Inclusive Mosque Initiative has declined to join us in a friendly debate on women’s rights and Sharia. No surprise there.
As you may know, prior to the 25 November International Conference on Sharia, Segregation and Secularism, they organised an event in response to ours before it had even taken place. They basically accused us of promoting a nationalist and western agenda because of our defence of secularism and universal rights. We asked them why they were so afraid of secularism.
Following their event, which was full of misinformation, we invited them to a friendly debate on the issues. What better way to debate and discuss than to do it face to face? “Inclusive” Mosque, however, have declined our invitation, now also accusing our conference of “transphobia” to which Sadia Hameed has asked for clarification. In any case, our conference proceedings are available online for everyone to see (we look forward to a video of their conference soon).
Of course, “Inclusive” Mosque could have just come and defended their views and heard what we had to say rather than making false accusations and using demagoguery, but given that no one is willing to even sign their name to their emails, that seems to be too much to ask.
Hopefully, eventually, the “Inclusive” mosque will reach the political maturity to argue its case and listen to views it disagrees with. In the meanwhile, though, one small suggestion for them: rather than spending time attacking those of us who are victims and survivors of Sharia and Islamism – many of whom are LGBT and migrants too by the way – why not spend more time focusing on criticising Islamists and the religious-Right at least? It’s really not that hard. Try it sometime.
Below are the emails sent and received by Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB):
On 2018-12-05 15:29, Sadia Hameed wrote:
Dear Inclusive Mosque,
We would like to formally invite you to take part in a friendly debate about Women’s rights, Islam and Secularism for International Women’s day on Saturday 9th March 2019.
Ideally we would have 3 speakers each, who would each make a short opening statement, followed by a debate and end with closing statements. It is important for us to have open and honest dialogue, we are hoping to help facilitate such a discussion.
Eagerly awaiting your reply.
Council of Ex Muslims of Britain
INCLUSIVE MOSQUE RESPONSE
On Tuesday, 18 December 2018, 11:40,
Thank you for the invitation, but we will have to decline. As a rule we don’t participate in public debates as we don’t find these to be constructive platforms for discussion.
We were also concerned by the transphobia at the Secular Conference this year, of which CEMB was a sponsor, and would not want to subject ourselves or our community to any similar statements made at this debate.
Sent: 18 December 2018 17:02
Subject: Re: Friendly debate
Dear Inclusive Mosque,
Thank you for responding to our message and clarifying that you are only willing to speak about us but not to us.
Sitting together for an adult discussion, enables individuals with different beliefs and ideas to see humanity of one another, however apostates have long been dehumanized in Islam, therefore we understand your ignorance and unwillingness to engage with us.
Lastly, could you please clarify the “transphobia” at the Secular Conference? I certainly do not recall anything of this nature.
We wanted to give you an update on the crucial work of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain this past year, thank you for your support and ask for you to continue to help us, including by donating to our crucial work. Every bit helps and no amount is too small. If you are thinking of donating during the holiday period, CEMB is a great secular/non-religious option doing important work without religious conditions, dogma or proselytizing.
Since it is nearing the end of 2018, we would like to tell you some of the highlights of the year that couldn’t have been possible without the support of our donors:
In February, Sadia went to Australia to speak at the first ever event of ex-Muslims speaking out publicly. She took part in a number of speeches and panel discussions in Sydney and Melbourne and also took part in media interviews. Here is one on Australian TV where she debates a Muslim woman apologist.
On World Hijab Day in February and in the women’s march in London in March, CEMB defended the movement in Iran against compulsory veiling.
In April, Maryam spoke at the 10th anniversary celebration of FEMEN in Paris. They are the topless activists that have worked closely with CEMB in support of apostasy, blasphemy and women’s rights.
On 18 May, CEMB has an “eat-in” in front of several embassies of countries that persecute people for eating during Ramadan. At the Saudi embassy, armed metropolitan police told us we were “offending” staff in the Saudi embassy, to which we exclaimed that their persecution offends us and is a lot more serious than hurt sentiments!
In the same month, Maryam spoke at a seminar at European Parliament on Fundamentalism & Neo-Liberalism in Europe: Their Collusion and Impact on Women’s Rights and Ethnic Minorities Rights. You can see a summary of her speech here.
Maryam also spoke at the Muslimish conference in NYC about ex-Muslims being a “community in protest” (as opposed to community in the regressive sense of identity politics). Here is Maryam’s speech at the conference and the Q&A that followed. Also see a shortened article in sister-hood explaining ex-Muslims as a community in protest.
With the rise of atheism in countries under Islamic rule, we are seeing many more cases of those being persecuted for blasphemy and apostasy. Here is a recent article we have published on the demand for atheism which calls for normalising #AtheismNotACrime. We developed a successful series of publicity materials for it, including for #BlasphemyNotACrime, #ApostasyNotACrime.
In July, CEMB joined Pride in London for the second year. It was a great success for us given that we were not sure if we would be allowed to march officially until a few months before the event. We received tremendous amounts of support. This year we had a much larger group joining us, including a Bangladeshi LGBT group, Boys Love World. A filmmaker Carl Russ-Mohl joined our march and produced a short film on CEMB and Spokespersons Jimmy Bangash. You can see the film here. Spokesperson Imad Iddine Habib explains why “Allah is Gay,” a placard he made first in 2017, which has now been picked up by ex-Muslims from Germany to Canada.
With the International Coalition of Ex-Muslims formed after our 2017 conference (the largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history), we read a poem written by Jimmy Bangash in defence of LGBT rights in countries under Islamic rule.
In July, Maryam worked with MEP Teresa Barbat Gimenez to suggest amendments to the European Parliament’s Committees of Foreign Affairs and Human Rights report regarding Freedom of religion and belief.
In August, CEMB organised a Vegetarian Heathen Eid. Bakra Eid is about slaughtering animals in the most brutal manner. Many CEMB members miss Eid and the time with family but don’t want to take part in a religious event or have anything to do with animal sacrifice so CEMB celebrated Eid the heathen way.
In September for International Blasphemy Day, CEMB members tore verses of the Quran that were anti-apostate and anti-women in a public protest action.
The International Ex-Muslim Coalition also did a video accusing “Ayatollah Facebook” of silencing blasphemers by constantly shutting down pages of ex-Muslims and freethinkers. Here is Maryam’s message.
CEMB sponsored Bullet Hole, a powerful production about FGM, at Park Theatre, for black history month. It is a story of hope, love and human rights played by an all-female cast.
In October, Spokespersons Sadia Hameed and Maryam Namazie conducted a training for 11 Malaysian government officials who are involved in the Islamic religious affairs department, including those implementing Sharia in the law, education and government. We showed them the film, Islam’s Non Believers, and had an extended discussion on apostasy and the right to atheism. They argued that atheists go against “their culture” and that the law must be respected. We argued that unjust laws must be challenged and culture is not homogenous. We stressed the importance of secularism and universal values. Discussions were sometimes heated but it was the first time they had met with ex-Muslims and it helped some of them to understand the awful treatment Malaysian atheists face and humanise ex-Muslims. We also linked it to the treatment of women, religious minorities and LGBT, amongst others.
In early November, at the Freedom from Religion Foundation Convention in San Francisco, Maryam awarded Ensaf Haidar, Raif Badawi’s wife (the Saudi freethinker sentenced to ten years in prison and 1000 lashes for “insulting Islam”) with the Henry Zumach Freedom From Religious Fundamentalism Award that she won last year.
On 25 November, CEMB sponsored an international Conference on Sharia, Segregation and Secularism, marking the 10th anniversary of our sister campaign One Law for All. The conference was a landmark event. (Organising Committee: Maryam Namazie, Sadia Hameed and Sina Ahadi Pour; MCs: Fariborz Pooya and Nahla Mahmoud).
In April and October, we held “Coming Out” parties where ex-Muslims received their apostasy certificates. The parties are one way of seeing people’s coming out as a cause for celebration rather than vilification and a source of shame.
We also started monthly support groups in addition to monthly meet-ups to allow ex-Muslims to share issues and empower each other. So far, the group has discussed issues like shunning, identity, post-apostasy trauma, family, drug and alcohol abuse, community, why we left Islam and relationships.
Our monthly meet-ups continue to go strong. It is a place where ex-Muslims and their friends can come to listen to a speaker, socialise, have a drink and let off some steam. The events bring speakers dealing with a range of issues including on the ex-Muslim experience through art and evenings with lawyer Ana González on apostasy and asylum, with Hassan Radwan on Islamic reform and Imad Iddine Habib on challenging racism and the far-Right.
In 2018, we also organised swimming lessons, picnics and movie nights and took ex-Muslims to Thorpe Park. You can see all our events and speaking engagements here.
We have done a huge amount of work for the right to apostasy and blasphemy (see also a timeline of our highlights from 2007-2018) but much more needs to be done. Particularly at a time when fascism, including religious fundamentalisms, is on the rise, we must keep going and defending universal rights for all, freedom of conscience, including for non-believers and secularism.
We look forward to working with you in the coming year and hope to see you at one or more of our upcoming events and speaking engagements.
Wishing you happy holidays and a wonderful New Year.