Category: Featured

Evening on LGBT rights, Apostasy and Blasphemy

The event is part of Pride in London Festival.

4 July 2019, 6:00pm for a 6:45pm start until 10:00pm, London

Join Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and One Law for All for an evening of film, poetry and a panel discussion on LGBT rights, Apostasy and Blasphemy.

GET YOUR TICKETS TODAY. NO TICKETS SOLD AT DOOR.

Film: ‘Ferdous’ by Shakila Taranum Maan

Poetry: By Kenyan Somali Poet Halima Salat

Panel discussion: With Drew Dalton (Hidayah Chair), 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)

Nahla Mahmoud will be the MC of the evening.

Tickets are £5 waged; £3 unwaged. No tickets sold at the door. Venue will be disclosed to ticket holders a few days before the event.

For more information, please contact m.namazie@ex-muslim.org.uk.

Sponsors of the event include: Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, National Secular Society, One Law for All and Pink Triangle Trust.

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain stands with Hidayah, Andrew Moffat, Anderton Park School and all LGBT of Muslim heritage

CEMB supports the recent legal injunction prohibiting homophobic protests outside of Anderton Park School in Birmingham for the use of LGBT inclusive educational material.

The presence of Muslim parents and others holding homophobic banners calling for the erasure of the LGBT community in educational material and the resignation of the head teacher are unacceptable.

The climate of fear and intimidation around a primary school is nothing short of abhorrent and reminiscent of the abuse faced by African American children during attempts to desegregate schools in Little Rock in 1957 or children running a gauntlet of abuse in Belfast in the early 2000s to get to Holy Cross school. These hate-filled protests, led by the religious-Right, are no different. They will only make the situation for LGBT of Muslim heritage significantly worse and further normalise Islamic homophobia, including via the consistent fundamentalist teachings against LGBT in Muslim homes and mosques, the use of Islamic Hadith and Quranic justifications for the execution of homosexuals in 14 countries under Sharia, and the shunning, intimidation and honour-based violence faced by LGBT from Muslim backgrounds across the country.

The protests will also spread if LGBT rights are not defended. Just last month, MEA Central Secondary School was asked to apologise to parents for having Hidayah, a Muslim LGBT group, speak to children in Years 7 and 8 about how it is acceptable to be Muslim and gay.

With 52% of British Muslims polled stating that homosexuality should be criminalised, it is imperative that a counter narrative to this homophobia be developed early on in schools. Children of Muslim parents, some of whom WILL grow up to be gay, must be presented with the teaching that it is acceptable to be gay, that LGBT are part of society and that it is not shameful, haram or perverse. As ex-Muslims, we understand more than most, the effects of this hatred on the lives and rights of children and the young in particular.

Whilst believers clearly have a right to their beliefs however abhorrent, freedom of conscience and expression do not include the right to incite violence, discrimination or persecution.

CEMB stands with Hidayah, Andrew Moffat, Anderton Park School, amongst others, as well as all LGBT of Muslim heritage. A secular education is key to normalising respect for the human rights of all despite differences, including in opinions and beliefs, race, sexuality, sex and so on. Respecting people’s rights, though, is not the same as respecting opinions that incite discrimination and persecution of minorities within minorities.

If the homophobes win, the LGBT of Muslim heritage will continue to learn that their existence is a sin that warrants execution abroad or honour-related violence, shunning and worse here at home.

The Government must take immediate action in all such cases to put the welfare of children above and beyond the demands of parents and the religious-Right and to defend the No Outsiders Programme and the Equalities Act.

 

For more information, please contact:

Jimmy Bangash

Spokesperson

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain

hello@ex-muslim.org.uk

 

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.

Open Letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid: APPG Islamophobia Definition Threatens Civil Liberties

Addressed to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid

The APPG on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia has now been adopted by the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats Federal board, Plaid Cymru and the Mayor of London, as well as several local councils. All of this is occurring before the Home Affairs Select Committee has been able to assess
the evidence for and against the adoption of the definition nationally.

Meanwhile the Conservatives are having their own debate about rooting out Islamophobia from the party.

According to the APPG definition, “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”.

With this definition in hand, it is perhaps no surprise that following the horrific attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, some place responsibility for the atrocity on the pens of journalists and academics who have criticised Islamic beliefs and practices, commented on or investigated Islamist extremism.

The undersigned unequivocally, unreservedly and emphatically condemn acts of violence against Muslims, and recognise the urgent need to deal with anti-Muslim hatred. However, we are extremely concerned about the uncritical and hasty adoption of the APPG’s definition of Islamophobia.

This vague and expansive definition is being taken on without an adequate scrutiny or proper consideration of its negative consequences for freedom of expression, and academic and journalistic freedom. The definition will also undermine social cohesion – fuelling the very bigotry against Muslims which it is designed to prevent.

We are concerned that allegations of Islamophobia will be, indeed already are being, used to effectively shield Islamic beliefs and even extremists from criticism, and that formalising this definition will result in it being employed effectively as something of a backdoor blasphemy law.

The accusation of Islamophobia has already been used against those opposing religious and gender segregation in education, the hijab, halal slaughter on the grounds of animal welfare, LGBT rights campaigners opposing Muslim views on homosexuality, ex-Muslims and feminists opposing Islamic views and practices relating to women, as well as those concerned about the issue of grooming gangs. It has been used against journalists who investigate Islamism, Muslims working in counter-extremism, schools and Ofsted for resisting conservative religious pressure and enforcing gender equality.

Evidently abuse, harmful practices, or the activities of groups and individuals which promote ideas contrary to British values are far more likely to go unreported as a result of fear of being called Islamophobic. This will only increase if the APPG definition is formally adopted in law.

We are concerned that the definition will be used to shut down legitimate criticism and investigation. While the APPG authors have assured that it does not wish to infringe free speech, the entire content of the report, the definition itself, and early signs of how it would be used, suggest that it certainly would. Civil liberties should not be treated as an afterthought in the effort to tackle antiMuslim prejudice.

The conflation of race and religion employed under the confused concept of ‘cultural racism’ expands the definition beyond anti-Muslim hatred to include ‘illegitimate’ criticism of the Islamic religion. The concept of Muslimness can effectively be transferred to Muslim practices and beliefs, allowing the report to claim that criticism of Islam is instrumentalised to hurt Muslims.

No religion should be given special protection against criticism. Like anti-Sikh, anti-Christian, or anti-Hindu hatred, we believe the term anti-Muslim hatred is more appropriate and less likely to infringe on free speech. A proliferation of ‘phobias’ is not desirable, as already stated by Sikh and Christian
organisations who recognise the importance of free discussion about their beliefs.

Current legislative provisions are sufficient, as the law already protects individuals against attacks and unlawful discrimination on the basis of their religion. Rather than helping, this definition is likely to create a climate of self-censorship whereby people are fearful of criticising Islam and Islamic beliefs. It will therefore effectively shut down open discussions about matters of public interest. It will only aggravate community tensions further and is therefore no long term solution.

If this definition is adopted the government will likely turn to self-appointed ‘representatives of the community’ to define ‘Muslimness’. This is clearly open to abuse. The APPG already entirely overlooked Muslims who are often considered to be “insufficiently Muslim” by other Muslims,
moderates, liberals, reformers and the Ahmadiyyah, who often suffer persecution and violence at the hands of other Muslims.

For all these reasons, the APPG definition of Islamophobia is deeply problematic and unfit for purpose. Acceptance of this definition will only serve to aggravate community tensions and to inhibit free speech about matters of fundamental importance. We urge the government, political parties, local councils and other organisations to reject this flawed proposed definition.

Emma Webb, Civitas
Hardeep Singh, Network of Sikh Organisations (NSOUK)
Lord Singh of Wimbledon
Tim Dieppe, Christian Concern
Stephen Evans, National Secular Society (NSS)
Sadia Hameed, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB)
Prof. Paul Cliteur, candidate for the Dutch Senate, Professor of Law, University of Leiden
Brendan O’Neill, Editor of Spiked
Maajid Nawaz, Founder, Quilliam International
Rt. Rev’d Dr Gavin Ashenden
Pragna Patel, director of Southall Black Sisters
Professor Richard Dawkins
Rahila Gupta, author and Journalist
Peter Whittle, founder and director of New Culture Forum
Trupti Patel, President of Hindu Forum of Britain
Dr Lakshmi Vyas, President Hindu Forum of Europe
Harsha Shukla MBE, President Hindu Council of North UK
Tarang Shelat, President Hindu Council of Birmingham
Ashvin Patel, Chairman, Hindu Forum (Walsall)
Ana Gonzalez, partner at Wilson Solicitors LLP
Baron Desai of Clement Danes
Baroness Cox of Queensbury
Lord Alton of Liverpool
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali
Ade Omooba MBE, Co-Chair National Church Leaders Forum (NCLF)
Wilson Chowdhry, British Pakistani Christian Association
Ashish Joshi, Sikh Media Monitoring Group
Satish K Sharma, National Council of Hindu Temples
Rumy Hasan, Academic and author
Amina Lone, Co-Director, Social Action and Research Foundation
Peter Tatchell, Peter Tatchell Foundation
Seyran Ates, Imam
Gina Khan, One Law for All
Mohammed Amin MBE
Baroness D’Souza
Michael Mosbacher, Acting Editor, Standpoint Magazine
Lisa-Marie Taylor, CEO FiLiA
Julie Bindel, journalist and feminist campaigner
Dr Adrian Hilton, Academic
Neil Anderson, Academic
Tom Holland, Historian
Toby Keynes
Prof. Dr. Bassam Tibi, Professor Emeritus for International Relations, University of Goettingen
Dr Stephen Law, philosopher and author

See letter in pdf here: islamophobiaopenletter

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/

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