Category: Press Releases

Aftab at CEMB office in London

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) is concerned to learn that one of its members and activists, Aftab Ahmed (DOB: 20-10-1986; Home Office Reference: A1879243; Tribunal reference: PA/00448/2016), has been refused asylum and protection.

As a CEMB activist, Ahmed has been involved in numerous public actions, conferences and events, including a fast-defying protest during Ramadan in solidarity with those persecuted for breaking fasting rules at the Pakistani embassy – where the Friday prayers leader said he would “not waste his breath on [us] if he knew we were apostates”  and an #ExMuslimBecause “flash-dance” at Kings Cross.

Having opening renounced and criticised Islam, Ahmed has faced threats and intimidation from family, former friends and Islamists on social media. A recent film by the award-winning filmmaker, Deeyah Khan, Islam’s Non Believers, clearly shows the risks for ex-Muslims.

CEMB believes Ahmed has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his atheism and activism; we are concerned for his safety if returned to Pakistan where blasphemy can be punishable with imprisonment and even the death penalty.

CEMB urges the authorities to grant Ahmed the protection he needs and deserves.

For more information, contact:
Maryam Namazie
Spokesperson
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/

More restrictions at UK universities

The below is a post by Spokesperson Maryam Namazie on restrictions faced when speaking at universities.

According to a recent report, more than nine in 10 UK universities are restrictive of free speech. This doesn’t surprise me at all. I continue to face restrictions of varying degrees, though this is changing due to the widespread push-back in defence of free expression.

Nowadays, I find that universities don’t bar me outright as Warwick University initially did nor do Islamic Societies (ISocs) organise to cancel and threaten my talk as at Goldsmiths. Their efforts are often more covert though no less sinister.

Take Westminster University where I will be debating Tariq Modood on Secularism and Diversity on 24 February. The Islamic Society didn’t call for an outright ban but issued a statement asking: “How do you feel about Maryam Namazie speaking?” (with the word feel underlined) and telling students to  contact the university secular adviser to “voice [their] concerns”. The Islamic Society getting in touch with its “feelings” is the same one that has members who refuse to speak to female staff and whose most infamous member was Jihadi John. Given that the event is to go ahead as planned, it will be “interesting” to see what ISoc members do on the day.

And this is an ongoing problem. When I spoke at an event organised by the LSE Human Rights Society on 27 January, the restrictions imposed were absurd. Initially I was meant to debate “whether human rights is possible under Sharia/Islamic Law” but those approached refused to debate me or pulled out at the last minute. One of those approached, Omer El Hamdoon, the president of the Muslim Association of Britain, asked to do a solo talk instead, which he did in November 2016. The stark difference in the way he and I were treated at LSE speaks volumes. Despite speaking on the very same topic (making the usual response of “what can you expect when you discuss Sharia” irrelevant), Hamdoon came and went without any concerns being raised nor any restrictions placed on his talk.

In contrast, my talk, which was initially meant to be a public event, was restricted to LSE students and staff due to “security concerns”, LSE followed “special procedures”, referred it to the “Communications Division” and imposed a chair whilst none of these were demanded of Hamdoon. When I arrived at the LSE on the night in question with a number of colleagues, the security told me I had to enter alone – instructions from the “very top” (the university eventually allowed me to enter with two of my colleagues).

It does make one wonder how I am the “security concern” (with instructions issued from the “very top”) whilst Hamdoon who has defended the shunning of ex-Muslims and death by stoning in an ideal Islamic state (audio available here) faces no restrictions whatsoever?

On 8 March 2017, I intend to return to Goldsmiths University with my co-Spokespersons Sadia Hameed and Imad Iddine Habib at the invitation of the Atheist Society to show Deeyah Khan’s recent film, Islam’s Non Believers. Again, here, the university’s Student Union has called for a “security meeting” with the organisers, decided to deny the public access to the event and will be showing a “safe space video” at the start. The SU has also insisted on filming the event themselves, and has told the Atheist Society not to do so.  Given that the Student Union tried hard to have the video showing the Goldsmiths ISoc’s harassment and threats removed from Youtube, their motive is questionable to say the least.

What these examples show very clearly are that many universities continue to buy into the Islamist narrative. The ISoc is seen to be the “legitimate” representative of “Muslim students” and dissent is seen through their eyes. Freethinkers and “apostates” are the threat and “security concern” not those who are actually inciting violence. The restrictions blame the victim and help normalise de facto blasphemy and apostasy rules at universities which should be bastions for freedom of thought and expression, including the criticism of ideas deemed sacred and taboo by religion and the religious-Right.

As I have said many times before, limiting free expression to that which is acceptable for the Islamists restricts the right to speak for those of us who need it most. For many of us, it is the only way we can fight to breath, to challenge those in power who stifle us, and to demand change.

It’s not a luxury and it is certainly not up for sale.

A few words of warning:

For the ISocs and their buddies in the Student Unions who try and impose the Islamist narrative and de facto blasphemy and apostasy laws:

I belong to the same movement that is bringing Islamism to its knees in Iran, Rojava, and elsewhere. No amount of restrictions will prevent me from speaking and standing with secularists – including many Muslims – who daily challenge the religious-Right at great risk to their lives.

For the far-Right (the mirror image of the Islamists) and those who have bought into the far-Right narrative of placing collective blame by equating Muslims and migrants with Islamists:

Crying crocodile tears for the “loss of free expression” whilst simultaneously calling for a ban on the Quran and Islam without any sense of irony doesn’t make you “defenders” of free expression – far from it.

Supplementary written evidence submitted by One Law for All
RE: New Submission by Maryam Namazie to Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry into Sharia Councils

See Submission on Home Affairs Select Committee Website

I am writing to raise serious concerns over the Home Affairs Select Committee hearing on 1 November 2016 at which I gave oral testimony and to provide further and new evidence on the matter at hand, particularly with regards the transnational Islamist links with Sharia courts as well as the discriminatory content and intent of the courts, which violate the UK’s gender equality obligations and commitments to freedom of religion and expression. Please treat this letter as a submission to the inquiry.

Key findings are:

  • Accusations of “anti-faith”, “Islamophobia” and racism constitute an attempt to delegitimise the evidence of secular witnesses to the inquiry.
  • Sharia councils violate human rights. Based on their own statements, Sharia councils  consider themselves to be courts, giving rulings on Islamic law which they consider binding on all Muslims.
  • Sharia judges have made statements supporting the criminalising of blasphemy and apostasy and justifying the killing of apostates. The label of “apostate” carries grave risk of shunning, violence and death.
  • Challenging any aspect of Sharia court decisions may lead to threats and charges of blasphemy and apostasy in Britain and abroad.
  • Sharia court jurisprudence and practice violate every article of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women ( CEDAW). In particular, they violate Article 16 on marriage and family relations. The concept of “zina” which criminalises sex outside marriage is key to understanding the operation of Sharia courts.
  • Secular values underpin human rights treaties on ending gender discrimination. They cannot be set aside in favour of religious discrimination.
  • CEDAW recommendations declare that the state must end parallel and customary legal systems as they violate women’s right to equality.
  • The law and not religion must be the key basis for securing justice for citizens and BME women.

SECTION 1: ISLAMISM, APOSTASY, ISLAMOPHOBIA AND “AUTHENTIC” MUSLIM WOMEN

Accusations of “Anti-Faith” and “Islamophobia”

  1. I would like to initially register my objection to Ms Naz Shah’s line of questioning when it came to me. She asserted:

“But Ms Namazie, according to your blog, which I read earlier, this isn’t just about Sharia courts. If we were to look at implementing your view of the world, the majority of discrimination would be faced by the 33 million Christians of this country because you would have away with Christianity and any religious institutions… What you are saying is that you are denying everybody’s religious view on life”.

  1. Since Ms Shah has not responded to my requests for clarification nor was my blog under investigation or part of the background information provided to the Committee, I am unable to address the allegations in specific. Nonetheless, Ms Shah’s line of questioning was a clear attempt to discredit my evidence solely based on my atheism and my being an ex-Muslim. There was no similar attempt to discredit any of the other nine witnesses giving oral evidence in this manner.
  1. Ms Shah wilfully conflated criticism of Islam and the Islamist movement with discrimination against believers. For those of us who have fought against the Islamist movement in our own countries and in Britain, this allegation is a long-standing one. Per Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas, a Founder of Women Living Under Muslims Laws: “Yes, we do have an already quite long experience of perversity, which magically turns the victim into the abuser and blames her for the crimes that are committed against her”. Per a statement in defence of ex-Muslims:

“…it is not an insult to Islam or any religion, if one becomes an atheist – either in public or private. It is exercising a fundamental right to freedom of conscience. Moreover, criticism of religion, including Islam, is not “Islamophobia” but exercising a fundamental right to freedom of expression. Those who “punish” or forcibly prevent freedom of conscience and expression are the ones who commit a crime – not those exercising their basic human right”.

  1. As stated in evidence submitted to the Committee by secular women’s rights campaigners including myself, Ms Shah’s line of questioning contributes to a “culture that incites religious hatred and violence towards those, especially from Muslim backgrounds, who are perceived to be apostates, atheists and non-conformists”.

Islamism and Apostasy

  1. Islam’s Non Believers“, a recent ITV documentary by award-winning filmmaker Deeyah Khan reveals that shunning, discrimination and violence against apostates is pervasive. The film highlights incitement to violence against those deemed “anti-Islam” from Muslim backgrounds here in Britain linked to the transnational Islamist movement, including via leafleting at mosques and by “community leaders” such as Shah Sadruddin. In the long term, vilification and shunning also amounts to psychological torture according to Savin Bapir-Tardy, counselling psychologist at the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation.
  1. The threats of violence are not limited to ex-Muslims and atheists from Muslim backgrounds but all those who are seen to transgress Islamist norms of the “authentic Muslim”. For example, Usama Hasan an Imam (whose father and sister are key figures in the Leyton Islamic Sharia Council) was threatened in Pakistan AND in Britain for his views on evolution and women’s rights. Secular Muslim activists like Yasmin Rehman have been branded “apostates” and “anti-faith” for speaking out against Sharia courts; Rehman has received threats of death and sexual violence as a result. Hate crimes against those deemed “apostates” are on the rise, including against Christian convert from Islam Nissar Hussain who was forced to flee his home in Bradford with his family due to violence and threats in November 2016 and Ahmadiyya Asad Shah who was murdered in Glasgow in March 2016. Far from being harmless labels, Ms Shah’s allegations feed into a climate of insecurity for dissenters.
  1. Within a global context where apostasy is punishable by death in 13 countries and a prosecutable offence along with blasphemy in many more, accusations of “anti-faith” are dangerous. Our research shows that Sharia judges in Britain promote this climate of hate and violence. The existence of Sharia courts is not just a matter for “Islamic feminists” like the Muslim Women’s Network that supports their continuation; Muslims are not a homogeneous group. Also, the courts have real and negative implications for apostates and the wider society. For example, in a ruling (now deleted; screenshot available here) on whether Muslims can marry Ahmadiyyas amongst others, the Islamic Sharia Council replied:

“The three names Ahamdies, Qadianies and Mirzai are all used for one group. They follow Mirza Ghulam Ahmed of Qadian. This group is not a Muslim group so they claim to be so Islamic Scholars of the Muslim World have declared them as non-Muslims and therefore it not only a sin but an act of heresy to marry such a person. The difference between Muslims and this group is that while all the Muslims believe in the finality of the prophet hood of Muhammed (pbuh), this group believes otherwise, therefore going against one of the basic cardinal principles of belief in Islam.”

  1. Khatme Nubbawat (affiliated to the Muslim Council of Britain) has been directly implicated in inciting violence in Pakistan that has led to the murder of Ahmadiyyas. Leaflets in Stockwell Green were distributed last year calling for the death of Ahmadiyyas for kufr and apostasy. Moalana Shahid Raza Naeemi, chairman of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (a “self-regulatory body”) and Executive Secretary and Registrar of The Muslim Law (Shariah) Council UK says:

“First of all, I’d like to say that Muslims are not seeking the introduction of all the aspects of the Sharia law, particularly the criminal law aspects, in the UK. This is not a Muslim country and we’re not seeking to change or convert this country into one. However, Sharia law says that if a Muslim changes their religion it is treason and the punishment for treason is death”.

He has been filmed speaking at a Khatme Nubbawat conference.

  1. Sharia judges have promoted the death penalty for apostasy. For example, Haitham al Haddad (who has submitted written evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee and was until recently a Sharia judge at the Islamic Sharia Council) has said: “apostasy deserves, once the conditions are met, deserves capital punishment in an Islamic State and I can say this openly; I am not here to hide it“.

Suhaib Hasan, a co-founder of the Islamic Sharia Council in Leyton (and father of Khola Hasan who gave oral evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee), is a member of The European Council for Fatwa and Research chaired by Yusuf al-Qaradawi who says that killing apostates is essential.

  1. In the testimonies gathered by the One Law for All coalition (which includes Southall Black Sisters, Iranian Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, Centre for Secular Space, Culture Project and Nari Diganta), Nadia Sadiq went before a judge at the Green Lane Mosque in Birmingham, which is a Salafi mosque where Abu Usamah has said women were created deficient and “whoever changes his religion, kill him“. Habiba Jan, another woman who has submitted a testimony, went to a Sharia court judged by Anjem Choudary who defends the death penalty for apostasy and stoning to death for adultery.
  1. Even questioning the competency or relevance of Sharia courts is equated with “disbelief”, a form of kufr, which has serious penalties include the death penalty in some countries. The Islamic Sharia Council, for example, has said (now deleted but screenshot available here):

“As a Muslim we should know that our religion is perfect without any imperfection as Allah says; ‘this day, I have perfected your religion for you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion’. Therefore, belittling them or calling them as out-of-date constitutes disbelief as Allah says”.

  1. In a Channel 4 documentary, Suhaib Hasan of the Islamic Sharia Council says to a woman who questions his unfair ruling: “there is no exception to this rule; in the Sharia there is no exception, you have to accept it”. The promotion of the Sharia that cannot be questioned or challenged is a calling card of the Islamist movement despite the fact that “Sharia is not the 6th pillar of Islam” according to Muslim secularist and Trustee of Centre for Secular Space Yasmin Rehman.
  1. As Karima Bennoune, author of Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here and the current UN Rapporteur on Culture says:

“Muslim fundamentalism… stands out… by dint of its transnational nature, the ubiquity of its adherents, and the sophistication and reach of its armed groups. Muslim fundamentalists believe in the imposition of “God’s law” or sharia – and only their version of it. Beyond the law, Bennoune says, fundamentalists denounce secularists and seek to bring politicised religion to all spheres”.

  1. Founding organisations of the Islamic Sharia Council are further examples of the transnational Islamist links. They include:

* London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Center (whose Trustees include officials from the governments of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Brunei, Qatar, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan – many of which punish apostasy with the death penalty and have discriminatory family laws. Ahmad Al-Dubayan who gave oral evidence at the Home Affairs Select Committee as the Chairman of the UK Board of Sharia Councils which aims to “regulate” the courts is Director General of this centre.)

* Muslim World League (which propagates Saudi Wahabbism, the Muslim Brotherhood played a role in its founding)

* Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith (involved in promoting sectarianism and jihad in the Indian sub-continent)

* UK Islamic Mission (inspired by Jamaat e Islami and Syed Abul Ala Maududi and shares the same ideology as Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood)

* Dawatul Islam, UK (UK branch of the Bangladeshi Jamaat e Islami. In 1971, some of the Jamaat e Islami were implicated in running death squads and organising lynchings against people demanding independence)

* Jamia Mosque & Islamic Center, Birmingham (where protestors marched from the mosque after Friday prayers to the Bangladesh High Commission in Birmingham after the execution of a Bangladeshi Islamist convicted of atrocities committed during the 1971 war of independence with Pakistan following the country’s war crimes tribunal)

* Muslim Welfare House, London (was founded by Kamal Helbawy of the Muslim Brotherhood who has praised Osama Bin Laden. They have fatwas defending polygamy and prohibiting Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men as well as campaigned to stop the selling of alcohol)

Identity Politics and the “Authentic Muslim Woman”

  1. Accusations of Islamophobia against secular women’s rights campaigners deceptively conflate criticism of religion and the religious-far-Right with bigotry against believers so as to scaremonger critics into silence. These accusations provide a pretext to discount evidence by those who are not “authentic Muslims” or are secularists like Yasmin Rehman, Gina Khan, Gita Sahgal, Pragna Patel and Southall Black Sisters , the Centre for Secular Space as well as One Law for All and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain that have been at the forefront of defending women’s rights, including those of Muslim women, for decades.
  1. The identity politics that the Muslim Women’s Network and Naz Shah promote homogenises “Muslim women” as supporters of some form of Sharia courts whilst portraying secular feminist opponents of Sharia courts as “anti-Islam” and “Islamophobes”. But this is dishonest to say the least. Elham Manea, an academic who gave oral evidence at the 1 November Home Affairs Select Committee and is opposed to the courts is a Muslim. Her recent book “Women and Sharia Law: The Impact of Legal Pluralism in the UK”, which was sent to all the Select Committee members, makes a very clear case for why the courts must be abolished.
  1. Moreover, many BME women including Muslims signed on to an open letter to the Home Secretary calling for the law and not religion to be the basis of justice for citizens. The independent review ordered by the Home Secretary was called a whitewash because it sought out “best practice” rather than properly investigating the existence of parallel courts, and the violations that they commit. Campaigners across Britain and many prominent feminists and human rights advocates (including Muslim reformers associated with the international network Women Living Under Muslim Laws) were concerned that it was chaired by a theologian and not a judge, and because imams were placed as advisors (one imam has removed evidence gathered on him by One Law for All). An investigation by Gita Sahgal of the Centre for Secular Space also revealed that the Judge who is part of the Sharia review belongs to a Christian fundamentalist lawyers’ organisation that has campaigned against marriage equality.  The review is more suited to a discussion of theology than one which serves the needs of victims and is capable of investigating the full range of harms particularly for women, caused by Sharia councils and tribunals.
  1. In a 2011 article, Cassandra Balchin, a founder of the Muslim Women’s Network wrote “those who have a political stake in being seen as the legitimate representatives of an essentialised Muslim community are part of this problem”. Naz Shah, Shaista Gohir, the Muslim Women’s Network and Apna Haq – with their allegations of racism and Islamophobia  – personify Balchin’s statement.
  1. In the same article, Balchin speaks of how Sharia law is highly contested across time and geography and that it involves power, contestation and politics. She goes on:

“Thus the interpretations of, for example, women’s right to divorce by Britain’s Sharia councils must be seen as an ideological statement. Having married and divorced in Pakistan, having edited “Knowing our Rights”, and having assisted dozens of women in crisis in Britain who have interacted with the Sharia councils, I can confidently state that the Sharia council interpretations here in Britain are among the most conservative and gender discriminatory in the world”.

  1. Similar to a submission to the Home Affairs Select Committee asking why it is only seeking evidence from those who have used Sharia courts, Balchin asks:

“What about those women who never go to the Sharia councils, why is their opinion never sought? Are they somehow not ‘real Muslims’ in the eyes of academics and policy makers and thus not worthy of policy consideration?”

  1. Shaista Gohir of Muslim Women’s Network says that “on matters of faith, Muslim women can speak for themselves” but clearly not all “Muslim women” agree just as all “Christian women”, “Jewish women” or “atheist women” agree. Moreover, religious courts addressing women’s status and rights in the family are hardly matters of faith but of the law, political power and access to justice.
  1. Gita Sahgal of the Centre for Secular Space says:

Our testimonies show that Muslim women are coerced and bullied to get them to appear before a court. Women we know have been raped, isolated or shunned as a direct result of their experience of Sharia courts. Is it Islamophobic to stand up to these practices?  It is really shocking that an MP and the Muslim Women’s Network which has been carrying out a hostile Twitter campaign, should have contributed to the extreme risk that activists and  survivors  face.  Neither the review (which does not have these issues in its terms of reference)  nor the Home Affairs Select Committee are examining apostasy, blasphemy, ‘Zina’ or sex outside marriage, which are extremely serious crimes under fundamentalist interpretations of Sharia.  In many countries, all these ‘crimes’ carry the death penalty. Where fundamentalists cannot impose a death penalty, they incite terror in the community. The impunity that Sharia courts enjoy must be ended”.

Section 2: DISCRIMINATORY INTENT AND NATURE OF SHARIA COURTS

  1. By permitting the existence of Sharia councils and other parallel legal systems Britain is failing to meet its obligations to gender equality in marriage and family relations . Article 16 1. of CEDAW on marriage and family relations:

” States parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women: (a) The same right to enter into marriage; (b) The same right freely to choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent; (c) The same rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution; (d) The same rights and responsibilities as parents, irrespective of their marital status, in matters relating to their children; in all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount; (e) The same rights to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights; (f) The same rights and responsibilities with regard to guardianship, wardship, trusteeship and adoption of children, or similar institutions where these concepts exist in national legislation; in all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount; (g) The same personal rights as husband and wife, including the right to choose a family name, a profession and an occupation; (h) The same rights for both spouses in respect of the ownership, acquisition, management, administration, enjoyment and disposition of property, whether free of charge or for a valuable consideration. 2. The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory”.

Court or Mediation body

  1. Proponents say Sharia councils are not courts and parallel legal systems but mediation bodies and a “service” for the provision of Islamic divorce. Many of those attending the courts are victims of domestic violence and abuse so faith-based mediation should be discouraged due to safeguarding standards and good practice (though it is not). In fact, however, “mediation” is used as a smokescreen for bodies that are set up as courts. The term Sharia means law; when Islamists run things – it means the law. Those presiding call themselves judges and issue what is often considered by the judges, women themselves and the wider community as binding religious law with regards to family matters.
  1. Even Sharia bodies call themselves courts. See for example the Islamic Sharia Council website. In the “About Us” section, it says (screenshot in case it is deleted):

“A group of concerned Muslim scholars and field workers among the Muslim community, aware of the acute sense of alienation felt by many Muslims, when it comes to solving their personal problems, met together in mid-1982, at the Central Mosque of Birmingham and decided to establish “The Islamic Shari’a Council” to be a quasi-Islamic Court. It would apply Islamic rules in what was presented to it, of the Family problems in particular and any Islamic questions in general.”

  1. The Birmingham Central Mosque says on its website (screenshot in case it is deleted):

“This body deals with matters of Fiqa, Marriage and Divorce. The Shariah Council is made up of elders who are well versed in the science of Islamic jurisprudence and Islamic matters and rulings. Birmingham Central Mosque is the only Islamic institution in Britain in which a woman has been elected as a high official of a Shariah court second to a judge. The Shariah Council is the formal body of legal Islamic opinion and jurisdiction for local Muslims and the community”. [of note is that even though we have been told they have a woman Sharia judge, their website states “a woman has been elected as a high official of a Shariah court second to a judge“. [It is noteworthy that their celebrated woman judge is actually “second to a judge”.]

  1. The CEDAW Committee states in its comment on Article 16 of CEDAW:

The Committee has consistently expressed concern that identity-based personal status laws and customs perpetuate discrimination against women and that the preservation of multiple legal systems is in itself discriminatory against women. Lack of individual choice relating to the application or observance of particular laws and customs exacerbates this discrimination”.

Divorce

  1. In Sharia courts, women and men are unequal in every aspect, including with regards the right to divorce. Men, for example, have unilateral right to divorce via the triple talaq rule whilst women’s rights to divorce are limited. The Islamic Sharia Council explains it as follows (deleted from their website but screenshot is available here):

“As for the three Talaqs pronounced separately in three consecutive months, the wife in such a case is separated from her husband permanently. The husband has the right to take her back (known as Ruju’) after the first or second Talaq, but not the third Talaq, which is the final one.

Pronouncing the word “Talaq” Three Times in one Sitting is counted as one Talaq in accordance with the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAWS). The husband would still have the right to Ruju’ after such a Talaq within the Iddat period and can take back his wife by having two witnesses present”.

  1. Whilst women have the right to divorce, they must effectively return any financial settlement due in order to be released from the marriage in a Khula. The inherent inequity in content and intent should be clear to any impartial observer. The Islamic Sharia Council explains it as follows (now deleted from their website but screenshot available here):

“The situation in which the wife initiates divorce proceedings is known as Khul’a. Once the husband agrees to divorce her in exchange for some money or the remission of her dower, the divorce is known as Talaq. It is valid as the Talaq given by the man of his own initiative. Khul’a depends upon the agreement reached between the two parties. If the husband agrees to give Talaq provided that his wife either abandon her right to the dower (if the dower has not yet been paid) or return back the amount of the dower to the husband (if the dower had been paid). Once the husband agrees to Khul’a, he is asked to pronounce TALAQ in exchange for the above-mentioned”.

  1. CEDAW Committee in a general recommendation on the economic consequences of marriage, family relations and their dissolution says “States parties should eliminate any procedural requirement of payments to obtain a divorce that does not apply equally to husbands and wives”. There are numerous other recommendations about eliminating financial inequality on the dissolution of marriage including “Eliminate different standards of fault for wives than for husbands, such as requiring proof of greater infidelity by a husband than by a wife as a basis for divorce”.
  2. During the Home Affairs Select Committee hearing, there was much talk of Sharia courts recognising civil divorces. As was rightly mentioned, even in many Muslim majority countries like Pakistan, a civil divorce in Britain is considered a valid divorce. So why the need for a Sharia court? Much of the increased “need” for these courts have grown out of propaganda that invalidates civil divorces. According to the Islamic Sharia Council, for example, on “when a civil divorce is recognised Islamically” (which has now been deleted but screenshot available here):

“The right of divorce is primarily with the husband in the Shari’a. A decree of divorce issued by a civil Court will be valid if:

  1. The husband is the petitioner, or:
  2. The Husband consents to the divorce in writing.

If neither of the above is the case, then the wife may apply for an Islamic divorce through the Council. An application for divorce by the wife is known as Khul’a, a condition of which is that the wife returns to the husband any Maher (dower) or jewellery she received from him, if he so demands”.

  1. Haitham Al Haddad, a Sharia judge with the Islamic Sharia Council until recently explains the various forms of divorce via a fatwa here:

“The following points briefly illustrate the ways in which an Islamic marriage comes to an end. Ending a marriage in Islam can take place by one of three main methods:

Talaq: This form of divorce is the sole right of the husband whereby he pronounces the word divorce, talaq or any other similar word (in any language) to establish a divorce. No one may deprive him of this right given that he has been awarded such a right by God. This right belongs only to the husband and moreover, he does not need the consent or approval of any one, including his wife. Therefore, a woman divorcing her husband is Islamically incorrect and is invalid as a female has no such recourse to such a right, although she may request the conclusion of the marriage through other means. Similarly, an Islamic judge cannot issue a divorce but he can (once being recognised as an Islamic judge) issue a faskh (marriage dissolution).

Khul’: It is a divorce issued by the husband in exchange of money. It happens when the wife requests her husband to divorce her, but he refuses unless she returns her dowry. Again, it is the right of the husband and is conditional to his approval.

Faskh; it is a marriage dissolution issued by a judge in response to a request by the wife and normally takes place against the will of the husband. However, the judge has to be appointed either by the leader of the Muslims, or by the Muslim community, or at least recognized as being an Islamic judge by the vast majority of the Muslim community. Merely being an imam neither suffices nor authorises him to dissolve marriages.

All of the Islamic (legal) schools of thoughts agree that the Islamic judge who implements Islamic law must be privy to certain requirements such as being a Muslim. In the Qur’an it is stated, “And never will Allah grant to the disbelievers a way (to triumph) over the believers”.

  1. In the fatwa, Haitham Al Haddad makes clear that civil divorces are not Islamically recognised if initiated by women. The Fatwa says:

“…divorce issued by the civil court in response to the wife’s request is neither a valid divorce nor legitimate marriage dissolution. This means that such a wife remains a wife and is not free to marry another man. Marrying another man while the original marriage is still in place is a violation of Islamic law and a crime. What is more dangerous than this is the fact that all children she gives birth to before obtaining a proper marriage dissolution may be considered to be of the first husband from whom she assumed she had been divorced. Wives who face intolerable situations may seek marriage dissolution by a recognized body that is known and accepted in acting as a judiciary body for Muslims. No single imam or Mufti can do that by himself”.

  1. The underlying threat of accusations of “zina” or adultery is always the sub-text of any discussion on women’s “right” to divorce. This is evident in the testimonies we have gathered and reveals the coercive nature of such threats over women who fear being ostracised and vilified for “dishonouring” the family or community. The absurdity of claims that Sharia courts reduce abuse and discrimination when they are the cause of it seems to have alluded some. According to Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas:

“How could it be detrimental to women to benefit from laws they can vote and help modify according to their will and rights as citizens? How could it be beneficial to women to be held under laws that they cannot vote for or against, that they cannot change and which are subject to the exclusive interpretations of most conservative men who self-appoint  themselves as interpreters of god’s will? It amounts to saying that exercising one’s democratic rights is detrimental to women’s rights. How could it increase abuse? From the point of view of strict logic, I would be interested in knowing how can it be demonstrated that exercising one’s rights is detrimental to one’s rights”.

  1. The “right” to divorce is actively discouraged by Sharia bodies more concerned with keeping male “honour” than women’s rights, which is why there are many examples whereby they have tried to reconcile the spouses despite violence and orders of protection. If you look at the Islamic Sharia Council website regarding advice to “Women Seeking Divorce” (deleted now but a screenshot is available here), it starts with:

“The prophet Muhammad has said what could be translated to, ‘The women who seek divorce (‘khul’a’), without good reason are hypocrites'”.

  1. Sanitised evidence given to the Home Affairs Select Committee on the “divorce service” Sharia courts provide, including through deception and removal of incriminating fatwas and rulings on their websites, ignores the fact that men’s rights are being packaged and rebranded as women’s rights, including by Islamic feminists. Also what has been completely sidelined is the reality that the courts address family related issues, many of which are crimes under British law, including polygamy, marital rape, domestic violence, child marriage, child custody, hijab, LGBT rights, inheritance, apostasy and not just divorce. [If they do not address  other criminal matters, it is only because according to their pronouncements, Britain is not an Islamic State; it is not because they disapprove of criminal punishments.]

Polygamy

  1. On the issue of polygamy, the Islamic Sharia Council promotes this too. On their website (now deleted but screenshot available here), in response to what a man must do with his two wives when immigrating to the UK, they say:

“He should try to keep both wives. Either visiting the one, in her Muslim homeland from time to time if he can afford to do so or to bring one of them to U.K. through a valid visa. Just emigration to U.K., is not a valid reason to divorce one of them”.

  1. Amra Bone, the Birmingham Sharia Council’s “judge” has been quoted saying “the government cannot ask Muslims not to have more than one wife. People have a right to decide for themselves”. Again, men’s right to have up to four wives is promoted as a right for the entire community. As many of our testimonies attest, however, polygamy has devastating effects for women and the children of such “marriages”. According to Muslim women’s rights campaigner Yasmin Rehman who has done a 6 year extensive research on polygamy: “…it’s a conducive context for violence against women and girls. It’s abusive; it’s unequal in terms of gender… We know it can be used as a means of engaging in child marriage, forced marriage, there is domestic violence, there is sexual violence…”
  1. According to Women’s Rights Campaigner and a One Law for All Spokesperson, Gina Khan, who has interviewed numerous women who lives have been adversely affected by polygamy: “why isn’t anyone addressing the impingement on the human rights of married women who must silently live with this practice enforced upon them by husbands, families and mullahs?”.
  1. CEDAW Committee General Recommendation 21 , Equality in marriage and family relations says:

“States parties’ reports also disclose that polygamy is practiced in a number of countries. Polygamous marriage contravenes a woman’s right to equality with men, and can have such serious emotional and financial consequences for her and her dependents that such marriages ought to be discouraged and prohibited. The Committee notes with concern that some States parties, whose constitutions guarantee equal rights, permit polygamous marriage in accordance with personal or customary law. This violates the constitutional rights of women, and breaches the provisions of article 5 (a) of the Convention.

Further, the Committee indicates that a state is breaching its obligations under the Convention by not actively prohibiting polygamy in customary marriages. While most countries report that national constitutions and laws comply with the Convention, custom, tradition and failure to enforce these laws in reality contravene the Convention”.

Marital Rape and Sexual Abuse

  1. MaulanaAbu Sayeed, chairperson of the Islamic Sharia Council, has said thatmarital rape is not an offence because “sex is part of marriage”. He considers it “not Islamic” to classify non-consensual marital sex as rape. He says calling it rape is a major aggression. Khola Hasan, a Sharia judge at the Islamic Sharia Council has legitimised his statement and said “Maulana Abu Sayeed is a highly respected scholar. He was quoting the traditional Islamic discussion regarding rape within marriage”.
  1. However, this is a perspective that is actively promoted by the courts, including her own. For example, when asked for a ruling on a woman who “refuses to respond to her husband’s sexual needs” because of “abuse in childhood”, the Islamic Sharia Council advises the wife to read books such as the Ideal Muslimah, quotes hadith which says that women’s treatment of her husband decides whether she goes to heaven or hell, mentions that “The angels’ curse will befall every woman who is rebellious and disobedient; this does not excludes those who are too slow and reluctant to respond to their husbands”, and that she must respond to her husband’s sexual urges even if she is riding a camel. It goes on to say:

“Narrated by Abdullah the prophet said, “there are three people whose prayers will not be accepted, neither their good works:

“A disobedient slave until he returns to his masters and puts his hand in theirs

“A woman whose husband is angry with her, until he is pleased with her again

“And the drunkard until he becomes sober” reported by Ibn Hibban

“The warning given to women whose husband is angry with her reaches such an extent that it would shake the conscience of every righteous wife who has faith in Allah and the last day. She is told that her prayer and good deeds will not be accepted, until her husband is pleased with her again.

“Conclusion:

“After this advice, if your wife should persist upon not responding to your sexual needs then you should divorce her. This is because a woman who can not have conjugal relationship should not be married in the first place”.  (This is no longer on their website but available via screenshot here.)

Domestic Violence and Child Custody

  1. Very often, child custody is used to exert further pressure on women who have faced domestic violence. It’s unsurprising that the Iranian Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation says the process of the courts themselves amount to abuse.
  1. In a documentary called Secrets of Britain’s Sharia courts (Part 1 and Part 2), Sonia who had secured a civil divorce was told by the Islamic Sharia Council that she would have to give up child custody to her ex-husband (who had been allowed only indirect access to the children). In the documentary she says: “I could not bear the thought of such a violent person having my children. What was shocking was when I explained to them why he should not have that access to the children, their reaction was, well, you cannot go against what Islam says.”
  1. Another woman, Cara, who was in a shelter after being abused by her husband was told she had to be accompanied by him to the court for arbitration. She said: Surely they can see that women who have been through this cannot be forced to meet up with someone who is abusing them”. An undercover reporter was told going to the shelter was a ” bad option” by judge Suhaib Hasanwho says:

“I think you should be courageous enough to ask this question to him. Just tell me why are you upset huh? Is it because of my cooking? Is it because I see my friends huh? So I can correct myself”.

  1. The Dewsbury Sharia Council mentioned by Apne Haq as an exemplary court insists that women attend hearings with their husbands. On their website, they say (screenshot available here):

“At the same time, the husband (respondent) will be contacted with a copy of his wife’s reasons for wanting a divorce requesting him to clarify his position in the matter.

If he writes to the Council and asks for reconciliation.

The applicant will be contacted again and instructed accordingly by the Council (with a copy of the respondent’s letter).

The Council will arrange a meeting between both parties at the Council in an effort to resolve the case by reconciling both parties or issuing a divorce. It is necessary for the applicant (wife) to attend the meeting. Otherwise a judgement cannot be passed.

Normally at the request of the respondent (husband) the Council allows a reasonable period of time for reconciliation efforts to be made by the husband through his own resources and family contacts.

However, if the applicant does not agree to reunite, then eventually the Council, under the rules of Islamic Law, will have to dissolve the Nikah ( marriage) and issue a Divorce Certificate to the applicant. (Reconciliation can take place only if both parties agree to it.)”

  1. In the documentary mentioned above, Ayesha who had been physically abused and her husband imprisoned for his violence, was told by the Dewsbury Sharia Council to go to mediation despite injunctions issued by a British court. According to Ayesha, “I cannot do that because he is not even allowed near my house, and because I am frightened. I cannot face him… but they did not take any notice.” After an outside lawyer became involved, Dewsbury Sharia Council agreed to see Ayesha on her own but took 2 years to grant her a divorce, by which time her ex-husband had re-married in Pakistan.

48.Whilst the Sharia courts say they do not deal with child custody issues, the above cases as well as rulings on their websites say otherwise. When questioned on “What age is it suitable for children to live with the father” upon divorce, they issued ruling that the child must go to the father at a preset age, irrespective of child welfare rules (advice is no longer on their website but screenshot available here):
“Till the age of seven the mother has the sole right to have the custody of the child if she marries someone who is not related to the child, she loses her right in the custody. If the child were still under seven, he would be given custody of a female (preferably among the mother’s relatives like his maternal aunt or grandmother). But if he is above seven, he is no more in need of a woman’s care and he is to be in custody of the father“.

Hijab

49. The courts also address issues such as the veil. The Islamic Sharia court has ruled (no longer on their website but a screenshot is available here):“It is obligatory for a woman to cover her whole body whenever she comes out of home in accordance with the saying of Allah.

‘O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when out of doors): That is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’ (33: 59).

The Arabic word for outer garment used in the Qur’an is ‘Jilbab’. It is reported in an authentic hadith the when this verse was revealed, the women in Madina wrapped themselves in such a way that their heads used to be seen as if crows were upon them. They just left their eyes open to see the way when they walk.

“A woman is required to cover her head whether she is alone or in presence of someone else in accordance to the saying of the Prophet (SAWS):

“Allah does not accept the prayer of an adult woman without s scarf”.
As to why she is required to cover her body in such a way, the answer is that the woman herself is ‘Awrah’ (meant to be covered).
The main objective behind is to cover her eyes of the non-related (Mahram) men to avoid attraction or temptation. The display of the beauty or the part of woman and free mixing with men lead to scandals like that of Mr Clinton & Monica which is not acceptable in Islam which invites for a clean and pure society”.

50. The Birmingham Sharia Council has also ruled that the hijab is compulsory. So much for the propaganda on the “right” and “choice” to veil. In a letter, they write:

“In Islam hijab is compulsory and any woman who denies the ruling of hijab is disobeying her Lord and is rebelling against the Islamic law”.

Women’s Testimony

51. Evidence given at the Home Affairs Select Committee hearing stated that women’s testimony was worth half that of a man’s  only in financial transactions. This is blatantly untrue and applies to divorce amongst others. The Islamic Sharia Council explains it here (deleted from their website but available via screenshot):

” There are issues where only women’s testimony is enough like those related to birth of a child, the period of suckling and weaning. In such cases, which are normally handled by the women, testimony of a single lady is accepted…

Cases of serious nature, like that of fornication, adultery and rape attract a very hard punishment in Islam. Flogging a hundred times for unmarried couples and stoning to the married ones. To prove such an allegation, even two male witnesses are not enough, but four of them are required. Suppose those who witnessed were women alone. If the number of witnesses is doubled, less would be the chance for the implementation of this punishment. Many people do not object a lot to these ways of punishment but they do not realize how difficult it has been made in Islam, to prove such allegations. [Author’s Note: Confession, including under duress, is in fact the main way in which adultery is proven in countries where stoning to death is legal].

The text (Surah Al-Baqara 2:282) which requires two female witnesses in place of one male witness, gives a clear reason for it i.e. “if one of them forgets, the other reminds her.” Is this derogatory to the status of the women or is it a revealed secret about the nature of the women? Though much has been said about the difference between a man’s brain and that of a women but I would rather like to quote the latest research made about this issue. According to a survey, as published in Los Angeles Times (U.S.A) , made involving fifty men and women for quite a considerable time, the out come was as follows:

 Man’s mind is uni-focal while the women’s mind is multi-focal. In other words, a man would be fully occupied with the task he is involved with; he may not be distracted by anything else while being engaged in his activity. On the other hand, a woman may be busy in kitchen work and she will be easily alert to a phone buzzer or her infants cry from the cradle. In a way she is found to be more sensitive and active in her dealings. Thus she has got a very praise worthy character but that is not so good for a case of testimony which requires more attention and concentration. What is wrong then, if a second woman is needed, only to remind her is she fails to deliver her testimony completely. So it is a case of verification of the testimony, not that of degradation to the status of the women at all.  

In many other matters, the nature of women are considered. For example, the right of divorce is vested in the hand of the man while she is allowed to ask for divorce either directly or through a Qadi (Judge). Why? Because the women are kind-hearted human beings who are governed by their emotions, a character strongly needed for bringing up the children. On the other hand, man is governed by his mind more than his emotions. He would think twice but more than that before uttering the word “Talaq” (divorce). Even if he misuses this word (as noticed again and again) a long procedure following a divorce i.e. the Iddat period of a woman, allows him to retract the step he has taken. He can revoke that Talaq within this cooling period of approximately three months time.

To deny the difference between the two genders is a denial of truth. Allah who created us, gave us rulings according to our nature. And all is well as long as we go by the nature”.

Child Marriage and Forced Marriage

  1. The Centre for Islamic Pluralism international director Irfan Al-Alawi said he knew of a 15-year-old girl in Pakistan who was tricked into marriage over the telephone with a 40-year-old man from Sheffield, who had the mental age of a four-year-old child. “The Home Office refused to recognise the validity of the marriage but the Islamic Sharia Council in Britain accepted it”.
  1. Hundreds of “child brides” every year – some as young as 6 – as well as a report that at least 30 girls, some as young as 9, were married under Sharia law in one London borough alone reveals another area in which the courts are clandestinely involved.

SECTION 3: OPPOSING RACISM AND CULTURAL RELATIVISM AND DEFENDING SECULARISM

Opposing Racism and Sexism

  1. Accusations of racism against women’s rights activists for campaigning against Sharia courts ignores the racism underlying culturally relative standards and rights for BME women. With cuts in legal aid, and the privatisation of justice, BME women are more often than not being fobbed off to sub-standard courts with the police, councils and social services often collaborating. As secularist campaigners around the One Law for All coalition have shown, it’s crucial to oppose racism and sexism and not allow one to be excused in the fight against the other. Moreover, the demand for an end to Sharia courts must be within a framework that calls for the dismantling of all parallel legal systems, including the Beth Din.
  1. The call for dismantling parallel legal systems is not an attack on religious beliefs but a defence of gender equality. A legal memo for One Law for All on the Universities UK’s sex segregation guidance, which was withdrawn after a successful campaign by the One Law for All coalition and other campaigners is relevant here. Rights to free exercise of religion and freedom of expression are not absolute and may not be used to violate the rights of others to gender equality. If the international community takes these claims seriously and prioritizes religious claims over gender non-discrimination, basic guarantees of women’s rights are weakened for women worldwide”.
  1. The legal memo explains that CEDAW, the ICESCR, and the ICCPR —all of which the UK has ratified—define “discrimination against women” as “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise by women. . . of human rights and fundamental freedoms.” This definition may be broken into three elements:
  1. A) A distinction, exclusion, or restriction on the basis of sex
  2. B) With the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying women’s human rights and fundamental freedoms
  3. C) In a political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.

Sharia courts, which distinguishes men from women and excludes or restricts women’s rights meets the elements in this broad definition of discrimination.

Religious-Right versus Right to Religion

  1. According to Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters, “Muslim fundamentalists have mounted what can be described as a two pronged pincer like manoeuvre based ostensibly on the demand for religious tolerance, but which is in reality a bid for power in which the control of female sexuality is central. On the one hand they seek to ensure that personal religious codes are normalised within the legal system, and on the other they seek to formalise a parallel legal system through the establishment of alternative religious forums for dispute resolution in family matters. This process – a sort of ‘shariafication by stealth’ of the legal apparatus – involves making state law and policy ‘Sharia’ compliant”.
  1. What is often touted as “religious rights” is in fact an imposition by the religious-Right and Islamists and aims to implicate the state in the implementation of inequalities in the name of rights. As author and human rights lawyer, Karima Bennoune says:

“…in applying freedom of religion, both those who believe and those who choose not to believe, as well as those who seek to manifest belief and those who do not wish to be coerced to do so, must be taken into consideration. This is only possible in a framework of secularism…

“…The term secularism here means emphasis on the temporal over the religious in law and an accompanying minimization of the role of religion in the functioning of the state and legal system. The significance of the temporal for human rights is not that it is always morally superior to the religious, but rather that it is contestable. The temporal allows space for dissent which the ‘you cannot argue with God’ paradigm foreclose”.

  1. This is not about limiting religion to the private domain. Religion and atheism are matters of conscience. Eliminating religion from the law and women’s status in the family is not about limiting conscience but defending gender equality and also challenging fundamentalist impositions posing as choice and rights.

Regulation versus Abolition

  1. As the duplicity of the Sharia courts evidenced in this submission reveal, regulation will have little effect in improving BME women’s lives and rights. The courts are already being regulated in some ways, including via the Charity Commission or MINAB but no amount of regulation will make the courts “naturally redundant”. The more normalised they become, the more they will limit women’s rights. This has been the experience of many of us who have fled Islamic states and sought refuge in Britain. Also if one has to wait for self-regulation and increased awareness, we will be waiting forever.
  1. There will always be Muslim women who support Sharia courts, as there will be Muslim women who oppose them. The point is not about the faith or identities of proponents and opponents but whether the British state wants to normalise and institutionalise gender discrimination or instead defend equality of citizens irrespective of beliefs and background.
  1. Abolishing Sharia courts and parallel legal systems will not solve all the problems at hand; criminalising FGM or domestic violence has not ended them either. It will however make very clear what is acceptable and what is not and will underline a commitment to gender equality.

One Law for All

  1. As mentioned in the One Law for All report Sharia Law in Britain: A Threat to One Law for All and Equal Rights, despite all efforts to package Sharia’s civil code as mundane, its imposition represents a concerted attempt by Islamists to gain further influence in Britain.

Clearly, Sharia courts are not compliant with either British law or international human rights treaties. By undermining British legal principles of equality before the law, the universal concept of one law for all and the protection of the rights of women and children, these courts help to increase discrimination, intimidation and threats against the most vulnerable. By accommodating them, the government is itself in breach of its obligations.  The law and not religion must be the key basis for securing justice for all citizens.

Maryam Namazie
Spokesperson
One Law for All
BM Box 2387, London WC1N 3XX, UK
tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
email: [email protected]
web: http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/

The below was published in The Freethinker.

I gave oral evidence at the Home Affairs Select Committee evidence session on Sharia Councils on November 1 on why Sharia courts in Britain are an Islamist project to control women, are discriminatory and should be dismantled. (This was preceded by a written statement.)

When questioned by MP Naz Shah, above, though, one would have thought it was I and not Sharia courts that were under investigation.  She said:

But Ms Namazie, according to your blog, which I read earlier, this isn’t just about Sharia courts. If we were to look at implementing your view of the world, the majority of discrimination would be faced by the 33 million Christians of this country because you would have away with Christianity and any religious institutions … What you are saying is that you are denying everybody’s religious view on life.

Naz Shah also accused opponents of “Islamophobia”.

The accusations were a clear attempt to discredit my evidence solely based on my atheism and being an ex-Muslim. There was no similar attempt to discredit any of the other nine witnesses giving oral evidence in this manner – including those who actually ran the discriminatory Sharia courts.

The wilful conflation between criticism of religion and the religious-Right with discrimination against believers is nothing new. Nor is the attempt to vilify dissenters.

As Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas says:

Yes, we do have an already quite long experience of perversity, which magically turns the victim into the abuser and blames her for the crimes that are committed against her.

Whether she realises it or not, Naz Shah’s line of questioning  feeds into a “culture that incites religious hatred and violence towards those, especially from Muslim backgrounds, who are perceived to be apostates, atheists and non-conformists”.

This is especially true in a context where atheists are executed in 13 countries and incitement to violence, discrimination and shunning are pervasive, including in Britain – as was highlighted in a recent ITV documentary by award-winning filmmaker Deeyah Khan, Islam’s Non Believers.

And the threats of violence are not limited to ex-Muslims and atheists from Muslim backgrounds but all those who are seen to challenge Islamist norms of the “authentic Muslim”, including for example, Usama Hasan, above, an imam who was threatened in Pakistan and in Britain for his views on evolution and women’s rights, and secular Muslim women’s rights activists like Yasmin Rehman who have been branded “apostates” and “anti-faith” for speaking out against Sharia courts.

Hate crimes against those deemed “apostates” are on the rise, including against Christian covert from Islam Nissar Hussain who was forced to flee his home in Bradford with his family due to violence and threats in November 2016 and Ahmadiyya Asad Shah who was murdered in Glasgow in March 2016.

Sharia courts normalise discrimination against women but also incite violence against apostates, amongst others. Which is why their existence is of concern to ex-Muslims as well as society at large.

Sharia judges, for example, promote the death penalty for apostasy. Haitham al Haddad, above, who was until recently a Sharia judge at the Islamic Sharia Council, has said: “apostasy deserves, once the conditions are met, deserves capital punishment in an Islamic State and I can say this openly; I am not here to hide it“.

Suhaib Hasan, a co-founder of the Islamic Sharia Council in Leyton  is a member of The European Council for Fatwa and Research chaired by Yusuf al-Qaradawi who says that killing apostates is essential.

In the testimonies of women gathered by the One Law for All, Nadia Sadiq went before a judge at the Green Lane Mosque in Birmingham, which is a Salafi mosque where Abu Usamah has said women were created deficient and “whoever changes his religion, kill him“; Habiba Jan, went to a Sharia court judged by Anjem Choudary who defends the death penalty for apostasy and stoning to death for adultery. He has recently been jailed for urging support for ISIS.

Even questioning the competency or relevance of Sharia courts are equated with “disbelief”,  a form of kufr, which has serious penalties including the death penalty in some countries. The Islamic Sharia Council, for example, has said (now deleted but screenshot available here):

As a Muslim we should know that our religion is perfect without any imperfection as Allah says: ‘this day, I have perfected your religion for you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion’.

Therefore, belittling them or calling them as out-of-date constitutes disbelief as Allah says.

Far from being harmless, Ms Shah’s allegations feed into a climate that targets dissenters.

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

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

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

It is high time that human rights and “progressive” organisations and personalities stop legitimising de-facto or de-jure blasphemy and apostasy laws and start defending, not blaming, Islamism’s victims.

Sign a statement in defence of Islam’s Non-Believers here.

Dear friend

We are writing to give you a brief update on our work.

Islam’s Non Believers

If you haven’t already seen it, watch Islam’s Non Believers, a new documentary by award-winning filmmaker Deeyah Khan. It’s a stunning in-depth look into the CEMB and the situation of ex-Muslims in Britain and internationally.

See some media coverage around the film, including “Blaming the Victim” and on how long-term shunning of ex-Muslims – promoted by Muslim Association of Britain President Omer El Hamdoon in the film – amounts to psychological torture.

In light of increasing attacks on CEMB after the film’s broadcast, we are asking for a public defence of ex-Muslims and the rights to conscience and expression, which can be signed onto here.

Charity Commission must revoke status of iERA

The Charity Commission has spent three years investigating the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA), including its financial mismanagement and extremist speakers and partnerships, which were highlighted in the CEMB report “Evangelising Hate”; the Commission confirms our findings. However, rather than revoke the organisation’s charity status, it has confined itself to procedural and risk management “solutions” despite ample evidence that the iERA is not a charity but a hate group, whose speakers say LGBT and ex-Muslims – amongst others – deserve to be killed. Read our full statement here.

Namazie wins International Secularism (Laicite) Prize

CEMB Spokesperson Maryam Namazie was awarded the 2016 International Secularism (Laicite) Prize from the Comité Laïcité République in Paris on 2 November 2016. Watch her acceptance speech: “Secularism: our lives depend on it“.

Upcoming Events

16 December film viewing with Maryam Namazie and Sadia Hameed and January 2017 celebration

CEMB has had to cancel a number of monthly meet-ups in London after having been pushed out of its usual venue; we are now looking for an alternative space. Until then, we will hold a film screening of Islam’s Non Believers with Spokespersons Maryam Namazie and Sadia Hameed on 16 December from 7-9pm near Paddington station. If you want to attend, please email [email protected] to register.

In mid-January, CEMB will celebrate the new year with a DJ; details will be posted on our website soon.

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

Don’t forget to buy tickets for the historic international conference on freedom of conscience and expression being held during 22-23 July 2017. Get your tickets soon as no tickets will be sold at the door and space is limited. It will be the largest international gathering of ex-Muslims. Speakers include: Egyptian Feminist Activist Aliaa Magda Elmahdy; Writer Bonya Ahmed; Filmmaker Deeyah Khan; Author Djemila Benhabib; Iraqi Founder of Global Secular Humanist Movement Faisal Saeed Al Mutar; Playwright Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti; FEMEN Leader Inna Shevchenko; Egyptian Founder of Black Ducks Talk Show Ismail Mohamed; American Theoretical Physicist and Cosmologist Lawrence M Krauss; Filmmaker Nadia El Fani; Scientist Richard Dawkins; Palestinian Founder of Council of Ex-Muslims of France Waleed Al Husseini; Atheism Association of Turkey Activist Zehra Pala; Moroccan-born Columnist for Charlie Hebdo Zineb El Rhazoui and many more wonderful speakers. See the full list of here.

Buy your tickets today!

Sadia Hameed has joined the CEMB as a Spokesperson

CEMB is pleased that Sadia Hameed has joined as Spokesperson. She was featured in Islam’s Non Believers and is a human rights activist and Honour Based Violence, Forced Marriage and FGM Consultant.

Support us!

Please take some time to volunteer with us if you have time to spare. If you can, donate to our organisation. No amount is too small and much of what we do has been made possible with your donations. You can donate to CEMB here.

Thanks again for all your support; a special thanks to those who donate on a monthly basis.   We hope to see you at some of our events.

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/

Company limited by guarantee and registered in England and Wales under company number 8059509.

The Charity Commission has spent three years investigating the Islamic Education and Research Academy, including its financial mismanagement and extremist speakers and partnerships, which were highlighted in the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain’s report “Evangelising Hate“.

The recently published Charity Commission inquiry report confirms CEMB’s report by finding that the iERA has indeed been promoting extremist views, including during the period it was under investigation.

Despite this, the Charity Commission has proposed procedural changes and the managing of risk pertaining to “guest speakers” who have all somehow seemingly incited hatred mainly within their “personal capacities”.

The Charity Commission has ignored the fact that the iERA invites hate-filled preachers linked to the Islamist movement because they represent its own position regarding everything from the death penalty for apostates to hatred against Jewish and LGBT people.

As mentioned in our report,  the practical effects of iERA’s “soft Islamism” is a cumulative one in which hatred and dehumanisation are normalised. Their “missionary” activity is not about spirituality, but a wider effort to legitimise theocratic norms.

iERA “guest” preachers have said:

  • Gays deserve to be killed
  • Wife beating and domestic violence are allowed and have divine mandate
  • Women guilty of adultery and other sexual crimes can be stoned to death with crimes against women having divine mandate
  • Ex-Muslims deserve to be killed
  • Jews are “filth”
  • Non-Muslims are inferior
  • Liberal Muslims who oppose iERA’s views are not Muslims
  • Female Genital Mutilation is permissible
  • Democracy and secularism are inferior to rule by Sharia and that multiculturalism is a means to evangelise and impose Islam
  • Jihad is a responsibility of Muslims…

Despite the mountain of evidence, the Charity Commission’s solution is to have them comply with their own (counter) extremism policy and do more risk management! The absurdity of having an extremist organisation comply with its own counter extremism policy seems to have evaded the Charity Commission.

The Charity  Commission should at the very least revoke the iERA’s charitable status. Its work is not for the public benefit, it has a clear political purpose, is against public policy and serves a non-charitable purpose.

For more information, see Leading Islamic charity told by watchdog to distance itself from those who condone ‘violent extremism and acts of terrorism’, The Telegraph, 13 November 2016

For more information, contact:
Maryam Namazie
Spokesperson
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/

In defence of Islam’s Non Believers

We, the undersigned, are appalled at the discrimination, abuse and violence faced by ex-Muslims both in Britain and internationally (as seen in a new film, Islam’s Non-Believers).

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

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

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

It is high time that human rights and “progressive” organisations stop legitimising de-facto or de-jure blasphemy and apostasy laws and start defending, not blaming, Islamism’s victims.

A fight on several fronts, including against the religious-Right, racism and xenophobia and in defence of secularism and universal citizenship rights, is the way forward.

SIGNATORIES

Marieme Helie Lucas, Algerian Sociologist and Founder of Secularism is a Women’s Issue
Pierre Rousset, Europe solidaire sans frontières
Afsaneh Vahdat, Women’s Rights Activist
Alan Murray
Albert Beale, Pacifist Activist
Alice Carr, President of Progressive Atheists
Aline Ferrieux, Ceramist
Anthony McIntyre, Irish Writer
Arièle Nugon, NPA Marseille
Arifur Rahman, Bangladeshi Blogger and Secular Activist
Ascari Annie, Professor
Atheist Ireland
Barry Duke, Editor of the Freethinker
Baud Janine, Professeur retraité
Beatrix Campbell, Writer
Behzad Varpushty, Human Rights Activist
Bienvenu Colette
Boyan Dichev
Bread and Roses TV
Brian Jordan, Atheist
Catherine Samary, French and internationalist activist against Islamophobia and integrist currents
Cedetim (France)
Centre for Secular Space
Chiron Hélène
Chris Corbett, Humanist, atheist, secularist
Christian Mahieux, syndicaliste, Union syndicale Solidaires, Réseau syndical international de solidarité et de luttes
Cinzia Sciuto, Editor of MicroMega
Corinne Boyer, Translator
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, Co-Presidents of Freedom From Religion Foundation
Daniel Fitzgerald, Activist
Daniel Guerrier, agnostique, pour une laïcité sans frontières
Dario Picciau, Director, Artist, and co-President of EveryOne Group
David Dugdale, Retired Scientist
David Hurlbut, Retired IT Engineer
David Rand, Président of Libres penseurs athées — Atheist Freethinkers
Dean Procter, intellectual, anarchist & secularist
Deirdre Toomey
Delerue Jean-Etienne, retraité
Dilip Simeon, Labour Historian and Chairperson of the Aman Trust
Ditte A.L. Hellemose
Djemila Benhabib, Writer
Eddy Petrisor, Humanist
Elizabeth Cox, Former UN Women Director
Elizabeth Mansfield
Emilia Novo
Enrique Aguirre Fernández de la Reguera, Painter
Equal Rights Now
Europe solidaire sans frontières
Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, Iraqi Writer and Human Rights Activist
Faizun Zackariya, Co-Founder of Muslim Women’s Research and Action Front
Fatou Sow, Women Living Under Muslims Laws International Director
Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation
Francine Bavay
Françoise Svagelski , Professor of Philosophy
Gérard Gueniffey T Nazaire, militant antiraciste
Gilbert Corniglion
Gilles Lemaire, écologiste altermondialiste
Glenys Robinson, Author and co-President of EveryOne Group
Gona Saed, Overseas Director of Kurdistan Secular Centre
Harsh Kapoor, South Asia Citizens Web
Hassan Radwan, Agnostic Muslim Khutbahs blog
Houzan Mahmoud, Cofounder of Culture Project
Ibn Warraq, Writer
Iran Solidarity
Jacqueline Heinen, Sociologist
Jaleh Tavakoli, Blogger and Free Iran Denmark
James Booth. Retired Academic specialising in postcolonial literature
Javed Anand, General Secretary of Muslims for Secular Democracy, Founding member of Citizens for Peace and Justice and Co-editor of Communalism Combat
Jean Boucher, NPA France
Jeanne Favret Saada, Director d’Etudes honoraire at Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes
Jean-Philippe Divès, Editor of l’Anticapitaliste monthly journal (New Anticapitalist Party, NPA, France)
Jesus & Mo Author
Jesús Mª Puente González, Professor
John A Edwards, Solihull, Retired teacher and currently Treasurer of Birmingham Humanists
John Morgan
John Price, Retired English Teacher
Josette Trat, militante féministe et de la gauche radicale
Josu Ugarte Gastaminza, Former Director of Bakeaz
Julie Begum, Chair of Swadhinata Trust
Julie Bindel, Writer
Karim Shahmohammadi, Children First Now
Karrar Al Asfoor , Rights Activist and Admin of Humanitarian Dialogue Forum
Kate Smurthwaite, Comedian and Activist
Katha Pollitt, Feminist Poet, Essayist and Critic
Keith Ward, FBA, Christ Church, Oxford, Regius Professor Emeritus of Divinity, University of Oxford
Lalia Ducos, présidente of Women’s Initiative for Citizenship and Universal Rights
Laura Guidetti, President of Marea Italian Feminist Magazine
Lawrence Krauss, American Theoretical Physicist and Cosmologist
Leo Igwe, Nigerian Humanist Movement
Léon Crémieux, NPA France and Retired Aeronautical Technician
Lino Veljak, Head of Philosophy department at Zagreb University
Lisa J Whelan, Writer
Marco DeRossi
Marianne Ligou, NPA Pau France
Marie-Josée Salmon, Collège du Réseau Féministe « Ruptures »
Marina Strinkovsky, Feminist Writer and Campaigner
Marine Benjelloun, NPA
Mark Almond, Activist
Martín Alonso Zarza, Sociologist
Mary Devery, Human Rights Activist
Maryam Namazie, Iranian-born Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and One Law for All
Michael Gleave
Michael Nugent, Chairperson of Atheist Ireland
Mina Ahadi, Founder of Council of Ex-Muslims of Germany
Mohamed Mahmoud, Director of Centre for Critical Studies of Religion
Mohammed Alkhadra, Jordanian Activist
Mohsen Bahadori Birgani, Ex-Muslim Activist
Monica Lanfranco, Journalist
Monique Dental, Collège du Réseau Féministe « Ruptures »
Muriel Seltman, Writer
Muslimish
Nadia El Fani, Tunisian-French Filmmaker
National Secular Society
Nazanin Borumand, Council of Ex-Muslim of Germany
Nina Sankari, Kazimierz Lyszczynski Foundation
Nira Yuval-Davis, Director of Centre for Research on Migration, Refugees and Belonging at The University of East London
Olivier Zimmermann, Founding member of Réseau laïque romand and President of Coordination laïque genevoise
One Law for All
Onur Romano, President of Atheist Alliance International
Ophelia Benson, Writer
Paolo Flores d’Arcais, Director of MicroMega
Patrick Lescure
Paul Butler, Research Scientist at Bangor University
Peter Tatchell, Human Rights Campaigner
Pierre A Renaud, Atheist Freethinkers
Pierre Marchand, Professor
Pierre Thibault, secretary for Atheist Freethinkers, Quebec
Pierre Vandevoorde, NPA Normandy France
Piers Sergei Walker, Retired (previously employed by The Union Of Shop Distributive and Allied Workers)
Porotagora
Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters
Raheel Raza, President of Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow and Founding Member of Muslim Reform Movement
Raymond Hename, Secularist
Rebecca Taylor
Rina Nissim, Espace Femmes International
Robert Andrews, Amnesty International Urgent Action Network
Roberto Malini, Poet Laureate and co-President of EveryOne Group
Robin Clarke
Roger Dinsdale, Advocate for secularism and atheism
Rosangela Gramoni, Women’s Rights Activist
Roseline Vachetta, former Member of the European Parliament
Rumana Hashem, Political Sociologist and Founder of Community Women’s Blog
Russell Blackford, University of Newcastle
Russell Webb
Sadia Hameed, Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Sally Armstrong, Writer
Samy Johsua, professeur émérite Université Aix-Marseille
Sanal Edamaruku, Founder and President of Rationalist International
Sarah Ager, Curator of Interfaith Ramadan
Scott Douglas Jacobsen, Writer at Conatus News
Secularism is a Women’s Issue
Shelley Segal, Singer/Songwriter
Sonny Azhakesan
Sophie Ozanne, NPA Normandy France
Sophie Thorpe
Southall Black Sisters
Stasa Zajovic, Founder of Women In Black Belgrade
Stephen Cowden, Senior Lecturer in Social Work at Coventry University
Stephen Evans, Campaigns Director of the National Secular Society
Steven Pinker, Cognitive Scientist, Psychologist, Linguist and Author
Stuart Hartill, Chairman of Isle of Man Freethinkers
Sue Cox, Co-founder of Survivors Voice Europe
Sultana Kamal, Bangladeshi Lawyer, Human Rights Activist and Executive Director of Ain o Salish Kendra
Suresh
Terri Murray, Author, Educator, blogger and Academic Theologian
Tina Taeri
Victor Dooley
Wissam Charafeddine, Muslimish Executive Board
Women in Black Belgrade
Women’s Initiative for Citizenship and Universal Rights
Yasmin Rehman, Women’s Rights Campaigner
Yasmine, Confessions of an ExMuslim
Yolanda Rouiller, Philologist
Zelda Bailey, Secularist, Humanist, Feminist

FRENCH

Déclaration de solidarité avec les ex-musulmans devant les attaques dont ils sont l’objet après la sortie télévisée du documentaire ‘ Les incroyants de l’islam’.

Nous soussigné/es sommes consternés devant la discrimination, les insultes et la violence auxquels font face les ex-musulmans en Grande-Bretagne et internationalement (telles qu’exposées dans le nouveau documentaire ‘Les incroyants de l’Islam’).

Il devrait être inutile de le dire : être ou devenir athée (que cette position soit assumée publiquement ou gardée privée) ne saurait constituer une insulte envers l’Islam ou quelque autre religion que ce soit. C’est l’exercice du droit fondamental qu’est la liberté de conscience.

De plus, critiquer une religion, y compris l’islam, ne saurait être considéré comme de l’« islamophobie », mais comme l’exercice du droit fondamental à la liberté d’expression.

Ce sont ceux qui « punissent » – qui empêchent par la force l’exercice de la liberté de conscience et d’expression – qui commettent un crime ; et non pas ceux qui font usage de leurs droits humains fondamentaux.

Il est grand temps que les organisations des droits humains et de la gauche cessent de légitimer, de fait ou de droit, les lois contre le blasphème et l’apostasie et commencent à défendre – et non pas à blâmer – les victimes de l’islamisme.

La voie à suivre, c’est lutter sur plusieurs fronts, c’est-à-dire à la fois contre la droite religieuse, le racisme et la xénophobie, et pour défendre la laïcité et les droits universels des citoyens.

ALSO SEE LETTER FROM Réseau Féministe « Ruptures » Association nationale

Objet : Soutien au film de Deeyah Khan « Islam Non-Believers »

Le Réseau Féministe « Ruptures » a appris que la diffusion à la télévision britannique du film de Deeyah Khan (Islam non-believers) a provoqué des protestations et des menaces de la part des intégristes musulmans.

En tant que féministes laïques, nous apportons tout notre soutien à toutes les personnes qui ont été à l’origine de la réalisation et de la diffusion de ce documentaire aussi nécessaire que courageux. Il s’agit là, en effet, de l’exercice d’un droit fondamental, reconnu par la loi internationale des droits humains fondamentaux. De plus, face au développement et à la recrudescence des mouvements politico-religieux, il importe de développer une solidarité internationale, raison pour laquelle nous avions signé et fait connaître dans nos publications la pétition : « One law for all » concernant la mise en place de tribunaux islamiques.

Créer un socle commun pour lutter contre tous les intégrismes religieux est un enjeu majeur de notre temps.

Fait à Paris, le 9 novembre 2016.

Marie-Josée SALMON,
Monique DENTAL
Collège du Réseau Féministe « Ruptures »

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain is pleased to announce that its spokesperson Maryam Namazie was awarded the 2016 International Secularism (Laicite) Prize from the Comité Laïcité République in Paris on 2 November.

You can read and see Maryam’s acceptance speech below.

The French translation, thanks to Marieme Helie Lucas is available here.

سخنرانى به زبان فارسى در پايىن صفحه

Thank you for this wonderful honour. I am so glad to have the support of so many present here, including my husband and son, as well as my Muslim parents.

We live in an age where totalitarianism is masked as divine righteousness, theocrats legitimised, dissent vilified and victims blamed for their own murder.

This is a time where “solidarity” is no longer an act of defending revolutionaries but fascists; where there is always support for Islamist projects like Sharia courts, the burqa, gender segregation, apostasy and blasphemy laws – whether de jure or de facto – but never for those who refuse to be silenced, erased and “disappeared”.

It’s a time when “progressive” all too often means protecting regressive identity politics, which homogenises entire communities and societies, and deems theocrats as the sole legitimate arbiters and gatekeepers of “community” values.

It’s a politics of betrayal – devoid of class struggle and political ideals – which sees any dissent through Islamist eyes and immediately labels it “Islamophobic” and blasphemous.

We are called “aggressive apostates”, “fundamentalist secularists”, “native informants”, “inflammatory”. We are accused of violating the “safe spaces” of Islamists on universities and even “inciting hatred”.

Don’t believe it. That is the Islamist narrative.

In the world today, it is we who are being slaughtered not the other way round.

In their world everyone dies yet we are accused of being “offensive” – as if cartoons and apostasy are worse than murder.

Islamists discriminate against, shun, flog, imprison, terrorise, abduct, and slaughter but somehow it is always the victim whose “provocation” is to blame – whether it’s Charlie Hebdo or Avijit Roy…

Laicite is not a theoretical discussion for ivory tower academics and champagne socialists. It’s a matter of life and death for many of us:
• The likes of Asia Bibi in Pakistan facing execution for blasphemy
• Young ex-Muslims (Islam’s Non Believers) in Britain facing a life-time of shunning
• The likes of Afsana Lachaux whose rights violations in a discriminatory Sharia court in the Middle East have been upheld by French courts due to bilateral agreements
• Human Rights Activist Narges Mohammadi given a 16 year prison sentence for opposing executions; Jafar Azimzadeh sentenced to 11 years for labour organising; or dual nationals used as pawns such as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliff as well as Siamak and Baquer Namazi in Iran
• Blogger Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes for writing about religion and politics and on and on and on…

“Secularism is the solution”, is a graffiti Raif Badawi saw scrawled in a Saudi prison lavatory. Yet we are told that secularism is a neo-colonialist demand by so-called “anti-colonialists” whose worldview always coincides with the ruling elite, including in former colonies, and never the dissenters. Those “anti-fascists” who are only anti-some fascists, some of the time. Those who are “anti-racist” as long as we do not venture outside the pigeonholes that we are meant to live and be buried in; (if we dissent, though, they are at the forefront of insisting on racist cultural relativism and “different” rights for “different” people). The so-called progressives who condemn us to living lives within the confines of Islam whilst the sky has no limits for them…

They cannot begin to understand that no one needs Laicite more than those who live, struggle and die under the boot of the religious-Right.

And this includes the innumerable voting with their very feet and dying as we speak to seek refuge in secular societies, including the women, men and children of Calais, who deserve the basic human right to asylum and protection, not vilification and criminalisation.

And it includes believers. The right to religion must have a corresponding right to be free from religion to have any real meaning.

The historical battle that we are faced with today is not a clash of civilisations as the vile far-Right says in order to promote what is fundamentally white and often Christian identity politics. Rather, it’s a clash between theocrats on the one hand and secularists and universalists on the other – across real or imagined communities, borders and boundaries -and including many Muslims and migrants.

Secularism is not French or Western or Eastern; it’s universal.

It must be unequivocally and unashamedly defended against this era’s totalitarianism.

Today more than ever, we need Laicite and we need it now.

Our very lives depend on it.

Thank you.

****

فارسى

سكولاريسم ـ زندگى مان به آن وابسته است

من خيلى خيلى خيلى خوشخالم كه اينجا هستم۔ مفتخرم كه در ميان شما عزيزان برجسته اى مى ايستم و بخاطر اينكه اين جايزه را بردم۔ خوشحالم كه دوستانم اينجا هستند٬ پسرم اينجاست و همسرم و براى داشتن حمايت پدر و مادرم كه مسلمان هستند۔
ما در عصرى زندگى ميكنيم كه توتاليتريسم عدالت الهى خوانده مى شود؛ به ديكتاتوريهاى مذهبى مشروعيت داده ميشود، منتقدين تخطعه و قربانيان باعث و بانى قتل خود قلمداد ميشوند۔
اين دوره ايست كه “همبستگى” ديگر نه اقدامى در دفاع از انقلابيون بلكه در دفاع از فاشيستها است. هميشه براى پروژه هاى اسلام سياسى مانند دادگاههاى شريعه، برقه ، جداسازى جنسى، ارتداد و قوانين مخالف توهين به مقدسات ـ چه قانونى و چه بالفعل ـ پشتيبانى هست ولى هرگز اين حمايت براى كسانى كه حاضر به سكوت و حذف و “ناپديد شدن” نيستند موجود نيست۔
اين دوره ايست كه “مترقى” بودن به معناى دفاع از سياست هويت تراشى عقب مانده است كه تمامى جوامع را در يك كيسه مى ريزد و ديكتاتورهاى مذهبى را تنها نماينده و دروازه بانان بر حق ارزشهاى اين جوامع فرض مى گيرد. اين سياستي خائنانه است؛ تهى از هر گونه مبارزات طبقاتى و آرمانهاى سياس كه هر گونه مخالفت را از منظر اسلاميون مينگرد و آن را با مهر اسلام هراسى و توهين به مقدسات محكوم ميكند۔
ما را “مرتدين خشن” و “سكولارهاى بنيادگرا” مى نامند. ما را متهم به بهم زدن “فضاى امن” اسلاميها در دانشگاهها و حتى به “تحريك و گسترش نفرت” محكوم مى كنند۔
اينها را باور نكنيد! اين ها روايت اسلاميون است۔
در دنياى امروز٬ اين ما هستيم كه قتل عام ميشويم نه بر عكس. در دنياى آنها همه مى ميرند اما ما متهم به “توهين” مى شويم۔ كشيدن كارتون بد تر از قتل است۔ گويى ارتداد و
اسلاميون شلاق ميزنند، زندانى ميكنند، ترور ميكنند و سر ميبرند اما قربانيان آنانند كه هميشه مقصراند كه با “تحريكشان” باعث و بانى قتل خود شدند ـ چه چارلى ابدو و يا اويجيت روى در بنگلادش و ۔۔۔
سكولاريسم بحث تئوريك براى روشنفكران برج آج نشين يا سوسياليستهاى شامپاين بدست نيست. براى بسيارى از ما مسئله مرگ و زندگى است. براى افرادى :
مانند آسيه بى بى در پاكستان كه بخاطر توهين به مقدسات به اعدام محكوم شده است ـ
ـ مانند جوانان از اسلام برگشته در بريتانيا كه مادام العمر ترد شده اند
ـ مانند افسانه لچوع كه حقوق پايمال شده او در دادگاه شريعه اسلامى در خاورميانه از سوى دادگاه فرانسه بخاطر قرادادهاى دو جانبه تاييد شد
ـ مانند نرگس محمدى كه بخاطر مخالفت با اعدام به ١٦ سال زندان محكوم شده است؛ جعفر عظيم زاده كه بخاطر سازماندهى كارگرى به ١١ سال زندان محكوم شده است؛
ـ يا دو تابعيتى هايى مانند نازنين زاغرى رادكليف و سيامك و باقر نمازى كه بعنوان گروگان در ايران زندانى هستند
رائوف بداوى كه به ده سال زندان و هزار ضربه شلاق محكوم شده است و و و ـ يا
“سكولاريسم راه حل است” شعارى است كه رائوف بداوى بر در توالت زندان در عربستان سعودى ديده بود اما به ما مى گويند كه سكولاريسم خواست “نئو استعمار” ميباشد. اين ديد “ضد استعمارى است” كه هميشه با منافع طبقه حاكمه منجمله در كشورهاى مستعمره سابق همسو و همگام است و هيچگاه پشتيبان مخالفين و منتقدين نبوده است۔
اين “ضد فاشيستهايى” كه فقط بعضى وقتها ضد بعضى از فاشيست ها هستند۔ اينها “ضد راسيست” هستند تا زمانى كه ما پايمان را از چهارچوبى كه براى ما تعريف كرده اند بيرون نگذاريم. و اگر ما اعتراض كنيم٬ آنها در در صف اول دفاع ازسياست راسيستى نسبيت فرهنگى و حقوق متفاوت براى مردم “متفاوت” هستند۔
اين “مترقيون ” ما را به زندگى در حصار اسلام محكوم مى كنند در حالى كه آسمان آنها بي مرز است. آنها هيچگاه درك نخواهند كرد كه هيچ كس بيش از ما كه زير چكمه هاى جريانات راست مذهبى مانند اسلام سياسى زندگى و مبارزه ميكنيم و مى مي ميريم به سكولاريسم نيازمند نمى باشد. و اين شامل خَيل عظيم مردمى است كه با پاى خود راى ميدهند و با خطر مرگ و زندگى در همين لحضه كه ما صحبت ميكنيم به جوامع سكولار پناهنده ميشوند ـ مانند زنان، مردان و كودكانى كه در كمپ كاله هستند كه حقشان نه فحاشى و تبعيض بلكه حقوق پايه اى انسانى ميباشد ـ
اين شامل معتقدين به مذهب هم هست۔ حق داشتن مذهب اگر قرار است معناى واقعى داشته باشد بايد با حق خلاصى از مذهب همراه باشد۔
نبرد تاريخى كه امروز ما با آن روبرو هستيم؛ بر خلاف آنچه جريانات راست افراطى دون پايه ادعا مى كند تا عمدتا يك هويت سفيد و مسيحى را تقويت كند؛ نبرد بين تمدنها نيست۔ بلكه بيش از هر چيز نبردى است در وسعت جوامع و فرا مرزها ـ چه واقعى يا مفروض ـ بين اسلام سياسى و مذهب سياسى از يكسو و سكولايستهاى جهانشمول از سوى ديگر است ـ و اين خيلى از مهاجرين و مسلمانان را هم شامل مى شود.
سكولاريسم نه فرانسوى، نه غربى و شرقى است٬ بلكه جهانى است. بايد از اين حقيقت بصراحت در مقبل توتاليتريسم اين دوران دفاع كرد۔ امروز بيش از هر زمانى به سكولاريسم ـ همين الان ـ نياز داريم۔
زندگى ما وابسته به آن است۔
با تشكر۔

Blaming the Victims: Islam’s Non Believers

By Marieme Helie Lucas (Algerian sociologist)

Reposted from SIAWI

Also available in French.

For the past three decades, we have been witnessing the implementation in politics of the concept of perversity in psychology. Case study, truly.

I first realized that during the ‘dark decade’ in Algeria, which made about 200,000 victims, most of them at the hands of armed fundamentalist groups – with women constituting a large proportion of the victims.

Following an inexorable process, these are the steps being taken by fundamentalists:

targeted assassinations at the beginning of the 9Os of individuals branded miscreants ( kofr), who were just democrats like you and me, i.e. those standing for a democratic system as opposed to a theocratic one. May I remind us all that in 1991, i.e. before the electoral process was even started and therefore before elections were cancelled by the government, Ali Belhadj, the then vice-president of FIS (Islamic Salvation Front) stated in front of the international press that: ‘ If we have the law of God, why should we need the law of the people: one should kill all these unbelievers’.

assassinations of broad categories of people in the mid 90s: journalists, intellectuals, artists, foreigners, women, etc.. ; the targeting of each category of people was announced in advance in the fundamentalists’ printed media in the UK and crimes were later claimed in the same media through ‘communiqués’ signed by GIA ( Islamic Armed Group).

extermination of entire villages branded miscreant, towards the end of the decade: that meant the simultaneous eradication of up to twenty members of the same family in one go.

Now guess what happened? It was their victims, i.e. the Algerian democrats, the antifascist, antifundamentalist Algerians, who never took arms against their executioners but only their pen, that the Left and human rights organisations vilified and branded ‘eradicators’!

I cannot even start telling you how one experiences a sense of madness when responsibilities are turned upside down in such a way; one feels like the raped girl, the battered woman, the child being caned who have been told by judges, police, families and media alike, over such a long period of time in history, that they were the ones truly responsible for sexual attacks, domestic violence and physical punishment in ‘education’; and that it was their own behaviour (how libertarian indeed ! just being able to exist in the public space, to express an opinion, in short just enjoying one’s fundamental human rights!) which ‘induced’ these ‘responses’ – which were thus seen as legitimate.

Yes, we do have an already quite long experience of perversity, which magically turns the victim into the abuser and blames her for the crimes that are committed against her.

Some days ago, a film by Deeyah Khan, ‘Islam’s Non-Believers’, which showed the fate of atheists in Muslim-majority countries, pointed at the growing number of young people who, at risk of their lives, declare themselves atheists – one of the most important phenomenon in this decade, although the European media failed to give it the importance it deserves – and the organisations who help them. The film gave the floor to young atheists and underlined the work done by the Council of Ex-Muslims that has popped up in many places in Muslim-majority countries and in the diaspora. It especially showed the work done by the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain with its formidable organizer Maryam Namazie.

It does not come as a surprise that this film sparked protest from Muslim fundamentalists and that their views were propagated and circulated all around, on the web and in the papers. One could expect such a backlash. They argued as usual that denouncing those who call for the murder of atheists in public statements that are available on the web is an attempt to malign them by ‘mis-interpreting what they say’; it is equated with attacking Islam itself, i.e. being a miscreant, a kofr who therefore deserves death penalty! Quite clear… These are truly threats addressed to anyone involved in the film, from the director to the youth being interviewed in the film and up to their support organisations.

What do these young people say, in fact? That when they stopped believing in the faith they were born and raised into, an often long and painful process that generally starts at teenage years, they were drowning into a horrendous moral and emotional solitude; and that long before having to cope with a very grounded fear of being slaughtered for their opinion, they endured years of agony while facing the prospect of family rejection and being ostracised socially.

In Algiers where I grew up and where there were after independence (1962) scores of really a-religious youth – if not declared atheists – how many have I seen who were truly terrorized at the idea that their mother could find out that they did not observe the fast during Ramadan! Who, amongst high ranked civil servants, dared open the canteens during the fasting period in state-owned plants? (The response is: only one in the whole of Algeria, in the national steel sector.) How then to be surprised when 50 years later, whilst reaction, the extreme-right and fundamentalism flourish worldwide, bloggers are assassinated in Bangladesh or libertarian writers in Egypt or India or elsewhere?

Director Deeyah Khan reviews the recent cases of atheists’ murders in Bangladesh so that one can better understand the fear that is gripping young atheists, even those who took refuge in the UK, as several of them hid their faces while testifying in the film, for fear of reprisal.

Yes, fear, today, in the UK, in London – fear of being physically attacked, of being assassinated. Is this fear so unfounded? I am afraid it is not unfounded: there are several journalists of Algerian origin, experts on Muslim fundamentalism, who have been living for years under police protection in Paris, or a director and actress of Algerian origin whose attackers attempted to burn her alive in broad daylight, in the street adjacent to the theatre where she was about to act in her play: ‘ I am 30 and I still hide when I smoke’… It never stopped since the Rushdie affair…

Muslim fundamentalists who presently raise their voices against the film ‘Islam’s Non-Believers’ are preparing the ground so that the eventual brutal ‘responses’ they threaten young atheists with will be already considered as legitimate by those who should be our allies, namely organisations of the Left and human rights: after all, if they ‘insult’ Islam, and if ‘Muslims’ feel offended…

One remembers Charlie…

Just imagine for one second that Christian fundamentalists call for the murder of atheists in Europe on a regular basis, for the reason that Christianity is being insulted by their absence of faith… One would be back to the times of Chevalier de la Barre, who himself was so young a man when he was tortured and executed for exactly the same reasons of ex-Muslims today. Would this be tolerated by the Left and human rights organisations, if it were Christian fundamentalists doing that? I doubt it. Then why this special treatment, this tolerance which only covers up for an unconscious racism, in the wake of such violations of the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of expression, including in the heart of Europe, – when it comes to Islam?

We know why and there is no reason to come back to it – but we do not consider these reasons acceptable. No, it is not an insult to Islam, or to Christianity, nor to any other religion, if an individual states in public that s/he does not believe any longer in their god. It is exercising a fundamental right, a right that is upheld under international human rights laws. Those who impede, or forcibly prevent exercising this right, or inflict ‘punishment’ on whoever is exercising it, those are the ones who commit a crime. Not those exercising their right. In this day and age, reaffirming it is not totally useless.

CEMB Logo© 2017 - All rights reserved.
Help us with donations:
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain is a limited by guarantee Company registered in England & Wales.
Registration number 8059509.
Designed with in London by Sina Ahadi Pour
X