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Halima Salat

“A Boy, A Village, A Death” Poem for Gay Pride

Halima SalatHalima Salat recited her poem “A Boy, A Village, A Death” for the first time publicly at Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) Pride in London Festival evening on LGBT Rights, Apostasy and Blasphemy on July 4, 2019. Halima is an ex-Muslim Kenyan Somali. She defines herself as a free thinker, a rebel and an atheist. She was born Muslim but no longer believes in Islam. She was a closet non-believer for a while until when she came to live in the Netherlands 3 years ago. Halima just recently had her “coming out” declaration in Amsterdam. She has many problems with Islam but the core problem is that she truly believes Islam is against a woman’s individual right to steer her own path. Halima is also a spoken word artist and reads her poetry in the few English spoken word scenes in Amsterdam. Watch her gut-wrenching performance below.

 

 

Video by @Reason4Freedom

CEMB marches at Pride in London 2019 as topless Imams of Perpetual Indulgence

On 6 July 2019, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) marched in Pride London for the 3rd time as an organisation.

This year, we marked the 40th anniversary of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a rebellion against the church’s religious morality, by marching as the Imams of Perpetual Indulgence.

Instead of being the Council for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice that terrorise people by enforcing Islamic morality codes with brute force in the countries some of us have fled from, we were the Council for the Promotion of Vice and the Prevention of Virtue.

Our imams were not the usual imams promoting death for thinking and loving freely but instead included dissenting topless women who subverted Islamic morality language by being Imams of Vice, Lust, Kofr, Zina…

Instead of our fingers pointing upwards towards Allah, our fingers pointed downwards negating his existence…

Our imams also wore pink triangles on our bodies to signify the continuation of the persecution of LGBT, particularly in countries under Islamic rules.

And like every year before, CEMB stood in solidarity with ex-Muslim, Muslim and other LGBT murdered in Islamic states and defended LGBT from minority communities here in Britain and elsewhere whilst highlighting Islamic homophobia – whether at the East London Mosque, against equality in schools in Birmingham or in Brunei, Chechnya, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey…

For us, our presence at Pride has been hugely important because we have members who are LGBT and/or refugees who have fled countries where homosexuality is punishable by death. Many of the very same Islamic states that kill LGBT, also kill apostates and blasphemers. Our presence is, therefore, crucial because it aims not only to defend LGBT rights of ex-Muslims and Muslims but also to push open the shrinking spaces for doubt and dissent. Pride is one of the very few public spaces where we can come out, loud and proud – as LGBT and/or ex-Muslims – without fear.

Unsurprisingly, as in previous years, social media has erupted with threats and intimidation because as always apostasy and blasphemy are considered worse than the murder of LGBT, apostates and blasphemers. Some “Sheikh” has even called for a joint statement of imams against CEMB because apparently, he fears “the punishment of Allah will descend.” And as usual, we have been accused of “Islamophobia.”

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we must reiterate that apostasy and blasphemy are not bigotry against people. Criticism of religion AND the religious-Right have always been an important part of the struggle for basic human rights and equality. Pride is still the scene of criticism against not just the Christian-Right but also Christianity. So why not Islamism AND Islam? Why should God or Jesus be Queer or Gay but not Allah? Why shouldn’t we be able to poke fun at Islam without fear?

CEMB will write further about these issues but there are somethings that must be said to “progressive” Muslim LGBT groups right away:

You use the language of the oppressor and reiterate accusations of “Islamophobia” because you say we “tar the whole faith.” But Islam is your faith not ours. And until the day we can blaspheme and leave Islam without fear, we will continue to celebrate and normalise blasphemy and apostasy, which is also a basic human right like the right to expression, opinion, religion or belief.

Also, inclusion, equality, rights, love and respect are for people not beliefs. To respect people and their rights, beliefs (even those that are sacred to some) must be open to ridicule, condemnation, criticism and even disrespect.

It would do some LGBT Muslim groups well to learn from CEMB and defend people’s rights even whilst disagreeing with their beliefs or views. CEMB has always unequivocally defended the rights of Muslim LGBT or migrants without accepting Islam. That is the whole point of the fight for equality and rights and stems from our common humanity. Unfortunately, because of narrow-minded identity politics, some LGBT Muslim groups cannot seem to comprehend that our rights and lives are intrinsically linked. LGBT Muslims cannot just defend their own rights whilst throwing ex-Muslim LGBT under a bus. Also, believers cannot just defend the right to religion without also defending the right to leave or criticise religion. To defend your rights, you must also defend ours. To liberate one, you must liberate all.

***

On 4 July, CEMB organised an evening on LGBT Rights, Apostasy and Blasphemy as part of Pride in London Festival with a film screening of ‘Ferdous’ by Shakila Taranum Maan followed by a panel discussion with Jimmy Bangash (CEMB Spokesperson), Khakan Qureshi (Birmingham South Asians LGBT Founder), Nadia El Fani (Tunisian Filmmaker), Sadia Hameed (CEMB Spokesperson), Shakila Taranum Maan (British Director) and Syed Isteak Hossain Shawon (Bangladeshi LGBT activist and Editor of Boys Love World). Facilitated by Maryam Namazie (CEMB and One Law for All Spokesperson). (Drew Dalton, Hidayah Chair, was unable to attend due to an emergency). Video footage of the evening will be made available soon but until then, watch the premier of a heart-wrenching poem by Kenyan Somali Poet Halima Salat, which ended the evening. Her poem is called A Boy, A Village, A Death. Nadia Mahmoud MCed the evening. Video footage is by @Reason4Freedom.

See some photos from Pride 2019:

          

No Entry sign

Refusal Letters Wanted

Dear friend

As you know, in Many Muslim-majority countries around the world it is illegal for people to leave Islam; blasphemy carries a capital punishment, not to mention “mob justice” and lynching. Ex-Muslims from such countries seek asylum to gain protection and freedom to live without Islam with no danger to their lives. According to Asylum rules and regulations, anyone who has a well-founded fear of persecution should be granted protection. Given the persecution and threats of violence or worse that ex-Muslims face in Muslim-majority countries, it is Home Office’s moral and legal responsibility to provide protection to ex-Muslims by granting them asylum.

But in reality, many ex-Muslims are denied asylum leaving them no choice but to go for judicial review against the Home Office decision in the hopes of overturning an unjust refusal by a first tribunal judge. Why are so many ex-Muslim asylum cases being refused by the Home Office? It is a question worth asking.

We, at CEMB, are campaigning to raise awareness and change the way ex-Muslim cases are processed by the Home Office. We aim to gather and highlight the “reasons” Home Office uses to deny ex-Muslims asylum in the UK.

If you are an ex-Muslim and have been refused by the Home Office, please send us a copy of your rejection letter so we can gather evidence to show systematic disregard for ex-Muslim cases. We aim to compile a list of reasons the Home Office uses to deny ex-Muslims protection and publish a rebuttal to the rejections in order to get the Home Office to review its inadequacies when it comes to apostasy and blasphemy cases. Your rejection letters and names will remain confidential. Anonymity requests will be respected.

Please send your letters to Ali Malik at ali.malik@ex-muslim.org.uk. If you have any questions, please contact Ali or Sadia Hameed at hello@ex-muslim.org.uk. Please note that all of CEMB’s support is free of charge.

Warm wishes,

Ali Malik and Sadia Hameed

Award statue with Celebrating Dissent festival on freedom of thought text

Celebrating Dissent Festival in Amsterdam will be huge and historic!

Celebrating Dissent Festival during August 31 – September 1 in Amsterdam at De Balie will be a huge and historic event with nearly 50 contributors from 30 countries worldwide coming together to celebrate freedom through theatre, talks, poetry, film and stand-up comedy.

The festival Celebrating Dissent honours freedom: freedom to think differently, freedom not to believe and freedom to be yourself.

Don’t miss it!

31 AUGUST 2019

11:00: A Conversation on Women’s Dissent with Inna Shevchenko, Maryam Namazie, Taslima Nasrin and Zineb El Razoui. Music by Shelley Segal. Protest Art by Victoria Guggenheim.

14:00: Touching the Holy Subject with Nadia El Fani, Saif Ul Malook and Sarah Haider. Music by Veedu Vidz.

16:00: Comedy, the Sacred and Islamophobia with Shabana Rehman, Ali Rizvi and Armin Nabavi.

19:00: Separation of Religion from the State with Afsana Lachaux, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Homa Arjomand and Marieme Helie Lucas.

21:00: Women against Gods with Gita Sahgal, Houzan Mahmoud, Ibtissame Betty Lachgar, Mineke Schipper and Rana Ahmad. Performance by Atoosa Farahmand.

1 SEPTEMBER 2019

10:00: Film Screening Neither Allah Nor Master by Nadia El Fani followed by a conversation with Hind Bariaz, Ismail Mohamed, Karrar Al Asfoor, Wissam Charafeddine and Zara Kay.

12:00: Film Screening No Longer without You by Nazmiyeh Oral followed by a conversation with Cemal Knudsen Yucel, Fauzia Ilyas, Mimzy Vidz, Omar Makram, Zehra Pala and Sohail Ahmad.

16:00: On Identity with Kenan Malik, Harris Sultan, Jimmy Bangash, Rahila Gupta and Yasmin Rehman. Poetry by Halima Salat.

20:00: Neither Silenced nor Abused with Halima Salat, Maryam Namazie, Mohamed Hisham, Muhammed Syed, Rishvin Ismath, Sadia Hameed and Sami Abdallah. Music by Shelley Segal.

There will also be artwork by Mahshad Afshar and Jenny Wenhammar.

Defending LGBT Rights, Celebrating Dissent and More

Defending LGBT Rights, Celebrating Dissent and More

 

Hello dear friend

We wanted to remind you of some of our upcoming events and actions and also give you an update of our work.

LGBT RIGHTS

4 July 2019, Evening on LGBT Rights, Apostasy and Blasphemy

The London event is part of Pride Festival. There are only a few more spaces left so please buy your tickets now. Tickets are only £3 unwaged; £5 waged and include a drink, poetry by Somali Kenyan poet Halima Salat, a screening of the short film Firdaus by cult British Director Shakila Taranum Maan and a conversation with Muslim and ex-Muslim activists. Get your tickets before they sell out here. No tickets will be sold at the door.

6 July 2019, CEMB marches at Pride in London

CEMB will be marching at Pride in London on 6 July for the third time as an organisation. If you want to march with us, please contact hello@ex-muslim.org.uk to reserve your wristband as we have a limited number available for CEMB members and supporters.

* Read CEMB’s solidarity statement on Birmingham schools and LGBT rights.

* See also CEMB’s recent protest action at the Brunei embassy to condemn stoning to death for homosexuality and adultery.

* If you can, please support our LGBT rights work via a crowdfunding campaign. Any amount, however small, will be greatly appreciated. Special thanks to National Secular Society, Pink Triangle Trust and a number of individuals who have donated towards our events and actions this month.

* Please note that Southall Black Sisters and Feminist Dissent have an event in Birmingham on 27 June and are gathering signatures in support of equality in Birmingham Schools. For more information or to sign on to the statement visit their website here.

The ISLAMOPHOBIA DEFINITION

CEMB completed submissions for the Home Affairs select committee against the proposed Islamophobia definition and on Hate Crimes, had a meeting with secular groups to create a coalition against the APPG for British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia and issued a joint statement calling on the Government to reject the Islamophobia definition. We also met with the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Freedom of Religious Belief representative.

For more information on this issue, please read Maryam Namazie’s latest piece in sister-hood magazine about why the Islamophobia definition is a triumph for the fundamentalists.

DON’T MISS CELEBRATING DISSENT FESTIVAL IN AMSTERDAM, 31 AUG-1 SEPT

De Balie, the free expression centre in Amsterdam, is organising a Celebrating Dissent Festival in Amsterdam during 31 August – 1 September with nearly 40 speakers and acts from 30 countries. The event will bring together women and men to celebrate freedom through theatre, talks, poetry, film and stand-up comedy.

Women, non-believers and LGBT+ are often the victims of the strictest cultural and religious dogmas. The festival Celebrating Dissent honours their freedom. Freedom to think differently, freedom not to believe, and freedom to be yourself.

This will be one of the largest gathering of free-thinkers in the world. It is an historic not to be missed event. You can find out more about it here.

UPDATE ON OUR ACTIVITIES IN THE FIRST HALF OF 2019

Since we are now mid-2019, we thought it would be useful to give you an update on our work so far.

Supporting ex-Muslims

CEMB is now supporting around 600 ex-Muslims a month, including from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey and UAE! This includes face-to-face, email and social media contacts, as well as monthly support groups in London and Birmingham, a monthly Social for isolated members, direct support services such as attending hearings, writing letters of support, contacting housing and social services for young people at risk, working with Forced Marriages Unit to prevent young women and girls being taken abroad for forced marriage and so on. We also continue to hold monthly meet ups, including on female genital mutilation and male circumcision and the harms of child genital cutting, on asylum and apostasy, shunning and more. This week, for World Refugee Day, we organised an open mic for apostate asylum seekers and refugees to speak about their experiences. All our services are completely free of charge.

Ramadan Fast-Defying Protests: Child Fasting is Child Abuse

During the month of Ramadan, we organised a protest at the Department for Education calling on Government to stop child fasting, which is a form of child neglect and abuse. We also issued advice on the matter to educators. Whilst at the Department for Education, young Muslim youth on their way to Friday prayers stopped at our protest and we were able to raise these issues with them. BBC Woman’s Hour, which was meant to have Sadia Hameed on, cancelled her appearance at the last minute. We also organised Ramadan Stories, and a Fast-Defying picnic for members. You can read details here.

March 23, First ever Global Atheist Day

23 March was the first ever international Atheist Day. CEMB organised a successful day which focused on ex-Muslim women given that women are less visible and have more barriers to coming out and speaking out. Photographs of women sitting on the ground in a public park with legs akimbo were in solidarity with women across the world who are being sexually assaulted for fighting for their rights and told to ‘sit properly’, ‘be decent’ and threatened with rape for claiming the right to their bodies. It was in particular a show of solidarity with women involved in the aurat march in Pakistan. See video of the action here. This action was followed by an emotional evening of ex-Muslim women speaking out, a comedy skit, ex-Muslims receiving coming out certificates and a 2019 CEMB award ceremony.

Find our Way to Freedom, New Ex-Muslim Anthem by Shelley Segal

Shelley Segal sang her new anthem for CEMB and ex-Muslims called ‘Find our Way to Freedom,’ which premiered on Atheist Day.

March 8, International Women’s Day

Our international ex-Muslim coalition organised Women Against Allah for International Women’s Day. CEMB focused on #PeriodsAreNatural in order to break the taboo that comes with women’s periods. This caused a huge uproar and started a much-needed discussion. For 8 March, Shelley Segal also produced a video for her song “Our Resistance” which she sang for One Law for All, CEMB’s sister organisation. You can see the video here.

February 6, No to FGM Day

For zero tolerance to Female genital mutilation (FGM) day, we handed out roses that had been stapled shut, along with flyers explaining FGM, the harms of it and how to support someone that is at risk, or has experienced FGM.

February 1, No Hijab Day

For Hijab Day, we organised in a 3-hour live podcast, with over half a dozen women worldwide, discussing the harms of modesty culture and the veil.

January 21, Refugee Too

CEMB organised a #RefugeeToo protest outside the Home Office in order to highlight the fact that ex-Muslims are also refugees. This campaign linked into the plight of the Saudi woman and ex-Muslim Rahaf who was able to get asylum in Canada after locking herself in her hotel room in Thailand when authorities tried to deport her back to Saudi Arabia. The campaign highlighted a number of activist cases.

KEEP SUPPORTING US!

Thank you for all your support. It helps more than you can imagine! If you can continue supporting us in any way possible, please do. You can donate via our website or volunteer your skills. Also, if you want to do a fundraiser for us, please get in touch. It could be anything from a cake sale, a charity waxing, or something more daring like a skydive or bungy jump!

We hope to see some of you at our Pride events and in Amsterdam at De Balie during August 31 – September 1.

Warm wishes

Maryam Namazie and Sadia Hameed

Spokespersons

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain

hello@ex-muslim.org.uk

www.ex-muslim.org.uk

 

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