Category: Press Releases

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).

Download our #FreeRaif poster

Send us your photos

Via Twitter:

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

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

Via Email:

Please email your photos, with the subject line ‘Free Raif photo’ 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.

A petition support Mr Salih can be found here.

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]
web: http://ex-muslim.org.uk/

Petition calls on Denmark to repeal blasphemy ban, Index on Censorship, 15 May 2017

STATEMENT
Petition calls on Denmark to repeal blasphemy ban
15 May 2017
BY INDEX ON CENSORSHIP
We the undersigned respectfully urge the Danish Parliament to vote in favour of bill L 170 repealing the blasphemy ban in section 140 of the Danish criminal code, punishing “Any person who, in public, ridicules or insults the dogmas or worship of any lawfully existing religious community”.

Denmark is recognised as a global leader when it comes to the protection of human rights and freedom of expression. However, Denmark’s blasphemy ban is manifestly inconsistent with the Danish tradition for frank and open debate and puts Denmark in the same category as illiberal states where blasphemy laws are being used to silence dissent and persecute minorities. The recent decision to charge a man – who had burned the Quran – for violating section 140 for the first time since 1971, demonstrates that the blasphemy ban is not merely of symbolic value. It represents a significant retrograde step in the protection of freedom of expression in Denmark.

The Danish blasphemy ban is incompatible with both freedom of expression and equality before the law. There is no compelling reason why the feelings of religious believers should receive special protection against offence. In a vibrant and pluralistic democracy, all issues must be open to even harsh and scathing debate, criticism and satire. While the burning of holy books may be grossly offensive to religious believers it is nonetheless a peaceful form of symbolic expression that must be protected by free speech.

Numerous Danes have offended the religious feelings of both Christians and Muslims without being charged under section 140. This includes a film detailing the supposed erotic life of Jesus Christ, the burning of the Bible on national TV and the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammed. The Cartoon affair landed Denmark in a storm of controversy and years of ongoing terrorist threats against journalists, editors and cartoonists. When terror struck in February 2015 the venue was a public debate on blasphemy and free speech.

In this environment, Denmark must maintain that in a liberal democracy, laws protect those who offend from threats, not those who threaten from being offended.

Retaining the blasphemy ban is also incompatible with Denmark’s human rights obligations. In April 2017 Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagtland emphasised that “blasphemy should not be deemed a criminal offence as the freedom of conscience forms part of freedom of expression”. This position is shared by the UN’s Human Rights Committee and the EU Guidelines on freedom of expression and religion.
Since 2014, The Netherlands, Norway, Iceland and Malta have all abolished blasphemy bans. By going against this trend Denmark will undermine the crucial European and international efforts to repeal blasphemy bans globally.

This has real consequences for human beings, religious and secular, around the globe. In countries like Pakistan, Mauretania, Iran, Indonesia and Russia blasphemy bans are being used against minorities as well as political and religious dissenters. Denmark’s blasphemy ban can be used to legitimise such laws. In 2016 the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief pointed out that “During a conference held in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) [in 2015], the Danish blasphemy provision was cited by one presenter as an example allegedly indicating an emerging international customary law on “combating defamation of religions”.

Blasphemy laws often serve to legitimise violence and terror. In Pakistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh free-thinkers, political activists, members of religious minorities and atheists have been killed by extremists. In a world where freedom of expression is in retreat and extremism on the rise, democracies like Denmark must forcefully demonstrate that inclusive, pluralistic and tolerant societies are built on the right to think, believe and speak freely. By voting to repeal the blasphemy ban Denmark will send a clear signal that it stands in solidarity with the victims and not the enforcers of blasphemy laws.

Jacob Mchangama, Executive director, Justitia
Steven Pinker, Professor Harvard University
Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury, Exiled editor of Shuddhashar, 2016 winner International Writer of Courage Award
Pascal Bruckner, Author
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Human Rights Activist Founder of AHA Foundation,
Dr. Elham Manea, academic and human rights advocate (Switzerland)
Sultana Kamal, Chairperson, Centre for Social Activism Bangladesh
Deeyah Khan, CEO @Fuuse & founder @sister_hood_mag.
Fatou Sow, Women Living Under Muslim Laws
Elisabeth Dabinter, Author
William Nygaard, Publisher
Flemming Rose, Author and journalist
Jodie Ginsberg, CEO, Index on Censorship
Kenan Malik, Author of From Fatwa to Jihad
Thomas Hughes, Executive Director Article 19
Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN America
Pragna Patel – Director of Southall Black Sisters
Leena Krohn, Finnish writer
Jeanne Favret-Saada, Honorary Professor of Anthropology, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes,
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Fariborz Pooya, Host of Bread and Roses TV
Frederik Stjernfelt, Professor, University of Aalborg in Copenhagen
Marieme Helie Lucas, Secularism Is A Women’s Issue
Michael De Dora, Director of Government Affairs, Center for Inquiry
Robyn Blumner, President & CEO, Center for Inquiry
Nina Sankari, Kazimierz Lyszczynski Foundation (Poland).
Sonja Biserko, Founder and president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
James Lindsay, Author
Malhar Mali, Publisher and editor, Areo Magazine
Julie Lenarz – Executive Director, Human Security Centre, London
Terry Sanderson President, National Secular Society
Greg Lukianoff, CEO and President, FIRE
Thomas Cushman, Professor Wellesley College
Nadine Strossen, John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law, New York Law School
Simon Cottee, the Freedom Project, Wellesley College
Paul Cliteur, professor of Jurisprudence at Leiden University
Lino Veljak, University of Zagreb, Croatia
Lalia Ducos, Women’s Initiative for Citizenship and Universals Rights , WICUR
Lepa Mladjenovic, LC, Belgrade
Elsa Antonioni, Casa per non subire violenza, Bologna
Bobana Macanovic, Autonomos Women’s Center, Director, Belgrade
Harsh Kapoor, Editor, South Asia Citzens Web
Mehdi Mozaffari, Professor Em., Aarhus University, Denmark
Øystein Rian, Historian, Professor Emeritus University of Oslo
Kjetil Jakobsen, Professor Nord University
Scott Griffen, Director of Press Freedom Programmes International Press Institute (IPI)
Henryk Broder, Journalist
David Rand, President, Libres penseurs athées — Atheist Freethinkers
Tom Herrenberg, Lecturer University of Leiden
Simone Castagno, Coordinamento Liguria Rainbow
Laura Caille, Secretary General Libres
Mariannes Andy Heintz, writer
Bernice Dubois, Conseil Européen des Fédérations WIZO
Ivan Hare, QC

The Freethinker interviews Maryam Namazie and Marieme Helie Lucas ahead of the International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression in the 21 Century scheduled to take place in London between July 22 and 24, 2017.

Why organise an international conference on free conscience and expression?

Maryam Namazie: Atheists and freethinkers are targeted by Islamists and religious-Right movements across the globe. Despite the brutal attacks, blasphemy and apostasy laws are often legitimised.

Even where no such laws exist, there is a chorus of voices insisting that freedom of expression and conscience have limits, particularly when it comes to Islam. “Hurt” sensibilities are almost always deemed more important than threats, intimidation, censorship, violence and even murder. And victims are blamed time and time again whilst perpetrators pose as victims.

On the tenth anniversary of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, the conference aims to bring together the largest international gathering of ex-Muslims and freethinkers as a show of strength to reaffirm the right to think and live outside the confines imposed by religion and the religious-Right.

Many of the speakers are on the frontlines of the tsunami of atheism and freethought that has taken hold of societies under Islamist influence with social media doing to Islam what the printing press has done to Christianity.

When dissenters continue to be threatened, silenced, no platformed, intimidated and even killed for rejecting and criticising Islam, a celebration of apostasy, blasphemy and the free word are historical tasks.

Key issues such as women’s resistance, the veil, religious morality, religion in the law and state, identity politics, communalism and multiculturalism, Islamophobia and secularism as a human right will be discussed.

The conference will highlight and honour dissenters such as the Bangladeshi bloggers; Raif Badawi sentenced to 10  years in prison for blogging and Ahmad Al-Shamri sentenced to death for atheism in Saudi Arabia; ex-Muslim atheist H Farook hacked to death in India; 21 year old Sina Dehghan sentenced to death for “insulting the prophet” in Iran; Ayaz Nizami and Rana Noman arrested on blasphemy charges and 23 year old Mashal Khan lynched by a mob at his university in Pakistan …

The gathering – labelled the “Glastonbury of Freethinkers” – will stand out, loud and proud to remind the world that the freedom of conscience and expression are also for those who reject and criticise religion and the religious-Right.  And that the demand for these freedoms are universal.

The conference focus is on freedom from religion; why is that so important and relevant in the right to freedom of conscience? What is link between freedom of expression and right to criticise and leave religion?

Marieme Helie Lucas: Freedom of expression is a consequence, a corollary of the fundamental right of freedom of conscience. Freedom of conscience includes the right to believe and the right not to believe – two sides of the same right that cannot be delinked from one another. Freedom of conscience is absolute. No religion or state can put limits on it.

But while, today, the right to believe is rarely questioned – and when it is, human rights organisations run to the rescue of endangered believers, this is unfortunately not exactly the case with the right not to believe, despite the fact that non-believers in many places are threatened by the rising religious-Right, especially but not exclusively by the Muslim far-Right best represented today by Daesh and the likes.

It is interesting to note that freethinkers are not threatening anyone because of their beliefs; still they are the ones asked to ‘respect’ religions and their followers. Their right to freedom of expression is challenged.

Meanwhile, the religious-Right is indeed curtailing the rights of non-believers and/or followers of other religions, and in many places assassinating them, but no one asks them to ‘respect’ different religious beliefs or the absence of religious beliefs.

This inequality of treatment should be of concern to all as it is a clear threat to democracy and to equality between all citizens.

Maryam Namazie: It’s also important to note that the right to conscience and expression are in particular rights for those who think differently. As Rosa Luxemburg said: ‘Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters’. In a world where religion is deemed sacred and the religious-Right have power to legally persecute and execute freethinkers and atheists, and whip up mobs to kill at will, defending the freedom to criticise and reject religion is a matter of life and death for the innumerable.

Criticism of Islam is often labelled Islamophobic as are ex-Muslim events and conferences. Your point of view?

Marieme Helie Lucas: Who, today, would label “Christianophobic” any meeting of people who were born into a “Christian country” and/or a “Christian family” and are now freethinkers?

So the real question becomes: why is Islam singled out among all religions and for what reason(s); why are freethinkers who are born into Muslim contexts (still abusively labelled “Muslims”) discriminated against when it comes to exercising their fundamental right of freedom of conscience? Whose vested interests is this discrimination serving? Why are the Left and the Far-Left buying into this illogical reasoning when it comes to Islam and Muslims, while they would not if it were Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, etc … What hidden racism lies behind this singling out of Islam and Muslims?

Maryam Namazie: Clearly, criticism of religion and the religious-Right is not the same as bigotry against believers. Islamophobia is a political term that aims to scaremonger people into silence and stop criticism of Islam/Islamism by using rights and anti-racist language. In Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan… freethinkers are accused of blasphemy and apostasy and imprisoned/killed. Here in Europe, accusations of Islamophobia are used to impose de facto blasphemy laws and silence much needed criticism.

Historically, criticism of religion has been key for human progress and it remains so today. Those buying into accusations of Islamophobia effectively side with the Islamist narrative at the expense of dissenters.

With the rise of far-Right populism and racism against migrants and Muslims, should such a conference be held?

Marieme Helie Lucas: Insofar as we define Muslim fundamentalism as a far-Right political movement using religion to cover up their political goals, we are simply facing two far-Rights: the “traditional” one, populist, xenophobic, racist; and the new one which is taking the form of the virulent religious-Right. I do not see any reason why we should challenge one of them without challenging the other too.

Let’s note in passing that the question itself testifies to the confusion of concepts that prevails among progressive people today: it is labelling “Muslims” – without ever inquiring about their religious beliefs – all sorts of people of migrant descent. Just ask Christians from the Middle East if they do not face here the same racism as their Muslim colleagues; just ask Indians if they are not confronted with similar rejection than their Pakistani fellows …

It seems very obvious that we should, all together, combat simultaneously the “traditional” far-Right and the new “religious-Right”. They reinforce each other and feed on each other; they need each other in order to mobilise their troops.

Is there any hope given the rise of the religious-Right everywhere and freethinkers being killed and imprisoned by Islamist states & mob violence?

Marieme Helie Lucas: We are undoubtedly living in a very difficult period of time and we are likely heading towards an even more difficult one. Political clarity is badly needed. The first step would be to fully understand and expose the political nature of the religious-Right, of its programme and its undemocratic theocratic goals.

This conference will give a voice to those who are slaughtered by the religious-Right. Their voice is never heard. All we can do is speak up for their rights … and try and defend ours, here and now.

Maryam Namazie: 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.

See the schedule and full list of speakers at the International Conference for Freedom of Conscience and Expression in the 21st Century.

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.

For more information, contact the Conference Organising Committee.

Get your ticket(s) today for the 22-24 July 2017 International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression in the 21st Century in Central London.

Petition to Facebook: #LetExmuslimsSpeak – Sign it Today.

Dear Facebook administrators,

We, the undersigned organizations, represent hundreds of thousands of ex-Muslims, secularists, humanists, atheists, and agnostics who are dedicated to safeguarding the universal human rights for freedom of religion, belief, and expression.

Due to abuse of Facebook’s reporting tools, atheist and ex-Muslim organizations and groups find themselves yet again the target of censorship campaigns by religious conservatives. We respectfully ask that Facebook create mechanisms to prevent abuse of its features so that our organizations and groups do not fear unjust restriction and removal.

Following what appears to be a coordinated reporting and flagging campaigns, multiple Facebook Groups and Pages are routinely restricted or shut down. Each time, Facebook claims that the restriction or removal is due to violations of its terms of service and community standards. However, each time, no details are given as to which standards are violated. Sometimes, the decision is overturned after appeals and campaigns, sometimes it is not.
Online spaces like Facebook are the last refuge for many atheists and secularists in the Muslim world. Apostates are persecuted by governments, threatened by fundamentalist theocrats, and murdered by vigilantes all over the Muslim world and beyond. Even in the West, many apostates hide their lack-of-faith from friends and family for fear of retribution and social ostracization.

The internet, however, has provided this vulnerable minority with a sense of community that can be impossible to attain in their everyday lives. Atheists can share their beliefs, spreading their ideas and literature in anonymity – considered by many to be a key factor in the rise of atheist visibility in the Muslim world. Facebook in particular has been a boon to community-building efforts among persecuted minorities around the world. In fact, the greater the persecution faced by the group, the more vital the online connectivity and activism.

However, even online, our groups maintain a precarious position, as coordinated attacks using Facebook’s reporting tools are simple and effective. The same social media which empowers religious minorities is susceptible to abuse by religious fundamentalists to enforce what are essentially the equivalent of online blasphemy laws. A simple English-language search reveals hundreds of public Groups and Pages on Facebook explicitly dedicated to this purpose – giving their members easy-to-follow instructions on how to report public groups and infiltrate private ones.

Attacks of this nature are not new. Arab atheists, Bangladeshi secularists, and numerous other groups have been under attack for years, as religious conservatives in the Muslim world learn to abuse Facebook’s reporting system to their advantage. Early last year, multiple atheist and secularist groups were targeted with mass, coordinated infiltration and reporting – leading to the closure of many groups. These groups were eventually restored, but only after a lengthy and sustained effort by organizers to draw public attention to the issue.

However, they, along with dozens of other atheist and ex-Muslim groups and organizations, remain vulnerable to future harassment and targeted campaigns, and many face regular cycles of removal, appeal, and restoration.

So long as the procedures for reporting are liable to be easily misused, the most vulnerable groups will again find themselves without the support and connectivity so vital to their existence and growth.

We, the undersigned, request that Facebook take measures to improve their reporting mechanisms and protect vulnerable groups which rely on its services.

Facebook should create a whitelist for Groups and Pages which are determined as vulnerable to malicious attacks. Reports and flags aimed at these groups should not be handled by automated mechanisms but reviewed and given due consideration by a trained Facebook employee.

Facebook should also penalize individual accounts and groups which are found to have been repeatedly abusing its reporting system.

These measures will help ensure that social media continues to be a valuable asset for empowerment of dissenting and minority voices – we respectfully ask Facebook to develop and implement these measures as soon as possible.

Signed:
Atheist Republic
Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA)
American Atheists
Arab Atheist Network
Association of Mindfulness Meditation
Ateizm Derneği
Atheist Alliance of America
Atheist Alliance International
Black Nonbelievers, Inc.
British Humanist Association (BHA)
Center for Inquiry (CFI)
Central Council of Ex-Muslims
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Council of Ex-Muslims of France
Council for Secular Humanism
Ex-Muslims of Norway
Faith to Faithless
Foundation Beyond Belief
Freethought Action
Freethought Society
Hispanic American Freethinkers
Institute for Humanist Studies
International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU)
Institute for Science and Human Values, Inc.
Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers
Mukto Mona
One Law for All
Pakistani Atheists and Agnostics
Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science (RDFRS)
Secular Buddhism
Secular Coalition for America
Secular Student Alliance
Society for Humanistic Judaism
The Humanist Community at Harvard
The Humanist Hub
United Coalition of Reason
#VoteSecular
دخلك بتعرف؟ / dkhlak.com

Declaration on apostasy and the blasphemy adopted by participants in the event “Days of Atheism 2017 – For the Right To Choose”

The declaration on blasphemy and apostasy

We are alarmed at the increasing persecution of freethinkers accused of blasphemy and apostasy. In the past month alone:

  • Ex-Muslim atheist H Farook, a father of two, was hacked to death in India.
  • In Iran, the death sentence of 21 year old Sina Dehghan has been confirmed by the supreme court on charges of “insulting the prophet”. Deghan’s co-defendants, Sahar Eliasi and Mohammad Nouri, have also been convicted of posting “anti-Islamic” content on social media. Nouri was issued the death sentence whilst Eliasi was initially issued a seven-year prison sentence; her sentence was reduced to three years upon appeal.
  • In Pakistan, Ayaz Nizami and Rana Noman were arrested by the government on 22 March on accusations of blasphemy. After the arrest, #HangAyazNizami trended on Twitter. This followed the Pakistani government’s request that Facebook and Twitter help identify those suspected of blasphemy so it can prosecute them or pursue their extradition.

Needless to say, it is not an “insult” to Islam or any religion, if one becomes a freethinker or an atheist – either in public or private. It is exercising a fundamental right to freedom of conscience.

Moreover, criticism of religion, including Islam, prophet and god, is not “Islamophobia” but exercising a fundamental right to freedom of expression.

Those who “punish”, imprison, incite violence against or forcibly prevent freedom of conscience and expression are the ones who commit a crime – not those exercising their basic human right.

We call for an end to blasphemy and apostasy laws – whether de facto or de jure. Those more concerned with “offence” than murder help legitimise the persecution of atheists and freethinkers across the globe.  It is high time victims of blasphemy and apostasy rules are defended not blamed for their persecution.

In the 21 century, human beings and human rights must trump religion.

Warsaw, April 2, 2017

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain is outraged that Islamist Yasir Qadhi spoke in Harrogate, Yorkshire on the 22nd of April, and in London on the 23rd of April in events organised by Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend), a front group for extremists.

American-born Yasir Qadhi has been recorded saying:  “…definitely this is a part of our religion to stone the adulterer and to chop the head off of the sorcerer and so many other things, and to kill, by the way, the homosexual – this is also our religion. The fiqh rulings say that the homosexual is be killed, OK?”

On homosexuality he adds: “Look at how this own society and culture has evolved in the way it looks at homosexuals. In our own time, I remember as a kid in the 80s, which gives you an idea how old I was, growing up in the 80s, I remember how homosexuals were looked down upon and the names that were given to these people. And how disgusted the average masses were with that segment of society. Now look at how we have regressed not progressed where it is impossible – forget a Muslim, even a Christian or Jew – cannot stand up in public in front of a non-Muslim audience and speak against homosexuality. ‘He’s a homophobe, he’s an evil person, how dare he preaches ‘hatred’ against this group of people’ – a group of people by the way who were punished the likes of which no other nation has been punished from the time of Adam until the day of judgment. No community, no group of people have been punished like the people of Lut have been punished…”

On apostasy, he says: “If you become murtad in a land that is not ruled by the Sharia, this is your freedom; we cannot do anything. So the whole question – and I am saying this now because our religion is being attacked: ‘You guys have a blasphemy law, if somebody leaves your religion, you have to cut his head off’ – that’s what we are told. The response is very simple: no. Our Sharia tells us that in lands that are not ruled by Islam… it’s not the land where Sharia is going to be implemented. So in lands other than the land of Islam, there’s no question, the Sharia would say, we don’t implement that and of course whether we implement it or not, even in Islamic lands, there is a whole long conditions for that.”

On blasphemy, he says: “To make fun of Allah and his Messenger, the punishment is death. If you ridicule, you curse Allah and his Messenger, the punishment for that is death. And the scholars said he who curses Allah’s Messenger, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), it doesn’t matter, obviously when we are in an Islamic state, we’re not talking about America or England, when we are in an Islamic state it doesn’t matter what he does after that. Even if he repents he is going to be killed. The correct opinion is that a person who curses Allah’s Messenger, and makes fun of Allah’s Messenger, and denigrates the status of Allah’s Messenger, his punishment is death as soon as he utters that statement. It doesn’t matter if he repents after that or not. His repentance is with Allah. We don’t care. Our punishment, we are not allowed to forgive that man. We have to kill him as soon as the Islamic state takes hold of him. And this is not the case in a kafir country, we don’t do this in a non-Muslim country, it’s not our right to do it.”

Like all good Islamists using double-speak to dupe the public, Qadhi says punishments against homosexuals, apostates or blasphemers are not applicable in countries that are not ruled by Sharia, whilst legitimising discrimination and violence in “Islamic lands”.

In a climate where Islamists demand the elimination of gay people from Chechnya or the hanging of apostates/blasphemers from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh to Iran, Qadhi’s hate preaching for an “Islamic charity” in the UK is nothing short of an abomination.

For more information on Qadhi, see here.

Ex-Muslims of Sri Lanka

A group of individuals, who chose to leave the religion they were born to – Islam, owing to different reasons, joined as a group to form ‘Ex-Muslims of Sri Lanka’ (EMSL), two days prior to bidding farewell to the year 2016. Coming out to the public for the first time in Sri Lanka’s history as the very first organization for those who left and wish to leave the religion of Islam was formed on 30th of December, 2016 at an undisclosed location closer to the country’s commercial capital, Colombo.

Meeting for the first time as a group, almost all its members from a handful of unidentified individuals, made use of the gathering to hold the inaugural General Meeting of the EMSL. The members belonged to almost all age categories from both genders, made it a point to share their individual experiences and why they chose not to follow the religion they were born to and becoming faithless in the religion. The members were screened and selected after their responses through the social media campaign which took months.

“It’s very disheartening to see how human values are gradually being brought to a dishonourable state by those who follow Islam with great devotion. Most of our members were serious followers while some even preached the religion, but with what’s taking place around lately, in the name of a superior power, we had to make this choice. For many of us, the decision was hard, to leave the religion we were born to, while some have always followed a middle path, which we believe is the best way of life,” one of the pioneer members, who wished to remain anonymous due to safety reasons, stated.

Formed for reasons that are genuinely human, the EMSL members point out that their individual struggles as followers or servants of an unseen divine power and strong, tradition beliefs and practices, are over. The EMSL structuring as a group is based on few vital reasons, to help and counsel those who chose to come out from the belief, make them aware that they do not have to face lashes or pay the price by being beheaded and help create a better environment for those who still follow the faith sans extremism.

“Extremism is a cancer for any religion. Islam has reached an intolerable level, globally and locally. We, as a group do not intend to fight against any of those elements or go against those who counter us, in the same form. We wish to move on, live peacefully and let others of all ethnicity enjoy the same privileges of a free and fair life”.

The EMSL is planning to come out with resolutions, which it feels are important in the name of humanity and broad-mindedness. The group comes out in Sri Lanka at a juncture where racial issues have been gradually escalating between Muslims and other religious groups after the end of the three-decade old ethnic war in 2009. Most countries in the world have come out with groups of former Muslims and in Sri Lanka it is considered the very first time that such a group has come out in public. The EMSL has adopted eleven (11) resolutions and it hopes to forward them to the Government of Sri Lanka and the general public for the further understanding, knowledge, consideration and action. (The resolutions would be shared to the media in due course).

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LifestyleBooks
The Enemy Within: A Tale of Muslim Britain by Sayeeda Warsi – review
A blinkered view of Islamism, says Maryam Namazie
Evening Standard
6 April 2016

Sayeeda Warsi’s new book catalogues some of the hypocrisy and double standards of the British Government, the rise of the far-Right and bigotry against Muslims, yet has a glaring blind spot when it comes to Islamism. According to Warsi, Islamist terrorism is the result of everything but Islamist ideology.

Since most of those killed by Islamists are “Muslims” in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa, her argument that terrorism is the result of Islamophobia, racism, foreign policy and social exclusion is unconvincing. Also, she fails to see that many aggrieved people end up involved in progressive political and civil rights work rather than inciting violence or murdering women, men and children in schools and marketplaces.

Without any apparent understanding of the context and rise of the contemporary transnational Islamist movement, including Iran’s key role in it, Warsi says “simmering resentment” began when the British Government apparently failed to prosecute Salman Rushdie for blasphemy. “Muslims,” she says, “wanted British laws to protect Islam,” and when it didn’t happen, the Iranians were more than happy to step in with what she characterises as “concern and moral support”. According to her, Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa put Iran in “pole position, ready and willing to come out leading the collective Muslim sentiment”.

Like any good apologist who is more concerned with blasphemy than murder, and who homogenises “Muslim sentiment” to coincide with her own, Warsi doesn’t seem bothered that the act of “concern” was a fatwa against a British citizen, nor that it took place during the bloody Eighties, when thousands of Iranians were executed by the regime. Warsi also seems to conveniently overlook the fact that blasphemy laws continue to persecute freethinkers such as Ayaz Nizami in Pakistan and Sina Dehghan in Iran.

Her apologia for Islamism is shocking. She says, for example, that “Islamist ideology has created a new generation of Muslim democrats” such as the AKP in Turkey (though President Erdogan has arrested tens of thousands, limited freedoms and rights of citizens, and is murdering Kurds).

She approvingly quotes a former US assistant secretary of state saying “’Islamists’ are Muslims with political goals”, which is like saying Pegida are Christians with political goals. She compares the “young men who first went out to help as the Syrian civil war started” with the International Brigades of the Spanish Civil War, which is like comparing fascists with anti-fascists.

She says prominent Islamists such as Jamaat-e-Islami and the Muslim Brotherhood are “democratically engaged both in the UK and overseas” (though in 1971 in Bangladesh, some members of Jamaat-e-Islami were implicated in organising lynchings against people demanding independence, and senior UK-based Muslim Brotherhood leader Kamal Helbawy has praised Osama Bin Laden).

Every Islamist agenda Warsi writes about, such as gender segregation, the veil or Sharia courts, is sanitised and trivialised, while almost every organisation or personality is either misunderstood, misrepresented or merely branded “controversial”.

Zakir Naik, for example, who promotes the death penalty for apostates and ex-Muslims is, according to Warsi, “considered sectarian by some, an intellectual by others, an inciter of hatred by some and an enlightened orator by others”.

Having bought into the Islamist narrative, she falsely conflates criticism of Islam and Islamism with bigotry against Muslims and uses “Islamophobia” to scaremonger people into silence. And while she is critical of identity politics and the homogenisation of “Muslims”, she — wittingly or unwittingly — promotes both.

Warsi’s solution to the situation we are faced with today is more of the same: more religion in the public space and stronger “religious identities”, though it is clearly less religion that we need, not more. And while she considers secularisation a threat, it is in fact the separation of religion from the state, universal values and citizenship rights that will provide minimum guarantees against the intolerance and violence of religion in politics and power.

Maryam Namazie is an Iranian-born co-spokesperson of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and One Law for All.

Dear friend

We hope you are well.

Increased attacks on Freethinkers

On 16 March, ex-Muslim atheist H Farook, a father of two, was hacked to death in India. He was known to our Sri Lanka affiliate organisation and was killed for his views. Several men have been arrested for his murder.

In Pakistan, Ayaz Nizami and Rana Noman have been arrested by the government on 22 March. A report in a Pakistani paper says they were arrested for uploading “blasphemous content”, including on ” Atheist & Agnostic Alliance Pakistan and CEMB forum” sites.

This follows the Pakistani government’s request that Facebook and Twitter help identify those suspected of blasphemy so it can prosecute them or pursue their extradition.

CEMB is extremely concerned for the safety and welfare of freethinkers in Pakistan and elsewhere. The government of Pakistan (and also Facebook and Twitter) must be reminded that the right to religion has a corresponding right to be free from religion and that blasphemy and apostasy are part and parcel of free conscience and expression not crimes!

This is something that the BBC needs reminding, too, given that its Asian Network asked: “What is the right punishment for blasphemy” as if blasphemy should be a punishable offence. (The BBC was forced to apologise after widespread condemnation.)

The normalisation of de jure or de facto blasphemy laws and accusations of Islamophobia when religion is criticised have created a climate where Islamic states feel free to persecute freethinkers with impunity. Motions such as the anti- Islamophobia motion passed by the Canadian parliament are no different to de facto blasphemy laws, which aim to silence critics of Islam and ex-Muslims.

It’s crucial that we defend blasphemers and apostates unequivocally and ensure that freedom of conscience and expression are upheld for all – believers and nonbelievers alike.

Safe Spaces and Freedom of Expression

Ironically, de facto blasphemy laws continue to apply at many universities in Britain and elsewhere, including under the guise of “safe spaces”. According to a recent report, more than nine in 10 UK universities are restrictive of free speech. Our Spokesperson Maryam Namazie continues to face restrictions of varying degrees, which are now more covert though no less sinister. You can find out about recent restrictions at Westminster, LSE and Goldsmiths here.

The adverse effects of safe spaces on free expression (in particular for minorities within minorities) is discussed by Maryam and Sarah Haidar of Ex-Muslims of North America at a recent Centre for Inquiry Women in Secularism conference. Maryam’s speech on the veil and women’s resistance is also available for viewing.

(As an aside, for more in depth coverage and interviews on apostasy, blasphemy and more, watch Maryam and Fariborz Pooya’s weekly taboo-breaking TV programme Bread and Roses in Persian and English, which has been deemed “immoral” and “corrupt” by the Islamic regime in Iran.)

Awards

CEMB is pleased to announce that our Spokesperson Sadia Hameed is IKWRO Winner of Special Recognition: Activist of the Year for her work against honour-related crimes. Sadia has also just launched Critical Sisters.

Furthermore, our congratulations goes out to Yasmin Rehman, winner of this year’s NSS Secularist of the Year award. Yasmin has spent the past two years bringing attention to hate crimes against ex-Muslims, amongst other important work.

22-23 July 2017 International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression

In the face of increasing persecution and censorship, our upcoming international conference aims to mark our 10th anniversary by celebrating apostasy and blasphemy and the free word. It will be an historic event and is not to be missed.

Speakers include: Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, Egyptian Feminist Activist; Bonya Ahmed, Activist, Writer and Blogger at Mukto-Mona; Deeyah Khan, Filmmaker; Djemila Benhabib, Author and Activist; Fauzia Ilyas, Founder of Atheist & Agnostic Alliance Pakistan; Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Award-winning Playwright; Inna Shevchenko, FEMEN Leader; Ismail Mohamed, Egyptian Founder of Black Ducks Talk Show; Marieme Helie Lucas, Founder of Secularism is a Women’s Issue; Nadia El Fani, Tunisian Filmmaker; Richard Dawkins, Author and Scientist; Shabana Rehman, Performance Artist; Waleed Al Husseini, Palestinian Writer and Founder of Council of Ex-Muslims of France; Zehra Pala, Activist of Atheism Association of Turkey; Zineb El Rhazoui, Moroccan-born Columnist for Charlie Hebdo and many more. See the full list of confirmed speakers here.

Buy your tickets today! No tickets will be sold at the door.

Other Upcoming Events

Please feel free to join us for monthly discussions and debates in London. The next few meet-ups are as follows:

Tuesday 4 April 2017, 6:30pm-8:30pm, Evening with Wissam Charafeddine, Co-Founder, Muslimish Support Network on Why the Classical Proof of God Does Not Work Anymore (based on his background on Islamic theology)

Tuesday 23 May 2017, 6:30pm-8:30pm, Evening with Houzan Mahmoud, Kurdish/Iraqi feminist and public lecturer and Founder of Culture Project on “Islamic feminism” – Envisioning liberation or serving Islamism?

Tuesday 27 June 2017, 6:30pm-8:30pm, Evening with Rahila Gupta, Journalist and Activist on Rojava, Northern Syria and secular space in the middle of a war

PLEASE NOTE: There is a new venue for our monthly meet-ups; if you would like to attend, please email [email protected] to register and receive further information. If you already know the new location, just show up. Suggested donation: £3 waged; £1 unwaged.

External Events

We will be speaking at a number of externally organised events in the next few months, including an Atheist Weekend in Poland, Defending Progressivism Conference in London, and a Rationalist Conference in Finland.

For the first time ever, a CEMB contingent will march in the Gay Pride Parade on 8 July. If you want to join us in the parade, email us.

Support us!

Please take some time to volunteer with us if you have time to spare; we especially need help with graphic design for leaflets, posters, and banners. Please donate to our organisation if you are able to. 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.

Warm wishes
Maryam Namazie
Sadia Hameed
Spokespersons
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/

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