Ticket holders will be sent London venue details closer to the event. Venue is in Clerkenwell and is walking distance from Farringdon Station.
UK FILM SCREENING: “No Longer Without You”
‘I will not do what you say. I’ll follow my own path, but I will not let myself be cast out. I will be different, but No Longer Without You.’
“No Longer Without You” is a documentary about a searing conversation about parenthood, tradition, religion, sex, and independence between a free-spirited daughter, Nazmiye Oral and her traditional Muslim mother, Havva in the intimate circle of a living room in front of their family following several public performances.
“How can I walk away when my legs are not my own? And how do I pave my path back? Because my place within the family is my right.”
The film screening will be followed by POETRY by Playwright and Poet Elewisa Mwhamadu Kuusi and A PANEL DISCUSSION ON APOSTASY, SHUNNING AND SURVIVAL with Actress Nazmiye Oral, Youtuber Fay Rahman, Journalist Khadija Khan, Student Activist Saff Khalique, Clinical Psychologist Savin Bapir-Tardy and Født Fri (Born Free) Foundation Director Shabana Rehman. Chair: CEMB Spokesperson Maryam Namazie. The event will be MCed by Nahla Mahmoud. There will also be a drinks reception.
NAZMIYE ORAL is an actress, writer, columnist and TV presenter. She began her acting career in the 1990s in the Netherlands with series like Baantjer, Combat, Oppassen! and Westenwind. She also performed in De Gesluierde Monologen, The SuburbSafari and in No Longer Without You, a play she wrote herself. The play was selected for the Holland Festival and Crossing the Line Festival in New York and has also been made into a documentary. Nazmiye has performed in television productions like A’dam E.V.A., Undercover, Moordvrouw and Oh Mijn Hemel, starred in the series Icarus: Zorgondernemer and In Vrijheid by Floor van der Meulen for which she was awarded Best Actress at the Netherlands Film Festival and at the Lucania Film Festival. In 2011 her debut novel ‘Zehra’ was released, for which she was nominated for the E. du Perron prize. She co-founded the Zina Foundation in 2003, a theatre initiative that travels through different neighbourhoods in the Netherlands using local stories.
ELEWISA MWHAMADU KUUSI is a British-born writer, playwright, actor and spoken word artist. Being of Jamaican parentage and born into Islam has given him a niche yet broad and ever-broadening perspective on life and a yearning to expose the flaws, discrepancies and lies of mainstream paradigms. While his works do not adhere to any particular genre, he does like to tell stories and messages that would normally be ignored or left unknown. Leaving Islam in 2013 and identifying as atheist since 2019 has made his truth-seeking disposition all the stronger. He is published in the anthology ‘100 Years Unheard’ (2018), has written and performed in his own stage play ‘Love Hurts’ (2016-17), has lectured on the subject ‘What is a Man? What is a Black Man?’ for the Association of Black Humanists (2018) and West London Humanists (2019), and has performed in various stage plays throughout London since 2012.
FAY RAHMAN is a British-Bangladeshi ex-Muslim atheist Youtuber. Fay grew up in the UK, in a non-practicing Muslim family. Through Islamic schooling she joined the Tableeghi Jamaat and then later adopted the even more conservative Salafi practice of Islam with the encouragement of her father and later her extended family. Fay left Islam in secret in February 2017 and openly in October 2018 – avoiding an arranged marriage, surviving an attempt on her life and causing her family to disown her. Fay collaborates with Faith2Faithless, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and Faithless Hijabi for activism in free-speech, women’s rights and religious freedom. She has an active YouTube channel where she shares her experience as a young woman who has left Islam, the challenges she faces and the inconsistencies in Islam in order to reach others who are doubting or closeted and assure them that they are not alone.
KHADIJA KHAN is a Pakistani journalist and a commentator currently based in UK. She writes about human rights, mainly women’s rights, as well as minorities, extremism and Islamism. She is an advocate for women’s rights, strongly believes that religion infringes women’s rights and Islam is no exception. She denounces the idea of Islamic feminism, since finding refuge for women’s rights under organised religion is not more than a myth. Being a humanist, she believes in tolerance and equality for all human beings. She criticizes the usage of blasphemy laws as a tool to crackdown on dissent and supports freedom of and from religion. She stresses the need of having freedom of speech to counter extremist ideologies in her write ups. She believes that freedom to challenge bad idea is the most effective way to counter extremist narratives.
MARYAM NAMAZIE is an Iranian-born writer and activist. She is the Spokesperson of One Law for All and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and hosts a weekly TV programme broadcast in called Bread and Roses. She is on the International Advisory Board of the Raif Badawi Foundation for Freedom and Euromind. Maryam and CEMB were featured in a 2016 film “Islam’s Non-Believers” by Deeyah Khan. She was also a character in DV8 Physical Theatre’s “Can We Talk About This?”. She was joint winner of the 2019 Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize; awarded the 2017 Henry H. Zumach Freedom From Religious Fundamentalism award; 2016 International Secularism (Laicite) Prize from the Comité Laïcité République; Atheist of the Year by Kazimierz Lyszczynski (2014); Journalist of the Year at the Dods Women in Public Life Awards (2013); awarded the National Secular Society’s Secularist of the Year Award (2005), amongst others. The Islamic regime of Iran’s media outlets has called Namazie “immoral and corrupt.”
NAHLA MAHMOUD is an environment and human rights activist originally from Sudan. She works with a number of campaigns in the UK, including One Law for All and Secular Middle East and North Africa. She leads the Sudanese Humanists Group and is former Spokesperson for the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain.
SAFF KHALIQUE is a British Pakistani ex-Muslim student and activist, currently studying a masters in International Journalism. Saff left Islam in May 2018 but it was not until September 2019 that she went public with her disbelief. She launched The Sinning Skeptics podcast with the aim to provide a safe space for young Ex-Muslims and Muslims to discuss, question and critique the religion they grew up in. Through her blog, The Amber Journals, she covers issues surrounding freedom of religion, politics and women’s rights, such as collecting women’s experiences with the hijab for No Hijab day. She recently joined the Index on Censorship’s Youth Advisory Board, in which she aims to shed light on repressive apostasy and blasphemy laws across the globe and how this can impact the state’s control of its media and peoples.
SAVIN BAPIR-TARDY is a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of West London. Bapir-Tardy conducted her doctoral research at City University into how traumatic events are experienced. She has worked with adolescents, adults and older adults in a variety of mental health settings. She worked for 8 years as a Counselling Psychologist at the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) providing psychological therapy to women who have experienced “honour” based violence, forced marriage, domestic violence and female genital mutilation. Bapir-Tardy also provided training to professionals in mainstream mental health services on “honour” based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
SHABANA REHMAN is Director of Født Fri (Born Free) Foundation and a performance artist and human and animal rights advocate. She is Norwegian with Pakistani descent. Shabana entered the stage in Oslo, Norway in 2000. In the following years, she quickly built a reputation for groundbreaking and iconoclastic comedy. Her controversial and popular comedy style along with public political stunts like Mullah-Lifting, and bodypainted with Norwegian flag as a performance artist, have given her a unique position in her native Norway. Among substantial international press cover, she has been featured both by The New York Times and by Times Magazine. In addition to her prolific comedy career, Shabana is a highly respected columnist, satirist, and public speaker in Scandinavia and the Scandinavian community in USA. She regularly writes for major newspaper and magazines in the region. A frequent participant and contributor in talk shows and public debates, she is among the most respected celebrities in Norway. Shabana has received several awards for her writing and fearless comedy. She had played her shows in several countries, among them Canada, USA, Denmark, Iceland, Faroe Islands and Germany. She recently founded the Secular Feminist Front.
For more information, contact email@example.com or visit www.ex-muslim.org.uk.
I started Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and One Law for All more than a decade ago to publicly mobilise dissent against religious laws. An expression of “not in my name” and a challenge to the Quran, Islam and Islamism as the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of the emancipation of women, freethinkers and others (if I may “paraphrase” US Suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton)*.
Having fled the Islamic regime in Iran – where there is a deep-seated anti-Islamic backlash and women’s liberation movement – I found it astonishing how Sharia courts, apostasy laws and women’s subservient status were legitimised as a defence of “minority rights” in Britain and the west.
How Machiavellian to promote a defence of fundamentalists as a defence of a presumed homogenous minority “community”! How patronising to assume that those of us from minority backgrounds are so “different” from everyone else that we can only be expected to live within the confines of predefined patriarchal structures.
In any religious or tribal court, the odds are stacked against women who are viewed as the property and honour of the men in charge and not as individual citizens with rights.
The fact of the matter is that Sharia law violates women’s rights, including here in Britain. As do Ecclesiastic courts, the Beth Din or Loya Jirgas. In any religious or tribal court, the odds are stacked against women who are viewed as the property and honour of the men in charge and not as individual citizens with rights.
Sharia courts legitimise and encourage violence against women whether by considering a women’s testimony as worth half that of a man’s, normalising polygamy and child “marriage” or considering marital rape as the prerogative of the husband, amongst others. Sharia court jurisprudence and practice violate every article of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), including by promoting the concept of “zina” which criminalises sex outside of marriage.
Sharia law also violates the rights of religious minorities, freethinkers, ex-Muslims, atheists, apostates, blasphemers and LGBT… In more than a dozen countries under Sharia, apostasy, blasphemy and homosexuality is punishable with the death penalty. In Britain, too, Sharia judges have made statements justifying the killing of apostates; the apostate label alone carries with it the grave risk of shunning and honour-related violence and death.
The establishment of CEMB and One Law for All were efforts to be heard and to be seen and to insist on our equal citizenship and individual rights and freedoms in the face of a cultural relativism that erases any dissent and only recognises “group” and “community” rights. Given that it is those in power that determine the “rights” of an in-group, a defence of an essentialised “Muslim community” ends up becoming an exercise in defending the fundamentalists and blaming the victims. Make no mistake. Defending Sharia courts or for that matter the veiling of children and sex segregation at schools or opposition to the “No Outsiders” programme is a defence of the Islamist project to control women, dissent and doubt and has nothing to do with promoting religious freedom or combatting bigotry.
A brief look at the founding organisations of the oldest Sharia court in Britain, the Islamic Sharia Council, for example, clearly shows the transnational Islamist links. The organisations include:
London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Center (whose Trustees include officials from the governments of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Brunei, Qatar, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan – many of which punish apostasy with the death penalty and have discriminatory family laws).
Muslim World League (which propagates Saudi Wahabbism, the Muslim Brotherhood played a role in its founding).
Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith (involved in promoting sectarianism and jihad in the Indian sub-continent).
UK Islamic Mission (inspired by Jamaat e Islami and Syed Abul Ala Maududi and shares the same ideology as Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood).
Dawatul Islam, UK (UK branch of the Bangladeshi Jamaat e Islami. In 1971, some of the Jamaat e Islami were implicated in running death squads and organising lynchings against people demanding independence).
Jamia Mosque & Islamic Center, Birmingham (where protestors marched from the mosque after Friday prayers to the Bangladesh High Commission in Birmingham after the execution of a Bangladeshi Islamist convicted of atrocities committed during the 1971 war of independence with Pakistan following the country’s war crimes tribunal).
Muslim Welfare House, London (was founded by Kamal Helbawy of the Muslim Brotherhood who has praised Osama Bin Laden. They have fatwas defending polygamy and prohibiting Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men as well as campaigned to stop the selling of alcohol).
It’s where we each stand when rights are violated and fundamentalists appeased that counts.
Contrary to the far-Right arguments that aim to promote anti-Muslim bigotry and xenophobia, this is not about a clash of civilisations but a clash between theocrats and secularists everywhere, with believers and non-believers, including minorities and migrants, on either side. Identities are irrelevant and beside the point though; it’s their politics that matters. It’s where we each stand when rights are violated and fundamentalists appeased that counts. As the refrain from the old labour movement song says: “Which side are you on?” Are we all, as the song continues – “on the side of those who fight for freedom”?
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.
SUPPORT AND ASSISTANCE
CEMB is now supporting around 600 ex-Muslims rather than 300 a month. 50% of our caseload are outside of the UK. 25% are ex-Muslim refugees and asylum seekers. 25% are British ex-Muslims. The majority of ex-Muslims who contact CEMB are closeted due to the risks they face. The ex-Muslims who are out are still a very small minority.
With our international cases, the consequences of blasphemy or apostasy can be a death sentence. The result of someone finding out is often violence and sadly, this can involve violence or abuse from family as well as the state. In many cases, it is loved ones that report their family members to the police.
In Britain, the consequences of blasphemy and apostasy manifests itself as honour-based violence, forced marriages, corrective rape and even honour killings (in an attempt to bring ex-Muslims “back into line”).
Our free support 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 court hearings, writing letters of support, contacting housing and social services for young people at risk, working with the Forced Marriages Unit to prevent young women and girls being taken abroad for forced marriage and so on.
We hold monthly meet ups. This year, topics under discussion included female genital mutilation and male circumcision, leaving faith behind, shunning, mental health and apostasy and religion, misogyny and atheism.
Ana Gonzales, a Partner at Wilsons LLP conducts regular workshops on asylum rights and apostasy for asylum seeking ex-Muslims.
On the left is a photo of our arts meetup with artist Salma Zulfiqar who focused on empowering refugees through art.
CAMPAIGNS AND ACTIONS 2019
10 December, International Human Rights Day
For International Human Rights Day, we initiated a social media campaign to show that ex-Muslim rights are human rights. #Apostate #ExMuslim #Human #ApostasyIsAHumanRight
22 November, Statement in Support of protests in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon
In November, the International Ex-Muslim Coalition mobilised in solidarity with the protests in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, including by issuing a statement calling of the support of protests, which have been anti-clerical and deeply secular as well as women-led.
27 October, Campaign to establish the first ex-Muslim refuge in the world
CEMB began a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the first emergency shelter for ex-Muslims in order to provide accommodation and support in the UK to those at serious risk to their lives because of their apostasy from Islam. Until now, CEMB has been forced to provide limited emergency accommodation at hotels, which is neither practical nor cost-effective.
With this crowdfunding campaign, CEMB hopes to provide a long-term and safe solution for those at greatest risk by establishing the first ex-Muslim refuge in the world. Purchase of a refuge space, as well as maintenance and utilities will cost £300,000. Whilst we realise this is an insurmountable amount, any money raised here will be used to provide emergency accommodation and support to those at greatest risk with the aim of working towards the first permanent refuge for ex-Muslims.
More information on the JustGiving campaign can be found here. We have also started a Patreon campaign for those who wish to support our efforts for emergency shelter on a monthly basis.
30 September, International #BlasphemyDay, #EndBlasphemyLaws #BlasphemyNotACrime
August/September, Celebrating Dissent Festival at De Balie Amsterdam
The epic ‘Celebrating Dissent’ Festival took place between 30 August -1 September in Amsterdam, a collaboration between the prestigious art and debate institute De Balie and Maryam Namazie. More than 50 speakers from 30 countries worldwide joined a mixture of intense, conversations, comedy, art, poetry and dance performances, films, lectures and protest.
To highlight the dangers facing dissenters, a public protest of 160 balloons (left) with the names of those persecuted or murdered for blasphemy and apostasy was held. Participants at the Festival carried balloons to a nearby square and chalked the names of dissenters into the pavement as a memorial of sorts.
The historic event was an astounding celebration of apostasy, blasphemy and dissent. From the moment the city’s Mayor, Femke Halsema, opened the festival by welcoming ‘heretics, infidels and renegades,’ it was clear that this would be a historic and remarkable festival committed not only to defending free thought and expression but also the lives and freedoms of dissenters.
On 4 July, CEMB organised an evening on LGBT Rights, Apostasy and Blasphemy as part of Pride in London Festival with a film screening of ‘Ferdous’ by Shakila Taranum Maan followed by a panel discussion with Jimmy Bangash (CEMB Spokesperson), Khakan Qureshi (Birmingham South Asians LGBT Founder), Nadia El Fani (Tunisian Filmmaker), Sadia Hameed (CEMB Spokesperson), Shakila Taranum Maan (British Director) and Syed Isteak Hossain Shawon (Bangladeshi LGBT activist and Editor of Boys Love World). Facilitated by Maryam Namazie (CEMB and One Law for All Spokesperson). Kenyan Somali Poet Halima Salat ended the evening with her poem called A Boy, A Village, A Death.
On 6 July 2019 CEMB marched in Pride London for the 3rd time as an organisation. This year, we marked the 40th anniversary of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a rebellion against the church’s religious morality, by marching as the Imams of Perpetual Indulgence. Instead of being the Council for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice that terrorise people by enforcing Islamic morality codes with brute force in the countries some of us have fled from, we were the Council for the Promotion of Vice and the Prevention of Virtue. Our imams were not the usual imams promoting death for thinking and loving freely but instead included dissenting topless women who subverted Islamic morality language by being Imams of Vice, Lust, Kofr, Zina…
Unsurprisingly, as in previous years, social media erupted with threats and intimidation because as always apostasy and blasphemy are considered worse than the murder of LGBT, apostates and blasphemers. Some “Sheikh” has even called for a joint statement of imams against CEMB because apparently, he fears “the punishment of Allah will descend.” And as usual, we have been accused of “Islamophobia.”
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.
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.
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.
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 to show the absurd reasons given for rejecting apostates and how at risk they are.
International Coalition of Ex-Muslims
After the De Balie Celebrating Dissent Festival in Amsterdam, we organised a strategy meeting of the International Coalition of Ex-Muslims on 2 September 2019. Our coalition continues to work together on campaigns such as against blasphemy laws and on International Women’s Day, against Facebook and Twitter bans, e.g. ban of Council of Ex-Muslims of Sri Lanka’s Facebook page and on urgent actions like in the cases of calling on the Egyptian government to allow atheist Ahmed Harkan to leave the country, demanding the unconditional immediate release of Mohamed Rusthum Mujuthaba in the Maldives and helping get Hisham Mohamed, the Egyptian who said he was an atheist on live TV and was abused and kicked off the show and faced death threats to reach safety in Germany.
On 4 November, Sadia Hameed and Ali Malik trained Malaysian officials (left) around the issues of blasphemy and apostasy. The Malaysian officials said that this was the first time they had ever interacted with atheists and that even homosexuality is considered more normal/common than atheism in Malaysia.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.”
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 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 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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
We at Council of Ex Muslims of Britain (CEMB) are raising funds for the first emergency shelter for ex-Muslims in order to provide accommodation and support in the UK to those at serious risk to their lives because of their apostasy from Islam.
As you know, apostasy from Islam can result in the death penalty in a dozen countries in the world causing many to flee. In Britain, ex-Muslims can face honour-based violence, forced marriages, exorcisms, ostracization, shunning, homelessness, self-harming, suicide and more.
Some of the 600 ex-Muslims who are supported by our organisation every month are in need of emergency accommodation after having been made homeless by their families or because they have been forced to escape in order to save their lives. In the cases of young people under the age of 16, even though it may be difficult, CEMB can ensure they are rehoused appropriately. However, in cases where the young person is over the age of 16, they have been left to fend for themselves, with little to no support, particularly in light of severe cuts in public services and refuge spaces.
Until now, CEMB has been forced to provide limited emergency accommodation at hotels, which is neither practical nor cost-effective. With your support, CEMB hopes to provide a long-term and safe solution for those at greatest risk by establishing the first ex-Muslim refuge in the world.
Purchase of a building, as well as maintenance and utilities, will cost £300,000. Whilst we realise this is an insurmountable amount, any money raised in our crowdfunding for a refuge will be used to provide emergency accommodation and support to those at greatest risk with the aim of working towards the first permanent refuge for ex-Muslims.
Please help if you can. Tell friends and family to support this important cause. Hold a fundraiser for us to raise some of the money if you can. It could be anything from cake sales to spaghetti dinners to raise the much-needed funds. You can send your donations to our crowdfunding page: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/exmuslimrefuge
Whilst we know this is wishful thinking, if you have a building or apartment you would like to donate – temporarily even – please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for all your support, including in the past. We couldn’t have come this far without you and hope we can continue to provide support and assistance to many more in the years to come.
But for me, this has never been about building a community as it is understood within identity politics, which implies people being boxed into homogenised, segregated communities with culturally-relative rights managed by ‘community leaders.’ Rather, I see ex-Muslims as a community in protest: insisting on freedom from religion, and freedom of conscience. For the right to apostasy and blasphemy, without fear.
Like the LGBT, anti-slavery, anti-colonialist, anti-apartheid, suffragette or civil rights movements, it’s a movement which insists upon our common humanity and equality – not upon difference or superiority. It’s a movement of people who refuse to live in fear and in the shadows, and who are speaking out for social change in unprecedented ways.
This movement matters because thirteen states punish atheism with the death penalty and all of them Islamic. Because a series of laws in Saudi Arabia define atheism as terrorism, where Ahmad Al-Shamri has been sentenced to death for atheism. Because Sina Dehghan has been sentenced to death in Iran for ‘insulting Islam.’ Because a Pakistani High Court Judge has said that blasphemers are terrorists and Ayaz Nizami and Rana Noman face the death penalty there. Because even in countries without the death penalty, such as Bangladesh, Islamists kill atheists whilst the government turns a blind eye. Because in Bangladesh, the atheist poet and publisher Shahzahan Bachchu was dragged out of a shop and shot dead mid-June this year. Because the Egyptian government is producing a national plan to ‘confront and eliminate’ atheism. Because in Egypt, the atheist blogger Sherif Gaber has not been seen in public since his arrest at Cairo airport on 2 May. Because a Malaysian government minister has said that atheists should be ‘hunted down’ and ‘re-educated.’ Because even in secular societies, ex-Muslims can be shunned, ostracised, and face ‘honour’-related violence.
This movement matters because you can be killed for leaving or criticising Islam. Full stop. Reason enough.
The Saudi UN Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi says that advocating for atheism is a terrorist offence; that it leads to chaos. Absurdly, the Guardian’s David Shariatmadari agrees that ‘criticism of religion, Islam especially, can be antisocial, even dangerous.’ These accusations are not new. The Suffragettes, for example, were considered dangerous, subversive, as destroying the natural order of things. They were labelled anti-male and traitors for demanding the right to vote. Similarly, ex-Muslims are often labelled traitors or ‘native informants.’ After all, when one homogenises a ‘community,’ anyone who steps outside of their assigned place may be deemed dangerous, subversive; as destroying the natural order of things.
Like other social and political movements which fight for equality, the ex-Muslim movement is considered ‘dangerous’ because it subverts the status quo, not because of some paternalistic concern for minorities. After all, don’t minorities also have the right to dissent, to equality, to civil rights and freedoms? And why is blasphemy or apostasy considered ‘Muslim-bashing?’ Is promoting LGBT rights ‘straight-bashing’, or promoting women’s right to vote ‘male-bashing’?
Yet when CEMB took to the streets of London Pride last year, the East London Mosque filed a complaint against our ‘Islamophobic’ placards. It took Pride London eight long months to meet with CEMB and to allow us to return this year. (Imagine if the Westboro Baptist Church had filed a complaint with Pride against a group that was critical of Christianity and the Christian Right. Would it have taken eight months for them to decide whose side they were on?)
When the hashtag #ExMuslimBecause became viral overnight, with over 120,000 Tweets from 65 countries, many people realised they were not alone in their rejection of Islam – maybe for the first time in their lives. Yet BBC Trending described it as an excuse for ‘Muslim-bashing’ and ‘Islamophobia.’ Or when we showed our solidarity with those persecuted in Saudi Arabia for eating during Ramadan, armed police came to the Saudi Embassy’s rescue, telling us our eat-in and fast-defying solidarity action was offending those in the embassy.
In my opinion, accusations of ‘Islamophobia’ are less about opposing bigotry and more about defending religious privilege but you cannot stop racism by outlawing blasphemy and apostasy. These accusations are used to scaremonger ex-Muslims into silence and to impose de facto apostasy and blasphemy laws where none exist. Where these laws do exist, we are accused of these ‘crimes’ and persecuted without any niceties.
The charge of ‘Islamophobia’ protects religion and the religious Right, not believers. There is a clear difference between the term xenophobia, for example, which describes how migrants are targeted by bigotry, or homophobia, where people are targeted for their sexuality, versus Islamophobia, which describes the criticism of an idea. Religion is an idea; Islamism and the religious-Right are political movements. They must be open to criticism. Conflating criticism of Islam and Islamism with ‘Muslim-bashing’ misrepresents dissent as bigotry.
That doesn’t mean that bigotry against Muslims, migrants and minorities doesn’t exist. Of course it does! We live in class-based societies which profit from racism. Ex-Muslims and their families (many of whom are still Muslim) understand this better than most; we also face closed borders, travel bans, hate, violence and discrimination. And, yes of course, there are ex-Muslims who are bigoted against Muslims, just as there are Muslims who are bigoted against ex-Muslims; just as there are women who are misogynists and men who are feminists and so forth. But individuals – not a ‘community’ – must be held accountable for their choices. We are not extensions of our communities to be defended or condemned depending upon which ‘tribe’ we belong to.
Victim blaming is the natural outcome of an unconditional defence of the ‘community’ – if only we had not been so offensive; if only we had minded our manners, well, then there would be no need to threaten, kill or silence us. Ironically, collective blame is a natural outcome of identity politics, which moreover legitimises white identity politics. The argument that cultures are homogenous and need protection has aided the rise of xenophobia and anti-migrant sentiment. Trump uses this narrative all the time, as do far-Right groups like Pegida, the Five Star Movement, For Britain and the English Defence League.
Letting migrants drown in waters and separating toddlers from their parents at borders is the height of defending one’s ‘culture’ – as is murdering apostates. Whilst touted as progressive, identity politics is a politics of difference and superiority. These are two edges of the same sword. The politics of difference has always been a fundamental principle of a supremacist agenda – whether it is Nazism, the biological theory of racial superiority or expressions of difference couched in cultural and religious terms. Identity politics is the corruption of the fight for social justice. It degrades it to a mere defence of culture and the homogenous ‘community.’
This is why, when Goldsmiths Islamic Society tried to cancel and disrupt my talk, the LGBTQ+ and Feminist Societies sided with the ISOC against my apparent ‘Islamophobia’ – even after the ISOC President’s homophobic tweets came to light and he was forced to resign. This is why the Muslim LGBTQ charity Imaan has asserted our presence at Pride last year served only to “deepen divisions between communities” and why a Guardian piece by a gay Muslim accuses us of “Islamophobia” whilst defending the East London Mosque which is itself a centre for homophobia. From the point of view of identity politics, it is better to defend the East London Mosque with its preachers, who call for the death penalty for LGBT and apostates, than to be seen to side with ‘those ex-Muslims’ who defend the rights of Muslim and ex-Muslim LGBT. Identity politics fails to see allies and enemies within and outside the ‘community.’ It fails to mobilise real solidarity and see how our lives and rights are interlinked across ‘communities,’ borders and boundaries.
In an age of regressive identity politics and cultural relativism, an ex-Muslim community in protest matters, because it reaffirms universal values, anti-racism, secularism, the fight for equality, social justice and our common humanity. A movement that is about equality not privilege. Rights without permission. No apologies.