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November 21 a successful day against Sharia and religious laws

Several hundred joined a rally in London’s Hyde Park organised by One Law for All to show their opposition to Sharia and religious-based laws in Britain and elsewhere and to demand universal rights and secularism.

At the rally, over 20 speakers and performers exposed the discriminatory and brutal nature of religious laws. They included Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain’s Asad Abbas; International Humanist and Ethical Union’s Roy Brown; Philosopher AC Grayling; Southall Black Sisters’ Rahila Gupta; MP Evan Harris; Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq’s Houzan Mahmoud; Lawyer Rony Miah; Campaigner Maryam Namazie; British Humanist Association’s Naomi Phillips; European Humanist Federation’s David Pollock; National Secular Society’s Terry Sanderson; Activist Muriel Seltman; Equal Rights Now’s Sohaila Sharifi; Organisation for the Defence of Secularism and Civil Rights in Iraq’s Issam Shukri; Iran Solidarity’s Bahar Milani; Human Rights Campaigner Peter Tatchell; National Secular Society’s Keith Porteous Wood and the rally’s Master of Ceremonies, Iranian Secular Society’s Fariborz Pooya.

Maryam Namazie, the One Law for All Spokesperson, also gave several examples of the legal compulsion involved in the decisions of the Muslim Arbitration Tribunals and Sharia Councils, particularly with regards forced marriages, divorce and child custody. She went on to say that it was scandalous that countless women were relegated to kangaroo courts with lesser rights here in Britain and elsewhere.

Campaigner Peter Tatchell said: ‘Sharia law is a form of religious dogma and tyranny. It is homophobic, sexist and anti-democratic.’ Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society went on to say that: ‘Sharia law does not develop, it is fixed and immutable, but its interpretation is unpredictable, unregulated and subject to the whims and prejudices of individual practitioners.’

Many of the speakers spoke of the brutalities of Sharia in other countries. Issam Shukri from Iraq told the rally how Islamic militias linked to the cleric and MP Muqtada al-Sadr had executed dozens of women who they deemed to be improperly dressed because they were not fully covered head-to-toe in Iraq. Examples were also given of rights violations under Sharia in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Sudan, Somalia and elsewhere.

Activist Muriel Seltman condemned the cultural relativism that allows for religious laws to go unchallenged. She said: ‘What can be more racist than laying down different standards for different people in different societies? This is what is racist not the criticism of barbaric practices.’

Many speakers criticised the right of religion to special status to undermine fundamental human rights. David Pollock of the European Humanist Federation said: ‘Sharia courts seek to provide a parallel legal system… Arguments for Sharia law are based on the concept of group rights. And group rights are inherently hostile to human rights.’ MP Evan Harris condemned the government for giving privileged advisory status on policy and legislation to often unrepresentative faith leaders. Lawyer Rony Miah said: ‘Having separate systems of law for different communities are no different from separate faith schools; it will only lead to a fragmenting of communities – not cohesion.’

Rahila Gupta of Southall Black Sisters added: ‘accommodating alternative systems of justice is not about choice or tolerance in a pluralistic society; it is not about Muslim women’s autonomy. These demands emerge from fundamentalist politics however they are dressed up.’

Roy Brown of the International Humanist and Ethical Union spoke about how Islamic states are behind the demand for more religious laws and the banning of any criticism of Islam. He said: Sharia law [in Britain] is but a small part of a worldwide campaign to replace international law with Islamic law… The acceptance of Sharia law for the settlement of family disputes in Britain is just one small part of a global problem.’

Maryam Namazie said that Sharia courts and councils were extensions of the political Islamic movement – not the demand of Muslims or those labelled as such – and resistance to it was global as well. She told the crowd: ‘Sharia adversely affects the rights, lives and freedoms of countless human beings across the world. Opposing Sharia law is a crucial step in defending universal equal rights and secularism, and showing real solidarity with people living under and resisting Sharia.’ Fariborz Pooya added that ‘people living under Sharia law are the first victims and at the same time the first line of resistance against it and must be defended.’

Writer AC Grayling went on to say: ‘The principle of one law for all, with everyone equal before the law, is a vital one for a genuine democracy. The One Law For All campaign is doing an urgently needed job of protecting those who, hidden behind the veil of Sharia or other religious ‘courts’, risk injustice, abuse, and deprivation of rights.’

During the rally, Bahar Milani and Richard Francis of Iran Solidarity led an act against child executions. The Islamic Republic of Iran is the only state that continues to execute minors. At least 130 juveniles are on death row in Iran, including for homosexuality, apostasy, sex outside of marriage and involvement in school or street fights that have resulted in murder.

Throughout the event, there were performances from poets AK47, Lilith and Christine from the Anti-Injustice Movement and Selina Jus1jam from Yorkshire as well as musician Fari B and singer/songwriter David Fisher.

On the day, many others took part in simultaneous acts of solidarity with the rally and its demands in 23 countries across the globe, namely Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Hungary, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Kenya, France, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Serbia and Montenegro, Sweden, Switzerland and USA. In Serbia and Montenegro, Women in Black held a number of film events in support of women’s rights in Afghanistan. In Baghdad, 500 leaflets were distributed in defence of secularism and universal rights. In Canada, several acts took place, including a rally and a column written in a local paper. The Secular Humanist League of Brazil, The Peace and Freedom Party of San Francisco, and the Brussels Humanist Society amongst others issued press releases and an artist in the Netherlands contributed their artwork to the campaign. In Ibadan, Nigeria, leaflets saying ‘no to faith-based laws’ were distributed on the streets and at markets. In Pakistan, those trying to take part in an act were brutally beaten.

Photos and video footage of the rally speeches and performances can be seen here:

http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/successful-rally-against-sharia-law-in-uk-21-nov-2009/.

The protest was covered by several media outlets including on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme and in an article entitled Just say no to Sharia by Peter Tatchell in Guardian’s Comment is Free: http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/media-coverage/.

One Law for All will continue to push for an end to Sharia and religious laws in Britain. In the coming year, the campaign aims to conduct a survey of women who have been to Sharia courts here, will hold a fundraiser dinner on January 28, 2010 to raise money for the campaign; will host a March 8, 2010 seminar with legislators, lawyers and campaigners to recommend the legal and legislative avenues to ban Sharia and religious courts in Britain; will organise a June 20, 2010 rally against Sharia law; and will hold an October 10, 2010 conference on Sharia Law and Apostasy amongst other activities.

To support the campaign, please send a cheque made payable to One Law for All or donate via Paypal by visiting http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/donate.html.

For more information, to sign on to our petition, or to volunteer visit our website or contact:

One Law for All
BM Box 2387
London WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
onelawforall@gmail.com
www.onelawforall.org.uk

CEMB AGM – Preliminary Notice

Preliminary Notice

Members are advised that the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain is holding its second Annual General Meeting on Sunday 13 December 2009 from 14:00-16:00 hours in London. The AGM is only open to members.

Members are requested to RSVP their attendance by 1 December 2009 and arrive no later than 13:45 hours.

Nomination of Board of Trustees and Motions

Those wishing to submit motions for the meeting, or nominations for Board of Trustee members, should do so in writing. A proposer and seconder are required for both nominations and motions, which must reach the CEMB by 1 December 2009. This date is necessary to enable preparation of the formal notices of the AGM that will be sent out in advance of the meeting.

The Board of Trustees will be elected at the AGM. Nominations of any member must be signed by a proposer and a seconder and must be signed by the person nominated to indicate that they are willing to stand for the Board. All those nominated will provide a statement of the skills they have to offer, their aims for the CEMB, and an indication of the extent to which they are prepared to undertake work as well as attending monthly Trustee meetings held on a weekday evening in London.

Nominations and motions should be sent by email to exmuslimcouncil@gmail.com or via post to CEMB, BM Box 1919, London WC1N 3XX and arrive no later than 1 December 2009. The names of nominees, proposers and seconders should be written in block capitals, with clearly legible email addresses.

The CEMB’s annual report and financial report will be made available to members at the AGM.

Looking forward to seeing you there.

Best wishes

Maryam

Maryam Namazie
Spokesperson
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
BM Box 1919
London WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
www.ex-muslim.org.uk

London Ex-Muslims Meetup Group a year old

London Exmuslims Meetup group has been running for a year now, had 12 events so far and increased to over 30 members in 12 months. Members are able to get acquainted with likeminded people, make new friends, openly share their views, go to talks & debates, to movies, have drinks & dinner evenings and camping trips. There will be an anniversary party on October 17 to celebrate its first anniversary. To join the meetup, click here. To start a meetup in your area, contact the CEMB.

One Law for All raised at European Parliament

European Commission President Manuel Barroso and President of the European Parliament, Hans Gert Pőttering hosted a lunch in Brussels on Friday 26 June 2009 with philosophical non-confessional organizations in the Commission’s efforts towards Strengthening European values.

Keith Porteous Wood, supporter of One Law for All and the National Secular Society’s Executive Director was one of the guests. One of the concerns he raised with President Barroso was about the growing pressure on Muslims to use so-called official Muslim Arbitration Tribunals rather than the established justice mechanisms. Mr Porteous Wood said that those using these tribunals often did not know they had alternatives. Women were particularly vulnerable as they are forced to submit to these tribunals and Islamic law treats women less favourably than men. It was essential, he said, that it is One Law for All in every country: and that the law is democratically established and human rights compliant. Sharia demonstrably fails that test.

Mr Porteous Wood pointed approvingly to the experience in Canada where some provinces troubled about these issues had outlawed religious arbitration in recent years. He asked President Barroso to consider similar measures for the EU.

In his concluding address, President Barroso acknowledged these concerns and said that he would give the matter further thought.

Turning to the UK, Mr Porteous Wood commented: the problem of burgeoning Sharia law tribunals, run of course by men, is becoming more acute and the need for action has become urgent. Shamefully, the Government, Parliament or the judiciary are prepared to take on Sharia law for fear of upsetting Islamic leaders. This is a betrayal of those forced to be subject to these laws which have no place in a modern democratic society.”

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