[wpaudio: url=”/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/Boras-sweden-M-Namazi-April-2008.mp3″ text=”Maryam Namazie on Islam and Political Islam”]
[wpaudio: url=”/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/Boras-sweden-M-Namazi-April-2008.mp3″ text=”Maryam Namazie on Islam and Political Islam”]
“Hon ger en röst åt röstlösa kvinnor” Borås 2008-04-15 | Uppdaterad 2008-04-15
– Alla religioner är besatta av att kontrollera kvinnor, sex och sexualitet
– Orsaken till att jag tycker att isalm är värre än andra är att det i många länder sker övergrepp i islams namn och med statens tillåtelse.
Det säger Maryam Namazie som på tisdagskvällen föreläste på kulturhuset i Borås.
Maryam har vigt större delen av sitt liv åt att kämpa för mänskliga rättigheter och framförallt mot förtryck av kvinnor. Något som enligt henne sker i stort sett överallt i världen, men värst är det de muslimska länderna.
– I många av dessa länder sker det med statens tillåtelse, eller till och med uppmuntran. Som exempel kan nämnas att en av de högsta tjänstemännen i Iran nyligen sa att de kvinnor som inte är tillräckligt slöjade är roten till allt ont i vårt samhälle.
Hon tar också upp andra exempel, som en kvinna i Iran som släpades ut på en marknadsplats och misshandlades till döds, allt för att hon förälskat sig i fel man.
– Det värsta är att alltihop filmades och lades ut på youtube, men trots detta har ingen straffats för mordet på den 17-åriga flickan.
Förklaringen till att ingen straffats är, enligt Maryam Namazie, att i dessa länder anses det rätt med så kallat hedersrelaterat våld.
– Männen menar att det är lika bra att slå ihjäl henne nu istället för att vänta tills hon gift sig och begår otrohetsbrott. Ett brott som straffas med stening till döds.
Att stena ihjäl otrogna kvinnor förekommer bland annat i Parkistan, Iran, Sudan och Nigeria.
– Detta är alltså en del av ländernas lagsystem. Det är till och med reglerat vilken storlek stenarna får ha.
Maryam Namazie drar hela tiden upp vikten av att inte blunda för de här orättvisorna.
– I västvärlden är vi ofta rädda att bli kallade för rasister om vi kritiserar islam. Men det är inte det minsta rasistiskt att ifrågasätta och kritisera en religion eller ett sätt att styra ett land. Rasism är att kritisera ett folk, och det är något annat.
Trots att ämnet hon talar om är upprörande, håller sig Maryam Namazie hela tiden lugn och saklig. Hon har något milt i rösten och uppträder på ett sätt som kanske bäst beskrivs som värdigt. Men så har hon också ägnat större delen av sitt liv åt just de här frågorna. Eller som Omid Salehi från Globala föreningen sa när han presenterade henne inför hennes föredrag:
– Hon ger en röst åt de röstlösa kvinnorna världen över.
Telefon: 033-700 07 73
March 12 2008, 12:00am
Picture this, says Maryam Namazie: “A child is swathed in cloth from head to toe every day. Everything but her face and hands are covered for fear that a man might find her attractive. At school she learns that she is worth less than a boy. She is not allowed to dance or swim or feel the sun on her skin or the wind in her hair. This is clearly unacceptable, yet it is accepted when it is done in the name of religion.”
Namazie is the founder of the Council of Ex-Muslims in Britain (CEMB) which started life in the middle of last year. On Monday – in celebration of the centenary of International Women’s Day – she spoke at a conference on Political Islam and Women’s Rights, and launched a campaign against Sharia.
Iranian Muslim by birth, Namazie, 41, is friendly and softly spoken. But she does not mince her words. It takes nerve to start an organisation for people who have rejected Islam. In Islamic law, apostasy is punishable by death. Namazie receives periodic threats, usually on her mobile phone: “One said, ‘You are going to be decapitated’…I went to the police. They were very attentive at first because they thought it might be linked to the attempted bombings in Glasgow . But when they realised it wasn’t, they never bothered contacting me again.” Doesn’t she worry about her safety? “Yes, I do, frequently. I worry about whether I will live, especially now I am a mother. If I see someone looking at me strangely, I wonder.” Why doesn’t she use a pseudonym? “They can find out who you are anyway. And the point of the Council of Ex-Muslims is to stand up and be counted.” She doesn’t really like the label ex-Muslim and would prefer not to frame her identity in religious terms but, she says, it is like gays “coming out” 30 years ago: something has to become public if you are to break taboos. The CEMB has more than 100 members with inquiries from people who do not dare to join. “Some have horrendous stories but do not put them on the website because they are afraid.”
Namazie’s grandfather was a mullah and her father was brought up a strict Muslim. Both of her parents (now living in America) remain Muslim. When Namazie told her father about the launch of the CEMB, she remembers that he said: “Oh no, Grandpa is going to be turning in his grave.” “So I told him that what I am doing benefits Muslims, too, because if you live in a secular society, you can be a Muslim, a Sikh, a Christian or an atheist and be treated equally.” Namazie’s opposition to state religion is informed by her own experience. She was 12 when the Iranian revolution “was hijacked by the Ayatollahs” and her country became the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“I had never worn the veil and was at a mixed school. Suddenly a strange man appeared in the playground. He was bearded and had been sent to separate the sexes – but we ran circles round him.” She can still picture, too, the face of “the Hezbollah” who stopped her in the street because her head was uncovered. “I was 12 or 13. It was really scary.” Worse happened to others: “There were beatings and acid was thrown in women’s faces, and there were executions on television every day,” she says. Then her school was closed “for Islamicisation”.
Namazie and her mother left for India. They lived in a B&B in Delhi and Namazie attended the British School while her father and three-year-old sister remained in Tehran. This was meant to be a temporary measure, but soon her father – a journalist – decided that they all had to leave. The family spent a year in Bournemouth before travelling to the US where, when Namazie was 17, they were granted residency.
At university, she joined the United Nations Development Programme and went to work with Ethiopian refugees in Sudan. “Six months after I arrived Sudan became an Islamic state. I was, like, this is following me around!” Along with others, Namazie started an unofficial human rights organisation, gathering information on the government. The Sudanese security service called her in for questioning. “I wasn’t very respectful and the UN guy who came with me said, ‘No wonder your parents took you out of Iran’. The Sudanese guy threatened me, saying, ‘you don’t know what will happen to you. You might have a motorbike accident or something’.” The UN quietly put her on a plane home.
This was a turning point, shifting her from non-practising Muslim to atheist. Two decades on, she is devoting her life to opposing religious power. She is in the midst of organising the first international conference of Ex-Muslims, to be held in London on October 10. And she is about to launch a “no Sharia” campaign.
She must have been shocked, I suggest, when the Archbishop of Canterbury said the introduction of some Sharia in Britain was unavoidable. No, she says; she wasn’t even surprised. “It was quite apt, although he didn’t expect the reaction he got. It was an attack on secularism really. It is, in a sense, to his benefit if there are Muslim schools and Sharia. It makes it less likely that anyone will oppose Christian schools and the privileged place of religion in society.”
She is adamant, though, that no form of Sharia should be allowed here. “It is fundamentally discriminatory and misogynist,” she says and is dismissive of the idea that people would be able to choose between Sharia and civil jurisdiction. Women could be railroaded into a Sharia court, she says. “This would hit people who need the protection of British law more than anyone else.”
She believes that we are confused about the meaning of human rights. “Rights are for individuals, not for religions or beliefs. ‘Every human is equal’ does not mean that every belief is equal.” Islamists portray themselves as victims, she says, and policymakers have bought into this. Namazie says that the Muslim Council of Britain should not be seen as representative of British Muslims – but would nonetheless welcome any opportunities to debate with it. “Ex-Muslims are in a good position to challenge political Islam,” she says. “We must not let little girls or anyone else lose their human rights. We can’t tolerate the intolerable for any reason – including religion.”
Council of Ex-Muslims in Britain www.ex-muslim.org.uk firstname.lastname@example.org; 07719-166731; www.maryamnamazie.com
I find it slightly odd writing for a faith blog, when I don’t have any. It’s like writing for an Automobile Association blog when I take the bus.
But I do understand why it is so. In this day and age everything is framed within the context of ‘faith’, especially for those of us deemed to be Muslims – no matter how clearly and loudly we profess and live otherwise. I think this is in large part due to the existence of a political Islamic movement, which strives to gain legitimacy for its terror and misogyny by claiming to represent vast number of people under the label of Muslims.
In a sense, labelling people with innumerable characteristics as Muslim and Muslim alone is part of the process of constraining them in order to feign ‘representation’. This labelling in the media, government, and mainstream society is a further capitulation, which effectively hands over millions of people – despite their never ending resistance – to this movement.
I know that the organised religion industry is on the rise everywhere and religious labelling of entire populations is becoming the norm, but with political Islam having state power in many places, and vying for power in others, it makes it a very different phenomenon. The label of Christian today is unlike the same label during the inquisition and crusades.
Correspondingly, I have only become more visible after calling myself an ex-Muslim with the establishment of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain in June 2007. Ironically, even once one has left Islam and renounced religion, one can only be visible by mentioning their former affiliation to it.
It is a huge contradiction and one which I am often asked about. Why call myself an ex-Muslim if I am an atheist? Why renounce religion publicly if I believe religion or its lack thereof must be a private affair and strictly separated from the state and educational system? Why label myself on their terms if I desire a society without labels other than human and citizen?
It is because being an ex-Muslim, or an apostate, is punishable by death in countries ruled by Islamic law; even in a place like Britain people will be surprised at the threats and intimidations those who want to leave face. Which is what makes this public renunciation crucial. It is similar to gays who came out of the closet to highlight the situation and make it easier for others to do so.
Yes, your religion or lack thereof is your business but not when you are killed for it. Then a public challenge becomes a form of resistance.
Oh yes, and why have I renounced Islam and religion? Well, I suppose if you live in a society where you can claim to be of a certain religion, choosing the bits you like, ignoring most of the rest, and just getting on with your life without it having much relevance or impact, then there may never be a need to call yourself a lapsed Christian for example.
But when the state sends a religious official to your school to ensure that you don’t mix with your friends who are boys, stops you from swimming, forces you to be veiled, hangs girls on street corners for crimes against chastity, prescribes different books for you and your girlfriends to those read by boys, and drags your loved ones away for corruption, immorality or blasphemy – you have no choice but to look at and confront it. Religion in power is very different to one that has been tamed by an enlightenment.
And why renounce all religion and not just Islam? Because in my opinion, another religion may seem better right now to some people, but it’s only because it has been reigned in.
Unfortunately, the discussion on what religion in power means for people’s lives, rights and freedoms is neither theoretical or restricted to ex-Muslims who have renounced Islam and religion.
Since religion is divinely ordained, it follows that any real or imputed questioning, criticising or transgressing will lead to blasphemy, apostasy or some form of ‘corruption’. Of course it doesn’t matter so much if you live in a place where religion is to a large extent a private matter. But if you don’t, then a lot of things become ‘crimes’ punishable by death.
One of many examples is the outrageous death sentence imposed by an Islamic court in Afghanistan on Parwiz Kambakhsh, the 23 year old journalist and student, for downloading and distributing an article criticising women’s status under Islam.
Many have rightly come to his defence and must keep the pressure on. But to defend Parwiz by saying he did not ‘intend’ to blaspheme misses the entire point.
This is exactly what the likes of the Muslim Council of Britain say in order to conceal the responsibility of their political Islamic movement. For example, the MCB ‘greeted’ the release of Gillian Gibbons (the British schoolteacher who was imprisoned in Sudan for allowing her 7 year old students to name their class teddy bear Mohammad) by saying she had not ‘intended to deliberately insult the Islamic faith.’
What they are basically saying is that victims and their ‘intentions’ are to blame for the injustices and barbarity of Islamic law.
Moreover, they are implying that if someone knew they were blaspheming, or if their actions or statements were so clearly blasphemous that they should have known better, then the death penalty or calls for their death are permissible – or at the very least understandable.
The smokescreen of ‘intent’ aims to conceal the real issue at hand, which is Islam in power, so their movement can go about its business as usual – often aided and abetted by US-led militarism. So it can continue to hold millions of resisting people hostage to medievalism enshrined in constitutions and legal codes and enforced by religious and morality police, the militia, Sharia courts and the state.
Any life saved is despite Islamic law and because of a vast left, secular and humanist opposition movement in the Middle East and elsewhere, which refuses to kneel.
Clearly, when religion equals power, millions have no freedoms or rights worthy of 21 century humanity.
And until it is pushed back, our loved ones – like Parwiz, or the two sisters, Zohreh and Azar, who have hours ago been convicted of death by stoning by the Islamic supreme court in Iran for ‘adultery’ – will face a torturous death.
But not if we can help it.
Since I began calling myself an ex-Muslim, there have been quite a number of people questioning me on whether I was ever a ‘real Muslim’ to begin with. The BBC Asian Network host (can’t quite remember his name) even wanted to know whether I had prayed 5 times a day; attended a mosque; wore the hejab. And some commentators have questioned whether a Shia can ever be considered a Muslim.
But everyone and their uncles are deemed ‘Muslims’ just by the nature of where they were born or their family background – no questions asked.
And this is particularly true about children.
Frankly, I think it’s obscene to label children with the real or imputed religion of their parents. We wouldn’t dream of labelling a child as an ‘extreme right’ one because his father belonged to the BNP or a Labour or Conservative child by parental association but we as a society have very little problem doing so when it comes to religion.
We have come a long way from the days when children were seen to be the property of their parents to do with them as they liked. Today, in Britain at least, a child cannot be denied medical attention because her parents don’t believe in blood transfusions, can’t be beaten and starved to ‘exorcise demons’ or be genitally mutilated and married at nine because it is her parents’ religion.
But we obviously haven’t come far enough to stop the more subtle, but just as harmful, forms of emotional abuse like sending children to Islamic schools and child veiling.
How can it be anything but abusive when girls are sexualised at a young age, kept segregated from boys, taught that they are different and unequal?
And it has nothing to do with choice. It’s interesting how children don’t have the choice to go to school or smoke for example but when you question religion’s role in their lives, it suddenly becomes a matter of their choice – as if they really had any.
As Mansoor Hekmat, the late Iranian Marxist has said:
The child has no religion, tradition and prejudices. She has not joined any religious sect. She is a new human being who, by accident and irrespective of her will has been born into a family with specific religion, tradition, and prejudices.
It is indeed the task of society to neutralise the negative effects of this blind lottery. Society is duty-bound to provide fair and equal living conditions for children, their growth and development, and their active participation in social life. Anybody who should try to block the normal social life of a child, exactly like those who would want to physically violate a child according to their own culture, religion, or personal or collective complexes, should be confronted with the firm barrier of the law and the serious reaction of society.
No nine year old girl chooses to be married, sexually mutilated, serve as house maid and cook for the male members of the family, and be deprived of exercise, education, and play. The child grows up in the family and in society according to established customs, traditions, and regulations, and automatically learns to accept these ideas and customs as the norms of life.
To speak of the choice of the Islamic veil by the child herself is a ridiculous joke. Anyone who presents the mechanism of the veiling of a kindergarten-age girl as her own ‘democratic choice’ either comes from outer space, or is a hypocrite who does not deserve to participate in the discussion about children’s rights and the fight against discrimination.’ ( http://www.marxists.org/archive/hekmat-mansoor/1997/06/children.htm )
I do think that in this day and age, criticism of political Islam – and its banner Islam – is an urgent necessity because of the havoc it is wreaking the world over.
You can’t tiptoe around, appease, ignore or excuse one of the outrages of our century no matter how much some try.
And whilst criticism is crucial, the reason behind it and to what aim are even more so. After all, throughout history, criticism and confrontation of reaction has always helped pave the way for progress and the advancement of the lot of humanity. It is within this context that criticism matters – for people’s lives at least.
I’ve always said that criticising Islam and its political movement is not racism in any way shape or form. You cannot be racist against a belief or idea, no matter how much that criticism may cause offence. But that doesn’t mean that racism does not exist, or that there are not racist groups and organisations – like the British National Party or the Stop Islamisation of Europe campaign as well as institutionalised racism – that aim to stop ‘Muslim’ immigration, or consider all those labelled as ‘Muslims’ as sub-human ‘teeming hordes’ destroying the ‘Christian nature of Europe’.
These groups have no problem with religion’s adverse role within society as long as it is theirs. They have no issue with reaction as long as it is theirs.
And the religious-nationalist left is no better. The Socialist Workers Party, Ken Livingstone and Stop the War Coalition deserve notable mention for their whirlwind love affair with political Islam.
Whilst the left has always been the traditional banner carrier of social justice, the religious-nationalist left are only concerned about ‘rights’ as it is applicable to themselves.
They want women’s liberation for themselves but the ‘right to veil’ for us; they are against homophobia but greet Qaradawi as a long lost friend and stay silent when gay teenagers are hung in public; they want pension rights for workers here but do not want the Islamic regime of Iran to be described in their resolutions as repressive. They don’t want Britain to be a nuclear power, but will quite happily debate the need for nuclear power for the Islamic regime of Iran (with the CND even inviting an official to speak at one of their meetings).
In this type of politics, there is also a deep-seated racism, which like the right, fails to distinguish between the oppressed and oppressor and actually sees them as one and the same.
A politics that implies that people want to live the way they are forced to.
That they actually deserve no better because it is ‘their own culture and religion’ imputing on innumerable people the most reactionary elements of culture and religion, which is that of the ruling class, parasitical imams and self-appointed ‘community leaders’.
In a sense, both of them fail to see millions of people as truly human – with just as many differences of opinions, and belonging to vast social movements and progressive organisations and parties – demanding and worthy of the same rights and dignity as they so strongly believe is their due.
Effectively they both promote a policy of minoritism or the more palatably labelled multi-culturalism – where people who are deemed to be ‘different’ are denied universal standards and norms, freedoms, equality and the secularism fought for by truly progressive movements over centuries.
In foreign policy too, whilst one is generally anti-war and the other pro-war, their politics don’t make much difference in terms of people’s lives. One wants to bomb Iran and Iraq; the other wants to make nice with the Islamic regime in Iran and Hezbollah – both at the expense of people’s rights, lives and freedoms.
I guess what I am trying to say here is that whilst criticism of Islam and political Islam is an historical duty and necessity it has to be based within a politics that puts people first to have real meaning and affect real change.
It has to be done but for humanity’s sake.
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