Month: March 2018

#ExMuslimBecause

Demand for atheism rises in countries under Islamic rule

The scientist and author Richard Dawkins is giving away translations of The God Delusion in countries under Islamic rule like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan.

The reason behind the decision is the thirst for atheism in such countries. Whilst 3.3 million copies of the bestseller have been sold since 2006, the unofficial Arabic pdf alone has been downloaded 13 million times.

The rise of atheism in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia is something we have been speaking about for some time now. The Iranian Baztab Now website warned of a tsunami of atheism amongst Iranian youth. The #ExMuslimBecause hashtag initiated by the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain became viral overnight with over 120,000 Tweets from 65 countries.

The hashtag “#Aik crore Pakistani mulhid” (10 million Pakistani atheists) trended around Darwin Day for two years running. Free Mind, launched by Arab atheists promoting atheism, has recorded more than 1 million visits so far.

The now highly visible and vocal ex-Muslim movement (a new Council has just been established in Jordan), the access to atheism and freethought via social media, the deep-seated opposition to theocratic rule that comes from lived experience, the irrationality of religious doctrine, the authoritarianism of religious rule, scepticism about prophets and contradictory tenets, the unrelenting violence, amongst others, make atheism increasingly enticing for a mostly young population.

Remove Islamism’s threats and apostasy and blasphemy laws from people’s lives and even we ex-Muslims will be stunned at the extent of atheism in countries under Islamic rule.

The powers that be have understood the “threat” atheism poses – seeing it as an existential danger, especially since Islam and state power are intertwined, hence why atheists are persecuted (with many others including religious minorities, women’s rights activists, labour leaders and LGBT).

• Iran as one of the most important bases of atheism in the Middle East, with more than half the population using the Internet regularly, has seen a government ban on more than 160,000 social media accounts and websites for  spreading “atheism and corruption” in one year alone.

• Two government ministries in Egypt have been ordered to produce a national plan to “confront and eliminate” atheism. The Egyptian parliament is looking to criminalise atheism.  Recently, Mohammed Hashem was told to see a psychiatrist and kicked off a television show for not believing in God. A mother has even lost custody of her children because she is an atheist.

• A series of laws in Saudi Arabia define terrorism as “calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion.”

• A Malaysian government minister has said that atheists should be “hunted down” and “re-educated.”

• In Pakistan, a High Court Judge has reiterated that “blasphemers are terrorists” in a case that seeks to ban “derogatory” social media posts against Islam and Muhammad, Islam’s prophet. The Islamabad High Court has directed the government to block web pages containing blasphemous content and put the names of “blasphemers” on the exit control list.

Thirteen countries punish atheism with the death penalty, all Islamic states, namely Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, UAE, and Yemen.

And even in countries without the death penalty, like Bangladesh, Islamists kill atheists whilst the government does little or like Tunisia, where Hatem Al Imam, the President of Tunisian Freethinkers has been brutally attacked. Turkish government-backed Islamists in Afrin address “Kurdish atheists,”telling them to repent or face decapitation …

Clearly, to be an atheist, to question or criticise God, prophets, Islam and any religion or dogma is not a crime though too many are being killed or imprisoned for it. It is high time to stop blaming atheists for their persecution under cover of offence, Islamophobia, hurt sentiments… and instead target the states and movements that are hunting down, imprisoning and murdering people for the mere exercise of their freedom of expression and conscience.

Urgent cases that need our immediate attention include:

Bangladesh: Asad Noor, a 25-year-old atheist blogger is facing up to 14 years in prison because he “hurt religious feelings” with his social media posts “mocking the prophet”.

Iran: 20-year-old Sina Dehghan was sentenced to death for “insulting the prophet”. Deghan’s co-defendants, Sahar Eliasi and Mohammad Nouri, have also been convicted of posting anti-Islamic content on social media. Nouri was sentenced to death; Eliasi has been sentenced to three years in prison upon appeal. Soheil Arabi was initially sentenced to death for “insulting the prophet” is on hunger strike and in critical condition. Ruhollah Tavana and Saeed Malekpour have also been sentenced to death for “insulting the Prophet” and “insulting and desecrating Islam” respectively.

Iraq: In Dhi Qar- Al-Nasiriya, a city in the southern part of  Iraq, atheists have been hunted down; in most recent news, one of four has been arrested for “spreading the culture of the absence of God.”

Pakistan: Ayaz Nizami and Rana Noman face the death penalty for “blasphemy.” After the arrest, #HangAyazNizami trended on Twitter. Taimoor Raza, 30, has also been sentenced to death for “insulting the prophet Muhammad.”

Saudi Arabia: Ahmad Al-Shamri, in his 20s, has been sentenced to death for atheism and blasphemy; Raif Badawi has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and a thousand lashes for “apostasy” and “insulting Islam”. Poet Ashraf Fayadhhas been sentenced to eight years imprisonment and lashes for poems containing “atheist ideas” reduced from an initial death sentence.

#AtheismNotACrime #EndBlasphemyLaws #EndApostasyLaws

CEMB calls on Government to prosecute incitement to violence

Dear Prime Minister,

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) has been informed that members have received “Punish a Muslim” contest flyers. We are outraged at this clear incitement to violence and call on the government to take immediate action to investigate the origin of the letter and find and prosecute the perpetrators.

We have cancelled an event we are holding on the day for fear of the safety of our members and call on the government to ensure the safety of all minorities. Furthermore, we are concerned that the letter has been distributed up and down the country, as well as on social media.

CEMB continues to fight on several fronts – against the far-right of all stripes, including Islamism and white supremacists as well as for citizenship rights irrespective of beliefs or background.

Sadia Hameed and Maryam Namazie, CEMB
Gita Sahgal, Centre for Secular Space
Pragna Patel, Southall Black Sisters

Conference on Sharia, Segregation and Secularism, London

Sunday 25 November 2018

Conference on Sharia, Segregation and Secularism

9:30am registration for 10:00am start

Central London

Join notable secularists and veteran women’s rights campaigners for a conference on Sharia, Segregation and Secularism at a spectacular venue in central London on Sunday 25 November 2018.

The conference will raise key issues surrounding religious arbitration, the veil and gender segregation at schools and universities, including as part of the religious-Right’s assault on women’s rights. It will also highlight the voices of people on the frontlines of resistance, the gains made by secularists both in the UK and internationally, and the importance of secularism as a minimum precondition for equality. Challenges that secularists continue to face and priorities for continued collective action will also be addressed.

The conference will mark the tenth anniversary of the One Law for All Campaign for equality irrespective of background, beliefs and religions.

Confirmed Speakers (Biographies):

Afsana Lachaux, Women’s Rights Activist
Ahlam Akram, Founder of Basira
Anna Zobnina, Strategy and Policy Coordinator at the European Network of Migrant Women
Annie Laurie-Gaylor, Co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation
Atoosa Farahmand, Performance Artist
Beatrix Campbell, Writer, Journalist, Broadcaster and Playwright
Bonya Ahmed, Activist, Writer, Blogger at Mukto-Mona
Caroline Criado Perez, Writer, Campaigner and Consultant
Cinzia Sciuto, Journalist
Diana Nammi, Founder and Executive Director of Iranian Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation
Eve Sacks, Trustee of Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance UK
Fariborz Pooya, Bread and Roses TV Producer
Gita Sahgal, Founder and Director of Centre for Secular Space
Homa Arjomand, International Coordinator for One Secular School System
Houzan Mahmoud, Co-founder of Culture Project
Ibtissame Betty Lachgar, Feminist, Human Rights Activist
Inna Shevchenko, FEMEN Leader
Julia Alimova, Co-Coordinator, Eve’s Ribs
LCP Dance Theatre
Mahshad Afshar, Filmmaker and Visual Artist
Maryam Namazie, Co-Spokesperson for One Law for All, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and Fitnah
Marieme Helie Lucas, Algerian Sociologist and Founder of Secularism is a Women’s Issue
Nadia El Fani, Tunisian film-maker
Nasreen Rehman, Women’s Rights Campaigner
Nina Sankari, Polish Feminist and Secularist
Peter Tatchell, Human Rights Campaigner
Pragna Patel, Founder and Director of the Southall Black Sisters
Rahila Gupta, Writer and Journalist
Rumana Hashem, Women’s Rights Activist
Sadia Hameed, Spokesperson of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Sadikur Rahman, Solicitor and National Secular Society Council Member
Saif Ul Malook, Asia Bibi’s Lawyer
Shelley Segal, Singer and Songwriter
Stasa Zajovic, Co-Founder of Women in Black Belgrade
Victoria Gugenheim, Body Artist
Yasmin Rehman, Women’s Rights Campaigner

Tickets can be purchased here. Conference venue will be given to ticket holders closer to the date of the event. Please note that tickets cannot be bought at the door and must be purchased prior to the event.

Conference sponsors include: Bread and Roses TV; Center for Inquiry; Centre for Secular Space; Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain; Culture Project; European Network of Migrant Women; Equal Rights Now; Fitnah; Freedom from Religion Foundation; National Secular Society; One Law for All; Southall Black Sisters; and Secularism is a Women’s Issue.

More information on the conference is available on its website.

For more information, please contact Maryam Namazie, onelawforall@gmail.com.

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