Tag: Islam

Fundamentalism and White Nationalism: the same, just wearing different clothes, Vrij Links, 29 March 2019

Below is the English version of an interview with Marieke Hoogwout published in Dutch in Vrij Links on 29 March 2019. The interview was conducted before the Christchurch and Utrecht terrorist attacks this month. You can read the Dutch interview here. 

In January, Iranian-British human rights activist Maryam Namazie gave the 24th Freedom Lecture at De Balie in Amsterdam. Hers was a fierce plea for solidarity from the left with all dissenters, ex-Muslims, feminists, secularists, in short: with anyone challenging repression of political Islam.

An interview on how politicians, media and all of us citizens can contribute to, in her own words, this ‘movement of secularism and shared humanity’.

First, to get this out of the way – secularism, at least in Dutch, is open to two interpretations: one is ‘non-believing’, or even ‘atheism’, the other is ‘creating a level playing field for all beliefs and convictions’. How would you define the concept of secularism in your movement?

‘I would say: secularism is the complete separation of religion from the state, including state institutions and policy. Religion or lack thereof is a private affair and not the remit of the state. We should all insist on this.’

You called on all of us, on the left, to support the dissenters, the secularists and anyone challenging political Islam. And you feel this support is lacking, still. What would you, for starters, want politicians to do, in order to bring change about?

‘I would tell politicians and policy makers that they should insist on universal values and secularism for all and to not see these values as ‘European values’ or ‘Dutch values’ or ‘British values’. They are universal. People have fought for, and continue to fight for them, sometimes at great risk to their lives, including in countries under Islamic rule.

‘If you think ‘their culture is different’ and so ‘they don’t want the same freedoms and rights as we do’, then you will not be able to show solidarity with those who are dissenting and fighting on the front lines for change. If you homogenise communities and societies and see those in power as representing the ‘authentic culture’, you will end up supporting the Islamists, those that are in power, those that are anti-universal values and anti-secularism rather than the dissenters.

‘I would also urgently call on politicians to insist on citizenship rights. When I came to De Balie, I fell in love with Amsterdam, this beautiful city and wonderful people. But what really affected me, too, was the day after, I spoke to two groups of students. One from a wealthier school in a wealthier area, and one from a school with a lot of students with Muslim parents. And to me, the difference was very stark – from the level of education, access to resources and information, to whether one was more open to different ideas or not.

‘Our societies are sleepwalking into disaster because of the segregation of our children, based on their families’ background and beliefs. It does lead to huge inequalities in the access that people get, and also in the way that people feel particularly on whether they belong in a society. If you are treated as an outsider, even if you were born in that society, you will begin to feel like that. That is a key issue – education has to be secular and level the playing field for all children despite any differences.

‘We have to start insisting on secular education, on treating children and people as citizens no matter what their backgrounds, on making people feel they really belong and that they are really equal – rather than say ‘well that’s their culture’, as if they are separate from the rest of society.’

‘In Britain, for example, a primary school that taught pupils about homosexuality as part of a programme to challenge homophobia has been forced to stop the lessons after Muslim parents complained and withdrew their children. In another primary school, a play on Darwin and evolution was cancelled after complaints by Christian parents. This is the influence of the Christian-Right and Islamism to the detriment of our societies as clearly not all Christian or Muslim parents think this way. Some will feel that their children have lost valuable lessons as a result of the cancellations but the religious-Right are always the loudest though they by no means represent a majority. The only response can be to insist that education be secular and that respect for human rights and citizenship be essential learning despite what parents think. Also access to the latest advances in science and human knowledge is key. The insistence on universal values and secularism is crucial in all aspects of society but particularly education and the law. It’s really a minimal framework for us all. Also with regards children, it is important to see them as human beings with rights separate from their parents. Children are not the property of their parents to do with them as they wish and they have a right to an education worthy of our century.’

What would you like to say to us, as citizens? What can all of us do today?

‘I would say – be brave. We have to stand up against the racists, against dehumanization and against ghettoization of people based on their background. For citizenship rights. And also to stand up for the dissenters within minority communities, for those who are speaking up, and who are at great risk of threats, violence, shunning and ostracization even in Europe. We have to stand up against all fundamentalists and in defense of our common humanity.

‘It is very important for people on the left who are concerned about throwing flames onto the fires of racism, to understand that the fundamentalists are our far right. They are, fundamentally, very similar to the white supremacists and the racists – similar in their reliance on religion, on violence, on scapegoating and on othering anyone who doesn’t look and speak like them; they are similar in their misogyny, their homophobia and their anti-Semitism. They are the same, just wearing different clothes. Look underneath and it’s the same thing.

‘We, the progressives, are fighting all manifestations of beliefs that violate people’s rights, and so we are also fighting the religious right. We are defending universal values, we are defending secularism and we are defending the dissenters who are challenging the status quo. As any left person should be doing and has historically done.’

And what would you ask of the media?

‘In the media, it is always the most regressive and reactionary voices that are brought to the table as the so-called ‘representatives of the community’. The dissenting voices, the feminist voices, the socialist voices within the so-called minorities are almost never heard. And by feminist voices, I mean those for whom women’s rights trumps religion and belief. I do not mean ‘Islamic feminists’, an oxymoron, who are more interested in defending Islam.

‘Unfortunately, when it comes to the dissidents, we don’t fit the media’s narrative to speak about issues that we have put our lives on the line for. Thankfully, the internet has opened up the space for us, even if the media ignores us and acts like we don’t exist. As I have said before, the Internet is doing to Islam what the printing press did to Christianity.

‘To support dissenters, you’ve got to see them first. If you cannot even believe that they exist, how can you support them? Only when you see there are lots of people who don’t agree with repression, and who are fighting for real equality, who are fighting against racism and against discrimination, including in religion, then you will side with the people who are dissenting rather than regressive community leaders and Islamists.’

Sometimes I think some people on the left do not want to see. It would mean having to acknowledge there are power structures within minority communities. I feel some people would rather see all Muslims, in a simple good guy/bad guy-scenario, as one homogeneous ‘community’, deserving of their protection against the far right. To see otherwise, to them would be – uncomfortable.

‘Of course it is uncomfortable! Do you think I feel comfortable every day? I do not. It is very, very uncomfortable saying things that are not acceptable. It is not something that is very easy, we all feel very uncomfortable. But you know – some things need to be said and done. How would the Dutch feel about being seen as one and the same as Geert Wilders? That’s how I feel being seen to be one and the same as an Islamist. There is no homogeneity, and much dissent including amongst minorities. Do you think brown and black people are unable to think freely or dissent against the status quo?

When I speak out for instance on women’s rights in Islam, I sometimes am told that I, as a non-Muslim white woman, have no right to do so. What helped me a lot were the words of Zineb el Rhazoui: ‘If you let yourself be silenced for fear of being called Islamophobic, or a racist – then you’re siding with our oppressors.’ But I think, too many people on the left still are hesitant to speak out about this.

‘One of the problems of identity politics is it seen to be progressive and left but it actually promotes far right politics. It feeds into the narrative of both the fundamentalists and the far right or the white supremacists. Identity politics sees Muslims as a monolith, as a homogeneous group. So the far-Right wants to deport and hate all Muslims as they see them as one and the same as the fundamentalists. This is the problem with identity politics. It doesn’t allow us to see people’s humanity.  And some on the left think they must support the Islamists in order to support a ‘Muslim minority’.‘Identity politics only allows you to see those in power as they ‘represent’ the community and determine or impose ‘authentic’ culture. But they are really only self-appointed. People have many characteristics that define them – there is no homogeneity in any society or community or culture. I mean, does everyone in the Netherlands think exactly the same way?

We do not. We have 17 million ‘bondscoaches’ [coaches of our national football team], and 13 political parties in parliament, last I counted.

‘Does everyone in Britain think the same way? I mean – look at Brexit! There is dissent and lots of it. So why would someone think that does not exist in minority communities? Are we less then you? How patronizing first of all, to say or to think that we all agree with our ayatollahs. Do Dutch people all agree with the pope? Are they all Catholics, and hard core ones at that, who are anti-abortion and anti-gay rights and anti-women’s rights?‘Of course not! So why is it that they would think that we are like that? How patronizing. How racist. To see us all as one and the same as our oppressors.

‘Identity politics does not see the dissent. It doesn’t see those political and social movements fighting for change. How can you show solidarity with dissenters when you are too busy looking at the mullahs and the imams and the ayatollahs? You won’t be able to see the feminists and the socialists and the labour activists and the apostates who are risking their lives to challenge the status quo.’

Kenan Malik said: ‘What is called ‘offence to a community’ is more often than not actually a struggle within communities’. For instance, a political cartoon can be considered ‘offensive’, when basically it is challenging power. As it has always done. In your lecture at De Balie you showed a rather old Arabic cartoon mocking religious leaders. Do you agree with Malik’s point of view?

‘One hundred percent. First of all, what does ‘offensive’ even mean – is being against Brexit an offense to the British community? Or is not caring about Brexit an offense to the English or the Christian community? Universal values, the concept of citizenship, are not about ‘group rights’; they’re about individual rights. There are very different types of people and beliefs within the so called ‘Muslim community’ – as is the case in any society.

‘Many ex-Muslims are told we are not allowed to talk about Islam, because we aren’t ‘real Muslims’. You know how many times I have been told: ‘you come from a Shia tradition and Shia’s are not even Muslims, so you were never a Muslim to begin with’? Which I find interesting because when they count the statistics of Muslims, they count everybody in. That is the problem with identity politics – you are never Muslim enough, you’re never black enough, you’re never woman enough, you’re never minority, enough to speak about these issues.

‘But I will speak about any issue that affects human beings – because before anything, I am a human being. I see our common humanity and I see the universality of our struggles and fights. Identity politics does not see those commonalities. It just wants to defend identity at any cost. It will defend culture and religion at any cost. But I think we should be defending human rights and human lives, as best we can. And hold human beings sacred, rather than beliefs, culture, religion and very specific often imagined identities.’

‘On the issue of offence, we are all offended by somethings but somehow most of us never see the need to kill for it. The fundamentalists, however, are offended by everything that has to do with 21st century lives and will threaten or kill anyone who doesn’t agree. Also, interestingly, they are never offended by stonings and decapitations and book burnings but always by unveiled women or gay sex or singing and dancing. The whole offence industry here in the west is really not about religious sensibilities but Islamists demands to impose blasphemy and apostasy laws where they don’t exist.’

I find it very difficult to explain this concept of the ‘regressive left’ to people who I feel, are being – just that. They say ‘That’s a right-wing framework! No one on the left supports forced hijab!” And that in itself, is indeed absolutely true. But in the Netherlands, I feel, it is like a fault by omission, a fault of not speaking out. We always speak out about anything except – when it comes to dissent or emancipation in Muslim communities. And then, people on the left say: ‘Welllll … it has to come from within the communities, we cannot impose our values, these things take time, and look at where we were in the Netherlands 50 years ago.’

‘The point is not that some on the left – and I say this as someone firmly on the left – is not against forced hijab. Of course, they are against that. The point is: they never criticize hijab as a tool to manage, control, and police women’s bodies. When you say: ‘Look at where we were 50 years ago, we have to be tolerant’ – that’s tolerance of the intolerable. We are in the 21st century after all. Doesn’t everyone deserve the same rights and freedoms?

‘When you say ‘That is their culture, that is their religion’ – you are seeing them as something that is different from the rest of ‘white’ Dutch society. If ‘white’ girls in Holland were made to wear religious symbols because their parents were religious or segregated from boys because their parents thought they would bring chaos in society if there was mixing of the sexes – would they say ‘well, you know, it’s the parents’ culture’? Of course not! Why say it when it comes to girls from Muslim backgrounds?’

People also say: ‘Of course we are against oppression, but that is in other countries. In the Netherlands, all women are free to choose, so wearing the veil must be their free choice and if we speak against it, we would be no different from the authoritarian regimes.’ What is your point of view on this?

‘Framing it in the language of choice is actually part of the narrative of the fundamentalists. And if you do that, then you don’t see all the pressures, all the subtle and sometimes not so subtle threats, and all the coercion that takes place behind the scenes, in order to impose this on women and girls or on gay people, or on apostates, or on any other minorities within minorities, to show conformity within that community. And particularly when it comes to children, using the language of choice is an excuse to ignore child abuse.

‘Of course there are women who ‘choose’ to wear the veil, like there are women who refuse to leave a violence relationship, but seeing it as a free choice misses the point. The veil is an instrument to control and police women – like foot-binding, like suttee, like FGM. By focusing on a woman ‘choosing’ to throw herself on the burning pyre of her deceased husband, one ignores and even legitimizes women’s oppression and misogyny.

‘People who say ‘it’s their culture, it’s a choice, it’s not our place’ think that if they don’t rock the boat, it will keep some sort of social peace. But actually, it will not. There is a battle going on. Isn’t it better that all of us, as progressives, have a stake in that fight? So that the society that comes out of it, is one where progressive people have been involved, and not just the fascists – be they either the white supremacists, or the Islamists, or the Christian right.

‘Things can change fundamentally if more people will be involved who are anti-racist and pro-human rights, irrespective of background and belief. That would make that fight so much more human. And the results would be so much more human.’

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

#InternationalWomensDayProtest #PeriodsAreNatural

#InternationalWomensDayProtest
#PeriodsAreNatural
#WeAreUnashamed

Orthodox Judaism forbids women and men from even touching or passing things to each other during a woman’s period.
In certain branches of Japanese Buddhism, menstruating women are banned from attending temples.

In Hinduism, a woman is forbidden from entering not only Hindu temples but also her own kitchen. She must not sleep in the daytime, bathe, have sex, touch others, or speak loudly.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, women are forbidden from receiving communion whilst the Russian Orthodox Church forces women to live in menstrual huts while on their period.

In Islam, women are barred from praying, fasting, touching a Quran, entering a mosque or circumambulation of the Kaaba (not that we mind) and even divorce and sex.

The idea that women are too emotional to be judges, must be secluded or that women are inferior to men stems from “dirty” menstruation and women being seen as inherently sinful. Which is why in many religions, women must ritually purify themselves before they can be deemed “clean.”

This is absurd. We are living in the 21st century.

#PeriodsAreNatural
#WeAreUnashamed
#WomenAgainstAllah
#NoGodsNoProphets
#Period


اعتراض روز جهانی زن
پریود_طبیعی_است#
در میان گروه ارتدوکس‌های یهودی، در دوران عادت ماهانه زن، مرد و زن حق دست زدن یا رد و بدل کردن هیچ گونه اشیا را به هم ندارند
در بخشی از بودایی‌های ژاپنی زنان که عادت ماهانه دارند اجازه ورود به معبد را ندارند
در هندویسم زنان در دوارن ماهانه خود حق وارد شدن به معبد و حتی آشپزخانه خانه خود را ندارند. زنان حق ندارند در طول روز بخوابند یا حمام بگیرند، رابطه جنسی داشته باشند، به دیگران دست بزنند و یا با صدای بلند صحبت کنند
در کلیسای ارتدوکس شرق، زنان اجازه شرکت در مراسم عمومی عشای ربانی را ندارند
در اسلام، در دوران عادت ماهانه، زنان حق نیایش، روزه، دست زدن به قرآن، وارد شدن به مسجد یا چرخیدن دور کعبه را ندارند (البته بدمان هم نمى آيد). آنها حتی اجازه طلاق و داشتن رابطه جنسی را ندارند
این ایده که زنان به خاطر احساسی بودن نمی توانند قاضی شوند، باید جداسازى جنسى شوند یا زنان از مردان در جایگاه پایینی و پست تری هستند، ریشه در همین عادت ماهانه “نجس” دارد که زنان را ذاتا گناهکار می پندارد. به همین خاطر است که در بسیاری از مذاهب زنان باید از گونه ای تشریفات بگذرند تا بعد از پرويودشان “پاک” شوند۔.
این پوج و مضحکه است. ما در قرن ۲۱ زندگی می‌کنیم
پریود_طبیعی_است#

پریود#
زنان_علیه_خدا#
نه_خدا_نه_پیامبر#
شرم_نه#

#ExMuslimBecause

Demand for atheism rises in countries under Islamic rule

The scientist and author Richard Dawkins is giving away translations of The God Delusion in countries under Islamic rule like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan.

The reason behind the decision is the thirst for atheism in such countries. Whilst 3.3 million copies of the bestseller have been sold since 2006, the unofficial Arabic pdf alone has been downloaded 13 million times.

The rise of atheism in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia is something we have been speaking about for some time now. The Iranian Baztab Now website warned of a tsunami of atheism amongst Iranian youth. The #ExMuslimBecause hashtag initiated by the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain became viral overnight with over 120,000 Tweets from 65 countries.

The hashtag “#Aik crore Pakistani mulhid” (10 million Pakistani atheists) trended around Darwin Day for two years running. Free Mind, launched by Arab atheists promoting atheism, has recorded more than 1 million visits so far.

The now highly visible and vocal ex-Muslim movement (a new Council has just been established in Jordan), the access to atheism and freethought via social media, the deep-seated opposition to theocratic rule that comes from lived experience, the irrationality of religious doctrine, the authoritarianism of religious rule, scepticism about prophets and contradictory tenets, the unrelenting violence, amongst others, make atheism increasingly enticing for a mostly young population.

Remove Islamism’s threats and apostasy and blasphemy laws from people’s lives and even we ex-Muslims will be stunned at the extent of atheism in countries under Islamic rule.

The powers that be have understood the “threat” atheism poses – seeing it as an existential danger, especially since Islam and state power are intertwined, hence why atheists are persecuted (with many others including religious minorities, women’s rights activists, labour leaders and LGBT).

• Iran as one of the most important bases of atheism in the Middle East, with more than half the population using the Internet regularly, has seen a government ban on more than 160,000 social media accounts and websites for  spreading “atheism and corruption” in one year alone.

• Two government ministries in Egypt have been ordered to produce a national plan to “confront and eliminate” atheism. The Egyptian parliament is looking to criminalise atheism.  Recently, Mohammed Hashem was told to see a psychiatrist and kicked off a television show for not believing in God. A mother has even lost custody of her children because she is an atheist.

• A series of laws in Saudi Arabia define terrorism as “calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion.”

• A Malaysian government minister has said that atheists should be “hunted down” and “re-educated.”

• In Pakistan, a High Court Judge has reiterated that “blasphemers are terrorists” in a case that seeks to ban “derogatory” social media posts against Islam and Muhammad, Islam’s prophet. The Islamabad High Court has directed the government to block web pages containing blasphemous content and put the names of “blasphemers” on the exit control list.

Thirteen countries punish atheism with the death penalty, all Islamic states, namely Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, UAE, and Yemen.

And even in countries without the death penalty, like Bangladesh, Islamists kill atheists whilst the government does little or like Tunisia, where Hatem Al Imam, the President of Tunisian Freethinkers has been brutally attacked. Turkish government-backed Islamists in Afrin address “Kurdish atheists,”telling them to repent or face decapitation …

Clearly, to be an atheist, to question or criticise God, prophets, Islam and any religion or dogma is not a crime though too many are being killed or imprisoned for it. It is high time to stop blaming atheists for their persecution under cover of offence, Islamophobia, hurt sentiments… and instead target the states and movements that are hunting down, imprisoning and murdering people for the mere exercise of their freedom of expression and conscience.

Urgent cases that need our immediate attention include:

Bangladesh: Asad Noor, a 25-year-old atheist blogger is facing up to 14 years in prison because he “hurt religious feelings” with his social media posts “mocking the prophet”.

Iran: 20-year-old Sina Dehghan was sentenced to death for “insulting the prophet”. Deghan’s co-defendants, Sahar Eliasi and Mohammad Nouri, have also been convicted of posting anti-Islamic content on social media. Nouri was sentenced to death; Eliasi has been sentenced to three years in prison upon appeal. Soheil Arabi was initially sentenced to death for “insulting the prophet” is on hunger strike and in critical condition. Ruhollah Tavana and Saeed Malekpour have also been sentenced to death for “insulting the Prophet” and “insulting and desecrating Islam” respectively.

Iraq: In Dhi Qar- Al-Nasiriya, a city in the southern part of  Iraq, atheists have been hunted down; in most recent news, one of four has been arrested for “spreading the culture of the absence of God.”

Pakistan: Ayaz Nizami and Rana Noman face the death penalty for “blasphemy.” After the arrest, #HangAyazNizami trended on Twitter. Taimoor Raza, 30, has also been sentenced to death for “insulting the prophet Muhammad.”

Saudi Arabia: Ahmad Al-Shamri, in his 20s, has been sentenced to death for atheism and blasphemy; Raif Badawi has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and a thousand lashes for “apostasy” and “insulting Islam”. Poet Ashraf Fayadhhas been sentenced to eight years imprisonment and lashes for poems containing “atheist ideas” reduced from an initial death sentence.

#AtheismNotACrime #EndBlasphemyLaws #EndApostasyLaws

Largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history

The International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression, the largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history, was held during 22-24 July 2017 in London.

Over 70 notable speakers from 30 countries or the Diaspora gathered in what was dubbed “The Glastonbury of Freethinkers” and “a Conference of Heroes” to honour dissenters and defend apostasy, blasphemy, and secularism.

The sold-out conference highlighted the voices of those on the frontlines of resistance – many of them persecuted and exiled – and included the first London film screening of Deeyah Khan’s film, Islam’s Non Believers, a public art protest of 99 balloons representing those killed or imprisoned for blasphemy and apostasy, a body-painting action, and 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 rights. The conference hashtag, #IWant2BFree, trended on Twitter during the two days.

At the conference, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) honoured ten individuals to mark its tenth anniversary, namely Bangladeshi freethinker Bonya Ahmed, Saudi freethinkers Ensaf Haidar and Raif Badawi, Moroccan atheist Zineb El Rhazoui, Philosopher AC Grayling, Centre for Secular Space’s Gita Sahgal and Yasmin Rehman, Algerian Sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas, Jordanian Atheists’ Founder Mohammad AlKhadra, Egyptian Atheist Founder of The Black Ducks Ismail Mohamed and Author and Scientist Richard Dawkins.

The conference issued resolutions against the no-platforming of Richard Dawkins by KPFA radio station, in defence of Ismail Mohamed who was prevented from leaving Egypt to speak at the conference by the Egyptian government, and on CEMB’s presence in Pride in London as well as a Declaration of Freethinkers (see below).

The event was live-streamed, which can be seen here. Professional video footage will be made available soon as well photos and more details of the event.

Resolution on Richard Dawkins

The International Conference on Free Expression and Conscience in London, the largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history, is concerned that Richard Dawkins, an invited speaker at the conference, has been de-platformed by the radio station KPFA in Berkeley, California because of his alleged “hurtful” comments on Islam.

Professor Dawkins is a well known critic of all religions, whose long-standing attacks on Christianity have never resulted in anything approaching de-platforming. Indeed he has aired his views on KPFA itself. Belatedly, KPFA seems to have noticed that Islam is not exempt from his criticism. They have applied a hypocritical double standard in cancelling his appearance in Berkeley, and have disappointed the large numbers of people who had bought tickets to hear him.

Given that most of the speakers and delegates at our conference are Islam’s apostates, many from countries where the legal penalty for apostasy is death, we find it necessary to remind KPFA that criticism of Islam is no different from criticism of Christianity or Judaism. Also, criticism of Islamism is no different from criticism of the Christian-Right, Jewish-Right or Hindu-Right. Criticism of religious ideas as well as violent religious political movements isn’t bigotry but integral to free conscience and expression and vital for human progress.

We call on those – like KPFA – who should be our natural allies and ‘progressives’ whose freedoms and rights are largely the result of the fight against the church and Christianity not to betray or deny the same right to Islam’s critics, non believers, and dissenters.

Progressive politics means fighting on many fronts, including against bigotry, xenophobia, the far-Right, which includes Islamism, and for freedom of conscience and expression.

Resolution for Ismail Mohamed

The International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression is outraged to learn that the Egyptian government has prevented Ismail Mohamed from speaking at our conference, where he would have been a crucial voice. We demand that the Egyptian government allow Ismail freedom of movement and end his persecution and that of all freethinkers.

Resolution on the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain at Pride

The Council of ex Muslims of Britain (CEMB) is part of a world-wide movement that supports people who wish to leave Islam and declare themselves ex-Muslim. We use the term ex-Muslim to highlight that the danger of leaving Islam risks death for apostasy. CEMB works to ensure that people are safe from hate and violence from their families, communities and states. CEMB joined Pride in London this year to highlight anti-LGBT persecution as well apostasy and blasphemy laws. 14 Islamic states (15 if ISIS-held territories are included) punish homosexuality with the death penalty. Moreover CEMB aimed to expose Islamist-affiliated mosques, like East London Mosque (ELM), which have given a platform to hate clerics who have justified the murder of gays and apostates.

After Pride, the ELM made a formal complaint over CEMB’s ‘Islamophobic’ banners. The complaint was referred to Pride’s community advisory board to “decide on whether CEMB will be allowed to march again in the years ahead”. A Pride Spokesperson added: “If anyone taking part in our parade makes someone feel ostracised, discriminated against or humiliated, then they are undermining and breaking the very principles on which we exist… Pride must always be a movement of acceptance, diversity and unity. We will not tolerate Islamophobia.”

At the International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression, we  commit to the defence of  LGBT+ Muslims and ex-Muslims. It is imperative to act against  homophobia: 15 Islamic states and territories punish homosexuality with death. Vigilantes are encouraged to ‘eliminate gays’ in the words of Ramzan Kadyrov of Chechnya. In Britain, institutions like the East London Mosque have hosted preachers who incite hatred and justify the murder of  LGBT and apostates.

The LGBT+ movement and worldwide Pride marches have been an enduring source of inspiration. ‘Pride’ shows that human rights can progress by people coming out and challenging prejudice through humour, outrage and politics. It was in this spirit that CEMB, for the first time, joined the 2017 Pride in London march.  Pride is one of only events where LGBT+ ex-Muslims and Muslims can safely articulate their criticism, especially when their daily experiences are intrinsically linked with fear, violence and intimidation. Death threats are all too common. Nor do we need lessons in racism or anti-Muslim hatred, we experience these too. Our presence was widely welcomed and the courage of gay ex-Muslims affirmed with love and support. For old campaigners and new, the experience of the march was life changing.

CEMB’s work is founded on universal human rights:  the right to freedom of religion or belief and the right to free expression. Laws against homosexuality, blasphemy and apostasy and the terror associated with them are grave violations of human rights. Human rights do not advance unless perpetrators are named. Defending human rights: the right to life, the right to love and the right to free speech do not incite hatred. They constitute opposition to the politics of hate and fear.

Islamists use accusations of ‘Islamophobia’ to deceptively conflate criticism of a set of beliefs (Islam) and the religious-right (Islamism) with bigotry against a group of people (Muslims) in order to silence dissent. But we will not be silenced. We will continue to fight on several fronts: against racism and anti-Muslim hate and homophobia, for the rights of migrants and refugees, while simultaneously defending the right to apostasy and blasphemy.

If Pride in London is indeed a movement of ‘acceptance, diversity and unity’, it should vigorously oppose all laws which criminalise homosexuality, apostasy and blasphemy. Pride in London has a historic opportunity to  render fundamentalist intimidation and  bullying ineffective and make a stand that demonstrates that human rights trump religious hatred.

We call upon the organisers of Pride in London to:

1) Make a statement against all laws criminalising homosexuality, apostasy and blasphemy and against incitement to hate and murder by preachers at mosques like the East London mosque

2) Clarify whether by condemning ‘Islamophobia’, Pride meant to side with Islamists supporting the judicial murder of ex-Muslims and gay men

3)  Affirm CEMB’s continued presence at Pride in London to show that they side with dissenters and those defending the right to think, live and love as they choose.

Declaration of Freethinkers

Freethinkers stand for the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of expression and belief and freedom from fear and want. We believe in the universality and indivisibility of human rights. These rights flow from human reason and conscience. Without the free exercise of conscience and expression, all other rights are nullified.

Thirteen Islamic states and territories punish apostasy and blasphemy with death. Many freethinkers spend years on death row, or are lashed simply for the views that they hold. Apostates and freethinkers are murdered by vigilantes, or have fled their homes and countries. They experience numerous abuses, including violence, coercion and shunning in their families, exorcism, psychiatric ‘treatment’, forced marriage and sexual abuse.

At the International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression, we note that there is a tsunami of freethinking and atheism that is challenging religious fundamentalism, especially Islamism.  The Internet is doing to Islam what the printing press did to Christianity.

This peaceful resistance movement is often characterised as ‘offensive’ against religion, nation, tradition or culture. Labelled as ‘secular fundamentalists’ or ‘Islamophobic’, victims are told that they are the cause of the violence whilst the organised networks of fundamentalists and extremists are projected as victims. Laws against ‘defamation of religion’ and accusations of ‘offence’ and ‘Islamophobia’ aid the extremists in silencing dissent and imposing de facto blasphemy laws.

Human rights organisations give scant attention to these violations. They have failed to investigate transnational networks that promote and perpetrate violence. They do not examine the ideologies of religious fundamentalism or make a case for the importance of freethinking in the face of a sustained religious assault. Governments, too, are failing to defend and protect freethinkers, either leading the assault or often choosing to side with killers and persecutors.

We honour the memory of all those who have died for freedom of conscience and expression, and stand in solidarity with our friends who cannot be with us because they are in prison, in hiding or have been denied visas.

The struggle for freedom of conscience is also a struggle against racism, xenophobia and far-right extremism. To be denied the simple right of conscience creates a human rights void, where all protections cease to exist. So we fight against all forms of bigotry and for universal human rights, including secularism.

The International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression calls for the following:

  1. End the killing of apostates and blasphemers
  2. Release those on death row or in prison simply because they are atheists, freethinkers, apostates or blasphemers
  3. Repeal apostasy and blasphemy laws
  4. Clarify that freedom of conscience and freedom of belief guarantee the right to freedom of and from religion; and that religion is not an excuse for silencing dissent or threatening other rights and freedoms
  5. Protect the right of freedom of expression to ‘offend’, without which no human progress is possible
  6. A declaration of principles showing that the human right to freedom of conscience is explicitly embedded in human rights documents and is not limited by any right to religious belief.

For more information, contact the Conference Organising Committee.

To donate to CEMB, please visit our website.

The conference is sponsored by Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe; Atheist International Alliance; Bread and Roses TV; Center for Inquiry; Centre for Secular Space; Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain; Culture Project; Euromind; Equal Rights Now; Fitnah; Freedom from Religion Foundation; National Secular Society; One Law for All; Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science; Southall Black Sisters; and Secularism is a Women’s Issue.

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