Category: Resources

How to cope without religion? By Hassan Radwan

By Hassan Radwan

I’m frequently approached online by those who have lost their faith and a question that almost always crops up in various forms is:

How do you cope without religion?

For those of us for whom religion gave them their meaning, comfort & guide in life’s ups and downs, loss of faith is a deeply distressing & terrifying feeling.

So I want to share some thoughts that might help.

  1. Don’t panic.

It’s OK to not have the answers to everything. Don’t feel you need to rush to fill the space religion had in your life. Take your time and allow your thoughts & feelings to settle.

It is said; “There is nothing so easy as catching a heart on the rebound,” referring to how people often recklessly fall into ill-fated relationships after the break-up of a long term relationship. For those of us who were religious we experience this same desire to fill the void. It can make us panic and want to quickly replace our value system with a new one. This can lead to poor decisions and going from one form of black & white thinking to another.

Learn to be OK with not having an answer for everything. As time moves on you will gradually develop your own thoughts and beliefs and they will be much more satisfying in the long term and reflective of who you are.

  1. Where do I get my morality from?

Losing belief in the prescriptions of religion can feel like you now have no yardstick for what is right and wrong, but this fear is unfounded. You are still the same person and you still possess an instinct for what’s right and wrong regardless of whether you consider it the result of an evolutionary process or something we are created with.

It’s true that it is not as fixed and cast in stone as the edicts of religion are – but that’s a good thing, because our understanding of human nature & the world evolves and is not static.

We must struggle with difficult questions using our conscience & evolving understanding of the human condition. It may not always be easy and we may not always agree (& it should be noted that those who claim to follow objective moral standards don’t always agree either,) but it allows humanity to keep striving to improve rather than remain bound to the morality of the 7th century.

  1. Fear of Death.

Fear & anguish over either one’s own death or a loved one is natural. Most people have some level of apprehension about it – including the religious. Religion may ease this thought, by painting a picture of some happy place where we and our loved ones will go, but once one sees them as man-made myths then this simply doesn’t work and we have to face the possibility there is nothing – that we simply cease being – however uncomfortable that thought may be.

As with most fears, it’s better to face them than to try to hide from them & the fear will lessen the more we accept reality.

If you think about it, if one’s consciousness simply ends at death, then there is literally *nothing* to fear. It is actually the “thought” of not existing that we find painful. Try to focus on doing your best in the life you have and strive to leave the world a little better for the next generation in whatever small way you can.

A statement often attributed to Marcus Aurelius puts it well:

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but…will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

  1. Fear of Hell

We’ve had the fear of Hell drummed into us since childhood, so it’s no surprise that even after losing our faith many of us are still troubled by it. One way to reduce this fear is to deconstruct it and see how it evolved.

Judaism originally had no clear concept of an after life let alone a place of eternal torture. The Old Testament refers to ‘Sheol’ which meant ‘grave’ and had a neutral connotation. It was a gloomy place of almost non-existence that everyone goes to – good or bad.

It was in the New Testament that Hell became a place where sinners would be punished.

One of the words translated as Hell in the New Testament is Gehenna which is the Greek version of the Hebrew word Gehinnom, where the Qur’anic word Jahannam comes from.

Gehinnom literally means “The Valley of Hinnom,”& it was a real place – a rubbish dump outside Jerusalem used to burn the dead bodies of criminals. When Jesus rebuked the scribes & Pharisees using this word, his audience would have immediately understood it as a metaphor.

It wasn’t until after the death of Jesus, that the concept of Hell as an abode of eternal torment was developed by Christian church fathers in apocryphal literature such as “The Apocalypse of Peter,” where they described sinners forced to drink boiling water, skins ripped off & eyes poked out.

By the time Muhammad was born, this very graphic and literal view of Hell was the view current at his time.

Another thing that can help is to think about why is it that you fear the Islamic Hell and not the Hell of other religions?

For example you don’t fear burning in Hell for not accepting Jesus, nor do you fear the crocodile headed Ammit devouring your heart, nor being boiled alive in Buddhist Naraka nor the flesh-scraping knives of Aztec myths.

You don’t fear them because you weren’t taught to take them seriously. They are not part of your in-group bias. The culture or community you were part of saw them as strange and absurd. You fear the Islamic Hell because that’s the myth you were taught to take seriously. But is it really any less absurd? Would a merciful God punish people on such a flawed basis – let alone torture them eternally?

The more you dissect and examine the concept of Hell rationally the more the fear will gradually fade away.

  1. Talk to Someone.

This can be very difficult for those who come from tight-knit religious communities where leaving religion is not treated sympathetically. Plus unfortunately many of the frontline agencies are not equipped or cognisant of the unique problems ex-Muslims in particular face. But you can speak to your GP or a professional therapist about getting counselling on how to deal with the trauma of losing your faith. There are also a growing number of ex-Muslim organisations that you can reach out to who can offer advice and someone to talk to.

The thing to realise is that loss of faith is a traumatic process and it’s normal to go through the stages of grief: denial, bargaining, anger, anxiety & depression. An experienced therapist can help you through your feelings.

  1. Explore New Interests & Communities

Take a look around at local organisations, events and activities in your neighbourhood. Get involved with things that interest you. Learn a new skill or take up that hobby you’ve always wanted. Check out what’s going on in publications or websites like Meetup and find interest groups or support groups. Get to know your neighbours, or join a local cause you care about. There are plenty of things to do and relationships to be made, but it means being proactive and taking the initiative.

Often, the religious beliefs we left behind were all-consuming and left us unaware or unable to fully explore the horizons and interests life has to offer. It can take a little work to get out of that old mindset, but with time and effort you can find a life that is meaningful and fulfilling and you may find a new passion and flourish in areas you never thought possible.

  1. Everyone’s Journey is Different.

Leaving behind the dogma of religion doesn’t always mean ceasing to believe in God or a higher power, although it does for some. The important thing is to be true to yourself and not go from following one crowd to following another. As the philosopher Voltaire said: “Think for yourself and let others enjoy the privilege of doing so too.”

I am personally Agnostic about God and would put myself somewhere along the spectrum of Agnostic Deist and Agnostic Atheist. But don’t worry too much about labels. Again there is a temptation for those of us who had a clearly defined identity to want to find another box to put ourselves in. But labels can never encapsulate the full range of an individual’s thoughts and views – let alone the fact that these views are always evolving.

You may find that you still want to maintain a relationship with God – a God that is beyond any religion – and that’s fine. Equally if you find you no longer need God in your life – that’s fine too. It’s also fine to say you just don’t know and can’t define your beliefs. Don’t feel pressured to decide what you believe. The bottom line is, don’t let anyone else’s journey define yours. You didn’t go through the anguish of leaving religion only to then follow someone else’s idea of what you should or shouldn’t believe.

CEMB Timeline (2007-2019)

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) was formed to break the taboo that comes with leaving Islam, highlight the plight of and support ex-Muslims, and challenge Sharia, apostasy and blasphemy laws. CEMB stands against all forms of bigotry, xenophobia, racism and extremism and unequivocally defends reason, freedom of conscience and expression, equality, universal rights and secularism.



CEMB is now supporting around 600 ex-Muslims rather than 300 a month. 50% of our caseload are outside of the UK. 25% are ex-Muslim refugees and asylum seekers. 25% are British ex-Muslims. The majority of ex-Muslims who contact CEMB are closeted due to the risks they face. The ex-Muslims who are out are still a very small minority.

With our international cases, the consequences of blasphemy or apostasy can be a death sentence. The result of someone finding out is often violence and sadly, this can involve violence or abuse from family as well as the state. In many cases, it is loved ones that report their family members to the police.

In Britain, the consequences of blasphemy and apostasy manifests itself as honour-based violence, forced marriages, corrective rape and even honour killings (in an attempt to bring ex-Muslims “back into line”).

Our free support 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 court hearings, writing letters of support, contacting housing and social services for young people at risk, working with the Forced Marriages Unit to prevent young women and girls being taken abroad for forced marriage and so on.

We hold monthly meet ups. This year, topics under discussion included female genital mutilation and male circumcision, leaving faith behind, shunning, mental health and apostasy and religion, misogyny and atheism.

Ana Gonzales, a Partner at Wilsons LLP conducts regular workshops on asylum rights and apostasy for asylum seeking ex-Muslims.

On the left is a photo of our arts meetup with artist Salma Zulfiqar who focused on empowering refugees through art.



10 December, International Human Rights Day

For International Human Rights Day, we initiated a social media campaign to show that ex-Muslim rights are human rights.


22 November, Statement in Support of protests in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon

In November, the International Ex-Muslim Coalition mobilised in solidarity with the protests in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, including by issuing a statement calling of the support of protests, which have been anti-clerical and deeply secular as well as women-led.

The statement and initial signatories can is available on our website.

27 October, Campaign to establish the first ex-Muslim refuge in the world

CEMB began a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the first emergency shelter for ex-Muslims in order to provide accommodation and support in the UK to those at serious risk to their lives because of their apostasy from Islam. Until now, CEMB has been forced to provide limited emergency accommodation at hotels, which is neither practical nor cost-effective.

With this crowdfunding campaign, CEMB hopes to provide a long-term and safe solution for those at greatest risk by establishing the first ex-Muslim refuge in the world. Purchase of a refuge space, as well as maintenance and utilities will cost £300,000. Whilst we realise this is an insurmountable amount, any money raised here will be used to provide emergency accommodation and support to those at greatest risk with the aim of working towards the first permanent refuge for ex-Muslims.

More information on the JustGiving campaign can be found here. We have also started a Patreon campaign for those who wish to support our efforts for emergency shelter on a monthly basis.

30 September, International #BlasphemyDay, #EndBlasphemyLaws #BlasphemyNotACrime

On International Blasphemy Day, we worked with the International Ex-Muslim Coalition to highlight cases from countries where blasphemy is punishable by death.

CEMB also organised an atheist Azaan (call to prayers) as an act of blasphemy on the day.

You can see the video here.       

August/September, Celebrating Dissent Festival at De Balie Amsterdam

The epic ‘Celebrating Dissent’ Festival took place between 30 August -1 September in Amsterdam, a collaboration between the prestigious art and debate institute De Balie and Maryam Namazie. More than 50 speakers from 30 countries worldwide joined a mixture of intense, conversations, comedy, art, poetry and dance performances, films, lectures and protest.

To highlight the dangers facing dissenters, a public protest of 160 balloons (left) with the names of those persecuted or murdered for blasphemy and apostasy was held. Participants at the Festival carried balloons to a nearby square and chalked the names of dissenters into the pavement as a memorial of sorts.

The historic event was an astounding celebration of apostasy, blasphemy and dissent. From the moment the city’s Mayor, Femke Halsema, opened the festival by welcoming ‘heretics, infidels and renegades,’ it was clear that this would be a historic and remarkable festival committed not only to defending free thought and expression but also the lives and freedoms of dissenters.

30 August 2019

Celebrating Dissent: Interview Marathon with Maryam Namazie 
Celebrating Dissent: Interview Marathon with Taslima Nasrin
Celebrating Dissent: Interview Marathon with Inna Shevchenko
Celebrating Dissent: Interview Marathon with Saif Ul Malook

Celebrating Dissent: Interview Marathon with Zineb El Rhazoui. An empty chair since she was prevented from coming by Dutch government.

31 August 2019

A Conversation on Women’s Dissent with Inna Shevchenko, Maryam Namazie and Taslima Nasrin. Music by Shelley Segal. Protest Art by Victoria Guggenheim. Chair: Samira Bouchibti.

Touching the Holy Subject with Nadia El Fani, Rishvin Ismath, Saif Ul Malook and Sarah Haider. Music by Veedu Vidz. Chair: Bahram Sadeghi.

Comedy, the Sacred and Islamophobia with Shabana Rehman, Ali Rizvi and Armin Nabavi. Chair: Sherin Seyda.

Public Art Protest commemorating dissenters in a public square.

Separation of Religion from the State with Afsana Lachaux, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Elżbieta Podleśna, Homa Arjomand and Sadia Hameed. Chair: Bercan Gunel.

Women against Gods with Gita Sahgal, Ibtissame Betty Lachgar, Maaike Meijer, Mineke Schipper and Rana Ahmad. Performance by Atoosa Farahmand. Chair: Ianthe Mosselman.

1 September 2019

Film Screening Neither Allah Nor Master by Nadia El Fani followed by a conversation with Hind Bariaz, Karrar Al Asfoor, Wissam Charafeddine and Zara Kay. Chair: Sophie Rutenfrans.

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

On Identity with Kenan Malik, Harris Sultan, Jimmy Bangash, Rahila Gupta and Yasmin Rehman. Poetry by Halima Salat. Chair: Jorgen Tjong a Fong.

Fighting the Far-Right; Celebrating Dissent with Halima Salat, Maryam Namazie, Mohamed Hisham, Muhammed Syed, Sadia Hameed and Sami Abdallah. Music by Shelley Segal. Chair: Samira Bouchibti.

There was also artwork by Mahshad Afshar and Jenny Wenhammar’s FEMEN Goddesses.

 Media coverage of De Balie #CelebratingDissent Festival

Photos of De Balie #CelebratingDissent Festival.

June/July, LGBT Rights and Pride

In the run-up to Gay Pride, CEMB organised a protest outside the Brunei Embassy on 17 June to condemn Brunei’s new stoning sentences for gay sex and adultery.

The action included placing stones on the embassy steps. In April, CEMB also joined protests at the Dorchester Hotel, which is owned by the Sultan of Brunei.

CEMB issued a solidarity statement on Birmingham schools and LGBT rights. Islamists have been leading protests against the No Outsiders programme in a primary school that teaches tolerance of LGBT.

We also had a letter to the editor published in a Dutch paper challenging an opinion piece that labelled our activities in Pride as bigoty. “Offence does not justify denial of rights” is the Dutch title of the letter to the editor.

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). Kenyan Somali Poet Halima Salat ended the evening with her poem called A Boy, A Village, A Death.

On 6 July 2019 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…

You can see a video of our Pride protest here.

Unsurprisingly, as in previous years, social media 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.”

You can read about it in detail here.

May/June, 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 had a strong exchange on the issue. Our position raised a lot of discussions amongst Muslims or those from Muslim backgrounds. Of course, this has meant that there has also been push back. For example, BBC Woman’s Hour, which was meant to have Sadia Hameed discuss our stance with those in favour of child fasting, 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. This day was first discussed at our 2017 conference, which was the largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history. The international coalition of ex-Muslims that was formed immediately after the conference met regularly on Skype to make the day a reality two years later.

At CEMB, we organised a successful Atheist Day which focused on ex-Muslim women given that women are less visible than men ex-Muslims and women 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, including with Ibtisamme Betty Lachgar, Mimzy Vidz and Zara Kay along with Sadia Hameed and Maryam Namazie, 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

For the day, 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

For 8 March, Shelley Segal 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.

 Our international ex-Muslim coalition organised Women Against Allah for International Women’s Day.

Hashtags  included: #WomenAgainstAllah   #WomenAgainstGod #WomenAgainstReligions #WomenAgainstQuran #NoShame

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.

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. We received much public support and had some good discussions on the issue with the public.

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

graphic of colourful hands with hearts and text seeking asulum is my rightCEMB 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 to show the absurd reasons given for rejecting apostates and how at risk they are.

International Coalition of Ex-Muslims

After the De Balie Celebrating Dissent Festival in Amsterdam, we organised a strategy meeting of the International Coalition of Ex-Muslims on 2 September 2019. Our coalition continues to work together on campaigns such as against blasphemy laws and on International Women’s Day, against Facebook and Twitter bans, e.g. ban of Council of Ex-Muslims of Sri Lanka’s Facebook page and on urgent actions like in the cases of calling on the Egyptian government to allow atheist Ahmed Harkan to leave the country, demanding the unconditional immediate release of Mohamed Rusthum Mujuthaba in the Maldives and helping get Hisham Mohamed, the Egyptian who said he was an atheist on live TV and was abused and kicked off the show and faced death threats to reach safety in Germany.


On 4 November, Sadia Hameed and  Ali Malik trained Malaysian officials (left) around the issues of blasphemy and apostasy. The Malaysian officials said that this was the first time they had ever interacted with atheists and that even homosexuality is considered more normal/common than atheism in Malaysia.

In October, CEMB was mentioned in a report entitled Challenging Hateful Extremism issued by the Commission for Countering Extremism.

In August, 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 an official 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. Our piece was included in the Civitas Report: Islamophobia: Anthology on Concerns.

In March, a European Parliament Motion on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression included Maryam Namazie’s no platforming and exclusions from UK campuses.


All CEMB related media coverage and interviews can be found on our website. We organised and spoke at numerous events in 2019, including:

In November, Maryam and Afsana Lachaux were joint winners of the 2019 Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize (left) for their campaigning work in support of women under Sharia laws. The award recognised the links with Sharia and religious laws and violence against women.

That month, Maryam also spoke at an event on Blasphemy and free expression in Oslo with Shabana Rehman and Sarah Haider. 

Sadia gave the keynote at the first Women of Colour Beyond Belief conference in the US and debated the Decline of Organised Religion at Durham University in October. She also organised the first ever discussion on apostasy and blasphemy at the FiLia feminist Conference held in Bradford. She was part of the organising committee of the conference and interviewed a number of rights activists for the FiLia podcast.

In September, Maryam was interviewed by sister-hood after the De Balie Festival. Read Stand with the witches, heretics and blasphemers.

In August, Sadia Hameed and Maryam Namazie spoke at the Atheists Assemble event in London on the rising ex-Muslim movement and minority rights.

In April, Maryam spoke on a panel on Subversion and Dissent to mark 30th anniversary of Southall Black Sisters.

In March, Sadia debated a reverend and imam on religion’s role in society at Brunel University.

In February, Maryam joined a panel discussion on why we defended Rushdie organised by Feminist Dissent and Sadia spoke on a panel entitled Bloody Shame and how to lift the menstrual taboo.

In January, Maryam gave the Freedom Lecture at De Balie in Amsterdam and Brussels. At the beginning of the year, the Islamic regime of Iran’s intelligence service did a film which included an “expose” on Maryam as “anti-God”.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

The hijab: “preventing common impositions”

The hijab: “preventing common impositions” was published in Workers Liberty Solidarity in defence of banning child veiling on 27 November 2019.

Maryam Namazie is an activist with the Council of Ex-Muslims and other secularist groups.

On the issue of child veiling, a state ban on conspicuous religious symbols for children is an important defence of children’s rights.

Children are not parental property

Children are not the property of their parents.

They are individuals with rights and bodily integrity. And just because their parents believe in child veiling or FGM and male circumcision doesn’t mean they should be automatically entitled to impose their views on their children, especially when these views are harmful.

It is not a question of choice

Religious symbols on children are not a child’s choice but a parental imposition, as no child “chooses” to be “modest” and “chaste” and protect the family “honour.”

Even for adults, it is debatable how many have freely chosen to wear the veil given the huge amounts of pressures to conform, the compulsory nature of the veil in many instances and because submission and compliance are not the same as choice. Even so, there is clearly a huge difference between the veiling of adults and child veiling.

As the late Iranian Marxist Mansoor Hekmat said:

“The child has no religion, tradition and prejudices. She has not joined any religious sect. She is a new human being who, by accident and irrespective of her will has been born into a family with specific religion, tradition, and prejudices. It is indeed the task of society to neutralise the negative effects of this blind lottery.

“Society is duty-bound to provide fair and equal living conditions for children, their growth and development, and their active participation in social life. Anybody who should try to block the normal social life of a child, exactly like those who would want to physically violate a child according to their own culture, religion, or personal or collective complexes, should be confronted with the firm barrier of the law and the serious reaction of society.

“No nine year old girl chooses to be married, sexually mutilated, serve as house maid and cook for the male members of the family, and be deprived of exercise, education, and play. The child grows up in the family and in society according to established customs, traditions, and regulations, and automatically learns to accept these ideas and customs as the norms of life.

“To speak of the choice of the Islamic veil by the child herself is a ridiculous joke. Anyone who presents the mechanism of the veiling of a kindergarten-age girl as her own ‘democratic choice’ either comes from outer space, or is a hypocrite who does not deserve to participate in the discussion about children’s rights and the fight against discrimination.

“The condition for defending any form of the freedom of the child to experience life, the condition for defending the child’s right to choose, is first and foremost, to prevent these automatic and common impositions.”

The veil promotes sex apartheid and inequality

The veil is emotionally harmful. It aims to erase girls and women from the public space and creates a physical wall of segregation. If you do not stay home, and insist on going to school or work or what have you, then you must carry the purdah on your very back to prevent yourself from enticing men and creating fitnah or chaos in society.

The veil is part of the misogynist insistence that girls are “different” from boys. As has been seen in some classrooms in Islamic schools here in Britain even, what follows child veiling is girls sitting in the back of the classrooms, eating after male students, having different textbooks…

It also inhibits the free movement of children. There is an implication that veiled girls are not to run, shout or laugh too loudly or even ride a bike and be seen playing with boys. Child veiling encourages inequality between girls and boys right from the start and solidifies women’s subservient status in society.

Modesty culture is an extension of rape culture

Moreover, child veiling is on the continuum of other religious and cultural rules to control women and girls to ensure that they know “their place” – whether it be via FGM, polygamy or child marriage. At worst, it promotes rape culture and violence against girls and women.

The veil and its demands for modesty brings with it the implicit and often explicit shaming (or worse) of those deemed “immodest.” It is the immodest girl or woman who fails to dress or behave appropriately in order to avoid the male gaze and titillation. She has no one to blame but herself for any ensuing male violence. Modesty is always the remit of women and young girls.

And while it is often portrayed as harmless, modesty culture sexualises girls from a young age and puts the onus on them to protect themselves. Child veiling also removes male accountability for violence, positioning men as predators unable to control their urges. Girls and women are to be either protected or raped depending on how well they guard their modesty and the honour of their male guardian.

Therefore, despite what we are often told, the veil is not just another piece of clothing. This would be similar to touting foot-binding as footwear, FGM as piercings and the chastity belt as lingerie.

In all religions and every religious-Right movement, the perfect “modest” and “moral” woman/girl is the one who cannot be seen or heard in public. Whether via acid-attacks, FGM or child veiling, the message is clear: a good woman/girl is a “modest” one.

To ban or not to ban

There are bans on domestic violence, FGM, child labour… because of social and political movements demanding an end to such violations culminating with changes in the law. Therefore, the banning of child veiling and conspicuous religious symbols should be seen within this move to prioritise children’s rights over the rights of their parents, religious dogma or religious “leaders” and to codify it in the law.

Racism or Fundamentalism

Much of the discussion around the banning of child veiling centres around legitimate concerns for bigotry against Muslims, rising xenophobia and the exploitation of any ban by the far-Right. I would challenge the view that sees girls and women as extensions of their communities and expendable for societal “cohesion.”

Yes, of course, there is a context of racism but there is also a context of the rise of the religious-Right (including white nationalism) with women and girls as their first targets. Increased child veiling is the result of this rising fundamentalism since the veil and control of “its women” is the most public manifestation of Islamist control. In Britain, today, even some toddlers can be seen wearing the veil.

A more ethical position would be to oppose both racism and fundamentalism. Excusing fundamentalism because of racism or vice versa addresses neither and leaves women and girls at the mercy of religious and patriarchal restrictions.

Identity or Solidarity

Saying the fight against child veiling is a fight for feminist and secularist movements within faith communities allows one to remain on the side lines and pay lip service to what is a serious child welfare issue. Oh well, at least you showed some solidarity by putting the onus on others!

Children – British girls – are being sexualised, segregated, taught they are different from boys. British children cannot feel the wind in their hair, run, laugh out loud, dance… They are not considered as individuals whose welfare is paramount but extensions of “community” and family and bearers of modesty culture.

The idea that the fight for the rights of these girls — because they are minorities — must be left to “faith communities” shows how ingrained regressive identity politics and cultural relativism have become. For me, the issue is clear.

If you want to improve the lot of children who are veiled, then changes in law are an important battleground for those who are serious about children’s rights.

Apostasy, Blasphemy and Free Expression

See video footage of a discussion on apostasy from Islam, blasphemy and free expression with the brilliant Sarah Haider and Shabana Rehman in Oslo at an event organised by Ateistene and Human-Etisk Forbund Norway.

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