Month: June 2019

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Refusal Letters Wanted

Dear friend

As you know, in Many Muslim-majority countries around the world it is illegal for people to leave Islam; blasphemy carries a capital punishment, not to mention “mob justice” and lynching. Ex-Muslims from such countries seek asylum to gain protection and freedom to live without Islam with no danger to their lives. According to Asylum rules and regulations, anyone who has a well-founded fear of persecution should be granted protection. Given the persecution and threats of violence or worse that ex-Muslims face in Muslim-majority countries, it is Home Office’s moral and legal responsibility to provide protection to ex-Muslims by granting them asylum.

But in reality, many ex-Muslims are denied asylum leaving them no choice but to go for judicial review against the Home Office decision in the hopes of overturning an unjust refusal by a first tribunal judge. Why are so many ex-Muslim asylum cases being refused by the Home Office? It is a question worth asking.

We, at CEMB, are campaigning to raise awareness and change the way ex-Muslim cases are processed by the Home Office. We aim to gather and highlight the “reasons” Home Office uses to deny ex-Muslims asylum in the UK.

If you are an ex-Muslim and have been refused by the Home Office, please send us a copy of your rejection letter so we can gather evidence to show systematic disregard for ex-Muslim cases. We aim to compile a list of reasons the Home Office uses to deny ex-Muslims protection and publish a rebuttal to the rejections in order to get the Home Office to review its inadequacies when it comes to apostasy and blasphemy cases. Your rejection letters and names will remain confidential. Anonymity requests will be respected.

Please send your letters to Ali Malik at ali.malik@ex-muslim.org.uk. If you have any questions, please contact Ali or Sadia Hameed at hello@ex-muslim.org.uk. Please note that all of CEMB’s support is free of charge.

Warm wishes,

Ali Malik and Sadia Hameed

Defending LGBT Rights, Celebrating Dissent and More

Defending LGBT Rights, Celebrating Dissent and More

 

Hello dear friend

We wanted to remind you of some of our upcoming events and actions and also give you an update of our work.

LGBT RIGHTS

4 July 2019, Evening on LGBT Rights, Apostasy and Blasphemy

The London event is part of Pride Festival. There are only a few more spaces left so please buy your tickets now. Tickets are only £3 unwaged; £5 waged and include a drink, poetry by Somali Kenyan poet Halima Salat, a screening of the short film Firdaus by cult British Director Shakila Taranum Maan and a conversation with Muslim and ex-Muslim activists. Get your tickets before they sell out here. No tickets will be sold at the door.

6 July 2019, CEMB marches at Pride in London

CEMB will be marching at Pride in London on 6 July for the third time as an organisation. If you want to march with us, please contact hello@ex-muslim.org.uk to reserve your wristband as we have a limited number available for CEMB members and supporters.

* Read CEMB’s solidarity statement on Birmingham schools and LGBT rights.

* See also CEMB’s recent protest action at the Brunei embassy to condemn stoning to death for homosexuality and adultery.

* If you can, please support our LGBT rights work via a crowdfunding campaign. Any amount, however small, will be greatly appreciated. Special thanks to National Secular Society, Pink Triangle Trust and a number of individuals who have donated towards our events and actions this month.

* Please note that Southall Black Sisters and Feminist Dissent have an event in Birmingham on 27 June and are gathering signatures in support of equality in Birmingham Schools. For more information or to sign on to the statement visit their website here.

The ISLAMOPHOBIA DEFINITION

CEMB completed submissions for the Home Affairs select committee against the proposed Islamophobia definition and on Hate Crimes, had a meeting with secular groups to create a coalition against the APPG for British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia and issued a joint statement calling on the Government to reject the Islamophobia definition. We also met with the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Freedom of Religious Belief representative.

For more information on this issue, please read Maryam Namazie’s latest piece in sister-hood magazine about why the Islamophobia definition is a triumph for the fundamentalists.

DON’T MISS CELEBRATING DISSENT FESTIVAL IN AMSTERDAM, 31 AUG-1 SEPT

De Balie, the free expression centre in Amsterdam, is organising a Celebrating Dissent Festival in Amsterdam during 31 August – 1 September with nearly 40 speakers and acts from 30 countries. The event will bring together women and men to celebrate freedom through theatre, talks, poetry, film and stand-up comedy.

Women, non-believers and LGBT+ are often the victims of the strictest cultural and religious dogmas. The festival Celebrating Dissent honours their freedom. Freedom to think differently, freedom not to believe, and freedom to be yourself.

This will be one of the largest gathering of free-thinkers in the world. It is an historic not to be missed event. You can find out more about it here.

UPDATE ON OUR ACTIVITIES IN THE FIRST HALF OF 2019

Since we are now mid-2019, we thought it would be useful to give you an update on our work so far.

Supporting ex-Muslims

CEMB is now supporting around 600 ex-Muslims a month, including from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey and UAE! This includes face-to-face, email and social media contacts, as well as monthly support groups in London and Birmingham, a monthly Social for isolated members, direct support services such as attending hearings, writing letters of support, contacting housing and social services for young people at risk, working with Forced Marriages Unit to prevent young women and girls being taken abroad for forced marriage and so on. We also continue to hold monthly meet ups, including on female genital mutilation and male circumcision and the harms of child genital cutting, on asylum and apostasy, shunning and more. This week, for World Refugee Day, we organised an open mic for apostate asylum seekers and refugees to speak about their experiences. All our services are completely free of charge.

Ramadan Fast-Defying Protests: Child Fasting is Child Abuse

During the month of Ramadan, we organised a protest at the Department for Education calling on Government to stop child fasting, which is a form of child neglect and abuse. We also issued advice on the matter to educators. Whilst at the Department for Education, young Muslim youth on their way to Friday prayers stopped at our protest and we were able to raise these issues with them. BBC Woman’s Hour, which was meant to have Sadia Hameed on, cancelled her appearance at the last minute. We also organised Ramadan Stories, and a Fast-Defying picnic for members. You can read details here.

March 23, First ever Global Atheist Day

23 March was the first ever international Atheist Day. CEMB organised a successful day which focused on ex-Muslim women given that women are less visible and have more barriers to coming out and speaking out. Photographs of women sitting on the ground in a public park with legs akimbo were in solidarity with women across the world who are being sexually assaulted for fighting for their rights and told to ‘sit properly’, ‘be decent’ and threatened with rape for claiming the right to their bodies. It was in particular a show of solidarity with women involved in the aurat march in Pakistan. See video of the action here. This action was followed by an emotional evening of ex-Muslim women speaking out, a comedy skit, ex-Muslims receiving coming out certificates and a 2019 CEMB award ceremony.

Find our Way to Freedom, New Ex-Muslim Anthem by Shelley Segal

Shelley Segal sang her new anthem for CEMB and ex-Muslims called ‘Find our Way to Freedom,’ which premiered on Atheist Day.

March 8, International Women’s Day

Our international ex-Muslim coalition organised Women Against Allah for International Women’s Day. CEMB focused on #PeriodsAreNatural in order to break the taboo that comes with women’s periods. This caused a huge uproar and started a much-needed discussion. For 8 March, Shelley Segal also produced a video for her song “Our Resistance” which she sang for One Law for All, CEMB’s sister organisation. You can see the video here.

February 6, No to FGM Day

For zero tolerance to Female genital mutilation (FGM) day, we handed out roses that had been stapled shut, along with flyers explaining FGM, the harms of it and how to support someone that is at risk, or has experienced FGM.

February 1, No Hijab Day

For Hijab Day, we organised in a 3-hour live podcast, with over half a dozen women worldwide, discussing the harms of modesty culture and the veil.

January 21, Refugee Too

CEMB organised a #RefugeeToo protest outside the Home Office in order to highlight the fact that ex-Muslims are also refugees. This campaign linked into the plight of the Saudi woman and ex-Muslim Rahaf who was able to get asylum in Canada after locking herself in her hotel room in Thailand when authorities tried to deport her back to Saudi Arabia. The campaign highlighted a number of activist cases.

KEEP SUPPORTING US!

Thank you for all your support. It helps more than you can imagine! If you can continue supporting us in any way possible, please do. You can donate via our website or volunteer your skills. Also, if you want to do a fundraiser for us, please get in touch. It could be anything from a cake sale, a charity waxing, or something more daring like a skydive or bungy jump!

We hope to see some of you at our Pride events and in Amsterdam at De Balie during August 31 – September 1.

Warm wishes

Maryam Namazie and Sadia Hameed

Spokespersons

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain

hello@ex-muslim.org.uk

www.ex-muslim.org.uk

 

The APPG’s definition of ‘Islamophobia’ is a triumph for fundamentalists

The below article was published on sister-hood.


“Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness” – All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims definition of Islamophobia


The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia has mainly been framed as a free speech issue. The definition adopted by some parties and councils will certainly limit criticism of Islam and Islamism even further than it already is currently. To say it will not is dishonest at best. This has already been the case for a long time now. For those of us who have fled Iran, it has been so since the expropriation of the Iranian revolution by the Islamists; in Britain, at least since the Rushdie affair.

Examples abound. The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, of which I am a Spokesperson, was placed under investigation for eight months by Pride in London because of the accusation of Islamophobia levelled against us by the East London Mosque and Mend. I myself have been barred from Warwick University, harassed by Islamic Society students at Goldsmiths, and had my talk cancelled at Trinity College over the same accusations. I haven’t had issues for a while now – but that is only because I am hardly invited to speak at universities any more. It is just too much trouble. The accusations stick; uncomfortably so.

Whilst this is a free speech issue (blasphemy is clearly not racism), what I find even more disturbing about this definition is the Parliamentary Group’s open promulgation of the idea that there is something that can be called ‘expressions of Muslimness.’ It is absurd to assume that this is the case, any more than one can speak of expressions of Christianness or Jewishness or Hinduness. This is no different from saying there are ‘expressions of Britishness’; something that the far-Right – and increasingly, mainstream politicians – imply in order to exclude migrants and minorities.

Certainly, we can discuss what it means to be British – or Muslim for that matter. This will inevitably mean different things to different people. But with the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Tommy Robinson, the Windrush scandal, May’s ‘Go Home’ vans, and her ‘hostile environment’, along with the far-Right fascist parties gaining seats across Europe, the promotion of expressions of ‘Britishness’ isn’t as innocent as it is made out to be. In this context, Britishness becomes whiteness. Likewise, promoting ‘Muslimness’ in a world in which the religious-Right is in power and causing havoc is far more ominous than it might initially seem.

Like ‘Britishness’, the concept of ‘Muslimness’ is fundamentally about exclusion. Britishness tends to exclude brown and black people. Muslimness tends to exclude doubters and dissenters – anyone not ‘authentically’ regressive enough, not veiled enough, not segregated enough, not submissive enough, not pro-Sharia enough, not modest enough, not angry enough and not offended enough. Everyone else is an ‘Islamophobe’, an ‘Uncle Tom’, a ‘native informant’, a ‘coconut’ or a ‘westernised, neo-colonialist.’

The not-so-funny thing about identity politics is that whilst it claims that each particular ‘group’ has a singular identity (as if that were even possible), the identity is so restrictive that it keeps out many more people than it allows in. In fact, that’s the whole point. If you want in, you have to make sure you look the part and follow the rules. If you terrorise a primary school in Birmingham to prevent lessons saying that being gay is OK, if you defend Sharia courts despite their promotion of violence against women, or legitimise apostates being shunned and killed, then you will automatically pass the Muslimness authenticity test! Not so much if you are a gay Muslim, or an ex-Muslim, or a feminist who doesn’t want to wear the hijab or fast during Ramadan, or a secularist who is opposed to Sharia law.

Another major problem with identity politics is that those with power determine Britishness or Muslimness or Jewishness or Hinduness… and the limits of permissibility within these ‘groups’. Therefore, ‘Muslimness’ becomes what Cage, Mend, the Muslim Council of Britain or the Iranian and Saudi regimes say it is. In Trump’s US, Christianness becomes regressive anti-abortion laws and moves to end Roe V Wade. In Modi’s India, Hinduness means that one can be murdered for eating beef.

The Parliamentary Group’s promotion of identity politics and ‘Muslimness,’ has, therefore, everything to do with appeasing the religious-Right by pushing the false narrative of an ‘authentic’ Muslim: a homogenised caricature imposed upon a diverse people by fundamentalists-playing-victims.

This feeds into stereotypes, and collaborates in the erasure of class politics, dissent and political and social struggles; it diminishes solidarity both within and without the so-called group. Also, ironically, it actually exacerbates racism by insisting that brown and black citizens are ‘different’ and in need of paternalistic protection and treated with hyper-sensitivity in case (god forbid) they start burning books…or worse.

The politics of difference (and superiority) have always been a pillar of fascist and racist politics whether that difference is based on race or – as we now increasingly see – ‘culture.’ (Whose culture this is does not get discussed. Is it the culture of the Islamists who want to stone people to death or the women and men who refuse and resist?) For me, it is clear as daylight: the adoption of any definition of ‘Islamophobia’ is a triumph for fundamentalists. It has nothing to do with combatting racism.

A few other key points:

  • Religion and belief are personal matters; lived experiences as varied as the people who hold them. Homogenising countless diverse people based on essentialised characteristics is part of a fundamentalist project designed to manage dissent. It has everything to do with power and control, and nothing to do with the right to freedom of belief and religion, or the fight against racism.
  • Equalities legislation already considers discrimination against someone on the basis of protected characteristics such as religion or belief against the law. The insistence on normalising the term ‘Islamophobia’ appeases fundamentalists by conflating criticism of Islam and Islamism with bigotry against Muslims in order to restrict free expression, particularly blasphemy and heresy.
  • Free speech matters most to minorities and migrants, the poor, disenfranchised, witches, apostates and heretics. Popes and imams, capitalists and kings don’t need it; they already have access to all the forms of expression available, as well as the brute violence to back it up. Any limit on free speech limits the rights of the oppressed and aids the oppressor – even if the oppressor belongs to a ‘minority’ religion.
  • Free speech is an individual right. It is not a group right. It is I who decides how to exercise my free speech, not the APPG nor any ‘useful tests’ proposed by some professor such as Tariq Modood proposes to ascertain if my speech is to be considered ‘reasonable criticism’ or ‘Islamophobic.’ With limits, speech is no longer free.
  • Finally, as needs to be clarified in any discussion of Islamophobia: rejecting the term ‘Islamophobia’ itself, or rejecting any attempts at defining it, does not mean that anti-Muslim bigotry doesn’t exist. The rise in hate crimes and xenophobia, the dehumanisation of those deemed ‘other’, the criminalisation of migration and those helping desperate migrants all make the continued fight against racism as urgent as ever. Racism is a matter of life and death at worst and humiliation and discrimination at best for many people from Muslim, minority and refugee backgrounds. But fighting racism by imposing blasphemy laws gives the impression that something is being done against racism. Racism, however, is only being exacerbated by promoting difference and superiority, rather than secularism, citizenship, equality and our common humanity irrespective of background and belief.

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