‘Criticism of Islam or Islamism is not anti-Muslim bigotry’, The Freethinker, 15 July 2017
‘Criticism of Islam or Islamism is not anti-Muslim bigotry’, The Freethinker, 15 July 2017
Our spokesperson, Maryam Namazie, was invited by Dabran Platform to speak at the Founding Congress of Enlightenment Feminism in Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan (photos below). She spoke about Islam and Islamism as the greatest stumbling blocks for women’s emancipation and how Islamists target women and girls first – whether in Tehran, Peshawar or Manchester. Here’s her speech:
Islam and Islamism – the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women’s emancipation*
(Suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton said: “The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women’s emancipation.”)
The First Enlightenment Feminism Congress, Sulaymaniyah
It’s such an honour to be here at the founding Congress of Enlightenment Feminism. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak about how Islam and Islamism are the greatest obstacles to women’s emancipation.
The first time I realised Islam and the Islamists hate women was when I was around 12. Prior to that, my ‘Muslim’ family and friends were secular and practiced religion in various ways – some fasting, some drinking alcohol whilst others not, mostly women not wearing the veil and never any segregation at our social gatherings, schools, workplaces… Then it all changed.
The Hezbollah came to my school, which was mixed, in order to segregate the boys from the girls – though we ran circles around them. It was the beginnings of the Islamic movement’s suppression of a left-leaning revolution against the Shah’s dictatorship and beginnings of the notorious ‘morality police’.
Even though at the time we were children – though not to them – they saw us girls as the source of fitnah in society.
As you know, In one Hadith Mohammed, Islam’s prophet says: ‘I have left behind no fitnah more harmful to men, than women'(Al-Bukhari, Muslim).
Of course hatred of women is a recurring theme in all major religions. There is a Jewish prayer recited by men that says: ‘Blessed are you, Lord, our God, ruler the universe who has not created me a woman’. In the Bible: ‘A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be quiet.’ (1 Timothy 2:11-14) This is also evident in Hinduism, Buddhism…
As US Suffragette Elizabeth Stanton said: ‘Every form of religion, which has breathed upon this earth has degraded women’.
Women are the first targets of religion in power and it’s always a sign of worse to come, hence the saying: ‘the freedom of society is measured by the freedom of women’.
For those who only see the surface, there is an apparent contradiction that is often not understood.
On the one hand, Islamic law and states are the beginning of the end of women’s rights, freethought and democratic politics.
A pillar of Islamist rule is the attempt to erase women from the public space.
Artist Phillip Toledano has done a series on Iranian Censorship of women calling it “Portraits of Absence”. It shows how black markers erase women’s bodies from packaging, magazines, adverts.
The chador or the burqa and niqab are really the fabric version of this black marker. Erased, devoid of humanity, Disappeared.
Like the disappeared of Argentina, or the thousands buried in mass graves in Khavaran during the massacre of political prisoners by the Iranian regime in the 1980s.
A perfect world for the Islamists is a world devoid of women in the public space. Bound, gagged, not seen or heard.
As Egyptian writer Mona Eltahawy says: ‘All religions are obsessed with [a woman’s] vagina’ and women are ‘traumatised into feminism’.
So on the one hand, Islamists want to erase women from the public space; on the other hand, women are everywhere – making sure they are seen and heard:
• This Enlightenment Feminist Congress is a perfect example.
• Or nude protest, which is the opposite of the commodification/objectification of women and an important form of resistance given Islam’s hatred of women’s bodies.
• Or the unveiling movement in Iran even though veiling is compulsory and punishable with up to two months in prison and fines. There is an app called Gershad to warn you of the locations of the morality police in Iran.
• Discarded veils are strewn on route by women who have fled Daesh-held territory.
• And the burst of colours underneath the black shrouds being removed once women have reached liberated areas have become iconic. As have images of Kurdish fighters breaking Daesh signs telling women to wear a mobile prison.
This female presence is palpable in all areas, including against gender segregation – for example in the demand to end segregation in stadiums – to abolishing Sharia family laws – such as in Rojava and Algeria.
The extent of control of women and their bodies is a measure of the power and influence of the Islamists just as the extent of women’s autonomy is a measure of the resistance against Islam, Islamism, and religious ‘morality’.
The protests in Afghanistan against the killings of Farkhunda and Rokhshana are another perfect example with banners reading: ‘We must get rid of the filthy hands of the merchants of religion from our country so that we are not daily witness to the murders of Farkhundas and Rokhshanas’.
Those only looking at the surface, see women’s active presence and resistance and wrongly credit Islam and Islamism.
In Iran, for example, they credit the ‘reformist’ faction of the Iranian regime.
They will also claim that women’s condition in Iran is better than women in Saudi Arabia as if it is thanks to the regime and Sharia law!
To me, it’s like crediting apartheid in South Africa for the black liberation movement or segregation in the US for the civil rights movement.
Have you noticed also how when it comes to women’s rights, it’s always compared to the lowest common denominator – never the highest? Why compare the status of women in Iran with Saudi Arabia; why not with Iceland?
This absurdity is only possible today because of identity politics and cultural relativism, which no longer acknowledges citizens and human beings but homogenised religious identities that unsurprisingly coincide with the impositions of Islamists and the ruling class.
This is why everything from gender segregation to the veil and Sharia are sanitised and legitimised at the expense of women’s rights.
And criticism deemed ‘Islamophobic’ – a political term used to scaremonger people into silence.
Or we are accused of ‘hurting public sentiment’ as if ‘the public’ is one mass and does not comprise of individuals with as many sentiments as there are people.
Only in a world where identity politics and cultural relativism reign supreme can the likes of Islamic feminism be given any credence.
But in my opinion Islam can never be feminist.
Religion can never emancipate women.
The late Iranian worker-communist Mansoor Hekmat said in an interview entitled ‘Islam is part of the lumpenism in society‘:
‘…no theology is liberating. Theology is the antithesis of liberation. It signifies keeping people ignorant, obstructing their independent thought and consigning them to an unknown creator and world. Liberation theology is nonsense. It is like saying liberation fascism; it is a contradiction in terms. Theology cannot be liberating, regardless of whether it is the Christian, Buddhist or Islamic version. For 19th century intellectuals, liberation before anything else meant liberation from religion and the fetters of imposed thought. Now, theology has become liberating?’
The US Suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton once said: ‘The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women’s emancipation’.
Today, we can clearly say: Islam and Islamism are the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women’s emancipation.
In fact any positive change in women’s condition, is not thanks to Islamic laws, states or Islam but despite it. It’s in fact thanks to women’s resistance against Islam and Islamism.
Of course that is not to say that believing women, Muslim women, cannot be feminists. Of course they can – just as men can be feminists and women misogynists – but one can only be feminist if women’s emancipation trumps religion. Whilst people – even believers – can be feminists, religion cannot. Religion is fundamentally patriarchal and anti-woman.
It aims to police women’s behaviour and sexuality and defend male and by extension community and national ‘honour’. In identity-based ‘politics … women are seen not as individuals with rights but as bearers of their community’s honour, to be protected or raped, depending who they are‘. Daesh’s Yazidi sex slaves are the most heinous case in point.
‘Islamic feminists’ like Shirin Ebadi will say that women have full rights under Islam and if they don’t it is ‘not Islam at fault but patriarchal culture that uses interpretation to justify whatever it wants’.
Yet the Quran and Hadith are overflowing with anti-women rules and regulations. Stoning to death for adultery, for example, is in a Hadith, while wife beating is in the Quran.
Islamic feminists will say the mistreatment of women is because of ‘bad’ interpretations. The problem with ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ interpretations is that yours is just one of many. Even if you have a ‘good’ interpretation, it is the Islamists who decide. They run the state; they make the laws. But more importantly, are there ‘good’ interpretations that are good enough for 21st century women?
If you follow the ‘good’ interpretations, you will soon realise the absurdity of this line of defence.
Take Sura al-Nisa (the women), [the fourth chapter] in the Quran 4:34, where it says: ‘As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly) . . . ‘
‘Islamic feminists’ will say that men have been made to wait, are not obliged to beat their wives, and when they do, they must not leave marks and beat their wives with thin sticks…
These are the justifications of those who are more concerned with defending Islam, than defending women’s rights.
From a women’s rights perspective, no woman should be beaten – ‘disobedient’ or not. Full stop. End of story.
If you want women’s liberation, you cannot leave women’s rights and lives at the mercy of religious rules and interpretations.
You have to choose – do you side with women’s rights or religion – you cannot defend both as they are antithetical to each other.
The fight for women’s liberation is a fight against Islam and Islamism.
Also, it is a fight for secularism – the complete separation of religion from the state. Secularism is a precondition for women’s emancipation. Secularism is a women’s issue.
Rather than excuse and justify ‘good’ religious interpretations and ‘moderate’ or ‘reformist’ Islamists, it would serve our societies better to defend citizenship rights irrespective of beliefs. It would serve our societies better to insist on secularism and women’s equality – not western, not eastern but universal.
Long live women’s freedom.
The following is a translation of an article on the arrested freethinkers in Pakistan published in Daily Ummat Karachi/Hyderabad, Rawalpindi,Peshawar
#FreeAyazNizami and #RanaNoman!
Arrested bloggers happened to be members of International organizations
Two days before, two bloggers were arrested from Karachi because of criticising Islam and Holy Prophet Muhammad. FIA Cyber crime wing transferred those bloggers to Islamabad for physical remand. When “Ummat” started investigating about arrested bloggers, they came to know about shocking information. According to got information, there is a planned network and organisation of blasphemous bloggers who promote hatred against Islam and Holy Prophet.The name of organisation is AAAP (Atheist and Agnostic Alliance Pakistan). This organisation of Pakistani Atheist bloggers is associated with world-wide organisation of atheists named Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, famous as CEMB. These organisations are having links with Qadiyani network and India. Important is that blasphemous content is e-mailed to Pakistani bloggers from Germany, London. Canada, Holland, Denmark and Netherlands in English language which they post in Urdu language after translating. According to information got by Ummat newspaper, FIA Cyber crime circle arrested Abdul Waheed (Ayaz Nizami)and Rana Noman who were running an organised network of atheist blogs in Pakistan. These two criminals are shifted to Islamabad for further investigation.
According to research of Ummat newspaper, Ayaz Nizami is vice president of AAAP, an organisation of Pakistani atheists. He was given a task to put material on blogs against Islam and Prophet Muhammad. According to source, Ayaz Nizami was also running a number of Facebook pages as well where he used to upload blasphemous content both in Urdu and English languages. It happens to reveal that Ayaz Nizami made his account as Waheed Ayaz first and then made an other account with name Ayaz Nizami and started uploading content against Islam and Prophet Muhammad. Ayaz Nizami was working from 2003. He collected his like minded people around him and made countless pages and blogs. He started his mission with a single Facebook page. In 2009, he became able to form a community of atheists and finally in 2012, he founded a proper organisation and named it AAAP (Atheist and Agnostic Alliance Pakistan). In 2015, he made proper website for his organisation. He became member of CEMB and later, he got made his other friends to become member of CEMB. Viewing the activism of Ayaz Nizami, CEMB (International organisations of atheists) gave him task to promote their agenda. He not only achieved given targets but also organised his network against Islam in Pakistan. According to information, Ayaz Nizami is supported by Qadiyani Community and International Organisations. He started receiving content through e-mail in English by his foreign friends and posting in Urdu after translating. Ayaz Nizami was first known as Waheed Ayaz. Later, he made his reputation as Ayaz Nizami. He did masters in Islamic Studies and Arabic from Karachi University. He is also degree holder from Wifaaq ul Madarris in Islamic studies.
According to information, Ayaz Nizami made a blog named as “Jurrat Tehqeeq” with address www.realisticapproach.org. He is also vice president of another blog AAAP. When “Ummat newspaper” started research about his website, they came to know that domain of his website was purchased by a Qadiyani Waseem Ahmed on 29 December 2013 and Ayaz Nizami started posting from December 30, 2013… Ayaz Nizami was also running many other blogs and pages like www.sachai.com, www.ilhaad.com, etc.www.sachai.com was purchased by DBA.com.
Ayaz Nizami was also member of CEMB. Web address of organisation is www.ex-muslims.org.uk. This website was registered on June 5, 2007… This website is run by Imad Habib, Sadia Hameed, Maryam Namazie and Haleema Begum.The Facebook account for this website is www.facebook.com/exmuslims. Ayaz Nizami was also active of this blog and there are many comments by him there. He posted on march 17 that “I left Islam and I repent once I was a Muslim. Why Islam accuse us and sentence death for leaving Islam. Islam should set us free to execute our rights of freedom and we will stop criticising Islam”. Ayaz Nizami also played pivotal role in foundation of “Pakistani Free thinkers”, the largest social media group of free thinkers and liberals in Pakistan with 32, 346 members. This page is supported from Canada, Netherlands, Malaysia, Holland, Germany, Denmark and many other countries.
Ayaz Nizami visited many countries for his mission. He was vice president of AAAP. The domain of this organisation was purchased by Fauzia Gilani… According to sources, website is being run from Netherlands whereas Facebook page was run by Ayaz Nizami from Karachi, Pakistan.
An Officer from Investigation branch said (on conditions of not exposing his name) to “Ummat newspaper” that all blasphemous content is attained from laptop of Ayaz Nizami including material uploaded on AAAP. According to Officer, Ayaz Nizami was running more than 12 pages. He managed to make a library containing books against Islam.He used to receive blasphemous content from different countries by e-mail and post it on blogs after translating in Urdu. Ayaz Nizami also has been uploading objected content on kherdnama, South Asian humanist pages on Facebook…. According to sources, there is also blasphemous content on this website uploaded by Ayaz Nizami. Ayaz Nizami and his close friend Rana Noman were active in areas of Soldier Bazar, Mehmood Abad and Gulshan Iqbal Karachi where they used to meet their like minded friends and discuss their views. Ayaz Nizami was also planning to launch a web TV. He had completed half of his work to launch web TV. Qadiyani community was supporting him to launch web TV. He was assured help from CEMB. According to sources, they got important information from laptop operated by Ayaz Nizami. All content is handed over to Cyber Crime branch for further investigations.
An email id of Syed Amjad Hussain is found from laptop of Ayaz Nizami. Syed Amjad is resident of Bangalore, India according to information. According to information on his facebook ID, Syed Amjad is care taker at Madarsa Habibia Islah ul Muslimeen and is a madarsa-educated person. Syed Amjad Hussain wrote a book “Mystery of Quran; A critical study”. Ayaz Nizami has given the link of mentioned book on his website with free download option. There is massive blasphemous content on account of Syed Amjad Hussain as well.
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.
Leading Islamic charity told by watchdog to distance itself from those who condone ‘violent extremism and acts of terrorism’, The Telegraph, 13 November 2016