Tag: Ex-Muslim

Halima Salat

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

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

 

 

Video by @Reason4Freedom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See some photos from Pride 2019:

          

Successful 1st International Atheist Day

VIDEOS AND PHOTOS OF THE EVENT ARE BELOW.

March 23rd, International Atheist Day, was observed for the first time across the world, providing a space for non believers to come out in public, defend freethought and show solidarity with those who risk their lives and freedom because they are atheists.

The day was initiated by an international ex-Muslim coalition, namely Arab Atheists, Ateizm Derneği, Atheist Agnostic Alliance of Pakistan, Atheist Republic, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB), Council of Ex-Muslims of France, Council of Ex-Muslims of Jordan, Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco, Council of Ex-Muslims of Sri Lanka, Ex-Muslims of North America, Ex-Muslims of Norway, Freethought Lebanon, Muslimish and The Black Ducks and was celebrated by atheists across the world, even trending on Twitter.

In London, CEMB organised a direct action where atheist women came together to paint slogans around “There is no God” in chalk in Russell Square in various languages. Photographs of women sitting on the floor 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.

This action was followed by an emotional evening MCed by Nahla Mahmoud. Maryam Namazie gave a brief opening address on the need for an Atheist Day; this was followed by a panel discussion of ex-Muslim women speaking out including with Ibtisamme Betty Lachgar, Mimzy Vidz and Zara Kay along with Sadia Hameed and Maryam Namazie. Whether coming from secular or fundamentalist families, the women agreed that losing the fear of challenging God was central. In an intimate discussion which ranged from attempts at exorcism by families determined to ‘fix’ their errant children, to the joy of embracing freedom, they agreed they could never look back. Audience members assured them that they had gained a family in the global ‘community’ of ex-Muslims. Panelists condemned bigotry against Muslims while affirming their right to criticise Islam and Islamism.

One speaker, the poet Halima Salat, who is resident in Amsterdam was denied a visa by the British Home Office. She came out for the first time at Maryam Namazie’s Freedom Lecture at De Balie a few months back and there was great disappointment that she couldn’t join the event, showing how the hostile environment is never far away for apostate refugees. Halima performed her poetry on FGM and against Patriarchy via video link and was able to hear the cheers for her passionate work.

In continuation of a tradition established by CEMB, Apostasy or Coming Out Certificates were awarded to a number of people, namely Ezatullah Qoriashi, Kishore Talukder, Md Badrul Alam, Mehrdad Taheri, Sarah Qureshi, Shagota Sarwar and Shahab Khan by Sadia Hameed, Aftab Ahmed and Fasahat Rizvi.

Moreover, CEMB 2019 Awards were presented by Maryam Namazie, Sadia Hameed and Sina Ahadi Pour to those who showed dedicated support to the ex-Muslim movement, namely AC Grayling who has supported the movement since the beginning and Ana Gonzalez of Wilson Solicitors for her immense support for apostate refugee cases and the CEMB; she said that CEMB was the most caring group she had ever worked with. Also awards were given to Asad Abbas for being one of the first and most persistent of CEMB members, Ibtisamme Betty Lachgar for her courageous work in Morocco, Inna Shevchenko of Femen for inspiring CEMB’s topless protests, Mina Ahadi for founding the first Council of Ex-Muslims in Germany and Shelley Segal for being a voice for atheism and ex-Muslims. Awards were also given to two absent friends, the filmmaker Nadia El Fani and Atheist Republic Founder Armin Navabi.

Shelley Segal sang Our Resistance and her new anthem for CEMB and ex-Muslims called ‘Find our Way to Freedom,’ which premiered at the event, after which atheists and ex-Muslims joined her on stage for a sing along.

There was also Sadia Hameed, lightening the mood, with her first ever stand-up comedy act. Her subject was farting and her target God.

An exhibition by SAMINT used art as a weapon against patriarchy and extremism. The evening ended with dancing to tunes by DJ Zee Jay.

The first Atheist Day in London and across the world was a resounding success. Onwards towards #AtheistDay2020!

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VIDEO FOOTAGE FILMED BY MUPHOVI

#ATHEISTDAY ACTION IN RUSSELL SQUARE PARK
With Ibtissame Betty Lachgar, Inna Shevchenko, Maryam Namazie, Sadia Hameed, SAMINT, Shelley Segal and Zara Kay with new ex-Muslim anthem by Shelley Segal: Find Our Way to Freedom as background music.

OPENING SPEECH BY MARYAM NAMAZIE

PANEL OF EX-MUSLIM WOMEN SPEAKING OUT

With Moroccan Activist Ibtissame Betty Lachgar, CEMB Spokespersons Maryam Namazie and Sadia Hameed, Ex-Muslim YouTuber Mimzy Vidz and Faithless Hijabi Founder Zara Kay.

COMEDY BY SADIA HAMEED

POETRY WITH HALIMA SALAT

COMING OUT CERTIFICATES

CEMB 2019 AWARDS

SHELLEY SEGAL SINGS OUR RESISTANCE AND NEW EX-MUSLIM ANTHEM

ATHEISTS AND EX-MUSLIMS JOIN SHELLEY SEGAL ON STAGE TO SING FIND OUR WAY TO FREEDOM

PHOTOS FROM EVENING EVENT BY POONE RAVI

In memory of Farooq

Today is the anniversary of the cold-blooded murder of atheist M Farooq, a 31 year old scrap merchant in Tamil Nadu India because of his atheism and Facebook posts pronounced “anti-Islamic.”

He was killed 15 days after he posted a photo of one of his children holding a placard with the handwritten slogan “Kadavul illai, Kadavul illai, Kadavul illai (No God, No God, No God)” in 2017.

He was a member of an atheist organisation, Dravidar Vidudhalai kazhagam, that fights religious/caste bigotry.

He was killed by a group that included friends who disagreed with his views.

Today we remember him and all those who have been killed because of bigotry and intolerance towards those who think differently.

#Farooq

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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