Category: Featured

Celebrating Dissent Festival at De Balie in Amsterdam

Celebrating Dissent Festival during August 31 – September 1 in Amsterdam at De Balie will be a huge and historic event with nearly 50 contributors from 30 countries worldwide coming together to celebrate freedom through theatre, talks, poetry, film and stand-up comedy.

The festival Celebrating Dissent honours freedom: freedom to think differently, freedom not to believe and freedom to be yourself.

31 AUGUST 2019

11:00: A Conversation on Women’s Dissent with Inna Shevchenko, Maryam Namazie, Taslima Nasrin and Zineb El Razoui. Music by Shelley Segal. Protest Art by Victoria Guggenheim.

14:00: Touching the Holy Subject with Nadia El Fani, Rishvin Ismath, Saif Ul Malook and Sarah Haider. Music by Veedu Vidz.

16:00: Comedy, the Sacred and Islamophobia with Shabana Rehman, Ali Rizvi and Armin Nabavi.

17:40: Public Art Protest celebrating dissenters in public square.

19:00: Separation of Religion from the State with Afsana Lachaux, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Elżbieta Podleśna, Homa Arjomand and Marieme Helie Lucas.

21:00: Women against Gods with Gita Sahgal, Houzan Mahmoud, Ibtissame Betty Lachgar, Mineke Schipper and Rana Ahmad. Performance by Atoosa Farahmand.

1 SEPTEMBER 2019

10:00: Film Screening Neither Allah Nor Master by Nadia El Fani followed by a conversation with Hind Bariaz, Ismail Mohamed, Karrar Al Asfoor, Wissam Charafeddine and Zara Kay.

12:00: Film Screening No Longer without You by Nazmiyeh Oral followed by a conversation with Cemal Knudsen Yucel, Fauzia Ilyas, Mimzy Vidz, Omar Makram, Rishvin Ismath, Sohail Ahmad and Zehra Pala.

16:00: On Identity with Kenan Malik, Harris Sultan, Jimmy Bangash, Rahila Gupta and Yasmin Rehman. Poetry by Halima Salat.

20:00: Fighting the Far-Right; Celebrating Dissent with Halima Salat, Maryam Namazie, Mohamed Hisham, Muhammed Syed, Sadia Hameed and Sami Abdallah. Music by Shelley Segal.

There will also be artwork by Mahshad Afshar and Jenny Wenhammar.

You can purchase day passes or passes for the full festival here.

You can also buy tickets for individual events or find out more information here.

We understand intolerance better than most; Blasphemy is not Bigotry

On 15 July, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) wrote to the newspaper Het Parool to ask for a right to reply to a piece by Dino Suhonic, director of Maruf platform for queer Muslims in the Netherlands where a number of intentionally false statements were made about the CEMB and our fight for LGBT rights of Muslims and ex-Muslims as well as the rights to apostasy and blasphemy at Pride in London.

CEMB urged the publication to rectify the falsities. Suhonic clearly has a right to criticise our organisation and work but the use of false statements to ‘prove’ his points was unethical and libelous and aimed only to damage and defame.

ON 16th July, we received an email from the publication – see below – saying that one of the mistakes in his piece was rectified but the more important false claim on far-right support was not. We were told that since we were not a Dutch organisation, we could not publish our opinion piece but that they would consider a letter to the editor. We sent a shorter letter to the editor on 17th July (it was even translated for their ease) and though we emailed a number of times inquiring about its publication, we have yet to see our letter published and are therefore making it available to the public.

The longer opinion piece in Dutch was published today on Vrij Links. You can read it here.

The English version of the opinion piece is below, as is the email received from the paper and our shortened letter to the editor, which was never published. UPDATE: After a number of contacts with the publication, our short letter to the editor was published on 31 July 2019. You can see the letter here.

SHORTENED LETTER TO THE EDITOR IN ENGLISH

Mr. Suhonic has made false claims regarding Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB). We are one of the largest and oldest progressive ex-Muslim groups worldwide. We defend LGBT rights of ex-Muslims and Muslims and the rights to apostasy and blasphemy. In struggling for these rights, we enact the rights that we demand. We blaspheme to win the right to blasphemy and reject religion to defend the right to apostasy. This public resistance when we can be shunned or killed for celebrating who we are is particularly apt to Gay Pride. Like women demanding the right to vote or blacks demanding an end to Jim Crow laws, we will blaspheme until we will no longer be killed for it. This may cause Mr Suhonic offence but defending the rights of those that offend religious morality has always been a cornerstone of progressive politics. After all, there are some Muslims who are offended by those who are Muslim and gay. Offence cannot be justification to deny minorities within minorities their rights. Mr Suhonic’s conflating blasphemy with far-Right support is like absurdly conflating his belief in Islam with support from Islamism! For us, Islamism is our far-Right and fundamentally no different from other religious-Right and racist movements. Bigotry affects us and our families too but we will not excuse fundamentalism because of racism nor racism because of fundamentalism.

Jimmy Bangash and Maryam Namazie
CEMB Spokespersons

DUTCH LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Dino Suhonic heeft valse beweringen gedaan over deCouncil of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB). Wij zijn één van de grootste en oudste progressieve ex-moslimgroepen ter wereld. Wij verdedigen lhbt-rechten van ex-moslims én moslims en het recht op apostasie en blasfemie. In deze strijd oefenen we de rechten uit die we opeisen. Wij gebruiken blasfemie om het recht op blasfemie te verwerven en verwerpen religie om het recht op apostasie te verdedigen. Overwegende dat wij kunnen worden buitengesloten of vermoord voor het vieren wie wij zijn, is dit publieke verzet uitzonderlijk geschikt voor de Gay Pride. Zoals vrouwen die kiesrecht eisten of zwarten die afschaffing van de Jim Crow-wetten eisten, zullen wij blasfemie plegen totdat we er niet meer voor vermoord worden. Dat mag Suhonickwetstend vinden, maar verdediging van de rechten van degenen die de religieuze moraal kwetsen is altijd een hoeksteen van progressieve politiek geweest. Tenslotte worden sommige moslims gekwetst door degenen moslim en homo zijn. Gekwetstheid kan geen rechtvaardiging zijn om minderheden binnen de minderheden hun rechten te onthouden. Dat Suhonicblasfemie met extreemrechtse steun verwart is net zo absurd als zijn geloof in de islam verwarren met steun voor het islamisme! Voor ons is islamisme ons extreemrechts en verschilt fundamenteel niet van andere religieus-rechtse en racistische bewegingen. Discriminatie raakt ons en onze families allemaal, maar wij zullen fundamentalisme niet goedpraten vanwegeracisme, noch racisme vanwege fundamentalisme.

Jimmy Bangash en Maryam Namazie
CEMB woordvoerders

EMAIL FROM THE PUBLICATION

On 16 Jul 2019, at 15:45, Het hoogste woord wrote:

Dear Mrs. Namazie,
Thank you, for your email and taking the effort to translate it to Dutch. After consulting with the author, I have made some changes to the article on our website. The sentence about the “Fuck islam-placard” has been removed. I added an editorial comment at the bottom of the article. Mr. Suhonic asked me to tell you he regrets his mistake.
Regarding your comment about the support for CEMB, I clarified in the article that Mr Suhonic meant “support on social media”, not financial support.
I would like to offer you the chance to reply and clarify your activities and position, however a full opinion piece would be too much, since you are not a Dutch organization and the remarks about your activities in Mr. Suhonic article are not the focus of the article. You are welcome to write a short response (around 150 words), which I will consider for publication in the ‘Letters to the newspaper’ section.
Met vriendelijke groet, kind regards,
Jesse Beentjes
Coördinator Het Hoogste Woord
Jacob Bontiusplaats 9, 1018 LL Amsterdam

THE LONGER OPINION PIECE WE INITIALLY WROTE TO REFUTE SUHONIC’S FALSE CLAIMS ABOUT CEMB – DUTCH HAS BEEN PUBLISHED IN VRIJ LINKS

On 15 Jul 2019, at 09:58, CEMB <exmuslimcouncil@googlemail.com> wrote:

To whom it may concern

Your newspaper Het Parool published a piece by Dino Suhonic, director of Maruf, platform for queer Muslims in the Netherlands where a number of intentionally false statements were made on the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and our fight for LGBT rights of Muslims and ex-Muslims as well as the rights to apostasy and blasphemy.

CEMB urges your publication to rectify the falsities. Suhonic clearly has a right to criticise our organisation and work but the use of false statements to ‘prove’ his points is unethical and libelous and aims only to damage and defame.

The false statements are as follows:

“This group has previously been accused of spreading Muslim hatred by using slogans such as ‘Fuck Islam’.” Firstly, CEMB never had a placard that said ‘Fuck Islam’ but ‘Fuck Islamic Homophobia’. Criticising religious homophobia is integral to the fight for the rights of minorities within minorities and dissenters. Blasphemy and apostasy are not hatred against believers but a challenge to religious ideas and dogma. The conflation of criticism of religious dogma or the religious-Right with hatred against believers is an attempt to impose blasphemy and apostasy laws where none exist.

Your paper can see information and footage of our participation at Pride over the three years. There is no ‘Fuck Islam’ placard. In any case, opposition to a religion or belief is not bigotry against people.

CEMB marches at Pride in London 2019 as topless Imams of Perpetual Indulgence

CEMB march at Pride 2018 in London: A Victory against Islamism

Open Letter to Pride: Defend the Council of Ex-Muslims

Suhanic also falsely says:

“They receive support mainly from right-wing groups, who show their solidarity by jointly fighting ‘against the Islamisation of Britain’.”

CEMB is a progressive organisation that works with other progressive organisations, many of them minority-run, anti-Racist and anti-cultural relativist. We are unequivocally against Islamism and all other far-Right movements. We see Islamism as far-Right too and believe the stop Islamisation groups are fundamentally no different from the Islamists. They are fundamentally misogynist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, and rely on religion, hate and violence to further their cause. CEMB is an anti-racist organisation that always defends the rights of Muslims and migrants despite any differences in belief. You can see some of our recent statements or interviews here that clearly show our position:

Making a stand against all forms of hate

Defining Islamophobia

CEMB condemns China’s persecution of Muslims

CEMB fights on many fronts, against religious dogma, for the rights of women, LGBT, freedom of conscience and expression (which includes freedom from religion and atheism) and against racism and xenophobia… We won’t remain silent about fundamentalism or religious dogma because of racism or vice versa. We think we must fight them all in order to fully defend universal rights.

CEMB calls on your publication to give us the right to reply in your paper. The piece by Jimmy Bangash is below.

A translation will follow shortly.

We look forward to your immediate response.

Regards

Maryam Namazie
CEMB Spokesperson

 

******

By Jimmy Bangash
CEMB Spokesperson

Dino Suhonic’s article covering the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) at Pride in London in Het Parool displays a poor understanding of the issues of apostasy and homosexuality impacting individuals of Muslim heritage. The article is littered with false claims, conflates blasphemy and apostasy with bigotry against believers and fails to acknowledge that Pride is a space for criticism of religion and the religious-Right.

It is deeply disappointing to see this article published without any attempt to fact check the absurd claims made by an individual so removed from the realities of our members’ lives – members who are predominantly from diaspora communities or are themselves refugees, hailing from Muslim-majority countries such as Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain

Our organisation stands for universal human rights to be applied to all people across all countries. We have a longstanding history of working to support apostates internationally in Islamic states and supporting refugees and asylum seekers in the UK and internationally. We have unequivocally defended Muslims as can be seen from our work, including condemnation of China’s treatment of Muslims and Chechnya’s treatment of LGBT Muslims.

We actively oppose far-right and racist organisations, many of whom seek to attack us as foreigners. We also have Muslim families who are affected by bigotry and we face added pressures and threats from within because we are LGBT and/or ex-Muslims. We, therefore, understand better than most the vile effects of bigotry and the need to stand up to it unequivocally. We consistently stand for the human rights of all. Again, much of this commitment is visible with even a cursory glance at our work over 12 years.

CEMB at Pride

Life for LGBT people of Muslim heritage can be bleak. For many it involves living a closeted existence within Muslim ‘communities’ for fear of being ostracised or disowned. Religious institutions and theological teachings espoused by ‘community leaders’ range from preaching for our execution, through to advising us to live a life of celibacy. With 52% of polled British Muslims stating that homosexuality should be illegal and 47% stating that it is unacceptable for a gay person to become a teacher, it is clear that our ‘communities’ are the most homophobic within the UK.

The situation in Muslim-majority countries is even more dire. A 2013 PEW global study on Muslim Attitudes reported almost unilateral condemnation of homosexuality. Countries expressing the highest population acceptance of homosexuality were Uganda (12%), Mozambique (11%) and Bangladesh (10%) with the other 37 Muslim majority countries polled showing less than 10%. Appallingly, all 14 states that hold the death penalty for homosexuality are Muslim-majority countries. Importantly, many of these countries also have the death penalty for apostasy – for leaving the religion of Islam – as well as for blasphemy.

Pride provides a safe place to challenge this religious homophobia. Since its inception, Pride has been a place where LGBT people have been able to rally against political, cultural, and religious condemnation of homosexuality.

Whether it is gay ex-Muslims (GEMs) protesting with placards stating “Fuck Islamic Homophobia” and condemning the Islamic states that have the death penalty for homosexuality, or gay Muslims attempting to redefine the position of gays within Islam with placards of “Allah Love us All”, Pride currently provides the only safe place to galvanise public awareness to the diverse protests and messages of LGBT of Muslim heritage. A safety which is not afforded to us, on any level, by the wider Muslim ‘communities’.

For us, our presence at Pride has been hugely important because we have members who are LGBT and/or refugees who have fled countries where homosexuality is punishable by death. Many of the same Islamic states that kill LGBT, also kill apostates and blasphemers. Our presence is, therefore, crucial because it aims not only to defend LGBT rights of ex-Muslims and Muslims but also to push open the shrinking spaces for religious doubt and dissent. Our placards embody the dissent against religious dogma that has always been an important part in the fight for human rights. Just as criticism of Christianity or the Christian-Right at Pride are not hatred towards Christians, so too our placards and presence have nothing to do with hate and everything to do with the demand for human rights for all. The right to be gay, be an apostate or to be a blasphemer without fear, ostracisation or threats to our lives.

Pride is one of the very few public spaces where we can come out, loud and proud – as LGBT and/or ex-Muslims – without fear. This is something we will continue to do despite vilifications and misinformation promoted by Dino Suhonic and others like him who cannot see how the rights and lives of LGBT and ex-Muslims are linked. To defend the rights of one we must defend the rights of all despite differences in beliefs and opinions.

hello@ex-muslim.org.uk
www.ex-muslim.org.uk

DUTCH LONGER OPINION PIECE PUBLISHED IN VRIJ LINKS.

Translations into Dutch by Leon Korteweg

 

Maryam Namazie Picture

Must take an unequivocal stand against all forms of hate

My interview with Nilantha Ilangamuwa in Sri Lanka’s FT

She is energetic and outspoken. Her creativity on resistance against repressive regimes has attracted many communities around the globe. Maryam Namazie is an Iranian-born writer and activist based in London. She is the Spokesperson for Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation, One Law for All and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. She hosts a weekly television program in Persian and English called Bread and Roses. No doubt because of her activities for protecting and promoting human freedom, she is a top enemy of the country where she born.

Maryam was born in Tehran, but she left Iran with her family in 1980 after the establishment of the Islamic Republic. She then lived in India, the UK and then settled in the US where she began her university studies at the age of 17. After graduating, Maryam went to Sudan to work with Ethiopian refugees. Halfway through her stay, an Islamic government took power. She was threatened by the government for establishing a clandestine human rights organisation and had to be evacuated by her employer for her own safety.

Back in the United States, Maryam worked for various refugee and human rights organisations. She established the Committee for Humanitarian Assistance to Iranian Refugees in 1991. In 1994, she went to Turkey and produced a video documentary on the situation of Iranian refugees there.

The Islamic regime of Iran’s media outlets has called Maryam ‘immoral and corrupt’ and did an ‘exposé’ on her entitled ‘Meet this anti-religion woman’. In 2019, the Islamic regime’s intelligence service did a TV program where Maryam was featured as “anti-God”.

“No religion promotes an inclusive society. Religion is an exclusive club that sees its set of beliefs as superior to other sets of beliefs,” she said. “Inequality is a pillar of Sharia courts but this is not just the case for Sharia courts,” she added.

In this interview I have communicated with her on life in Iran, consequences of Sharia and religious courts, Easter Sunday’s bombings in Sri Lanka, and her readings on terrorism and radicalisation.

Following are excerpts from the interview:

By Nilantha Ilangamuwa

Q: Thank you for joining us Maryam! Tell us what is One Law for All initiative all about? And why is it important to have such an initiative?

One Law for All was established to oppose Sharia and religious courts because they are inhuman and abuse human rights. This is the case whether the courts are in Iran and Saudi Arabia or in Britain. One’s religion or belief is a basic right and a private matter.

Religious courts, however, have nothing to do with the right to religion and are part of the Islamist project to control and manage women, minorities and dissenters. We know Sharia’s criminal code includes the death penalty for apostasy and blasphemy and stoning to death for gay sex or sex outside of marriage. It is unbelievably brutal.

In Britain, Sharia courts deal mainly with the family code, which some feel is trivial but the code is highly discriminatory against women and legitimises violence against women. For example, under Sharia’s family code, a woman’s testimony is worth half of a man’s, marital rape is not seen as a crime and child marriage and polygamy are deemed acceptable. One Law for All argues minority women from Muslim backgrounds should have the same rights in the family as other citizens.

Inequality is a pillar of Sharia courts but this is not just the case for Sharia courts. The Jewish Beth Din in the UK, for example, also puts women in limbo by refusing to grant them divorces without their husband’s permission. We know also historically about the role played by ecclesiastic courts. One Law for All argues that it is dangerous to put the rights of citizens in the hands of mullahs, priests and rabbis. Secular states, public policy and laws are the best way to ensure the rights of all citizens irrespective of background and belief.

Q: You were born in Iran and then moved to other places. Tell us about your childhood and the life in Iran till you left your motherland?

My parents are secular Muslims so I never had any religion imposed on me at home and never felt lesser for being a girl. In fact, I have always felt supported and loved even after I became an atheist.

I never really felt religion’s influence on my life until the Islamists took power in Iran.

Then things changed dramatically. There were Islamists sent to my school to separate the boys from the girls in the playground, executions on TV and the beginnings of compulsory veiling and the rest is as they say unfolding history. After living under an Islamic state, I realised very quickly though that religion in the state is heinous and why I campaign against it.

Prior to it, Iran was under the Shah’s dictatorship and for a time, the revolution gave everyone hope for real change but the Islamists took hold of it, slaughtered a generation and 40 years on, people have been living in a theocracy in the 21st century.

Q: What went wrong in Iran?

If you have fundamentalists in power, things will deteriorate very quickly, even for believers, as a believer is not the same as a fundamentalist. This isn’t a theoretical discussion. We can see the effects of a theocracy on the lives of freethinkers, women, LGBT, religious minorities and especially young people in countries like Iran or Saudi Arabia but we can also see what happens when even secular societies are run by theocrats.

Look at Modi’s India where Muslims can be killed for eating beef. Look at the situation for abortion rights, for example, in the US with the rise of the Christian-Right. Or the situation of Muslims in Myanmar and so on. In Sri Lanka, too, you have extremist Sinhala Buddhist groups like Bodu Bala Sena which have had a detrimental effect on religious and other minorities and women.

Those killed in Sri Lanka could be any of us. We could be next. We must all take an unequivocal stand against all forms of fascism and hate. We must not allow the conflation of the religious-Right with ordinary believers, victim blaming, and the dehumanisation of the ‘other’ to legitimate a politics of terror and hate

This is the problem with identity politics everywhere. It reduces masses of people to just one religious or cultural identity though people are much more complex than that and have countless characteristics that define them. Identity politics reduces 21st-century citizens into warring tribes.

Which is why after the horrendous Easter Sunday terrorist attack in Sri Lanka, ordinary Muslims going about their lives are collectively blamed and we see Muslims being run out of their homes (including some ex-Muslims I know in Sri Lanka) or Muslim shops are burnt down. Also, refugees from Pakistan who have fled to Sri Lanka because of Islamist persecution become displaced again when they are run out of their homes. How can terrorising innocent people be a solution for terrorist attacks against other innocent people?

Q: Some of the reports indicated that you are ex-Muslim. Is that true?

I am an ex-Muslim and work with ex-Muslims in Sri Lanka and elsewhere too. Of course, our atheism is our private affair, it’s a matter of conscience and belief, but when people can be killed for apostasy and blasphemy, we feel the need to say we are ex-Muslims publicly to challenge the status quo and defend the right to expression and conscience without fear of persecution or discrimination.

Q: Why are you against Sharia Law?

As I mentioned, all religious laws are discriminatory. The problem with Sharia and other religious laws is that they are coercive.

If religion is a personal belief, then why do you need laws to enforce it? For example, some Muslims in my family fast during Ramadan and others have never fasted. This is the personal choice of adults.

However, in Iran or Saudi Arabia because of Sharia law, one will be flogged or imprisoned for eating during Ramadan. Examples abound such as in the case of compulsory veiling. If an adult doesn’t want to wear the veil, why do you need morality police to beat a woman, arrest her? Or if someone doesn’t believe in Islam, well that is their freedom of conscience.

Why must the state execute someone for atheism? Religious law is fundamentally unjust as it forces people to do not what they believe but that which the mullahs and clerics in power tell them. Coercion and violence go hand in hand with Sharia courts.

Q: Sri Lanka is the latest victim of self-proclaimed Islamic State. What is your reading on the attacks in Sri Lanka?

We at Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain along with other atheist groups (including the Council of Ex-Muslims of Sri Lanka) expressed our outrage at the terrorist attacks and also mourned the many killed.

In our statement, we said:

“We are outraged at the Islamist attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka. Our hearts go out to the survivors and victims – hundreds killed, including at least 45 children, and more than 500 wounded. We mourn them with the people of Sri Lanka and the world.

“The terrorists claim to have killed innocent Christians and others in order to ‘avenge’ innocent Muslims killed in Christchurch; the Christchurch terrorist also feigned to kill innocent Muslim worshippers as an act of ‘vengeance’. What should by now be very clear to everyone is that these terrorist attacks have nothing to do with addressing grievances – real or imagined – and everything to do with using terror, hate, supremacy and violence as a tool to impose the ideology and dominance of the religious-Right.

“Whether Islamist or white nationalist, whether in Sri Lanka or Christchurch, these far-Right movements have no respect for human life and rights: Christian, Muslim, ex-Muslim, believer or non, white, black or brown, young or old; no amount of murder or mayhem is too heinous for their hateful cause. Always anti-those deemed ‘other’; always relying on hate, religion, violence, misogyny, homophobia, tribalism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and terrorism to sow fear and division.

If you have fundamentalists in power, things will deteriorate very quickly, even for believers, as a believer is not the same as a fundamentalist. This isn’t a theoretical discussion. We can see the effects of a theocracy on the lives of freethinkers, women, LGBT, religious minorities and especially young people in countries like Iran or Saudi Arabia but we can also see what happens when even secular societies are run by theocrats

“For too long and still far too many continue to excuse one side over the other depending on where they stand. Some will defend the Islamists, others will defend the Christian-Right, both sides saying there are ‘legitimate grievances’ even if they claim to abhor terrorism. Many will even go so far as to blame the victims, especially in the case of apostates and blasphemers like Charlie Hebdo or the Bangladeshi bloggers. What these apologists fail to see is that there is no legitimisation for murder.

“Those killed in Sri Lanka could be any of us. We could be next. We must all take an unequivocal stand against all forms of fascism and hate. We must not allow the conflation of the religious-Right with ordinary believers, victim blaming, and the dehumanisation of the ‘other’ to legitimate a politics of terror and hate.“Sooner than later, we must recognise that we are all in this together against the far-Right and in defence of our common humanity. Our lives and our rights are interlinked irrespective of our backgrounds and beliefs.

“It is a matter of urgency that governments stop appeasing theocracies and the religious-Right, including via faith schools and child indoctrination, religious courts and faith-based policies. This only strengthens divisions and the religious-Right.

“Defending secularism, citizenship and universal rights is the only way forward.”

IS has killed Yazidis, Kurds, Syrians, Christians, Muslims, ex-Muslims, Atheists, young and old, women and men… From IS, Taliban, the Islamic regime in Iran to Boko Haram and Al Shabaab, no one is safe. From London to Madrid to NY to Colombo and Kabul no one feels safe. The whole point of terrorism is to target innocent civilians indiscriminately to instil hate and despair and fear. That is why courage and hope and love are so important for all of us. They want to divide us; we must insist on our common humanity.

Q: What are your suggestions and recommendations to prevent the IS’ influences?

It is important that we treat everyone equally as citizens and not members of some religious or cultural ‘group’. That will help focus on terrorists and criminals rather than placing collective blame on everyone who is Muslim, for example. Islamism is a political far-Right movement like the white supremacists in the US. You cannot weed out white supremacist terrorists in the US by collectively blaming all Christians or all white people. It is a political movement; you need to target it politically and also ideologically.

Also, an insistence on secularism is key. Separation of religion from the state – any religion – is crucial to bringing about lasting change. We shouldn’t have religious schools, religious indoctrination in schools, religion in the law or public policy or in the state’s dealings with citizens.

Also, I think we need to look at rights from a universalist perspective – we all have inalienable rights no matter what our background. And most importantly, we all share a common humanity. We are in this together – Muslim, ex-Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, Christian, atheist… – against the fundamentalists and fascists of all stripes who kill with impunity and have no regard for human rights or lives.

Q: Would you say Islam does not promote an inclusive society?

No religion promotes an inclusive society. Religion is an exclusive club that sees its set of beliefs as superior to other sets of beliefs. In any religion, the apostates, heretics, witches and blasphemers within the religion are imprisoned and killed. Those who are not part of the religion are seen to be lesser.

To include citizens in a society, you must exclude religion to some extent from the public space. People, of course, have a right to religion and belief but it cannot be part of the state or law or public policy or the educational system if we want to ensure that religion has its rightful place in our societies and world – as a personal matter.

Q: What is your message to those who undermined and side-lined your basic rights when you were under repressive governments, as we as to those who joined and planning to join the terrorist outfit like Islamic State?

My message to those who join IS or other terrorist groups and repressive governments are the same: we will never bow down. There are many more of us than there are of you. Also, hate can never kill love and hope and that is our strongest weapon against the fundamentalists of all stripes.

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.
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain

CEMB Timeline (2007-2019)

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) was formed to break the taboo that comes with leaving Islam, highlight the plight of and support ex-Muslims, and challenge Sharia, apostasy and blasphemy laws. CEMB stands against all forms of bigotry, xenophobia, racism and extremism and unequivocally defends reason, freedom of conscience and expression, equality, universal rights and secularism.

2019

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 to show the absurd reasons given for rejecting apostates and how at risk they are.

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.

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. We received much public support and had some good discussions on the issue with the public.

March 8, International Women’s Day

Our international ex-Muslim coalition organised Women Against Allah for International Women’s Day. Hashtags included: #WomenAgainstAllah

#WomenAgainstGod

#WomenAgainstReligions

#WomenAgainstQuran

#WomenAgainstSharia

#NotHalfAMan

#NoShame

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.

Academic Freedom Resolution

European Parliament Motion on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression on 12 March 2019 included an example of Maryam Namazie’s no platforming on campuses in Britain.

March 23, First ever Global Atheist Day

23 March was the first ever international Atheist Day. This day was first discussed at our 2017 conference, which was the largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history. The international coalition of ex-Muslims that was formed as a result met regularly on Skype to make the day a reality two years later. We decided to call it an atheist day, rather than an ex-Muslim day so as to include more people but also prevent targeting of ex-Muslims.  The day was celebrated in various cities and in different ways across the globe.

At CEMB, we organised a successful day which focused on ex-Muslim women given that women are less visible than men ex-Muslims and women 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. We wrote atheist and ex-Muslim in various languages.

This action was followed by an emotional evening of ex-Muslim women speaking out, including with Ibtisamme Betty Lachgar, Mimzy Vidz and Zara Kay along with Sadia Hameed and Maryam Namazie, 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

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

APPG Islamophobia Definition

CEMB completed a submission for the Home Affairs Select Committee against the proposed Islamophobia definition and on Hate Crimes, met with the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Freedom of Religious Belief representative and issued a joint statement calling on the Government to reject the Islamophobia definition

May/June, 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 had a strong exchange on the issue. Our position raised a lot of discussions amongst Muslims or those from Muslim backgrounds. Of course, this has meant that there has also been push back. For example, BBC Woman’s Hour, which was meant to have Sadia Hameed discuss our stance with those in favour of child fasting, cancelled her appearance at the last minute. We also organised Ramadan Stories, and a Fast-Defying picnic for members. You can read details here.

2018

On World Hijab Day, CEMB defends #IAMVIDA and women who are persecuted for refusing compulsory veiling laws in Iran, namely Vida Movahed who has become the iconic image of the movement by standing on a plinth in Tehran and putting her veil on a stick.

CEMB and others write on the Independent Review on Sharia that Sharia Laws are part of the extremist threat and not a solution.

CEMB calls on the UK Government to prosecute incitement to violence after CEMB members and others received “Punish a Muslim” contest flyers.

CEMB launches campaign stating loud and clear that freethought is not a crime. #AtheismNotACrime, #BlasphemyNotACrime, #ApostasyNotACrime.

CEMB demands that the Egyptian government release Sherif Gaber, after they once again detained him, mid live vlog.

CEMB holds fast defying protests outside embassies of countries that prosecute people for eating during Ramadan, an action that led to being filmed and threatened outside the Pakistani embassy and armed police approaching our protestors outside the Saudi embassy.

CEMB organises a screening of the film, Islam’s Non-Believers, followed by a panel discussion and Q&A on LGBT Rights, Apostasy and Blasphemy as part of London Pride Festival to raise awareness amongst those who are unfamiliar with CEMB and the ex-Muslim movement.

CEMB marches at Pride 2018 in London despite attempts to bar and silence us. It is a victory against Islamism. CEMB Spokesperson Imad Iddine Habib explains why “Allah is Gay”. Also see a video on our presence at Pride with an interview with CEMB Spokesperson Jimmy Bangash.

Maryam Namazie speaks at a Muslimish Conference in NYC about how ex-Muslims are a community in protest.

In April and October, we held “Coming Out” parties where people 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.

 

In October, Sadia and Maryam conduct 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 show the film, Islam’s Non Believers, and have an extended discussion on apostasy and the right to atheism.

CEMB and One Law for All Coalition call on the British Government to Stop Pushing Minority Women Towards Religious Courts.

CEMB condemns China’s persecution of Muslims.

CEMB asks why Inclusive Mosque is so afraid of Secularism?

CEMB sponsors a landmark International Conference on Sharia, Segregation & Secularism in London to mark 10th anniversary of One Law for All. Resolution in support of Asia Bibi is adopted, including her right to asylum and protection in the UK. Manifesto on Women and Secularism is also adopted.

2017

CEMB condemns continued restrictions at British universities.

CEMB calls on the British authorities to grant long standing CEMB activist Aftab Ahmed asylum and protection.

Maryam Namazie writes of Sayeeda Warsi’s blinkered view on Islamism in the Evening Standard.

CEMB defends Pakistani freethinkers Ayaz Nizami and Rana Noman.

Ex Muslims of Sri Lanka Launches.

CEMB exposes Islamist Yasir Qadhi who incites discrimination and violence.

CEMB and other organisations write Letter to Facebook on religious extremists censoring atheists and secularists.

CEMB, along with a coalition of activists, successfully urges the Danish Parliament to repeal its blasphemy law.

CEMB calls on all to stand with Mohamed Salih, a young Sudanese who filed an official request for all mention of Islam to be removed from his documents, including his national ID. As a result, he was charged with apostasy, arrested and released after being declared mentally unfit. Salih was forced to flee the country.

Ensaf Haidar joins London vigil sponsored by CEMB, English Pen and others for her imprisoned husband, Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.

Maryam Namazie speaks in Iraqi Kurdistan not far from ISIS-held territories and near the Iranian border at the first Feminist Enlightenment Congress in Sulaymaniyah. Her speech on “Islam and Islamism – the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women’s emancipation” is well received.

CEMB marches at London Pride for the first time leading to a media furore in which CEMB is labelled “Islamophobic” for its placards, including “Allah is Gay” and “Fuck Islamic Homophobia.” Islamists like the East London Mosque and Mend file complaints against us to Pride and it takes Pride 8 months to formally decide whether we will be allowed to march in 2018.

CEMB hosts the largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history in London in July 2017 at the International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression with over 70 notable speakers from 30 countries or the Diaspora gathered in what is dubbed “The Glastonbury of Freethinkers” and “a Conference of Heroes” to honour dissenters and defend apostasy, blasphemy, and secularism. The sold-out conference highlights the voices of those on the frontlines of resistance – many of them persecuted and exiled. The conference made a space for crucial discussions and debates on Islamophobia and its use by Islamists to impose de facto blasphemy laws, the relation between Islam and Islamism as well as communalism’s threat to universal rights, art as resistance and Laicite as a human right. The conference hashtag, #IWant2BFree, trends on Twitter. The conference includes a public art protest of 99 balloons to represent those killed or imprisoned for blasphemy and apostasy around the world. Resolutions against the no platforming of Richard Dawkins and in support of Egyptian atheist Ismail Mohamed and CEMB at Pride are adopted.  A Declaration of Freethinkers is adopted at the conference.

Following the International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression, the International Coalition of Ex-Muslims is launched. The Coalition begins working on joint projects and actions and meets regularly to plan campaigns.

The world’s first group bodypaint of CEMB’s logo captured by both ground and drone conceived by award-winning body painter Victoria Gugenheim is held support of and solidarity with ex-Muslims.

CEMB updates its report on the “Political and Legal Status of Apostates in Islam,”  which reviews the legislative and government policies around the world that target apostates and highlights individual cases.

The International Ex-Muslim Coalition produces “The Future Belongs to Blasphemers” – a video message.

CEMB and others call on Greek Authorities to Release and Protect Iraqi ex-Muslim Karrar Al Asfoor. He is released soon after.

CEMB speaks at 10th anniversary celebration of Council of Ex-Muslims of Germany.

The International Ex-Muslim Coalition produces “Say No to Quran 4:34, #Quran434NoMore” to mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

CEMB updates Covering Your Internet Tracks leaflet to help protect ex-Muslims on the Internet.

2016

CEMB continues to highlight the cases of those languishing in prisons or on death row for apostasy or blasphemy.

CEMB publishes “A Case Study of Islamism on Campus: Trinity College Dublin, Goldsmiths University, University of Warwick” detailing how speakers like Maryam Namazie being barred or censored due to appeasement of Islamists.

CEMB demands that ex-Muslim Omar Makram be granted asylum by the Swedish Authorities.

CEMB demands Facebook stop censoring Arab ex-Muslims and freethinkers.

CEMB defends Salman Rushdie after media outlets run by the Islamic regime in Iran add bounty for fatwa.

CEMB organises with others protest at NUS urging reform of no-platform and safe space policies, which restrict freedom of expression. This comes as 16 students from various universities have highlighted 20 different case studies of censorship.

CEMB issues a statement on attacks on atheists, secularists, and religious minorities in Bangladesh with others calling for freedoms of religion, belief, and expression for threatened atheists, secularists, minorities.

CEMB spokesperson Maryam Namazie speaks at the Reason Rally 2016: Out, Loud and Proud for Secularism in Washington DC.

CEMB calls for a day to defy fasting rules in solidarity with those who face persecution for eating during fasting hours in Ramadan. The first ever fast defying protests were held at various embassies, to protest against the many people across the globe who are arrested, beaten and fined for eating during the month of Ramadan; and the many others are pressured into fasting, including in Europe.

CEMB calls on Algerian Government to release Rachid Fodil and H. S., accused of propagating blasphemous materials and insulting Islam and the Quran on social media.

CEMB responds to #ExMuslimBecause #MeanTweets.

CEMB organises an ex-Muslim Flash Dance in Kings Cross in support of freethinkers and apostates across the globe. On their faces and chests, they had written of “Ex-Muslim”, “Kafir”, “Atheist”, “Migrant”, “Refugee”, and “Apostate.” They also danced in memory of Adel Al-Jaf, a young Iraqi dancer, who was killed the day before in a mass suicide bombing in Iraq with over 200 others. He had to dance in secret; they danced for him and all those who cannot dance, think, live and love in public.

Award-winning filmmaker Deeyah Khan takes an in-depth look into the work of CEMB and the plight of ex-Muslims in her documentary film, “Islam’s Non-Believers” premiered on ITV’s Exposure in October.  Following the documentary, Dr Savin Bapir-Tardy, a counselling psychologist, identifies shunning as a form of torture.

CEMB Spokesperson Maryam Namazie wins the International Secularism (Laicite) Prize from the Comité Laïcité République in Paris.

CEMB calls on the Charity Commission to revoke iERA’s charity status.

CEMB explains how discrimination and violence at the heart of sharia courts.

One Law for All provides devastating evidence to Home Affairs parliamentary committee on Sharia courts, including on the issue of apostasy.

2015

CEMB shares its outrage and solidarity with Charlie Hebdo.

CEMB demands an end to execution of “apostates” and “blasphemers.”

CEMB and One Law for All organise a Conference on Sharia Law, Apostasy and Secularism to discuss freedom of expression, apostasy and blasphemy laws, Islamism and the religious-Right, as well as Sharia in the law, educational system and public policy. They will also highlight the successful campaigns against the Law Society and Universities UK and pay tribute to Charlie Hebdo and the many Muslims, ex-Muslims and others who have been killed or persecuted for their dissent.

Organisers cancel Maryam Namazie’s speech on “Apostasy and the Rise of Islamism” at Trinity College Dublin. Spokesperson Maryam Namazie refuses to have conditions imposed on her, regarding her talk at the university, resulting in her talk being cancelled.  She later goes to speak to students.

“The Apostates: When Muslims Leave Islam” by Simon Cottee is published which is the first in-depth research study into the social dynamics of Islamic apostasy in the West. Many of those interviewed are CEMB members. The research highlights the social stigma faced by apostates.

CEMB rallies support for 24 year old Esha in Pakistani prison charged with blasphemy in Pakistan.

CEMB demands charges of blasphemy be dropped against Yousef Muhammad Ali in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Fauzia Ilyas who founded Atheist & Agnostic Alliance Pakistan (AAAP) affiliated to CEMB is forced to flee to the Netherlands after a Lahore court initiated criminal proceedings under Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy law and issued an arrest warrant.

CEMB is featured in film “Among Nonbelievers.”

Maryam Namazie is no platformed from Warwick University. The Guardian’s David Shariatmadari defends her no platforming. She goes to speak after public outrage at her no platforming forces the student union to apologise and allow her to speak.

Council of Ex-Muslims of Singapore affiliates with CEMB.

Successful Twitter campaign #ExMuslimBecause is launched and goes viral engaging 120,000 Tweets of ex-Muslims from over 65 countries, with hilarious, heart-breaking and inspiring stories of leaving Islam. The campaign allows both those public and closeted ex Muslims the opportunity to share their experiences and reasons for being ex-Muslims. 

CEMB and more than 60 international organisations sign a letter in support of poet and artist Ashraf Fayadh who has been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for apostasy.

Goldsmiths Islamic Society tries to cancel and then disrupt Maryam Namazie’s talk but fails. The video of the talk and the disruptions went viral and has become an example of attempts at silencing dissent at universities. Namazie returns a year later with Sadia Hameed and Imad Iddine Habib to discuss Islam’s Non-Believers. Namazie explains “Why I had to face down the bullies trying to silence my supposedly ‘offensive’ stance on Islam.”

2014

CEMB rallies with others at Law Society to condemn their endorsement of discriminatory Sharia law.

First legal atheist organisation formed in Turkey! The first legally recognised Atheist Organisation of the Balkans, Middle East and among all Muslim-majority countries, has been founded in Istanbul, Turkey. The organisation, titled Ateizm Dernegi, was founded in Istanbul on April 16, 2014.

CEMB issues statement demanding that Mariam Yahya Ibrahim be freed immediately. She has been death sentence in Sudan for apostasy. The heavily pregnant Mariam had also been charged with adultery and imprisoned with her toddler.  She and her husband are Christian but the judge insists she is Muslim.

CEMB issues a report, “Evangelising Hate: Islamic Education & Research Academy (iERA)” to  explain “soft Islamists” and detailing specific examples of incitement to hate and violence practised by iERA preachers, advisors and “street Dawah” activists. iERA is a far-Right group inciting violence and shouldn’t be a charity.

Maryam Namazie sends a video message to over 60 atheists meeting clandestinely in Jordan to congratulate them on their bold move and to pledge CEMB’s support.

CEMB urges Ofsted to revise its guidance and put needs of children before religion and the fundamentalists.

CEMB and One Law for All sponsor a two-day international conference on the Religious Right, Secularism and Civil Rights. Notable free-thinkers, atheists and secularists from around the world came together for a weekend of discussions and debates on the religious-Right, its attacks on civil rights and freedoms, and the role of secularism for 21st century humanity. The exciting two-day conference discusses the Arab Spring, Sharia and religious laws, the limits of religion’s role in society, free expression, honour killings, apostasy and blasphemy laws, faith schools, women’s rights, secular values and much more. The 250 delegates made an unequivocal stand with the brave women and men of Kobane saying: “Their struggle is ours. Their fight is a fight for us all. We are all, today, Kobane.”

2013

CEMB demands the release of Egyptian blogger and atheist Abdul Aziz Mohammed Al-Baz (also known as Ben Baz) in Kuwait for exercising his right to free expression, conscience and belief.

Muslimish Launched in May 2012 in New York City where ex-Muslims and Muslims who have questions about religion or want take a more objective look at its teachings can come and participate in a free and open discussion without fear of punishment or judgement.

CEMB is horrified to learn of sex segregation at an Islamist-organised event in University College London. After complaints, the organisation is banned from holding events there.

CEMB holds successful International Day to Defend Apostates and Blasphemers. More than three hundred individuals and organisations call for an international day of action on 14 March to defend those accused of apostasy and blasphemy. Thousands more defended apostates and blasphemers via acts of solidarity and social media, Tweeted, sent letters of protest, or issued statements and messages of support.

CEMB fully supports One Law for All report called “Enemies not Allies: The Far Right” which gives evidence on why opponents of Sharia, apostasy laws and Islamism must also oppose the far-Right. With Islamism being a far-Right movement, they are two sides of the same coin.

Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco Launched. This is the first public atheist organisation in country with state religion of Islam, launched by Imad Iddine Habib.

CEMB stands with Bangladeshi bloggers and activists. In January, 29 year old blogger Asif Mohiuddin was stabbed. In February, 35 year old atheist blogger Ahmed Rajib, was brutally killed. Islamists continue to threaten prominent bloggers and have called for the “execution of 84 atheist bloggers for insulting religion”. We call for 25 April to be an international day to defend Bangladesh’s bloggers and activists.

CEMB Issues statement reminding Moroccan government that apostasy is not a crime after Morocco’s High Council of Ulemas issues a fatwa decreeing the death penalty for Moroccans who leave Islam. The attack on apostates is clearly a response to the establishment of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco – the first public atheist organisation in a country with Islam as the state religion.

CEMB launches “International Imad Day” in order to stand with and defend Imad, who created the Council of Ex Muslims of Morocco, resulting in him receiving numerous threats, as well Morocco’s High Council of Ulemas (the highest government religious institution headed by the King) issuing a fatwa decreeing the death penalty for Moroccans who leave Islam. Imad Iddine Habib now has asylum in the UK and is a Spokesperson of CEMB.

CEMB calls for asylum in the US for Reem Razak.

Council of Ex-Muslims of New Zealand Launched.

CEMB held 6th anniversary luncheon.

Council of Ex-Muslims of France Launched by Waleed Al-Husseini, the Palestinian blogger arrested in 2010 by the Palestinian Authority on charges of blasphemy, was released and now in France.

CEMB member, The Rationaliser, starts new website to help with research on Islam or the Quran called QuranX.

CEMB campaigns in support of CEMB spokesperson Nahla Mahmoud who is threated following an interview on Channel 4 on Sharia law, including by Salah al Bandar who has until recently been a Lib Dem Councillor. The police urged Nahla not to “anger” him further.

CEMB’s young member and activist Irtaza Hussain tragically commits suicide.

Ex Muslims of North America formed.

CEMB demands release of Egyptian Athiest Sherif Gaber.

Andy Thomson, author of the groundbreaking book, Why We Believe in Gods, makes the Urdu translation of book available free of charge.

CEMB publishes a new report on the “Political and Legal Status of Apostates in Islam.”

Ex-Muslims of Scotland launched and adopts CEMB manifesto.

CEMB holds protest with One Law for All and others against Universities UK endorsement of sex segregation at UK Universities.

2012

CEMB defends Alexander Aan and condemns his being sentenced to two and a half years in prison and fined for having written “God does not exist” on Facebook and calls for his immediate release. He was found guilty of “deliberately spreading information inciting religious hatred and animosity” and “caused anxiety to the community and tarnished Islam” in Indonesia.

CEMB & One Law For all hold a successful rally in defence of free expression at the Houses of Parliament. Hundreds brave the cold weather to join the rally at Old Palace Yard.

CEMB demands Freedom for Saudi writer Hamza Kashgari. Hamza fled Saudi Arabia after making comments on Twitter claimed by some to be “insulting” to Muhammad, Islam’s prophet.

CEMB and others write open letter to Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch expressing concern of his defence of Islamists and calling for HRW to recognise separation of religion from state as a basic guarantee of rights.

CEMB organises an International Day of Action to Defend Blasphemers and Apostates and calls on groups and individuals to take action on this day by organising a protest or vigil, setting up a table in a city centre, writing a letter, signing a petition, drawing a picture, taking a photo, making a video to highlight blasphemy and apostasy laws and rules, defend free expression and the women and men whose lives are at stake.

CEMB defends Maldivian Blogger Ismail Hilath Rasheed who is brutally attacked near his home on 4 June 2012. He survived only because a vital artery was missed by millimetres. Rasheed had previously been attacked and received a number of death threats.

CEMB celebrates 5th anniversary.

CEMB calls for Musa Budeiri and Free Expression to be defended. Budeiri is a professor at Birzeit University, the oldest Palestinian University, who has been asked by the university to issue an apology to Islamist students who were offended by cartoons posted on his door.

CEMB and One Law for All meet with Trevor Phillips, Chair of Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), on 28 June to raise our concerns about sharia courts in Britain and the Charities Commission’s refusal of charity status for secular organisations. Nobel Laureate Harry Kroto is also present at the meeting.

CEMB calls for Channel 4 not to cancel Islam: The Untold Story.

CEMB organises a Day of Agreement to highlight the difficulties faced by non-believers in Islamic theocracies, where they are forced to live in silence and furthermore, are unable to have even the smallest disagreements, as it could very much result in incarceration or execution.

CEMB supports the London School of Economics Student Union Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society’s decision to add ‘ex-Muslim’ to its name.

CEMB expresses concern at the exclusion of Muslim women from demands of gender equality. CEMB is appalled to learn of the Bristol University Christian Union’s ban on women speaking at its main meetings and events. The sexist policy, which demonstrated a blatant disregard for gender equality, has now been reversed after an ensuing uproar.

Northern Ex-Muslim Meet up Group Launched. CEMB affiliated Manchester Ex-Muslim Meet-Up group which was established in November 2012 by Sandbad has been renamed Northern Ex-Muslim Meet-up Group. Ex-Muslims from Leeds, Bradford and surrounding areas are now part of the group. They welcome ex-Muslims in the North to join them, including from Liverpool.

2011

CEMB issues statement on Channel 4’s Dispatches: Lessons in Hate and Violence.

CEMB speaks at rally for a Secular Europe.

CEMB initiates Manifesto for a Free and Secular Middle East and North Africa with over 70 secularists and human rights campaigners.

CEMB speaks out in support of the Charlie Hebdo after office firebombed.

CEMB stands in solidarity with Egyptian atheist blogger Aliaa Magda Elmahdy who posted nude pictures of herself to show her “screams against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy”. Showing her body particularly at a time when Islamists in Egypt were trying to secure power was the ultimate act of rebellion.

CEMB is refused charity status.

CEMB supports ex-Muslim and atheist Khalid Saeed’s application for asylum in Sweden.

2010

Following the Danish Cartoons fiasco, CEMB writes to Index on Censorship, sharing their disappointment at their self-censoring their own magazine from publishing one of the Danish cartoons to illustrate an article relating to the subject. Arguing that it is a betrayal of those who are putting their lives on the line to defend freedom of expression.

CEMB and One Law for All hold seminar on Sharia Law in Britain to mark International Women’s Day. The seminar brought together Muslims, ex-Muslims, women’s rights campaigners, lawyers and politicians to outline the problems with Muslim Arbitration Tribunals and Sharia Councils and to propose recommendations for prohibiting religious tribunals and bringing about equal rights for all.

CEMB with German and Scandinavian ex-Muslim Councils joins cartoonist Lars Vilks in a press conference in Stockholm to condemn the threats and violent attacks against the Swedish artist who drew a caricature Muhammad, Islam’s prophet.

Then CEMB Management Committee member Hassan Radwan publishes translation of “My Ordeal with the Quran, and with Allah in the Quran.”

Spokesperson Maryam Namazie speaks at the Protest the pope rally.

Maryam Namazie gives the keynote at the World Atheist Convention in Dublin on the Islamic Inquisition.

CEMB demands the release of Palestinian blogger Waleed Al-Husseini, who was detained for exercising his right to free speech.

CEMB demands the release of Asia Bibi, who was charged with Blasphemy in Pakistan.

CEMB organises a successful conference on Apostasy, Sharia Law and Human Rights. The conference adopts a resolution against blasphemy and apostasy laws and the prosecution of Asia Bibi in Pakistan, Waleed Al-Husseni in Palestine, Syed Mosa in Afghanistan and in Iran sentences of death for charges of moharebeh (enmity against God) against at least 10 people.

CEMB issues report on “Apostasy and Asylum in the United Kingdom” detailing the consequences of apostasy in Islam entails and specifies the responsibility of the United Kingdom in terms of the apostates wishing to seek asylum and protection.

CEMB issues report “Guidelines for Ex-Muslims and Frontline Practitioners” to provide information for ex-Muslims on their rights and the resources available to them and to frontline practitioners on the specific circumstances of ex-Muslims.

2009

CEMB joins One Law for All in a march against Sharia from Trafalgar Square to Conway Hall, followed by a public meeting entitled Sharia Law, Sexual Apartheid and Women’s Rights.

CEMB and over 200 other organisations from 46 countries endorse the Joint Statement on Defamation of Religions.

CEMB organises an international Coalition for Women’s Rights calling for an end to the imposition of Sharia Law internationally and equality between women and men.

London Ex-Muslims Meetup is one year old.

Several hundred join rally against Sharia law in Hyde Park.

CEMB joins in formation of an International Bureau for Laicite in Paris with a wide number of non-governmental organisations and individuals from across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas affirming the nefarious role of fundamentalist politics and the need to counter it internationally.

CEMB adopts resolution to oppose Swiss ban on minarets.

2008

Maryam Namazie interviewed in The Times: It’s time to take a stand against Islam and Sharia.

CEMB issues statement saying there is no place for Sharia courts in the UK following Archbishop of Canterbury’s assertions that Sharia is inevitable.

CEMB holds a seminar on “Sexual apartheid, political Islam and women’s rights” to mark International Women’s Day.

CEMB takes a firm stance that faith schools are bad for children.

CEMB held its first International Conference on Challenging Islam and Political Islam which focused on several key questions, namely the problem with Sharia law, including for women’s status; freedom of expression and the need for criticism of religion; universal rights; as well as the separation of religion and the state.

CEMB joins launch of One Law for All Coalition Campaign on International Human Rights to call on the UK government to recognise the arbitrary and discriminatory nature of parallel legal systems, which particularly disadvantage women and children, and end religious courts.

2007

Council of Ex Muslims of Britain (CEMB) is launched in Westminster with a membership of 25 ex-Muslims who are prepared to be named and pictured publicly. CEMB’s founding Manifesto challenges Sharia and apostasy laws and takes a stand for reason, universal human rights, and secularism.

Philosopher A C Grayling writes a piece in The Guardian saying “The launch of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain is a torch of hope in a dark quadrant of the world’s affairs. Its manifesto should be read by all.”

CEMB urges the TUC and other unions to maintain their secular and progressive heritage and not collude with Islamists.

6 MPs called on UK Members of Parliament to support the following Early Day Motion in favour of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain.

CEMB was at launch of Dutch Ex-Muslim Committee, which later disbanded due to threats. 

CEMB defends Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin.

CEMB Forum established in November 2007.

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