due to host a “gala dinner” with Uthman Lateef, a homophobic hate preacher. The mosque is controlled by a fundamentalist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe, which says that it is dedicated to changing the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed … from ignorance to Islam.”

According to ‘Nationalism, Community & the Islamization of Space in London’, see page 219: “The East London mosque was more closely aligned with Arab states, in the Middle East and Pakistan. King Fahd of Saudi Arabia contributed over 1 million for the building of the new centre and ambassadors of Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the mosque management.

According to ‘Bangladeshi diaspora in the UK: socio-cultural dynamics, religious trends and transnational politics’ See page 5: The East London Mosque – this claims to be the oldest mosque in London going back to the early 1940s. It has maintained close links with the Jamaat i Islami, largely through the Islamic Forum Europe and the Young Muslim Organisation, whose offices are located nearby. The ELM’s leaders and other local activists have been highly successful at building alliances with local government officials through campaigns against drug abuse, family breakdown, anti-social behaviour, school truancy, etc.

The Spirit of ’71: how the Bangladeshi War of Independence has haunted Tower Hamlets.

Jamil Iqbal and Richard Phillips – ‘Taking Stock: Respect, SWP and Islamist politics in Tower Hamlets’

Communities & Local Government – ‘The Bangladeshi Muslim Community in England Understanding Muslim Ethnic Communities’. See pages 42, 61

‘Bangladesh Genocide: what human rights, anti-racist and peace organisations won’t tell you’, at 54 mins Chowdhury Mueenuddin/IFE, at 1.10 mins MCB/Iqbal Sacranie, 1,13 mins Chowdhury Mueenuddin and at 1.20 SWP/Left/Muslim Brotherhood

Siding with oppressor:  the Pro-Islamist Left, London’, One Law for All, pages 27-29

Jamaat-e-Islam links to East London Mosque & Darul Ummah
DeHanas, Nilsson (2013) ‘Elastic Orthodoxy: the Tactics of Young Muslim Identity in the East End of London’, Farnham, Ashgate, Pages 15, 16

East London Mosque admits Chowdhury Mueenuddin’s involvement
The East London Mosque has confirmed Mueen Uddin was involved with the mosque from 1978 as honorary secretary, and was until recently vice chairman, but has not been a trustee since 2009.

East London Mosque/London Muslim Centre link to Jamaat
Policy Exchange’s ‘Choosing our friends wisely’ (2009), p 36

Channel 4 Dispatches programme investigated fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami headquartered in Britain, and its network in the UK. Using undercover recordings, investigative journalist Andrew Gilligan reveals the group’s ambitions to create a worldwide ‘Islamic social and political order,’ and the concerns of a mainstream party that they are being ‘infiltrated’.

Britain’s jihadi bride groomer: Schoolgirl radicalised in East London mosque recruited her three classmates to join ISIS in Syria

How Jamaat’s UK wing IFE infiltrated Tower Hamlets Council youth service 2016

Facing Jamaat-e-Islami by SADF 2017 See page 16 http://sadf.eu/new/blog/sadf-policy-brief-5-facing-jamaat-e-islami-bangladesh-global-threat-need-global-response/

10 April 2017 Azad Ali, a Jamaati Islamist who has said that he supports killing British soldiers, was named a director of Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend), a group which advises the British government. Ali recently said that the jihadist attack at Westminster on March 22, 2017 was not an act of terrorism.

11 April 2017. The Charity Commission, which regulates charities in England and Wales, asked Islamic Relief to explain why it invited a hardline Muslim preacher to star in a fundraising tour of Britain. Yasir Qadhi, a Saudi-educated American academic, has been recorded telling students that killing homosexuals and stoning adulterers was part of Islam. Qadhi, who featured in an eight-city tour, described Islamic punishments such as cutting off the hands of thieves as “very beneficial to society.” The commission also questioned two other charities, Muslim Aid (Jamaat charity founded by Chowdhury Mueenuddin) and Read Foundation, about their sponsorship of a speaking tour by Qadhi in 2015.

Thanks to Ansar Ahmed Ullah, Gita Sahgal and Daniel Fitzgerald for the above information.

 

 

Dear Mr Wrack, FBU General Secretary,

It has been drawn to our attention that Ms Lucy Masoud, treasurer of the Fire Brigades Union in London, has written a blog on The FBU website stating that the presence of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) at Pride was “hate on display” and that the group is “islamophobic”.  CEMB has responded to the post and would like to know whether this is the FBU’s official position.

As we have mentioned in our response to Ms Masoud, there is a clear distinction between criticism of religion and the religious-Right versus bigotry against people. Charges of islamophobia erroneously conflate the two. In fact, CEMB’s presence at Pride aimed to combat the hate perpetrated against ex-Muslims and LGBT and to defend the right to reject and criticise religion without fear. This was political protest at its best. Had the FBU not recently backed calls to reclaim Pride as political protest?

Given that apostasy, blasphemy and homosexuality are punishable by death in many countries under Islamic rule, our being at Pride was an important moment for our members, many of whom are refugees. It would be unfortunate if the FBU officially defended the vilification of a minority within a minority providing further justification for our persecution by implying that “offence” is more important than murder.

We look forward to hearing from you on your union’s position.

Thank you for your response in advance. We attach a copy of a photo with FBU members and two of ours taken at Pride.

Sincerely
Maryam Namazie, CEMB Spokesperson
Daniel Fitzgerald CEMB Pride Organiser
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
BM Box 1919, London WC1N 3XX, UK
tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
email: [email protected]
web: http://ex-muslim.org.uk/

Lucy Masoud, treasurer of the Fire Brigades Union in London, has written a blog on The FBU website saying the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB)‘s presence at Pride was “hate on display” and that the group is “Islamophobic” and “carried offensive signs such as ‘F**K Islam’ and ‘East London Mosque Incites Murder of Homosexuals’”. She added that members were “offended” by CEMB, that CEMB was “sinister” and that when she confronted our group, “they admitted they had never been Muslim”. Masoud added: “Pride is meant to be about acceptance and love, not hate. Most LGBT people have experienced hate and prejudice towards them at some point, so any group that has nothing to say but hate, has no place at Pride.”
 
The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, established nearly ten years ago, defends the right to conscience and expression, which are meaningless without the right to reject and criticise religion. Given that apostasy, blasphemy and homosexuality are punishable by death in countries under Islamic rule (countries, by the way, from which many of the refugees in our group have fled from), these rights are a matter of life and death for many of us. Which is why it was a very proud moment for us to be out, loud and proud at Pride.
 
As anyone going to Pride knows, signs with “God is Gay” or “Jesus has two fathers” is evident every year as are signs critical of Christianity and the Christian-Right. Our signs are no different. All our signs were critical of the homophobia in Islam and the hate perpetrated by the Islamist movement against not just ex-Muslims but Muslims and others too. We also had signs against racism, including “Protest Bigotry, Defend Blasphemy”, “Homophobes, Islamists, Racists, Fuck Off”, and “CEMB, LGBT, Refugee and Proud”. (See here.)
 
That Ms Masoud takes our presence personally as an attack on her says more about her politics than ours – a politics that feeds into the Islamist narrative, that normalises blasphemy and apostasy laws, that demands silence from critics of Islam and that gives the green light for Islamists to continue to murder us using the excuse of “offence”.
 
Wittingly or unwittingly, charges of “Islamophobia” conflate criticism of Islam with bigotry and hate against people. In fact, we are merely countering the hate against ex-Muslims and LGBT by Islamic states and movements.
 
Ms Masoud: Criticising mosques that call for our death, criticising Islamic states that murder us and our loved ones, criticising Islam, like criticism of any religion or belief, is not hate but combating hate against real live human beings. If “progressives” like you were more concerned with murder than offence, what a different world this would be.
 
Until we are allowed to think, live and love as we choose without the imposition of religion via the state, the law, the “community”, or via any always offended sensitive soul like yourself, we will continue to shout our blasphemy from every rooftop.
 
One question to the FBU: Labelling a minority within a minority who face threats and intimidation on a daily basis as a hate group places us at further risk and is victim blaming at its finest. Is this the official FBU position and if so, we will be taking this matter further.

#IWant2BFree

Read this letter online.

Dear friend

EX-MUSLIMS OUT AND PROUD IN PRIDE LONDON

CEMB was at Pride London in full force on 8 July highlighting the plight of LGBT in countries under Islamic rule where it is punishable with the death penalty, with topless activists body-painted by the award-winning Victoria Gugenheim.

The march went ahead as planned, though police initially tried to remove placards with the slogan “Allah is Gay” because of complaints of “offence”.

Whilst a few were not pleased to see apostates there, we were met with overwhelming and heart-warming support and solidarity. For all of those who participated, it was an unforgettable moment in the struggle for apostasy, blasphemy and LGBT rights in countries under Islamic rule.

See CEMB’s press release and video footage with photos here.

[As an aside, in Pride Toronto, “anti-fascists” tried but failed to stop Iranians from joining Pride labelling a Muslim standing up for LGBT rights in countries under Islamic rule “Islamophobic”. Maryam’s article on the fiasco can be read here.]

22-24 JULY CONFERENCE AND DAY OF ACTION – FEW TICKETS LEFT

The International Conference on Free Expression and Conscience in London is almost sold out. No tickets will be sold at the door so if you plan to come, please get them right away. The conference is being labelled “the Glastonbury of Freethinkers” and will be the largest gathering of ex-Muslims ever. Other distinguished speakers include Scientist Richard Dawkins, Filmmaker Deeyah Khan, FEMEN leader Inna Shevchenko, American Atheists President Dave Silverman, Philosopher AC Grayling, Singer/Songwriter Shelley Segal… Over 70 speakers from more than 30 countries. Don’t miss what will be an historic event.

In the run up to and during the conference, we will broadcast messages of solidarity from freethinkers, including from Pakistani Nuclear Physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy, Philosopher Daniel Dennett, Vlogger Aron Ra, Charlie Hebdo Editor-in-Chief Gerard Biard, Writer Caroline Fourest, President of the International League of Women’s Rights Annie Sugier and many more. Send your messages of solidarity to us at [email protected] Also please join us in reminding the world that freedom of expression and conscience include the right to leave and criticise religion.

Read more about the spectacular event here. Join us for important discussions, food, music, comedy and more.

NO APOLOGIES

Spokesperson Maryam Namazie has penned an open letter on sister-hood 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.” She asks: “How come your defence of freedom of conscience and expression never includes my right to reject and criticise Islam?” Read her letter here.

We hope to see you at our conference, and look forward to your messages of support. Please donate if you can.

Remember to use #IWant2BFree when discussing the conference and the need to celebrate blasphemy and apostasy.

Thank you so much for your encouraging words and solidarity over the years. It has meant a great deal and will help us in our joint fight for the right to think and live as we choose in the years to come.

warm wishes
Maryam Namazie
Sadia Hameed
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
BM Box 1919, London WC1N 3XX, UK
tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
email: [email protected]
web: http://ex-muslim.org.uk/

Ex-Muslims Out & Proud at Pride

On 8 July, CEMB was at Pride in London in full force highlighting the plight of LGBT in countries under Islamic rule with bodypainting by the award-winning Victoria Gugenheim.

The march went ahead as planned, though police initially tried to remove placards with the slogan “Allah is Gay” because of complaints of “offence”.

Whilst a few were not pleased to see apostates in Pride, we were met with overwhelming and heart-warming support and solidarity. For all of those who participated, it was an unforgettable moment in the struggle for freedom of conscience, expression and the fight for LGBT rights in countries under Islamic rule.

Other video available here.

Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson for CEMB, said: “In a world where apostasy, blasphemy and ‘immorality’ are punishable by death in 15 Islamic states and territories, and religiously non-prescribed sex and women’s bodies are so despised, it becomes all the more important to celebrate them and show very clearly that people have a right to think, live and love as they choose without state or group intervention and persecution. Of course some were and will be offended by our message as we are offended by Islam and religion but offence can never be a reason to silence and threaten nor is blasphemy and offence more important than murder.”

Daniel Fitzgerald, CEMB Pride organiser, said: “CEMB is challenging a narrative. Never before in the history of Pride London since its start in 1972 has a group consisting of those from a Muslim background, including refugees, come together to protest crimes committed to LGBT people in the the name of Islam and topless too! These are VERY brave people who speak from direct experience. All states that have the death penalty for gays are Islamic, yet this alarming fact is ignored time and time again. No more excuses.”

Gita Sahgal, Director of Centre for Secular Space, said: “I marched with… extraordinary activists who keep alive the idea of international solidarity. In many countries Islamic law decrees the death penalty for homosexuality and sex outside marriage. On a very corporate march we kept alive the idea that refugees are welcome, apostasy is a right and that we weep for those under constant vigilante and state death threats. My wonderful young friend marched with a banner for Xulhaz hacked to death in Bangladesh for the right to love. In some places we cannot celebrate. We honour those struggles.”

  

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.

#IWant2BFree

 

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.

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