Category: Featured

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain

CEMB Timeline (2007-2018)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.”

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.

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.

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.

THE DANGERS OF BEING A DEVOUT ATHEIST

THE DANGERS OF BEING A DEVOUT ATHEIST

 

I have been an atheist since the age of 13. There was no Damascene moment to it. One day I realised that I did not believe in god any longer. It was the end of a personal journey that had started out in fervent Catholic devotion from the moment I took my First Holy Communion, fuelled by regular attendance to Sunday mass, daily evening prayers before going to sleep and regular engagement in confession. However, for many reasons, I lost my faith, never to return.  Just like that.

 

To mark such a momentous occasion there was a short announcement in the only appropriate forum at the time: the family dinner table. My revelation was greeted with a dismissive eye roll from my mother, complete indifference from my siblings and one of my father’s undefined grunts which meant anything from “Ok”, “you must be having a laugh”, “Good”, “What’s on telly?” or “No”. Interpreting my father’s moods was a bizarre game of chicken that taught me to be brave – yet cautious – to expect the unexpected, never shy away from a fight – unless it could not be won – and always think outside the box. These skills have been invaluable in the last 20 years working as an asylum and immigration lawyer in the UK.

 

The timing of my revelation was critical. Had I been born a few years earlier the situation would have been completely different. I was born in the early 1970s, in Franco’s Spain, where pretty much all babies had to be baptised by legal imperative. Luckily for me I have no recollection of Francoism. El Caudillo died before I could understand what was going on around me.

 

My atheism would have been very dangerous under Franco. My father – also an atheist – would have been much more vocal in his response to my revelation, to the point of verbalising some actual words. He would have told me to keep quiet and never, ever share my thoughts with anyone unless I wanted to end up in prison. My father had witnessed Catholic priests abuse the great power bestowed upon them by the Franco regime. He grew up at a time when those who did not show up for Sunday mass mysteriously disappeared without a trace. Everyone knew not to ask any questions to avoid suffering the same fate. I have no doubt that I would have found it intolerable to live in a society so dominated by a religion I could not follow. I have no doubt I would have desperately sought a way to escape.

 

Being an outspoken free thinker in the society I grew up in did not put my life in danger.  I may have been perceived as being weird and annoying which resulted in having less (but more select) friends. My family did not disown me. The authorities had no interest in me and I was not ostracised or persecuted by my local community. I was not discriminated against by anyone because of my atheism.

 

 

Unfortunately this is a privilege that is not afforded to many atheists and free thinkers around the world. Millions are born in repressive societies where religion and politics are indivisibly merged together. These are societies where women have fewer rights than men, where nobody can be religiously indifferent and individuality and non-observance of the status quo can literally get you killed. Just like LGBTI individuals from homophobic countries, free thinkers and atheists born in religiously autocratic regimes face the agonising choice of either conforming, following the herd and living a lie or leaving their home, culture and families, everything they have ever known, in order to start out from scratch in a strange land where they would be able to be themselves without having to pretend to be someone they are not.

 

Over the years I have had the enormous privilege of successfully representing a large number of atheists from different countries. I am stunned at the extraordinarily high personal price paid by many of my clients as a result of their free thinking. As a fellow atheist, I understand their journey from believer to non-believer. I know it is a process with a beginning, a middle and an end. However, I cannot in any way relate to the pain my clients have endured as a result of their atheism such as not being able to visit their countries of origin, having been disowned by their families and lifelong friends, feeling isolated and sometimes suicidal.

 

And that is before they make a formal asylum application to seek protection. This is a process that can feel like the legal equivalent of a full body cavity search; intrusive, adversarial and unsympathetic; marred by a culture of disbelief; sometimes inhumane.

 

As a lawyer I strive to protect my clients as much as possible, advising them as to what they can expect from the process, spending many hours going through their evidence with them to present the best possible case, strengthening their claims with relevant country information, making full use of my legal toolkit to persuade the decision-maker that atheist asylum applicants are not making up their claims to stay here and work, to be given a council flat and benefits, that these applicants would be at risk of imprisonment, death or both if they are sent them back home just because they can no longer make themselves follow a religion they believe to be a fantasy and cannot abide by the rules imposed by it. Once the genie is out of the bottle, it cannot go back in.

 

Not all of my atheist clients have had a difficult time securing asylum in the UK. This is very much the luck of the draw. In my experience once my client negotiates the potential Orwellian situations that arise at the Asylum Screening Unit, if the case is well prepared in my experience there is a reasonable chance of securing a grant of asylum on application. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts sometimes the decision-makers do not read or engage with all the evidence painstakingly prepared in support of our cases. In those situations, we can find ourselves in front of an Immigration Judge who is independent of the Home Office. This comes at a very substantial financial and emotional cost.

 

Over the course of my career I have worked on a wide variety of asylum cases which I have very much enjoyed. However, I cannot help but having a soft spot for atheist clients. Every single time I work in these cases I find something relatable on a personal level. I very much hope to be able to continue doing this work for many years to come.

 

Ana González BA

https://www.wilsonllp.co.uk/ana-gonzalez/

Ex-Muslims: A community in protest

Published in sister-hood on 2 July 2018.

When the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) started 11 years ago, in June 2007, we were hard pressed to find 25 people who would come out publicly to break the apostasy taboo. Today, we are witnessing an international ex-Muslim ‘community’ – a tsunami of atheism.

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.

The above is a shortened version of a speech at Muslimish Conference in NYC in June 2018.

Maryam Namazie is Spokesperson for the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain.

 

Atheism is NOT a Crime campaign

#AtheismNotACrime, #BlasphemyNotACrime, #ApostasyNotACrime

Join our campaign stating loud and clear that freethought is not a crime!

Islamic states consider atheism a “threat” – seeing it as an existential danger, especially since Islam and state power are intertwined, hence why atheists are persecuted (with many others including religious minorities, women’s rights activists, labour leaders and LGBT).

• Iran as one of the most important bases of atheism in the Middle East, with more than half the population using the Internet regularly, has seen a government ban on more than 160,000 social media accounts and websites for  spreading “atheism and corruption” in one year alone.

• Two government ministries in Egypt have been ordered to produce a national plan to “confront and eliminate” atheism. The Egyptian parliament is looking to criminalise atheism.  Recently, Mohammed Hashem was told to see a psychiatrist and kicked off a television show for not believing in God. A mother has even lost custody of her children because she is an atheist.

• A series of laws in Saudi Arabia define terrorism as “calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion.”

• A Malaysian government minister has said that atheists should be “hunted down” and “re-educated.”

• In Pakistan, a High Court Judge has reiterated that “blasphemers are terrorists” in a case that seeks to ban “derogatory” social media posts against Islam and Muhammad, Islam’s prophet. The Islamabad High Court has directed the government to block web pages containing blasphemous content and put the names of “blasphemers” on the exit control list.

Thirteen countries punish atheism with the death penalty, all Islamic states, namely Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, UAE, and Yemen.

And even in countries without the death penalty, like Bangladesh, Islamists kill atheists whilst the government does little or like Tunisia, where Hatem Al Imam, the President of Tunisian Freethinkers has been brutally attacked. Turkish government-backed Islamists in Afrin address “Kurdish atheists,”telling them to repent or face decapitation …

Clearly, to be an atheist, to question or criticise God, prophets, Islam and any religion or dogma is not a crime though too many are being killed or imprisoned for it. It is high time to stop blaming atheists for their persecution under cover of offence, Islamophobia, hurt sentiments… and instead target the states and movements that are hunting down, imprisoning and murdering people for the mere exercise of their freedom of expression and conscience.

Urgent cases that need our immediate attention include:

Bangladesh: Asad Noor, a 25-year-old atheist blogger is facing up to 14 years in prison because he “hurt religious feelings” with his social media posts “mocking the prophet”.

Iran: 20-year-old Sina Dehghan was sentenced to death for “insulting the prophet”. Deghan’s co-defendants, Sahar Eliasi and Mohammad Nouri, have also been convicted of posting anti-Islamic content on social media. Nouri was sentenced to death; Eliasi has been sentenced to three years in prison upon appeal. Soheil Arabi was initially sentenced to death for “insulting the prophet” is on hunger strike and in critical condition. Ruhollah Tavana and Saeed Malekpour have also been sentenced to death for “insulting the Prophet” and “insulting and desecrating Islam” respectively.

Iraq: In Dhi Qar- Al-Nasiriya, a city in the southern part of  Iraq, atheists have been hunted down; in most recent news, one of four has been arrested for “spreading the culture of the absence of God.”

Pakistan: Ayaz Nizami and Rana Noman face the death penalty for “blasphemy.” After the arrest, #HangAyazNizami trended on Twitter. Taimoor Raza, 30, has also been sentenced to death for “insulting the prophet Muhammad.”

Saudi Arabia: Ahmad Al-Shamri, in his 20s, has been sentenced to death for atheism and blasphemy; Raif Badawi has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and a thousand lashes for “apostasy” and “insulting Islam”. Poet Ashraf Fayadhhas been sentenced to eight years imprisonment and lashes for poems containing “atheist ideas” reduced from an initial death sentence.

#AtheismNotACrime
#BlasphemyNotACrime
#ApostasyNotACrime
#بى_خدايى_جرم_نيست
#توهين_به_مقدسات_جرم_نيست
#ارتداد_جرم_نيست
#الإلحاد_لیس_بجریمة
#إزدراء_الأدیان_لیس_بجریمة
#الردة_لیست_بجریمة
#الحاد_جرم_نہیں
#توہین_رسالت_جرم_نہیں
#کفر_جرم_نہیں
#নাস্তিকতা_কোন_অপরাধ_নয়
#ধর্মেরসমালোচনা_কোন_অপরাধ_নয়
#ধর্মত্যাগ_কোন_অপরাধ_নয়

  • 1
  • 2

Subscribe to our Newsletter

CEMB Logo© 2017 - All rights reserved.
UK Atheist Top 5 Blogs
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain is a limited by guarantee Company registered in England & Wales.
Registration number 8059509.
Designed with in London

X