Author: CEMB

Letter to “Index on Censorship”

Jonathan Dimbleby

Chair
Board of Trustees
Index on Censorship
Free Word Centre
60 Farringdon Road
London EC1R 3GA

Dear Mr Dimbleby

We are deeply shocked and disappointed by the decision of Index to censor its own magazine from publishing one of the Danish cartoons to illustrate an article relating to the subject.

We believe this is a betrayal of those who are putting their lives on the line to defend freedom of expression. We should be standing together. It is only through a united stance that we can protect each other and defeat the extremists and those who wish to use fear and threats to silence dissent.

Index on Censorship, above all should not be indulging in self-censorship.

Finally, this is not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing with the content of the cartoons: as the famous quote goes: “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it!” But it has everything to do with standing up to those who would take away our freedom to express ourselves and would enslave humanity. It has everything to do with not abandoning the growing numbers of brave people standing up for human rights, freedom and against censorship, around the world.

Yours sincerely,

Roy Brown, International Representative, International Humanist and Ethical Union
Andrew Copson, Chief Executive, British Humanist Association
Douglas Murray, Director, Centre for Social Cohesion
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, One Law for All and Iran Solidarity
David Pollock, President, European Humanist Federation
Fariborz Pooya, Head, Iranian Secular Society
Hassan Radwan, Management Committee Member, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Terry Sanderson, President, National Secular Society

CEMB second Annual General Meeting held on December 13, 2009

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain held its second Annual General Meeting on 13 December 2009 in London.
The AGM unanimously adopted a statement expressing the organisation’s concern over the Swiss vote to ban minarets. The statement said:

  • ‘Far-right proposals to ban minarets are divisive, reactionary and in line with the ‘Clash of Civilisations’ agenda, which hands over ‘Muslims’ or those labelled as such to the political Islamic movement and denies the universality of the demand to live a life worthy of the 21st century.
  • ‘Believing in Islam or any religion for that matter is not a crime. Neither is it a crime to have minarets in mosques. What are crimes, however, are groups or individuals using religion to threaten people to death, intimidate them, violate their rights, and discriminate against them. Society has to address these crimes and prosecute those who threaten or terrorise people – not ban minarets!
  • ‘Political Islam is a political phenomenon that demands a political response. This response must include targeting the discrimination, abuse and criminal acts that take place against children in Islamic schools, against citizens in Sharia councils and tribunals, against apostates and freethinkers, gays and women who are killed in the name of honour…’
  • ‘The Enlightenment didn’t ban church towers in order to successfully push Christianity into the private sphere. The same must be done with political Islam.’

The AGM unanimously adopted several motions calling for:

  • ‘the immediate release of all those imprisoned for ‘apostasy’; a cancellation of laws wherever they exist that punish the right and freedom to renounce or criticise Islam; and an abolition of the death penalty,’
  • ‘the unconditional right to asylum for apostates given that apostasy is punishable by death under Sharia law,’ and
  • ‘an end to the use and implementation of Sharia law in Britain and everywhere and the promotion of universal rights and secularism.’

Moreover, the AGM unanimously reiterated its support of the One Law for All Campaign and the newly founded International Bureau for Laïcite’s Charter for Secularism.

The AGM adopted the organisation’s constitution and annual and financial reports. Furthermore, it thanked Maryam Namazie for her work as Spokesperson of the organisation.

At the meeting, eleven people were elected to the CEMB’s Management Committee: Asad Abbas, Syed Jahiz, Jalil Jalili, Rony Miah, Reza Moradi, Fariborz Pooya, Hassan Radwan, Faranak Rezaie, Kamran Sheikh, Hypatia Theon, and Zia Zaffar. Fariborz Pooya was elected Chair; Asad Abbas, Secretary and Zia Zaffar, Treasurer.

CEMB Management Committee Members elected at the December 13, 2009 AGM

Asad Abbas: I have been on the Executive Committee since the formation of CEMB and wish to continue. If elected, I look forward to playing an active role in the No Sharia Courts Campaign. I am a member of the National Secular Society, British Humanist Association and the Rationalist Association. I am also a trustee of South Place Ethical Society. I am a retired clinical psychologist and was born in India.

Syed Jahiz: I have been an ex-Muslim for over 13 years and have lived in Middle East, Pakistan and England. I understand the issues faced by ordinary ex-Muslims. I am also the founder-organiser for the London Ex-Muslims Meetup Group. The group has 40 members now and has hosted 17 meetups in over 13 months. I have a Management Accounting and Business background and experience of working with charity organisations. I believe I can add value to the organisation by becoming part of the Management Committee, especially when it comes to the formulation of successful strategies for the development and growth of CEMB.

Jalil Jalili: I would like to stand for the Management Committee of CEMB. I have many years experience in political activism against the Islamic regime in Iran and in defence of rights, secularism and progressive values. Since the launch of CEMB in June 2007, I have been an active member of its Executive Committee involved in many aspects of the organisation’s work from organising meetings and conferences, to recruiting new members. I would like to stand for the Management Committee and continue to help the organisation to achieve its goals as mentioned in its manifesto. As in the past I will continue to allocate the time needed to ensure the organisation progresses as I believe it is important in the struggle against political Islam and for universal and citizenship rights.

Rony Miah: I remain passionate about the negative influence of Islam on society and in particular in the UK on young people. I have been a member for the past year and have helped in the running and managing the events that the CEMB has organised. I believe I have a lot to offer in an organisational capacity as well as an understanding of the legal issues, particularly in reference to how Sharia operates in the UK. I am keen to build on the success of the CEMB and encourage increasing membership and increasing awareness of ex-Muslims amongst the UK Muslim community.

Reza Moradi: I am a founding and Management Committee member of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and its webmaster. I have produced a number of documentaries and short films including Fitna Remade, and against Child Veiling and Honour Killings. In 2006, I was questioned by police for causing ‘offence’ because of carrying a banner of the Mohammad caricatures at a free expression demonstration in Trafalgar Square but was eventually never charged. In the CEMB I have worked on a regular basis updating the website, designing anything from CEMB leaflets and publications, and producing film footage of our events for use on YouTube and the website. I have also coordinated audio-visual work done at our various conferences and events. Being in this organisation is important to me as it enables me to continue fighting political Islam and defending people’s rights.

Fariborz Pooya: I am the head of the Iranian Secular Society and father of two. I bring you over 30 years of experience in political campaigning at the local, national and international levels. I have experience of working as an executive member of a Trade Union Branch in South London for several years, representing members, organising campaigns and successful strikes. I have worked in Local Government for over 19 years. I have campaigned against the political Islamic movement for 30 years mainly in Britain and Europe. I have represented the CEMB at a number of seminars and conferences. As a founding member of the CEMB, I believe that the work to end the punishment of apostasy is a significant goal to achieve for the 21st century to bring about a fair and humane society free from the coercion to believe. To achieve this, along with other works that the council is doing, it must provide grassroots support to those who wish to leave Islam and provide them with shelter and practical support and this is a crucial role for the Council of Ex-Muslims. I would like to be elected to the Management Committee and can provide time and energy to advancing the goals of the organisation.

Hassan Radwan: My father was Egyptian and my mother English. During my late teens confusion about my identity led me to explore Islam. After completing my studies, I became a teacher at Islamia School in London where I worked for 15 years. During that time I wrote 4 children’s stories. Certain events in my life and in the world around caused me to start seeing Islam in a different perspective. Little by little doubts began creeping in. I started going through the motions of being a ‘good’ Muslim, in the hope that my faith would return. But this pretence only made me depressed. The problem is that one cannot choose to believe. Either one does or not and if there is a God, the last thing he would have wanted me to do was to pretend to believe in something that I didn’t. It was a huge relief when I finally admitted to myself that I no longer believed in Islam. However the fact that I no longer believe in Islam doesn’t mean I have suddenly turned into a hater of Muslims. I know that most Muslims are good and decent people. How could I possibly hate Muslims when my family are Muslims? When I speak to my older children about what I think, I tell them they must find out for themselves what they believe and if they feel happy being Muslim then that is what they should be. I certainly don’t feel the need to pass on my own beliefs concerning God and religion to them – something I felt it was my duty to do when I was a Muslim. While I do not believe in telling anyone what they should believe, I do think one should have the courage to honestly examine the beliefs that are central to one’s life and guide one’s actions. If one is truly satisfied with them, then they should be fully embraced with one’s heart and mind, but if they do not stand up to close scrutiny, then they should be discarded. Life is too short to allow it to be dictated by beliefs one does not truly believe. My personal journey has left me convinced that religion is a danger if allowed power over people lives. Religion must be a private matter and never be allowed to influence Government, the Law or the public sphere. I feel that as a result of my experiences I have a great deal to contribute to the Council of Ex-Muslims and its efforts to push back political Islam and all forms of religious oppression.

Faranak Rezaei: I would like to join the Management Committee because I consider Islamic law as unacceptable and contradictory to human rights and values. Islam is anti-woman as it humiliates women and turns them into servants of men. It is also anti-man, because it reduces men to breeding animals controlled by their urges. Given my experiences having fled the Islamic regime of Iran, I believe I can be useful to the CEMB.

Kamran Sheikh: I was born in Pakistan and spent my childhood in the Middle East and North Africa. Being from a religious family, I developed a great interest and love for Islam and became a practicing Muslim by the time I reached my 20’s. A deeper study of Islam eventually led to my apostasy about 12 years ago. I am a member of the CEMB since early 2008 and an active member of the London ex-Muslim meetup group. I am strictly against political and radical Islam. I oppose Sharia law in Britain and anywhere else in the world. I am a financial markets analyst by profession.

Hypatia Theon: I am an Egyptian lady and have experienced the harsh Sharia law in child custody, divorce, lack of rights to travel, work and many other things for women… and hence the whole society. In the beginning I thought this is dictated by the supreme creator of the world until I started to read more about Islam from objective sources and even more about religions in general. I came to a solid conclusion that I can’t consider myself a Muslim anymore. I now understand that being a woman and a mother doesn’t mean at all to submit to such unjust treatment. I think by this way of thinking I will be able to raise my children with a sane idea about the world, to be more understanding and hence contributing to wherever they go. I am a single mother with two kids, active on the CEMB web forum and currently at the school of pharmacy.

Zia Zaffar: I wish to propose myself for membership of the CEMB Management Committee. I have been on the Committee as the Treasurer since the formation of CEMB and wish to continue. If elected, I look forward to playing an active role in all CEMB activities including the No Sharia Campaign. I am a life member of the British Humanist Association. I am a qualified accountant (although I am not practicing accountancy at present) and I was born in Pakistan.

CEMB statement on Swiss vote to ban minarets

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain is extremely concerned over the Swiss vote to ban minarets.

Far-right proposals to ban minarets are divisive, reactionary and in line with the ‘Clash of Civilisations’ agenda, which hands over ‘Muslims’ or those labelled as such to the political Islamic movement and denies the universality of the demand to live a life worthy of the 21st century.

Believing in Islam or any religion for that matter is not a crime. Neither is it a crime to have minarets in mosques. What are crimes, however, are groups or individuals using religion to threaten people to death, intimidate them, violate their rights, and discriminate against them. Society has to address these crimes and prosecute those who threaten or terrorise people – not ban minarets!

Political Islam is a political phenomenon that demands a political response. This response must include targeting the discrimination, abuse and criminal acts that take place against children in Islamic schools, against citizens in Sharia councils and tribunals, against apostates and freethinkers, gays and women who are killed in the name of honour…

This response must demand a banning of Sharia law and Islamic schools, along with all faith-based laws and schools.

It must exert pressure on governments to stop appeasing Islamic states and demand that such states be politically isolated.

It must demand the prohibition of any kind of financial, material or moral support by the state or state institutions to religion and religious activities and institutions.

It must support those who are at the forefront of fighting the political Islamic movement.

It must demand an end to the promotion of cultural relativism.

It must demand that religion be a private matter.

It must call for secularism – the complete separation of religion from the state, education and legal system – as a minimum precondition for the respect of rights and freedoms in society.

It must defend rather than restrict universal rights.

The Enlightenment didn’t ban church towers in order to successfully push Christianity into the private sphere. The same must be done with political Islam.

And that is what civilised humanity intends to do.

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