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Dear Friend

We wanted to give you an update on the crucial work of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain this past year, thank you for your support and ask for you to continue to help us, including by donating to our crucial work. Every bit helps and no amount is too small. If you are thinking of donating during the holiday period, CEMB is a great secular/non-religious option doing important work without religious conditions, dogma or proselytizing.

Since it is nearing the end of 2018, we would like to tell you some of the highlights of the year that couldn’t have been possible without the support of our donors:

In January, Maryam spoke at the third anniversary event marking the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris and on the importance of mocking religion on French TV.

In February, Sadia went to Australia to speak at the first ever event of ex-Muslims speaking out publicly. She took part in a number of speeches and panel discussions in Sydney and Melbourne and also took part in media interviews. Here is one on Australian TV where she debates a Muslim woman apologist.

On World Hijab Day in February and in the women’s march in London in March, CEMB defended the movement in Iran against compulsory veiling.

In April, Maryam spoke at the 10th anniversary celebration of FEMEN in Paris. They are the topless activists that have worked closely with CEMB in support of apostasy, blasphemy and women’s rights.

On 18 May, CEMB has an “eat-in” in front of several embassies of countries that persecute people for eating during Ramadan. At the Saudi embassy, armed metropolitan police told us we were “offending” staff in the Saudi embassy, to which we exclaimed that their persecution offends us and is a lot more serious than hurt sentiments!

In the same month, Maryam spoke at a seminar at European Parliament on Fundamentalism & Neo-Liberalism in Europe: Their Collusion and Impact on Women’s Rights and Ethnic Minorities Rights. You can see a summary of her speech here.

Maryam also spoke at the Muslimish conference in NYC about ex-Muslims being a “community in protest” (as opposed to community in the regressive sense of identity politics). Here is Maryam’s speech at the conference and the Q&A that followed. Also see a shortened article in sister-hood explaining ex-Muslims as a community in protest.

With the rise of atheism in countries under Islamic rule, we are seeing many more cases of those being persecuted for blasphemy and apostasy. Here is a recent article we have published on the demand for atheism which calls for normalising #AtheismNotACrime. We developed a successful series of publicity materials for it, including for #BlasphemyNotACrime, #ApostasyNotACrime.

On 14 June, CEMB organised a panel discussion on LGBT rights and blasphemy in order to address the accusations of Islamophobia against CEMB at Pride last year. It was co-sponsored by Pride in London, which was important given that Pride was considering barring our presence in 2018. A video of the discussion, including with CEMB Spokespersons Sadia Hameed and Jimmy Bangash and chaired by Gita Sahgal, can be seen here.

In July, CEMB joined Pride in London for the second year (organised by Daniel Fitzgerald). It was a great success for us given that we were not sure if we would be allowed to march officially until a few months before the event. We received tremendous amounts of support. This year we had a much larger group joining us, including a Bangladeshi LGBT group, Boys Love World. A filmmaker Carl Russ-Mohl joined our march and produced a short film on CEMB and Spokespersons Jimmy Bangash. You can see the film here. Spokesperson Imad Iddine Habib explains why “Allah is Gay,” a placard he made first in 2017, which has now been picked up by ex-Muslims from Germany to Canada.

With the International Coalition of Ex-Muslims formed after our 2017 conference (the largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history), we read a poem written by Jimmy Bangash in defence of LGBT rights in countries under Islamic rule.

In July, Maryam worked with MEP Teresa Barbat Gimenez to suggest amendments to the European Parliament’s Committees of Foreign Affairs and Human Rights report regarding Freedom of religion and belief.

In August, CEMB organised a Vegetarian Heathen Eid. Bakra Eid is about slaughtering animals in the most brutal manner. Many CEMB members miss Eid and the time with family but don’t want to take part in a religious event or have anything to do with animal sacrifice so CEMB celebrated Eid the heathen way.

In September for International Blasphemy Day, CEMB members tore verses of the Quran that were anti-apostate and anti-women in a public protest action.

The International Ex-Muslim Coalition also did a video accusing “Ayatollah Facebook” of silencing blasphemers by constantly shutting down pages of ex-Muslims and freethinkers. Here is Maryam’s message.

CEMB sponsored Bullet Hole, a powerful production about FGM, at Park Theatre, for black history month. It is a story of hope, love and human rights played by an all-female cast. 

In October, Spokespersons Sadia Hameed and Maryam Namazie conducted 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 showed them the film, Islam’s Non Believers, and had an extended discussion on apostasy and the right to atheism. They argued that atheists go against “their culture” and that the law must be respected. We argued that unjust laws must be challenged and culture is not homogenous. We stressed the importance of secularism and universal values. Discussions were sometimes heated but it was the first time they had met with ex-Muslims and it helped some of them to understand the awful treatment Malaysian atheists face and humanise ex-Muslims. We also linked it to the treatment of women, religious minorities and LGBT, amongst others.

In early November, at the Freedom from Religion Foundation Convention in San Francisco, Maryam awarded Ensaf Haidar, Raif Badawi’s wife (the Saudi freethinker sentenced to ten years in prison and 1000 lashes for “insulting Islam”) with the Henry Zumach Freedom From Religious Fundamentalism Award that she won last year.

On 25 November, CEMB sponsored an international Conference on Sharia, Segregation and Secularism, marking the 10th anniversary of our sister campaign One Law for All. The conference was a landmark event. (Organising Committee: Maryam Namazie, Sadia Hameed and Sina Ahadi Pour; MCs: Fariborz Pooya and Nahla Mahmoud).

Some of our events and actions have been covered by media. You can see media coverage here.

In April and October, we held “Coming Out” parties where ex-Muslims 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.

We also started monthly support groups in addition to monthly meet-ups to allow ex-Muslims to share issues and empower each other. So far, the group has discussed issues like shunning, identity, post-apostasy trauma, family, drug and alcohol abuse, community, why we left Islam and relationships.

Our monthly meet-ups continue to go strong. It is a place where ex-Muslims and their friends can come to listen to a speaker, socialise, have a drink and let off some steam. The events bring speakers dealing with a range of issues including on the ex-Muslim experience through art and evenings with lawyer Ana González on apostasy and asylum, with Hassan Radwan on Islamic reform and Imad Iddine Habib on challenging racism and the far-Right.

In 2018, we also organised swimming lessons, picnics and movie nights and took ex-Muslims to Thorpe Park. You can see all our events and speaking engagements here.

In addition to all our public work, we continue to support around 300 ex-Muslims a month. Our publication, Political and Legal Status of Apostates from Islam, revised and updated last year has become an important document supporting apostasy cases across the globe. One such example is that it has become part of the documentation of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

We have done a huge amount of work for the right to apostasy and blasphemy (see also a timeline of our highlights from 2007-2018) but much more needs to be done. Particularly at a time when fascism, including religious fundamentalisms, is on the rise, we must keep going and defending universal rights for all, freedom of conscience, including for non-believers and secularism.

We look forward to working with you in the coming year and hope to see you at one or more of our upcoming events and speaking engagements.

Wishing you happy holidays and a wonderful New Year.

Warm wishes

Maryam Namazie
Sadia Hameed

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain

CEMB Timeline (2007-2018)

2007

Council of Ex Muslims of Britain (CEMB) is launched in Westminster with a membership of 25 ex-Muslims who are prepared to be named and pictured publicly. CEMB’s founding Manifesto challenges Sharia and apostasy laws and takes a stand for reason, universal human rights, and secularism.

Philosopher A C Grayling writes a piece in The Guardian saying “The launch of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain is a torch of hope in a dark quadrant of the world’s affairs. Its manifesto should be read by all.”

CEMB urges the TUC and other unions to maintain their secular and progressive heritage and not collude with Islamists.

6 MPs called on UK Members of Parliament to support the following Early Day Motion in favour of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain.

CEMB was at launch of Dutch Ex-Muslim Committee, which later disbanded due to threats. 

CEMB defends Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin.

CEMB Forum established in November 2007.

2008

Maryam Namazie interviewed in The Times: It’s time to take a stand against Islam and Sharia.

CEMB issues statement saying there is no place for Sharia courts in the UK following Archbishop of Canterbury’s assertions that Sharia is inevitable.

CEMB holds a seminar on “Sexual apartheid, political Islam and women’s rights” to mark International Women’s Day.

CEMB takes a firm stance that faith schools are bad for children.

CEMB held its first International Conference on Challenging Islam and Political Islam which focused on several key questions, namely the problem with Sharia law, including for women’s status; freedom of expression and the need for criticism of religion; universal rights; as well as the separation of religion and the state.

CEMB joins launch of One Law for All Coalition Campaign on International Human Rights to call on the UK government to recognise the arbitrary and discriminatory nature of parallel legal systems, which particularly disadvantage women and children, and end religious courts.

2009

CEMB joins One Law for All in a march against Sharia from Trafalgar Square to Conway Hall, followed by a public meeting entitled Sharia Law, Sexual Apartheid and Women’s Rights.

CEMB and over 200 other organisations from 46 countries endorse the Joint Statement on Defamation of Religions.

CEMB organises an international Coalition for Women’s Rights calling for an end to the imposition of Sharia Law internationally and equality between women and men.

London Ex-Muslims Meetup is one year old.

Several hundred join rally against Sharia law in Hyde Park.

CEMB joins in formation of an International Bureau for Laicite in Paris with a wide number of non-governmental organisations and individuals from across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas affirming the nefarious role of fundamentalist politics and the need to counter it internationally.

CEMB adopts resolution to oppose Swiss ban on minarets.

2010

Following the Danish Cartoons fiasco, CEMB writes to Index on Censorship, sharing their disappointment at their self-censoring their own magazine from publishing one of the Danish cartoons to illustrate an article relating to the subject. Arguing that it is a betrayal of those who are putting their lives on the line to defend freedom of expression.

CEMB and One Law for All hold seminar on Sharia Law in Britain to mark International Women’s Day. The seminar brought together Muslims, ex-Muslims, women’s rights campaigners, lawyers and politicians to outline the problems with Muslim Arbitration Tribunals and Sharia Councils and to propose recommendations for prohibiting religious tribunals and bringing about equal rights for all.

CEMB with German and Scandinavian ex-Muslim Councils joins cartoonist Lars Vilks in a press conference in Stockholm to condemn the threats and violent attacks against the Swedish artist who drew a caricature Muhammad, Islam’s prophet.

Then CEMB Management Committee member Hassan Radwan publishes translation of “My Ordeal with the Quran, and with Allah in the Quran.”

Spokesperson Maryam Namazie speaks at the Protest the pope rally.

Maryam Namazie gives the keynote at the World Atheist Convention in Dublin on the Islamic Inquisition.

CEMB demands the release of Palestinian blogger Waleed Al-Husseini, who was detained for exercising his right to free speech.

CEMB demands the release of Asia Bibi, who was charged with Blasphemy in Pakistan.

CEMB organises a successful conference on Apostasy, Sharia Law and Human Rights. The conference adopts a resolution against blasphemy and apostasy laws and the prosecution of Asia Bibi in Pakistan, Waleed Al-Husseni in Palestine, Syed Mosa in Afghanistan and in Iran sentences of death for charges of moharebeh (enmity against God) against at least 10 people.

CEMB issues report on “Apostasy and Asylum in the United Kingdom” detailing the consequences of apostasy in Islam entails and specifies the responsibility of the United Kingdom in terms of the apostates wishing to seek asylum and protection.

CEMB issues report “Guidelines for Ex-Muslims and Frontline Practitioners” to provide information for ex-Muslims on their rights and the resources available to them and to frontline practitioners on the specific circumstances of ex-Muslims.

2011

CEMB issues statement on Channel 4’s Dispatches: Lessons in Hate and Violence.

CEMB speaks at rally for a Secular Europe.

CEMB initiates Manifesto for a Free and Secular Middle East and North Africa with over 70 secularists and human rights campaigners.

CEMB speaks out in support of the Charlie Hebdo after office firebombed.

CEMB stands in solidarity with Egyptian atheist blogger Aliaa Magda Elmahdy who posted nude pictures of herself to show her “screams against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy”. Showing her body particularly at a time when Islamists in Egypt were trying to secure power was the ultimate act of rebellion.

CEMB is refused charity status.

CEMB supports ex-Muslim and atheist Khalid Saeed’s application for asylum in Sweden.

2012

CEMB defends Alexander Aan and condemns his being sentenced to two and a half years in prison and fined for having written “God does not exist” on Facebook and calls for his immediate release. He was found guilty of “deliberately spreading information inciting religious hatred and animosity” and “caused anxiety to the community and tarnished Islam” in Indonesia.

CEMB & One Law For all hold a successful rally in defence of free expression at the Houses of Parliament. Hundreds brave the cold weather to join the rally at Old Palace Yard.

CEMB demands Freedom for Saudi writer Hamza Kashgari. Hamza fled Saudi Arabia after making comments on Twitter claimed by some to be “insulting” to Muhammad, Islam’s prophet.

CEMB and others write open letter to Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch expressing concern of his defence of Islamists and calling for HRW to recognise separation of religion from state as a basic guarantee of rights.

CEMB organises an International Day of Action to Defend Blasphemers and Apostates and calls on groups and individuals to take action on this day by organising a protest or vigil, setting up a table in a city centre, writing a letter, signing a petition, drawing a picture, taking a photo, making a video to highlight blasphemy and apostasy laws and rules, defend free expression and the women and men whose lives are at stake.

CEMB defends Maldivian Blogger Ismail Hilath Rasheed who is brutally attacked near his home on 4 June 2012. He survived only because a vital artery was missed by millimetres. Rasheed had previously been attacked and received a number of death threats.

CEMB celebrates 5th anniversary.

CEMB calls for Musa Budeiri and Free Expression to be defended. Budeiri is a professor at Birzeit University, the oldest Palestinian University, who has been asked by the university to issue an apology to Islamist students who were offended by cartoons posted on his door.

CEMB and One Law for All meet with Trevor Phillips, Chair of Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), on 28 June to raise our concerns about sharia courts in Britain and the Charities Commission’s refusal of charity status for secular organisations. Nobel Laureate Harry Kroto is also present at the meeting.

CEMB calls for Channel 4 not to cancel Islam: The Untold Story.

CEMB organises a Day of Agreement to highlight the difficulties faced by non-believers in Islamic theocracies, where they are forced to live in silence and furthermore, are unable to have even the smallest disagreements, as it could very much result in incarceration or execution.

CEMB supports the London School of Economics Student Union Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society’s decision to add ‘ex-Muslim’ to its name.

CEMB expresses concern at the exclusion of Muslim women from demands of gender equality. CEMB is appalled to learn of the Bristol University Christian Union’s ban on women speaking at its main meetings and events. The sexist policy, which demonstrated a blatant disregard for gender equality, has now been reversed after an ensuing uproar.

Northern Ex-Muslim Meet up Group Launched. CEMB affiliated Manchester Ex-Muslim Meet-Up group which was established in November 2012 by Sandbad has been renamed Northern Ex-Muslim Meet-up Group. Ex-Muslims from Leeds, Bradford and surrounding areas are now part of the group. They welcome ex-Muslims in the North to join them, including from Liverpool.

2013

CEMB demands the release of Egyptian blogger and atheist Abdul Aziz Mohammed Al-Baz (also known as Ben Baz) in Kuwait for exercising his right to free expression, conscience and belief.

Muslimish Launched in May 2012 in New York City where ex-Muslims and Muslims who have questions about religion or want take a more objective look at its teachings can come and participate in a free and open discussion without fear of punishment or judgement.

CEMB is horrified to learn of sex segregation at an Islamist-organised event in University College London. After complaints, the organisation is banned from holding events there.

CEMB holds successful International Day to Defend Apostates and Blasphemers. More than three hundred individuals and organisations call for an international day of action on 14 March to defend those accused of apostasy and blasphemy. Thousands more defended apostates and blasphemers via acts of solidarity and social media, Tweeted, sent letters of protest, or issued statements and messages of support.

CEMB fully supports One Law for All report called “Enemies not Allies: The Far Right” which gives evidence on why opponents of Sharia, apostasy laws and Islamism must also oppose the far-Right. With Islamism being a far-Right movement, they are two sides of the same coin.

Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco Launched. This is the first public atheist organisation in country with state religion of Islam, launched by Imad Iddine Habib.

CEMB stands with Bangladeshi bloggers and activists. In January, 29 year old blogger Asif Mohiuddin was stabbed. In February, 35 year old atheist blogger Ahmed Rajib, was brutally killed. Islamists continue to threaten prominent bloggers and have called for the “execution of 84 atheist bloggers for insulting religion”. We call for 25 April to be an international day to defend Bangladesh’s bloggers and activists.

CEMB Issues statement reminding Moroccan government that apostasy is not a crime after Morocco’s High Council of Ulemas issues a fatwa decreeing the death penalty for Moroccans who leave Islam. The attack on apostates is clearly a response to the establishment of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco – the first public atheist organisation in a country with Islam as the state religion.

CEMB launches “International Imad Day” in order to stand with and defend Imad, who created the Council of Ex Muslims of Morocco, resulting in him receiving numerous threats, as well Morocco’s High Council of Ulemas (the highest government religious institution headed by the King) issuing a fatwa decreeing the death penalty for Moroccans who leave Islam. Imad Iddine Habib now has asylum in the UK and is a Spokesperson of CEMB.

CEMB calls for asylum in the US for Reem Razak.

Council of Ex-Muslims of New Zealand Launched.

CEMB held 6th anniversary luncheon.

Council of Ex-Muslims of France Launched by Waleed Al-Husseini, the Palestinian blogger arrested in 2010 by the Palestinian Authority on charges of blasphemy, was released and now in France.

CEMB member, The Rationaliser, starts new website to help with research on Islam or the Quran called QuranX.

CEMB campaigns in support of CEMB spokesperson Nahla Mahmoud who is threated following an interview on Channel 4 on Sharia law, including by Salah al Bandar who has until recently been a Lib Dem Councillor. The police urged Nahla not to “anger” him further.

CEMB’s young member and activist Irtaza Hussain tragically commits suicide.

Ex Muslims of North America formed.

CEMB demands release of Egyptian Athiest Sherif Gaber.

Andy Thomson, author of the groundbreaking book, Why We Believe in Gods, makes the Urdu translation of book available free of charge.

CEMB publishes a new report on the “Political and Legal Status of Apostates in Islam.”

Ex-Muslims of Scotland launched and adopts CEMB manifesto.

CEMB holds protest with One Law for All and others against Universities UK endorsement of sex segregation at UK Universities.

2014

CEMB rallies with others at Law Society to condemn their endorsement of discriminatory Sharia law.

First legal atheist organisation formed in Turkey! The first legally recognised Atheist Organisation of the Balkans, Middle East and among all Muslim-majority countries, has been founded in Istanbul, Turkey. The organisation, titled Ateizm Dernegi, was founded in Istanbul on April 16, 2014.

CEMB issues statement demanding that Mariam Yahya Ibrahim be freed immediately. She has been death sentence in Sudan for apostasy. The heavily pregnant Mariam had also been charged with adultery and imprisoned with her toddler.  She and her husband are Christian but the judge insists she is Muslim.

CEMB issues a report, “Evangelising Hate: Islamic Education & Research Academy (iERA)” to  explain “soft Islamists” and detailing specific examples of incitement to hate and violence practised by iERA preachers, advisors and “street Dawah” activists. iERA is a far-Right group inciting violence and shouldn’t be a charity.

Maryam Namazie sends a video message to over 60 atheists meeting clandestinely in Jordan to congratulate them on their bold move and to pledge CEMB’s support.

CEMB urges Ofsted to revise its guidance and put needs of children before religion and the fundamentalists.

CEMB and One Law for All sponsor a two-day international conference on the Religious Right, Secularism and Civil Rights. Notable free-thinkers, atheists and secularists from around the world came together for a weekend of discussions and debates on the religious-Right, its attacks on civil rights and freedoms, and the role of secularism for 21st century humanity. The exciting two-day conference discusses the Arab Spring, Sharia and religious laws, the limits of religion’s role in society, free expression, honour killings, apostasy and blasphemy laws, faith schools, women’s rights, secular values and much more. The 250 delegates made an unequivocal stand with the brave women and men of Kobane saying: “Their struggle is ours. Their fight is a fight for us all. We are all, today, Kobane.”

2015

CEMB shares its outrage and solidarity with Charlie Hebdo.

CEMB demands an end to execution of “apostates” and “blasphemers.”

CEMB and One Law for All organise a Conference on Sharia Law, Apostasy and Secularism to discuss freedom of expression, apostasy and blasphemy laws, Islamism and the religious-Right, as well as Sharia in the law, educational system and public policy. They will also highlight the successful campaigns against the Law Society and Universities UK and pay tribute to Charlie Hebdo and the many Muslims, ex-Muslims and others who have been killed or persecuted for their dissent.

Organisers cancel Maryam Namazie’s speech on “Apostasy and the Rise of Islamism” at Trinity College Dublin. Spokesperson Maryam Namazie refuses to have conditions imposed on her, regarding her talk at the university, resulting in her talk being cancelled.  She later goes to speak to students.

“The Apostates: When Muslims Leave Islam” by Simon Cottee is published which is the first in-depth research study into the social dynamics of Islamic apostasy in the West. Many of those interviewed are CEMB members. The research highlights the social stigma faced by apostates.

CEMB rallies support for 24 year old Esha in Pakistani prison charged with blasphemy in Pakistan.

CEMB demands charges of blasphemy be dropped against Yousef Muhammad Ali in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Fauzia Ilyas who founded Atheist & Agnostic Alliance Pakistan (AAAP) affiliated to CEMB is forced to flee to the Netherlands after a Lahore court initiated criminal proceedings under Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy law and issued an arrest warrant.

CEMB is featured in film “Among Nonbelievers.”

Maryam Namazie is no platformed from Warwick University. The Guardian’s David Shariatmadari defends her no platforming. She goes to speak after public outrage at her no platforming forces the student union to apologise and allow her to speak.

Council of Ex-Muslims of Singapore affiliates with CEMB.

Successful Twitter campaign #ExMuslimBecause is launched and goes viral engaging 120,000 Tweets of ex-Muslims from over 65 countries, with hilarious, heart-breaking and inspiring stories of leaving Islam. The campaign allows both those public and closeted ex Muslims the opportunity to share their experiences and reasons for being ex-Muslims. 

CEMB and more than 60 international organisations sign a letter in support of poet and artist Ashraf Fayadh who has been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for apostasy.

Goldsmiths Islamic Society tries to cancel and then disrupt Maryam Namazie’s talk but fails. The video of the talk and the disruptions went viral and has become an example of attempts at silencing dissent at universities. Namazie returns a year later with Sadia Hameed and Imad Iddine Habib to discuss Islam’s Non-Believers. Namazie explains “Why I had to face down the bullies trying to silence my supposedly ‘offensive’ stance on Islam.”

2016

CEMB continues to highlight the cases of those languishing in prisons or on death row for apostasy or blasphemy.

CEMB publishes “A Case Study of Islamism on Campus: Trinity College Dublin, Goldsmiths University, University of Warwick” detailing how speakers like Maryam Namazie being barred or censored due to appeasement of Islamists.

CEMB demands that ex-Muslim Omar Makram be granted asylum by the Swedish Authorities.

CEMB demands Facebook stop censoring Arab ex-Muslims and freethinkers.

CEMB defends Salman Rushdie after media outlets run by the Islamic regime in Iran add bounty for fatwa.

CEMB organises with others protest at NUS urging reform of no-platform and safe space policies, which restrict freedom of expression. This comes as 16 students from various universities have highlighted 20 different case studies of censorship.

CEMB issues a statement on attacks on atheists, secularists, and religious minorities in Bangladesh with others calling for freedoms of religion, belief, and expression for threatened atheists, secularists, minorities.

CEMB spokesperson Maryam Namazie speaks at the Reason Rally 2016: Out, Loud and Proud for Secularism in Washington DC.

CEMB calls for a day to defy fasting rules in solidarity with those who face persecution for eating during fasting hours in Ramadan. The first ever fast defying protests were held at various embassies, to protest against the many people across the globe who are arrested, beaten and fined for eating during the month of Ramadan; and the many others are pressured into fasting, including in Europe.

CEMB calls on Algerian Government to release Rachid Fodil and H. S., accused of propagating blasphemous materials and insulting Islam and the Quran on social media.

CEMB responds to #ExMuslimBecause #MeanTweets.

CEMB organises an ex-Muslim Flash Dance in Kings Cross in support of freethinkers and apostates across the globe. On their faces and chests, they had written of “Ex-Muslim”, “Kafir”, “Atheist”, “Migrant”, “Refugee”, and “Apostate.” They also danced in memory of Adel Al-Jaf, a young Iraqi dancer, who was killed the day before in a mass suicide bombing in Iraq with over 200 others. He had to dance in secret; they danced for him and all those who cannot dance, think, live and love in public.

Award-winning filmmaker Deeyah Khan takes an in-depth look into the work of CEMB and the plight of ex-Muslims in her documentary film, “Islam’s Non-Believers” premiered on ITV’s Exposure in October.  Following the documentary, Dr Savin Bapir-Tardy, a counselling psychologist, identifies shunning as a form of torture.

CEMB Spokesperson Maryam Namazie wins the International Secularism (Laicite) Prize from the Comité Laïcité République in Paris.

CEMB calls on the Charity Commission to revoke iERA’s charity status.

CEMB explains how discrimination and violence at the heart of sharia courts.

One Law for All provides devastating evidence to Home Affairs parliamentary committee on Sharia courts, including on the issue of apostasy.

2017

CEMB condemns continued restrictions at British universities.

CEMB calls on the British authorities to grant long standing CEMB activist Aftab Ahmed asylum and protection.

Maryam Namazie writes of Sayeeda Warsi’s blinkered view on Islamism in the Evening Standard.

CEMB defends Pakistani freethinkers Ayaz Nizami and Rana Noman.

Ex Muslims of Sri Lanka Launches.

CEMB exposes Islamist Yasir Qadhi who incites discrimination and violence.

CEMB and other organisations write Letter to Facebook on religious extremists censoring atheists and secularists.

CEMB, along with a coalition of activists, successfully urges the Danish Parliament to repeal its blasphemy law.

CEMB calls on all to stand with Mohamed Salih, a young Sudanese who filed an official request for all mention of Islam to be removed from his documents, including his national ID. As a result, he was charged with apostasy, arrested and released after being declared mentally unfit. Salih was forced to flee the country.

Ensaf Haidar joins London vigil sponsored by CEMB, English Pen and others for her imprisoned husband, Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.

Maryam Namazie speaks in Iraqi Kurdistan not far from ISIS-held territories and near the Iranian border at the first Feminist Enlightenment Congress in Sulaymaniyah. Her speech on “Islam and Islamism – the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women’s emancipation” is well received.

CEMB marches at London Pride for the first time leading to a media furore in which CEMB is labelled “Islamophobic” for its placards, including “Allah is Gay” and “Fuck Islamic Homophobia.” Islamists like the East London Mosque and Mend file complaints against us to Pride and it takes Pride 8 months to formally decide whether we will be allowed to march in 2018.

CEMB hosts the largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history in London in July 2017 at the International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression with over 70 notable speakers from 30 countries or the Diaspora gathered in what is dubbed “The Glastonbury of Freethinkers” and “a Conference of Heroes” to honour dissenters and defend apostasy, blasphemy, and secularism. The sold-out conference highlights the voices of those on the frontlines of resistance – many of them persecuted and exiled. The conference made a space for crucial discussions and debates on Islamophobia and its use by Islamists to impose de facto blasphemy laws, the relation between Islam and Islamism as well as communalism’s threat to universal rights, art as resistance and Laicite as a human right. The conference hashtag, #IWant2BFree, trends on Twitter. The conference includes a public art protest of 99 balloons to represent those killed or imprisoned for blasphemy and apostasy around the world. Resolutions against the no platforming of Richard Dawkins and in support of Egyptian atheist Ismail Mohamed and CEMB at Pride are adopted.  A Declaration of Freethinkers is adopted at the conference.

Following the International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression, the International Coalition of Ex-Muslims is launched. The Coalition begins working on joint projects and actions and meets regularly to plan campaigns.

The world’s first group bodypaint of CEMB’s logo captured by both ground and drone conceived by award-winning body painter Victoria Gugenheim is held support of and solidarity with ex-Muslims.

CEMB updates its report on the “Political and Legal Status of Apostates in Islam,”  which reviews the legislative and government policies around the world that target apostates and highlights individual cases.

The International Ex-Muslim Coalition produces “The Future Belongs to Blasphemers” – a video message.

CEMB and others call on Greek Authorities to Release and Protect Iraqi ex-Muslim Karrar Al Asfoor. He is released soon after.

CEMB speaks at 10th anniversary celebration of Council of Ex-Muslims of Germany.

The International Ex-Muslim Coalition produces “Say No to Quran 4:34, #Quran434NoMore” to mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

CEMB updates Covering Your Internet Tracks leaflet to help protect ex-Muslims on the Internet.

2018

On World Hijab Day, CEMB defends #IAMVIDA and women who are persecuted for refusing compulsory veiling laws in Iran, namely Vida Movahed who has become the iconic image of the movement by standing on a plinth in Tehran and putting her veil on a stick.

CEMB and others write on the Independent Review on Sharia that Sharia Laws are part of the extremist threat and not a solution.

CEMB calls on the UK Government to prosecute incitement to violence after CEMB members and others received “Punish a Muslim” contest flyers.

CEMB launches campaign stating loud and clear that freethought is not a crime. #AtheismNotACrime, #BlasphemyNotACrime, #ApostasyNotACrime.

CEMB demands that the Egyptian government release Sherif Gaber, after they once again detained him, mid live vlog.

CEMB holds fast defying protests outside embassies of countries that prosecute people for eating during Ramadan, an action that led to being filmed and threatened outside the Pakistani embassy and armed police approaching our protestors outside the Saudi embassy.

CEMB organises a screening of the film, Islam’s Non-Believers, followed by a panel discussion and Q&A on LGBT Rights, Apostasy and Blasphemy as part of London Pride Festival to raise awareness amongst those who are unfamiliar with CEMB and the ex-Muslim movement.

CEMB marches at Pride 2018 in London despite attempts to bar and silence us. It is a victory against Islamism. CEMB Spokesperson Imad Iddine Habib explains why “Allah is Gay”. Also see a video on our presence at Pride with an interview with CEMB Spokesperson Jimmy Bangash.

Maryam Namazie speaks at a Muslimish Conference in NYC about how ex-Muslims are a community in protest.

In April and October, we held “Coming Out” parties where people received their apostasy certificates. The parties are one way of seeing people’s coming out as a cause for celebration rather than vilification and a source of shame.

In October, Sadia and Maryam conduct a training for 11 Malaysian government officials who are involved in the Islamic religious affairs department, including those implementing Sharia in the law, education and government. We show the film, Islam’s Non Believers, and have an extended discussion on apostasy and the right to atheism.

CEMB and One Law for All Coalition call on the British Government to Stop Pushing Minority Women Towards Religious Courts.

CEMB condemns China’s persecution of Muslims.

CEMB asks why Inclusive Mosque is so afraid of Secularism?

CEMB sponsors a landmark International Conference on Sharia, Segregation & Secularism in London to mark 10th anniversary of One Law for All. Resolution in support of Asia Bibi is adopted, including her right to asylum and protection in the UK. Manifesto on Women and Secularism is also adopted.

A Landmark Conference for Universal Rights and Secularism and against Fascism

See this Press Release online.

The 25 November International Conference on Sharia, Segregation and Secularism in London celebrated the 10th anniversary of the founding of the One Law for All campaign in the UK.

The conference was a landmark event in the fight against all forms of fascism and in defence of universal rights and secularism with leading activists in the fight against the far-Right – including religious fundamentalisms of all stripes – from 24 countries and the Diaspora, including Algeria, Bangladesh, Europe, India, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Kurdistan, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Serbia to Sudan, Tunisia and the United States.

In her welcome address, Conference Organiser Maryam Namazie reiterated how women are the first targets of fascist, fundamentalist and other far-Right movements and are leading the opposition to the sustained backlash against women’s rights and secular values – and in many cases continue to win victories in the most adverse circumstances. She stressed the urgency of secularism as a minimum precondition for women’s and minority rights.

Centre for Secular Space Director Gita Sahgal’s opening keynote address emphasised the precious heritage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights noting that Indian and Pakistani women fought for the clause on right to choice in marriage – the foundation for many struggles taking place on family laws and equality in marriage today. Muslims from Pakistan and India also voted for the right to religious freedom, including the freedom to leave religion.

Asia Bibi’s lawyer Saif Ul Malook spoke about the Asia Bibi case in his keynote address. As mentioned in a DW report on the conference, Ul Malook spoke of the Pakistani constitution and its secular credentials and his childhood when Christians and Muslims lived peacefully together in Pakistan and how a minority are behind the intolerance seen today. He was given a standing ovation for his courage in defending Asia Bibi and prosecuting Mumtaz Qadri, the man who murdered Salman Taseer.  Ul Malook said he had no regrets.

The Conference passed a resolution in solidarity with Asia Bibi and her lawyer and the Judges who had the courage to strike down her conviction for blasphemy, called for asylum for Asia Bibi, the release of all those imprisoned for blasphemy and an end to blasphemy laws everywhere.

The film 3 Seconds Divorce by Shazia Javed about the struggle against triple talaq in India, had its UK premiere at the conference. On a panel discussion that followed, campaigners gave examples of similar practices in Britain. One Law for All had criticised the ‘theological inquiry’ into sharia law in Britain that the government had established and raised concerns about how the British government has effectively caved into religious lobbies by recommending that marriages may require a religious as well as a civil divorce, giving Islamists the green light to establish community-based ‘zina law.’ Women’s rights campaigner Yasmin Rehman explained this was not the historic practice of Muslim communities in Britain. Rights activist Afsana Lachaux pointed out that while she won a victory in France where a Judge set aside decisions made by a UAE Sharia court regarding custody of her son, the English court accused her of ‘demonising’ Sharia law.

In various other panels on Gender Segregation, the Veil and Women’s Bodily Autonomy and Secularism as a Defence of Women’s and Minority Rights, activists spoke about the far-Right marching against migrants on the one hand and against women’s rights on the other from Russia to Poland to the US and South Asia.  Polish feminist Nina Sankari described rise of far-Right militias in Poland; Freedom from Religion Foundation Co-President Anne Laurie Gaylor warned of the takeover of the courts by the religious-Right with grave implications for the future. Italian journalist Cinzia Sciuto argued that universal rights were a better way to ensure migrants’ rights than to entrench multi-cultural practices that left them at the mercy of homogenised communities. Eve Sacks of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance gave examples of extreme isolation and erasure faced by Jewish women in ultra Orthodox communities, where literally all images of women and girls are excised and women are forced to shave their hair and cover with a wig and or a hat. She called for support in the campaign for sex and relationship education to be applied to religious schools.

Staša Zajović reminded the audience that religious revival was on the main tools for an aggressive nationalist politics which caused the genocidal war in former Yugoslavia. The irreligious feminists who worked across the conflict and took care of victims of all backgrounds were called ‘internal enemies’ or ‘witches,’ and faced numerous attacks.

The importance of direct action was reiterated by Inna Shevchenko of Femen who argued that religious patriarchies found women’s bodies ‘sinful, dirty, guilty and always shameful,’ and Ibtissame Betty Lachgar of Morocco, who described living under a monarchy that claimed descent from Muhammed, Islam’s prophet, and turning fountains red to challenge violence against women, organising ‘kiss-ins’ and eating in public during Ramadan. These activities were dangerous and brought legal and other threats.

There was also considerable good news. The Rojava movement which had confronted ISIS and in the middle of war, protected refugees and developed women’s leadership was remembered by Culture Project Founder Houzan Mahmoud who added that secularism alone was not enough, rather a transformation of society was needed. Campaigner Homa Arjomand recalled the successful struggle against the recognition of Sharia courts in Canada and Filmmaker Nadia el Fani reported on the adoption of equal inheritance rights in Tunisia in the face of opposition from the government. The struggle against ‘Triple Talaq’ reflected women’s struggles for equality across the world.  The One Law for All campaign also won a number of victories forcing regulators to abide by their responsibilities- see timeline for victories against the Law Society and gender segregation at universities and schools, amongst others.

At the Conference, a short film by Iranian performance artist Atoosa Farahmand in support of White Wednesdays, was followed by a protest action by body painter Victoria Guggenheim in support of the Girls of Revolution Street and against compulsory veiling. Women and men present all raised white hejabs and raised their voices against forced veiling.

Artist Mahshad Afshar also had a solo exhibition to showcase her “Cursed Seal” Photography collection. There was a dance performance by LCP Dance Theatre.

One Law for All gave awards to Afsana Lachaux, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Gita Sahgal, Houzan Mahmoud, Ibtissame Betty Lachgar, Inna Shevchenko, Masih Alinejad, Marieme Helie Lucas, Nadia El Fani, Nina Sankari, Pragna Patel, Staša Zajović and Yasmin Rehman for their immense contributions to the cause of women’s rights and secularism. The awards were sculpted by Sodabeh Gashtasebi and was a likeness of Vida Movahedi who first stood on a plinth on Revolution Street in Iran waving her white hejab on a stick.

In her closing keynote address, Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters warned of the rise of fascism all over the world, and recalled Southall Black Sisters stand against blasphemy laws and in defence of Salman Rushdie, nearly 30 years ago. The need to oppose both racism and fundamentalism within a framework of secularism has never been more urgent.

The conference adopted a Ten Point Manifesto for Women and Secularism which recognised that the far-Right, including religious fundamentalisms, was gaining power in both authoritarian and democratic states and that its strength was due to the complicity of governments who see fundamentalists as allies to deliver services, post-conflict ‘stabilisation’ and privatised law. The Manifesto acknowledged that universal rights were won in the struggle for civil rights, liberation and against colonial occupation and called for the promotion of a universalist based approach to human rights, the right to free conscience and expression, abolition of religious-based laws in family, civil and criminal matters, prohibition of gender segregation and compulsory veiling, prohibition of religious laws that violate children’s rights, the need to counter both racist and fundamentalist discourse, and secularism as a basic human right, amongst others.

The conference ended with “This is our Resistance,” a new song by Singer/Songwriter Shelley Segal inspired that very day by the women’s rights activists present.

Fariborz Pooya and Nahla Mahmoud were Master of Ceremonies. The Organising Committee were Maryam Namazie, Sadia Hameed and Sina Ahadi Pour. The Conference was sponsored by Bread and Roses TV; Center for Inquiry; Centre for Secular Space; Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain; Culture Project; European Network of Migrant Women; Equal Rights Now; Fitnah; Freedom from Religion Foundation; National Secular Society; One Law for All; Southall Black Sisters and Secularism is a Women’s Issue.

NOTES:

  1. Ten years of One Law for All Timeline showing the highlights of the campaign can be seen here. Please donate to One Law for All so we may continue our crucial campaigning work, which would not be possible without public support.
  2. High quality video footage of the conference will be made available soon but livestreaming footage of entire conference and some photos are now available.
  3. For more information on the Conference, please contact Maryam Namazie at namazie@onelawforall.org.uk.

Resolution in support of Asia Bibi

Resolution in support of Asia Bibi

International Conference on Sharia, Segregation and Secularism

25 November 2018

The International Conference on Sharia, Segregation and Secularism unequivocally supports Asia Bibi’s right to asylum and protection in a safe country.

We salute the political courage of the lawyer who defended Asia and the judges who ruled in favour of her acquittal in Pakistan. Their respect for human rights and justice for all, despite serious risks to their lives, is commendable.

Whilst Asia Bibi has been released on appeal in November 2018 after 8 years on death row, her life is in danger and she is living in hiding. Islamist groups have been calling for her death as well as the death of her lawyer Saif Ul Malook and the judges who acquitted her. According to news reports, she and her family are being hunted house to house.

Despite her urgent need for refuge, the UK Foreign Office has urged the Home Office not to grant Asia Bibi political asylum in the UK out of safety concerns. This decision amounts to a gross violation of the very idea of asylum as a human right. Worse still, it signals the complicity of the British government with fundamentalist violence.

The Conference urges the UK Government to grant Asia Bibi protection and asylum. Mob violence must not deter us from defending fundamental human rights. 

The conference also urges the release of all those in prison on blasphemy and apostasy charges in Pakistan and internationally and calls for an end to these laws everywhere.

 

Maryam Namazie

Manifesto on Women and Secularism

Manifesto on Women and Secularism

International Conference on Sharia, Segregation and Secularism

25 November 2018, London

 

Today, far-Right movements, including religious fundamentalisms, are seizing power and on the rise in both democratic and authoritarian states. Even in more secularised societies, religious organisations have gained power because they have been considered valuable allies  to provide services as the state shrinks, to oppose radical social justice movements, as part of counter-terror strategies and post conflict stabilisation, and as part of the privatisation of law. From development banks to Western aid and human rights organisations, fundamentalists, particularly Islamists, have been promoted in the name of minority and religious rights. The growth of community based Sharia and other parallel legal systems is part of this process of acquiescence and promotion by western states and international institutions as much as by fundamentalist regimes and movements.

When far-Right movements, including religious fundamentalists, take power or gain social acceptance, women are the first targets. They erase women from the public space, treat them as second-class citizens and consider them extensions of family and religious and national honournot individuals with universal human rights. 

On the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we recall that the peoples of the world came together in the hope of ending war, colonialism and fascism and ensuring human rights for all regardless of sex, race, citizenship or other status.

These struggles insisted on our common humanity and equality  not difference or superiority. Yet, we are concerned that many of the struggles that constituted universal rights have been erased from history and labelled western by regressive identity politics. Those who see human rights and secular values as western simply negate the history of local African, Middle Eastern and Asian struggles for secularism and do not recall that secular values were clearly understood to be the only framework which could build multi-ethnic, multi-religious, plural societies based on the emancipation of women and minorities. 

Today, we acknowledge that we owe our rights to liberationand civil rights struggles across the globe, which created the foundation of modern human rights, including the right to womens equality, freedom of expression and freedom of conscience, i.e.  freedom of and from religion.   We confirm our opposition to the fascist far-Right as we oppose all religious fundamentalisms. One feeds into the other. They are complementary and indispensable to each otherOne can never excuse the otherWe affirm the centrality of the universality of rights and the principle of secularism  the complete separation of religion from the state – to ensure that religion cannot influence the state and public policy and impose itself on private lives.

One Law for All stands for the struggle for universalism, secularism and against religious oppression.

 

On the 10th anniversary of One Law for All, we call for:

1. The promotion of a universal human rights-based approach for all, especially women and minorities, including the right to access changeable civil and secular laws voted on by the people rather than unchangeable ‘divine’ laws.
2. The right to freedom of conscience and expression, including the right to blasphemy and apostasy.
3. The abolition of religiousbased laws in family, civil and criminal matters, in particular when they violate human rights, and ending community-based Sharia and other religious ‘courts’, and customary councils such as jirgas and panchayats, and other ‘arbitration’ systems.
4. Improved access to justice, including comprehensive legal aid.
5. The promotion of gender equality and abolition of restrictive religious and cultural codes and customs that hinder and contradict woman’s rights and independence.
6. The prohibition of gender segregation, compulsory veiling and other stigmatising practices such as considering menstruation a form of pollution, in educational and other public spaces that seek to disempower women and girls and stigmatise marginalised groups.
7. The abolition of religious laws and practices that violate childrens rights to education, information, creativity and freedom of expression, including child veiling, child marriage, sexual abuse, ritual abuse, child mutilation and exploitative practices involving children in religious ceremonies.
8. Countering both racist and fundamentalist discourses whether they appeal to Sharia, fascism, anti-Semitism, casteism or any ideology which denies the universal dignity of every human being.
9. States and civil society to examine the ways in which laws, policies and practices violate human rights by promoting, tolerating or acquiescing in racism against minorities, migrants and refugees and using fundamentalists as allies to counter terrorism, conduct war, or stabilise post-conflict societies.
10. The recognition that secularism is a basic human right and a minimum precondition for womens and minority rights.
Maryam Namazie

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