Category: Resources

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.

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/

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.

Omer El-Hamdoon and Discrimination against Ex-Muslims

In Deeyah Khan’s film, Islam’s Non Believers, Omer El-Hamdoon, President of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), justifies the discrimination and ostracisation against ex-Muslims in Britain and portrays Islam’s nonbelievers are ‘outside the human norms’:

Here is a quote from the film:

Omer El-Hamdoon: The Muslim community is a community that is based on religion. So if a person chooses to stop being a Muslim they can’t really expect that the Muslim community is still gonna say to them you are part of our community

Deeyah: Why not?

Omer El-Hamdoon: Because you left Islam, you’ve left the religion. Families do need to try to resolve their issues by sitting together, talking together about matters, but I do understand that you know, if a family holds religion very deep to their heart, that when they see one of their family members has left religion, they feel a sense of betrayal. And obviously a lot of people will just say, look I can’t deal with this, so I just shun that member out, because he’s betrayed me.

Islam does put a big emphasis on faith, sometimes somebody might have to reject something or a certain person because of their attitude towards faith, that can happen.

Deeyah: Would you do that? Do you have children?

Omer El-Hamdoon: Yes, I have children.

Deeyah: Would you reject your children?

Omer El-Hamdoon: I wouldn’t reject my child, my approach would be to sit with them and discuss with them, no I wouldn’t shun them off but I suppose they would expect that things aren’t the same, if a child goes against your say general plan, expectation. If they go against you, you might feel, ok you are still my son, daughter, but I wasn’t expecting that off you.

El Hamdoon: That’s normal perspective, in the eyes of religion you have done something wrong, because religion expects you to stay religious and you’re saying I don’t want to be religious, so of course they are going to say to you, you are no longer favourable in our eyes. Doesn’t mean we discriminate against you, doesn’t mean we treat you badly or incite hatred or violence or whatever, or abduct you or force marry you or whatever,

Deeyah: People do that.

El Hamdoon: They do that and that’s wrong, we have to reject that. How we treat people is the same, we don’t discriminate but our love cannot be the same, it’s just human behaviour. Islam is a pragmatic religion, it doesn’t expect people to behave outside the human norms.’

Whilst clearly defending discrimination against ex-Muslims, El Hamdoon says no-one is compelled to be a Muslim and that people can leave of their own free will and shouldn’t be punished.

When asked on Twitter whether he supported the death penalty for apostasy in an ideal Islamic state, he refused to give a straight answer (see below).

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