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CEMB march at Pride 2018 in London: A Victory against Islamism

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain marched in Pride in London on 7 July for LGBT rights in countries under Islamic rule; in 15 states or territories, homosexuality is punishable by death.

The march was a victory against Islamist forces in Britain like Mend and East London Mosque that tried and failed to stop CEMB from marching with accusations of ‘Islamophobia’ aimed at imposing de facto blasphemy and apostasy laws.

Despite their efforts, CEMB marched for the right to apostasy and blasphemy, for asylum and refugee rights, against racism and the far-Right and for the right to love, live and think as one chooses.

CEMB marched in solidarity with all those who could not and will keep on marching until the day when Muslim and ex-Muslim LGBT can love who they want without fear. That day will also be the day women are not second class citizens and apostates and blasphemers can think freely without punishment. Our lives and rights are interlinked as is our common humanity.

To see some photos and video footage of the march, see below.

The Bangladeshi group Boys Love World marched with CEMB at this Pride. If you would like to donate for our work at Pride, please make your donations to this fantastic group.

NOTES:

A poem by Jimmy Bangash: 15 states, they kill their gays produced by International Ex-Muslim Coalition

Pride is a Safe Place for LGBT people of Muslim Heritage – A response to Al-Kadhi In The Guardian by Jimmy Bangash (The Guardian did not bother respond to our request for a right to reply)

Provocative? Well yes! and Taking Pride Back by Sadia Hameed

Ex-Muslims: A Community in Protest by Maryam Namazie

For more information, please contact CEMB at hello@ex-muslim.org.uk.

Pride is a Safe Place for LGBT people of Muslim Heritage – A response to Al-Kadhi In The Guardian

By Jimmy Bangash
This was published in Conatus News on 5 July 2018.

Pride is an important, welcoming place for LGBT people of Muslim heritage, including liberal Muslims and ex-Muslims.

Amrou Al-Kadhi’s article in The Guardian paints a bleak picture of London Pride. It contains inaccurate citations of placards and, more menacingly, erases the bastion of hope and progress that the parade symbolises for many LGBT people of Muslim heritage.

Life for LGBT people of Muslim heritage can be bleak. For many it involves living a closeted existence within the Muslim ‘community’ for fear of being ostracised or disowned. Religious institutions and theological teachings espoused by ‘community’ leaders range from preaching for our execution, through to advising us to live a life of celibacy. The wider Muslim ‘community’ follows this homophobic trend. With 52% of polled British Muslims stating that homosexuality should be illegal and 47% stating that it is unacceptable for a gay person to become a teacher, it is clear that our ‘community’ is the most homophobic within the UK.

British Gays of Muslim heritage are most often from diaspora communities – the situation in Muslim majority countries is even more dire. A 2013 PEW global study on Muslim Attitudes reported almost unilateral condemnation of homosexuality. Countries expressing the highest population acceptance of homosexuality were Uganda (12%), Mozambique (11%) and Bangladesh (10%) with the other 37 Muslim majority countries polled showing less than 10%. Appallingly, all 15 states or territories that hold the death penalty for homosexuality are Muslim-majority countries.

Homosexuality in Muslim ‘communities’ is inextricably linked to fear, violence, and death. For those of us who spend more time in the LGBT community, this can be something we forget. It is irresponsible to do so.

Pride provides a safe place to challenge this religious homophobia. Since its inception, Pride has been a place where LGBT people are able to rally against political, cultural, and religious condemnation of homosexuality. Whilst Pride in the 21st Century has a far stronger corporate message than ever before, the ability for religious and secular groups to march still remains. Last year’s March contained LGBT Pagans, LGBT Christians, and LGBT of Muslim heritage to name a few. Indeed, LGBT of Muslim heritage were represented across several groups in the parade; Naz and Matt Foundation, Council of ExMuslims of Britain, Imaan, and Hidayah. Imaan were awarded best walking group, a notable achievement due to the small size of their group in comparison to some of the larger groups.

Whether it is gay ExMuslims (GEMs) protesting with placards stating “F**K Islamic Homophobia” and condemning the Islamic States that have the death penalty for homosexuality, or Gay Muslims attempting to redefine the position of gays within Islam with placards of “Allah Love us All”, Pride currently provides the only safe place to galvanise public awareness to the diverse protests and messages of LGBT of Muslim heritage. A safety which is not afforded to us, on any level, by the wider Muslim ‘communities’.

Condemnation of Pride for the low funding of LGBT of Muslim heritage groups is misplaced. Rather, the Muslim ‘community’ must be held to account for its utter hostility and neglect of its LGBT members, and for not allocating any financial resources to them. Additionally, rather than bemoan the presence of the press at Pride, we would benefit from utilising the press to place Islamic homophobia under scrutiny. It is important that responsibility for religious homophobia is highlighted where it resides. Scapegoating Pride and the press for the homophobia that is endemic in our ‘community’ will not progress our fight for equality for LGBT people. Redefining LGBT equality in non-Muslim ‘communities’ as privilege is pernicious when, more accurately, we should be defining the need to remain closeted as oppression.

Redefining LGBT equality in non-Muslim ‘communities’ as privilege is pernicious when, more accurately, we should be defining the need to remain closeted as oppression.

Such diversity of thought and protest may only exist within a secular environment. Rather than excluding anyone, the secular space afforded by Pride fosters a space of inclusion where groups can protest with aligning or contrasting messages. It allows for placards championing witty religious acceptance; “Jesus had two dads”, and those condemning institutions such as the East London Mosque that have such a history history of hosting homophobic speakers that Oxfam refused to work with them.

This same secular space allows for Muslims to abstain from alcohol consumption whilst allowing those who choose to drink to do so. Banning alcohol from Pride because it affects the sensibilities of Gays of Muslim heritage rather perversely borders on an Islamist agenda by seeking to dominate the freedom of others. For those gay Muslims who are fasting one wonders why they would feel the need to attend a Pride event if they found it difficult to be around alcohol, since dancing, music, and homosexuality are defined as equally haram and sinful.

Banning alcohol from Pride because it affects the sensibilities of Gays of Muslim heritage rather perversely borders on an Islamist agenda by seeking to dominate the freedom of others.

Whilst condemnation of corporations comes easily to the lips of activists, it is important to recognise the significant traction that has been made in this arena with regards to rights of LGBT people. Not long ago LGBT employees were busy trying to hide their sexuality from colleagues (some still do) for fear of bullying, persecution, and being fired by their employer. Now, companies sponsor gay Pride highlighting their solidarity with the LGBT community. Employers recognise not only that LGBT people are consumers but also that employees who are able to be themselves at work are far more productive. Whilst aligning to the basics of the 2010 Equality Act, many go further, developing equality and inclusion policies stating that homophobia will not be tolerated within their organisation.

The corporate glare may be blinding to those of us seeking a more political message. Nonetheless, we must recognise that the banners for Wagamama and Barclays are frequently flown by the LGBT employees of these companies.

They, like the gays of Muslim heritage, are reclaiming their right to be unapologetically out, loud, and proud in public.

Provocative? Well, yes!

The Council of Ex Muslims of Britain’s (CEMB) presence at London’s Pride event last year was viewed as intentionally provocative and subversive and to that charge I would say, well yes!

Pride, with its radical roots of standing up against bigotry and homophobia, is the best place to highlight and condemn injustices. But as a minority within a minority, we ex-Muslims are expected to remain silent about issues like homophobia, misogyny, and the persecution of apostates, blasphemers and freethinkers in the name of preventing anti-Muslim bigotry.

Of course Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain stands against anti-Muslim bigotry, but we also vehemently stand against homophobia, misogyny, and the persecution of apostates, blasphemers and freethinkers.

We will not silently sit back and allow these abuses to carry on. We will continue to battle on, on every front – and that’s why will again be marching this coming Saturday, July 7, at London Pride 2018.

CEMB marched at Pride last year because there are still 14 Islamic states that punish homosexuality with death, 15 if you count the Islamic State group.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan is an Islamic republic which criminalises homosexuality. Article 398 – offers lesser punishment for vigilante honour killings, which may involve a family member discovering their spouse or kin engaging in homosexuality.

Brunei

Sunni Islam is the official religion of Brunei. The country passed a law in 2014, stating the homosexuals should be punished by stoning to death.

Iran

Twelver Shia Islam is the official state religion of Iran today. Articles 108 to 113 of the Penal Code states, “sodomy can in certain circumstances be a crime for which both partners can be punished by death.”

Islamic State (IS)

In August of 2015, the UN Security Council reported that ISIS had claimed to have executed at least 30 people for “sodomy”.

Iraq

Homophobic murders are committed by non-state actors or vigilantes groups.

Mauritania

Article 308 Penal Code states, “Any adult Muslim man who commits an impudent or unnatural act with an individual of his sex will face the penalty of death by public stoning”.

Sudan

Article 148 C of the Penal Code states, “where the offender is convicted for the third time (of sodomy), he shall be punished, with death, or with life imprisonment”.

Northern Nigeria

Much of the northern parts of Nigeria have adopted Sharia. In the 12 states of Nigeria that have imposed sharia, the punishment for homosexuality is (a) caning of one hundred lashes if unmarried, and shall also be liable to imprisonment for the term of one year; or (b) if married with stoning to death.

Yemen

Article 264 of the national penal code prohibits private consensual homosexual acts between adult men. The stipulated punishment in the law for unmarried men is 100 lashes and up to a year in prison and married men convicted of homosexuality are to be put to death.

Saudi Arabia

The legal system of Saudi Arabia has consisted of royal decrees and the legal opinions of Islamic judges and clerics, and is not based on legal codes and written laws. In 1928, the Saudi judicial board advised Islamic judges to look for guidance in two books by the Hanbalite jurist Mar?? ibn Y?suf al-Karm? al-Maqdis?. It was decided that Homosexuality is to be treated like fornication, and must be punished in the same manner. If the “adulterer”, meaning someone who has had legal intercourse, is married, they must be stoned to death, while a free bachelor must be punished with 100 lashes and banished for a year.

Qatar

Homosexuals are punished to death by stoning.

Somalia

Article 410 of the Somali Penal Code, sentences for homosexual acts, usually coming in the form of police surveillance to prevent “re-offending”. LGBT executions are legal.

Pakistan

As part of the Islamicisation of Pakistan, the Hudood Ordinances were enacted in 1977, stipulating severe punishments for same-sex sexual acts, the amendments included whipping of up to 100 lashes and death by stoning.

United Arab Emirates

Islam is the official state religion of the UAE. Article 354 of the Federal Penal Code states, “Whoever commits sodomy with a male shall be punished by death”.

Chechnya

Article 148 of the Chechen penal code made consensual anal intercourse (between two men or between man and woman) punishable by caning on the first two offences and execution on the third offence. Furthermore, President Ramzan Kadyrov was rounding up homosexuals only last year, into gay concentration camps and had vowed to execute them all by the end of Ramadan.

 

Provocative? Well, yes!

Taking pride back

This was published on sister-hood on 4 July 2018.
By Sadia Hameed

Although today Pride is a celebration of sexuality, in its infancy it was a political movement against the oppression of individuals based on their sexuality: a movement for equality and fair treatment. The first Pride came after the Stonewall Riots – a watershed moment for the LGBT movement. On the 28th June 1969, New York police raided the Stonewall Inn – a well-known gay bar in Manhattan, frequented by LGBT customers. On the night of the raid, the police arrested 13 people. That summer, the police had raided and even closed down several other LGBT establishments. A spontaneous protest begun, lasting a whole three days!

A year after the Stonewall Riots, the first Gay Pride marches took place in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles. Although now, Gay Pride manifest as a party, early Pride marches were provocative and courageous. In Europe and America, things have changed over our lifetimes. Yet homophobia still exists in today’s world, and it exists within Islam and the countries that follow Sharia.

In 15 Islamic countries and territories, homosexuals are still put to death. This is state sanctioned homophobia: something that early Gay Pride movements absolutely understood and protested against. In such countries, both Muslim and ex-Muslim LGBT are persecuted.

Institutions like the East London Mosque (ELM) promote the Islamist narrative at the expense of LGBT rights amongst others. Over the last 10 years ELM have had ten openly homophobic speakers speak at the mosque, including Yasir Qadhi who defended the death penalty for homosexuality in Islam. While the ELM says it doesn’t allow homophobic speakers on their premises, this is just a PR exercise. They continue to invite homophobic preachers and have never condemned the death penalty for homosexuality in an Islamic state.

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain stands in solidarity with all LGBT people and opposes their persecution or marginalisation. Last year we marched at London Pride to combat hate and to highlight the 14 states under Islamic rule that kill gay men (15 if we were to include ISIS-held territories). We included placards about the East London mosque, to bring attention to the fact that there are mosques here in Britain that promote punishing homosexuality. This isn’t just something happening in a faraway land, to people that are not connected to us: the 2016 Orlando shootings were evidence of that. If you let religious homophobia slide, it will soon affect all of us. Things that affect some of us, eventually impact all of us!

Time and again, CEMB has been accused of being ‘Islamophobic,’ citing our placards that had statements such as, ‘Fuck Islamic homophobia,’ but we are unsure as to what the problem is with this. There is no issue in saying ‘Fuck Christian homophobia’…unless of course you are a fan of the homophobic movements. Overall, all of the organisations which took issue with our positions, statements and placards were invited to attend an open discussion to debate their positions and allow us to explain ours. Not one of them responded!

The fight for LGBT rights in countries under Islamic rule is a key battle for the LGBT movement today. We are marching again on 7 July 2018 and encourage Muslims and ex-Muslims in particular to join us. We are stronger together. We will only succeed together.

Ex-Muslims: A community in protest

Published in sister-hood on 2 July 2018.

When the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) started 11 years ago, in June 2007, we were hard pressed to find 25 people who would come out publicly to break the apostasy taboo. Today, we are witnessing an international ex-Muslim ‘community’ – a tsunami of atheism.

But for me, this has never been about building a community as it is understood within identity politics, which implies people being boxed into homogenised, segregated communities with culturally-relative rights managed by ‘community leaders.’  Rather, I see ex-Muslims as a community in protest: insisting on freedom from religion, and freedom of conscience. For the right to apostasy and blasphemy, without fear.

Like the LGBT, anti-slavery, anti-colonialist, anti-apartheid, suffragette or civil rights movements, it’s a movement which insists upon our common humanity and equality – not upon difference or superiority. It’s a movement of people who refuse to live in fear and in the shadows, and who are speaking out for social change in unprecedented ways.

This movement matters because thirteen states punish atheism with the death penalty and all of them Islamic. Because a series of laws in Saudi Arabia define atheism as terrorism,  where Ahmad Al-Shamri has been sentenced to death for atheism.  Because  Sina Dehghan has been sentenced to death in Iran for ‘insulting Islam.’ Because a Pakistani High Court Judge has said that blasphemers are terrorists and Ayaz Nizami and Rana Noman face the death penalty there. Because even in countries without the death penalty, such as Bangladesh, Islamists kill atheists whilst the government turns a blind eye. Because in Bangladesh, the atheist poet and publisher Shahzahan Bachchu was dragged out of a shop and shot dead mid-June this year. Because the Egyptian government is producing a national plan to ‘confront and eliminate’ atheism. Because in Egypt, the atheist blogger Sherif Gaber has not been seen in public since his arrest at Cairo airport on 2 May. Because a Malaysian government minister has said that atheists should be ‘hunted down’ and ‘re-educated.’ Because even in secular societies, ex-Muslims can be shunned, ostracised, and face ‘honour’-related violence.

This movement matters because you can be killed for leaving or criticising Islam.  Full stop. Reason enough.

The Saudi UN Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi says that advocating for atheism is a terrorist offence; that it leads to chaos. Absurdly, the Guardian’s David Shariatmadari agrees that ‘criticism of religion, Islam especially, can be antisocial, even dangerous.’ These accusations are not new. The Suffragettes, for example, were considered dangerous, subversive, as destroying the natural order of things. They were labelled anti-male and traitors for demanding the right to vote. Similarly, ex-Muslims are often labelled traitors or ‘native informants.’ After all, when one homogenises a ‘community,’ anyone who steps outside of their assigned place may be deemed dangerous, subversive; as destroying the natural order of things.

Like other social and political movements which fight for equality, the ex-Muslim movement is considered ‘dangerous’ because it subverts the status quo, not because of some paternalistic concern for minorities.  After all, don’t minorities also have the right to dissent, to equality, to civil rights and freedoms? And why is blasphemy or apostasy considered ‘Muslim-bashing?’ Is promoting LGBT rights ‘straight-bashing’, or promoting women’s right to vote ‘male-bashing’?

Yet when CEMB took to the streets of London Pride last year, the East London Mosque filed a complaint against our ‘Islamophobic’ placards. It took Pride London eight long months to meet with CEMB and to allow us to return this year.  (Imagine if the Westboro Baptist Church had filed a complaint with Pride against a group that was critical of Christianity and the Christian Right. Would it have taken eight months for them to decide whose side they were on?)

When the hashtag #ExMuslimBecause became viral overnight, with over 120,000 Tweets from 65 countries, many people realised they were not alone in their rejection of Islam – maybe for the first time in their lives. Yet BBC Trending described it as an excuse for ‘Muslim-bashing’ and ‘Islamophobia.’ Or when we showed our solidarity with those persecuted in Saudi Arabia for eating during Ramadan, armed police came to the Saudi Embassy’s rescue, telling us our eat-in and fast-defying solidarity action was offending those in the embassy.

In my opinion, accusations of ‘Islamophobia’ are less about opposing bigotry and more about defending religious privilege but you cannot stop racism by outlawing blasphemy and apostasy. These accusations are used to scaremonger ex-Muslims into silence and to impose de facto apostasy and blasphemy laws where none exist. Where these laws do exist, we are accused of these ‘crimes’ and persecuted without any niceties.

The charge of ‘Islamophobia’ protects religion and the religious Right, not believers. There is a clear difference between the term xenophobia, for example, which describes how migrants are targeted by bigotry, or homophobia, where people are targeted for their sexuality, versus Islamophobia, which describes the criticism of an idea. Religion is an idea; Islamism and the religious-Right are political movements. They must be open to criticism. Conflating criticism of Islam and Islamism with ‘Muslim-bashing’ misrepresents dissent as bigotry.

That doesn’t mean that bigotry against Muslims, migrants and minorities doesn’t exist. Of course it does! We live in class-based societies which profit from racism. Ex-Muslims and their families (many of whom are still Muslim) understand this better than most; we also face closed borders, travel bans, hate, violence and discrimination. And, yes of course, there are ex-Muslims who are bigoted against Muslims, just as there are Muslims who are bigoted against ex-Muslims; just as there are women who are misogynists and men who are feminists and so forth. But individuals – not a ‘community’ – must be held accountable for their choices. We are not extensions of our communities to be defended or condemned depending upon which ‘tribe’ we belong to.

Victim blaming is the natural outcome of an unconditional defence of the ‘community’ – if only we had not been so offensive; if only we had minded our manners, well, then there would be no need to threaten, kill or silence us. Ironically, collective blame is a natural outcome of identity politics, which moreover legitimises white identity politics. The argument that cultures are homogenous and need protection has aided the rise of xenophobia and anti-migrant sentiment. Trump uses this narrative all the time, as do far-Right groups like Pegida, the Five Star Movement, For Britain and the English Defence League.

Letting migrants drown in waters and separating toddlers from their parents at borders is the height of defending one’s ‘culture’ – as is murdering apostates. Whilst touted as progressive, identity politics is a politics of difference and superiority. These are two edges of the same sword. The politics of difference has always been a fundamental principle of a supremacist agenda – whether it is Nazism, the biological theory of racial superiority or expressions of difference couched in cultural and religious terms. Identity politics is the corruption of the fight for social justice. It degrades it to a mere defence of culture and the homogenous ‘community.’

This is why, when Goldsmiths Islamic Society tried to cancel and disrupt my talk, the LGBTQ+ and Feminist Societies sided with the ISOC against my apparent ‘Islamophobia’ – even after the ISOC President’s homophobic tweets came to light and he was forced to resign. This is why the Muslim LGBTQ charity Imaan has asserted our presence at Pride last year served only to “deepen divisions between communities” and why a Guardian piece by a gay Muslim accuses us of “Islamophobia” whilst defending the East London Mosque which is itself a centre for homophobia. From the point of view of identity politics, it is better to defend the East London Mosque with its preachers, who call for the death penalty for LGBT and apostates, than to be seen to side with ‘those ex-Muslims’ who defend the rights of Muslim and ex-Muslim LGBT. Identity politics fails to see allies and enemies within and outside the ‘community.’ It fails to mobilise real solidarity and see how our lives and rights are interlinked across ‘communities,’ borders and boundaries.

In an age of regressive identity politics and cultural relativism, an ex-Muslim community in protest matters, because it reaffirms universal values, anti-racism, secularism, the fight for equality, social justice and our common humanity. A movement that is about equality not privilege.  Rights without permission.  No apologies.

The above is a shortened version of a speech at Muslimish Conference in NYC in June 2018.

Maryam Namazie is Spokesperson for the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain.

 

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