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New Video on CEMB at Pride with Spokesperson Jimmy Bangash

New Video by Carl Russ-Mohl on Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) and Jimmy London at Pride in London 2018. In support of LGBT rights of those living in countries under Islamic rule and those from Muslim backgrounds here in the UK and west.

#LoveNotACrime
#عشق_جرم_نيست
#ভালবাসা_কোন_অপরাধ_নয়
#محبت_جرم_نہیں
#الحب_لیس_بجریمة

CEMB condemns China’s persecution of Muslims

Reports indicate that the Chinese government is subjecting Muslims in the region of Xinjian to ongoing surveillance, detention and forced ‘re-education’ in its political re-education camps.  Human rights group report that in excess of 1 million individuals have been detained.

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) unequivocally condemns China’s persecution of Muslims, demands that the Chinese government immediately end the persecution of religious minorities and calls on the international community to intervene in defence of freedom of conscience.

Why “Allah is Gay”? CEMB asks Imad Iddine Habib

Why “Allah is Gay”?
Maryam Namazie’s interview with Imad Iddine Habib, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) Spokesperson

You made the first ever “Allah is Gay” placard for Pride 2017. Why?

I made “Allah is Gay” placards at Pride 2017 because I believe that LGBT people of Muslim heritage have to take the lead in tackling homophobia and hate in our respective Muslim communities and Muslim-majority countries. As an ex-Muslim bisexual man, I felt that “Allah is Gay” challenges both blasphemy/ apostasy laws as well as homophobic ones. There is also some truth to it. According to Islamic teachings, Allah has no gender and no partners. Allah is in fact, agender, non-binary and asexual!

The police tried to remove the placards at Pride 2017 but eventually backed down. What did you think of the police accusation that it was “offensive”?

The attempt to remove our “Allah is Gay” placards during Pride 2017 stems from the fact that Western societies frame our struggle from within their own perspective, like the BBC journalist who asked you if it was the right time for the #ExMuslimBecause hashtag as if only what happens in the west matters and we should only act accordingly. Anti-Muslim bigotry is a very valid issue; I myself have been a victim of anti-Muslim comments, however I think it is disgraceful for the police or anyone else to tell me, an ex-Muslim LGBT refugee, what I can and cannot say about the religion and the countries and the culture I grew up in. Also, I refuse to be lectured about racism and anti-Muslim bigotry from the London Pride team (who are not affected by these issues) or anyone else especially since I have been victim of both countless times.

Some will say that “Allah is Gay” was later used by the far-Right Lauren Southern. If so, what is difference between CEMB using it and the far-Right doing so?

Lauren Southern is a well-known racist. She flew all the way from where she lives to go to Luton town centre to distribute leaflets targeting the Muslim population specifically, claiming it was a social experiment. What I find interesting about her is that she only uses LGBT rights as a way to target people of Muslim heritage. She is far from a champion of LGBT rights and had no problem cooperating with notorious homophobes. She also took part in a failed attempt to disrupt migrant sea rescue missions. Many of those who drowned in the Mediterranean were LGBT as well. She wants the west to deport immigrants, many of whom are LGBT. She reminds me of the conservative MP Nadine Dorries who speaks of gay rights or feigns concern for the rights of Niqabi women (absurdly claiming that Muslim women wear it to cover bruises) whilst she voted 9 times against Gay equality legislation and for cuts that affected women’s centres and legal aid services.

What did you think of charges of Islamophobia by the East London Mosque and even some LGBT Muslims?

Again, I think disagreements are absolutely fine with me. But implying we are a far-right mouthpiece is denying us our agency and our opinions and leaves others to think that only Islamists and far-right racists are able to have political stances. The East London Mosque is notorious for enabling and validating homophobia and the homophobes amongst Muslims and sought to accuse us – people from Muslim backgrounds, LGBT  refugees and asylum seekers – of being anti-Muslim in order to shut down legitimate debate about their homophobic stance. Using accusations of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry to silence people from Muslim heritage who are challenging certain issues within their respective communities and Muslim-majority countries is an insult to all of us who have been victims of anti-Muslim bigotry. It plays into the hands of the far-right which complains that anti-racism has “gone too far” and that they’re unable to say anything anymore. Their claims are obviously as ridiculous as the accusations of ‘Islamophobia.’

What has Allah is Gay got to do with LGBT rights in countries under Islamic rule?

I personally have gone to Pride every year since I came to this country solely to highlight the plight of dissenters in Muslim-majority countries where freedom is being eroded with the rise of human rights violations and attacks on fundamental human rights such as freedom of expression. The pictures of our protest went viral showing that it is possible to celebrate apostasy and homosexuality and at the same time stand up to racism and bigotry. As long as the only places where homosexuality as well as apostasy and blasphemy are punishable by death are Muslim-majority territories, we will attend Pride events and highlight the  plight of millions who are being denied their fundamental human rights.

How does it make you feel to see an ex-Muslim in Germany wearing an Allah is Gay T-Shirt. He needed police protection but it is becoming normalised. There was also Allah is Gay placards in Canada this year.

I think it is great that the message is spreading. We need these slogans to become associated with those of us who really care about LGBT rights and human rights. We are not doing it as stunts to score political points or gain publicity. CEMB works all year-round on these issues and we have a real stake in these issues, as we are, have been and will be affected by it.

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
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