Tag: Islamophobia

We understand intolerance better than most; Blasphemy is not Bigotry

On 15 July, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) wrote to the newspaper Het Parool to ask for a right to reply to a piece by Dino Suhonic, director of Maruf platform for queer Muslims in the Netherlands where a number of intentionally false statements were made about the CEMB and our fight for LGBT rights of Muslims and ex-Muslims as well as the rights to apostasy and blasphemy at Pride in London.

CEMB urged the publication to rectify the falsities. Suhonic clearly has a right to criticise our organisation and work but the use of false statements to ‘prove’ his points was unethical and libelous and aimed only to damage and defame.

ON 16th July, we received an email from the publication – see below – saying that one of the mistakes in his piece was rectified but the more important false claim on far-right support was not. We were told that since we were not a Dutch organisation, we could not publish our opinion piece but that they would consider a letter to the editor. We sent a shorter letter to the editor on 17th July (it was even translated for their ease) and though we emailed a number of times inquiring about its publication, we have yet to see our letter published and are therefore making it available to the public.

The longer opinion piece in Dutch was published today on Vrij Links. You can read it here.

The English version of the opinion piece is below, as is the email received from the paper and our shortened letter to the editor, which was never published. UPDATE: After a number of contacts with the publication, our short letter to the editor was published on 31 July 2019. You can see the letter here.

SHORTENED LETTER TO THE EDITOR IN ENGLISH

Mr. Suhonic has made false claims regarding Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB). We are one of the largest and oldest progressive ex-Muslim groups worldwide. We defend LGBT rights of ex-Muslims and Muslims and the rights to apostasy and blasphemy. In struggling for these rights, we enact the rights that we demand. We blaspheme to win the right to blasphemy and reject religion to defend the right to apostasy. This public resistance when we can be shunned or killed for celebrating who we are is particularly apt to Gay Pride. Like women demanding the right to vote or blacks demanding an end to Jim Crow laws, we will blaspheme until we will no longer be killed for it. This may cause Mr Suhonic offence but defending the rights of those that offend religious morality has always been a cornerstone of progressive politics. After all, there are some Muslims who are offended by those who are Muslim and gay. Offence cannot be justification to deny minorities within minorities their rights. Mr Suhonic’s conflating blasphemy with far-Right support is like absurdly conflating his belief in Islam with support from Islamism! For us, Islamism is our far-Right and fundamentally no different from other religious-Right and racist movements. Bigotry affects us and our families too but we will not excuse fundamentalism because of racism nor racism because of fundamentalism.

Jimmy Bangash and Maryam Namazie
CEMB Spokespersons

DUTCH LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Dino Suhonic heeft valse beweringen gedaan over deCouncil of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB). Wij zijn één van de grootste en oudste progressieve ex-moslimgroepen ter wereld. Wij verdedigen lhbt-rechten van ex-moslims én moslims en het recht op apostasie en blasfemie. In deze strijd oefenen we de rechten uit die we opeisen. Wij gebruiken blasfemie om het recht op blasfemie te verwerven en verwerpen religie om het recht op apostasie te verdedigen. Overwegende dat wij kunnen worden buitengesloten of vermoord voor het vieren wie wij zijn, is dit publieke verzet uitzonderlijk geschikt voor de Gay Pride. Zoals vrouwen die kiesrecht eisten of zwarten die afschaffing van de Jim Crow-wetten eisten, zullen wij blasfemie plegen totdat we er niet meer voor vermoord worden. Dat mag Suhonickwetstend vinden, maar verdediging van de rechten van degenen die de religieuze moraal kwetsen is altijd een hoeksteen van progressieve politiek geweest. Tenslotte worden sommige moslims gekwetst door degenen moslim en homo zijn. Gekwetstheid kan geen rechtvaardiging zijn om minderheden binnen de minderheden hun rechten te onthouden. Dat Suhonicblasfemie met extreemrechtse steun verwart is net zo absurd als zijn geloof in de islam verwarren met steun voor het islamisme! Voor ons is islamisme ons extreemrechts en verschilt fundamenteel niet van andere religieus-rechtse en racistische bewegingen. Discriminatie raakt ons en onze families allemaal, maar wij zullen fundamentalisme niet goedpraten vanwegeracisme, noch racisme vanwege fundamentalisme.

Jimmy Bangash en Maryam Namazie
CEMB woordvoerders

EMAIL FROM THE PUBLICATION

On 16 Jul 2019, at 15:45, Het hoogste woord wrote:

Dear Mrs. Namazie,
Thank you, for your email and taking the effort to translate it to Dutch. After consulting with the author, I have made some changes to the article on our website. The sentence about the “Fuck islam-placard” has been removed. I added an editorial comment at the bottom of the article. Mr. Suhonic asked me to tell you he regrets his mistake.
Regarding your comment about the support for CEMB, I clarified in the article that Mr Suhonic meant “support on social media”, not financial support.
I would like to offer you the chance to reply and clarify your activities and position, however a full opinion piece would be too much, since you are not a Dutch organization and the remarks about your activities in Mr. Suhonic article are not the focus of the article. You are welcome to write a short response (around 150 words), which I will consider for publication in the ‘Letters to the newspaper’ section.
Met vriendelijke groet, kind regards,
Jesse Beentjes
Coördinator Het Hoogste Woord
Jacob Bontiusplaats 9, 1018 LL Amsterdam

THE LONGER OPINION PIECE WE INITIALLY WROTE TO REFUTE SUHONIC’S FALSE CLAIMS ABOUT CEMB – DUTCH HAS BEEN PUBLISHED IN VRIJ LINKS

On 15 Jul 2019, at 09:58, CEMB <exmuslimcouncil@googlemail.com> wrote:

To whom it may concern

Your newspaper Het Parool published a piece by Dino Suhonic, director of Maruf, platform for queer Muslims in the Netherlands where a number of intentionally false statements were made on the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and our fight for LGBT rights of Muslims and ex-Muslims as well as the rights to apostasy and blasphemy.

CEMB urges your publication to rectify the falsities. Suhonic clearly has a right to criticise our organisation and work but the use of false statements to ‘prove’ his points is unethical and libelous and aims only to damage and defame.

The false statements are as follows:

“This group has previously been accused of spreading Muslim hatred by using slogans such as ‘Fuck Islam’.” Firstly, CEMB never had a placard that said ‘Fuck Islam’ but ‘Fuck Islamic Homophobia’. Criticising religious homophobia is integral to the fight for the rights of minorities within minorities and dissenters. Blasphemy and apostasy are not hatred against believers but a challenge to religious ideas and dogma. The conflation of criticism of religious dogma or the religious-Right with hatred against believers is an attempt to impose blasphemy and apostasy laws where none exist.

Your paper can see information and footage of our participation at Pride over the three years. There is no ‘Fuck Islam’ placard. In any case, opposition to a religion or belief is not bigotry against people.

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

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

Open Letter to Pride: Defend the Council of Ex-Muslims

Suhanic also falsely says:

“They receive support mainly from right-wing groups, who show their solidarity by jointly fighting ‘against the Islamisation of Britain’.”

CEMB is a progressive organisation that works with other progressive organisations, many of them minority-run, anti-Racist and anti-cultural relativist. We are unequivocally against Islamism and all other far-Right movements. We see Islamism as far-Right too and believe the stop Islamisation groups are fundamentally no different from the Islamists. They are fundamentally misogynist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, and rely on religion, hate and violence to further their cause. CEMB is an anti-racist organisation that always defends the rights of Muslims and migrants despite any differences in belief. You can see some of our recent statements or interviews here that clearly show our position:

Making a stand against all forms of hate

Defining Islamophobia

CEMB condemns China’s persecution of Muslims

CEMB fights on many fronts, against religious dogma, for the rights of women, LGBT, freedom of conscience and expression (which includes freedom from religion and atheism) and against racism and xenophobia… We won’t remain silent about fundamentalism or religious dogma because of racism or vice versa. We think we must fight them all in order to fully defend universal rights.

CEMB calls on your publication to give us the right to reply in your paper. The piece by Jimmy Bangash is below.

A translation will follow shortly.

We look forward to your immediate response.

Regards

Maryam Namazie
CEMB Spokesperson

 

******

By Jimmy Bangash
CEMB Spokesperson

Dino Suhonic’s article covering the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) at Pride in London in Het Parool displays a poor understanding of the issues of apostasy and homosexuality impacting individuals of Muslim heritage. The article is littered with false claims, conflates blasphemy and apostasy with bigotry against believers and fails to acknowledge that Pride is a space for criticism of religion and the religious-Right.

It is deeply disappointing to see this article published without any attempt to fact check the absurd claims made by an individual so removed from the realities of our members’ lives – members who are predominantly from diaspora communities or are themselves refugees, hailing from Muslim-majority countries such as Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain

Our organisation stands for universal human rights to be applied to all people across all countries. We have a longstanding history of working to support apostates internationally in Islamic states and supporting refugees and asylum seekers in the UK and internationally. We have unequivocally defended Muslims as can be seen from our work, including condemnation of China’s treatment of Muslims and Chechnya’s treatment of LGBT Muslims.

We actively oppose far-right and racist organisations, many of whom seek to attack us as foreigners. We also have Muslim families who are affected by bigotry and we face added pressures and threats from within because we are LGBT and/or ex-Muslims. We, therefore, understand better than most the vile effects of bigotry and the need to stand up to it unequivocally. We consistently stand for the human rights of all. Again, much of this commitment is visible with even a cursory glance at our work over 12 years.

CEMB at Pride

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

The situation in Muslim-majority countries is even more dire. A 2013 PEW global study on Muslim Attitudes reported almost unilateral condemnation of homosexuality. Countries expressing the highest population acceptance of homosexuality were Uganda (12%), Mozambique (11%) and Bangladesh (10%) with the other 37 Muslim majority countries polled showing less than 10%. Appallingly, all 14 states that hold the death penalty for homosexuality are Muslim-majority countries. Importantly, many of these countries also have the death penalty for apostasy – for leaving the religion of Islam – as well as for blasphemy.

Pride provides a safe place to challenge this religious homophobia. Since its inception, Pride has been a place where LGBT people have been able to rally against political, cultural, and religious condemnation of homosexuality.

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

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 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 religious doubt and dissent. Our placards embody the dissent against religious dogma that has always been an important part in the fight for human rights. Just as criticism of Christianity or the Christian-Right at Pride are not hatred towards Christians, so too our placards and presence have nothing to do with hate and everything to do with the demand for human rights for all. The right to be gay, be an apostate or to be a blasphemer without fear, ostracisation or threats to our lives.

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. This is something we will continue to do despite vilifications and misinformation promoted by Dino Suhonic and others like him who cannot see how the rights and lives of LGBT and ex-Muslims are linked. To defend the rights of one we must defend the rights of all despite differences in beliefs and opinions.

hello@ex-muslim.org.uk
www.ex-muslim.org.uk

DUTCH LONGER OPINION PIECE PUBLISHED IN VRIJ LINKS.

Translations into Dutch by Leon Korteweg

 

The APPG’s definition of ‘Islamophobia’ is a triumph for fundamentalists

The below article was published on sister-hood.


“Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness” – All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims definition of Islamophobia


The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia has mainly been framed as a free speech issue. The definition adopted by some parties and councils will certainly limit criticism of Islam and Islamism even further than it already is currently. To say it will not is dishonest at best. This has already been the case for a long time now. For those of us who have fled Iran, it has been so since the expropriation of the Iranian revolution by the Islamists; in Britain, at least since the Rushdie affair.

Examples abound. The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, of which I am a Spokesperson, was placed under investigation for eight months by Pride in London because of the accusation of Islamophobia levelled against us by the East London Mosque and Mend. I myself have been barred from Warwick University, harassed by Islamic Society students at Goldsmiths, and had my talk cancelled at Trinity College over the same accusations. I haven’t had issues for a while now – but that is only because I am hardly invited to speak at universities any more. It is just too much trouble. The accusations stick; uncomfortably so.

Whilst this is a free speech issue (blasphemy is clearly not racism), what I find even more disturbing about this definition is the Parliamentary Group’s open promulgation of the idea that there is something that can be called ‘expressions of Muslimness.’ It is absurd to assume that this is the case, any more than one can speak of expressions of Christianness or Jewishness or Hinduness. This is no different from saying there are ‘expressions of Britishness’; something that the far-Right – and increasingly, mainstream politicians – imply in order to exclude migrants and minorities.

Certainly, we can discuss what it means to be British – or Muslim for that matter. This will inevitably mean different things to different people. But with the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Tommy Robinson, the Windrush scandal, May’s ‘Go Home’ vans, and her ‘hostile environment’, along with the far-Right fascist parties gaining seats across Europe, the promotion of expressions of ‘Britishness’ isn’t as innocent as it is made out to be. In this context, Britishness becomes whiteness. Likewise, promoting ‘Muslimness’ in a world in which the religious-Right is in power and causing havoc is far more ominous than it might initially seem.

Like ‘Britishness’, the concept of ‘Muslimness’ is fundamentally about exclusion. Britishness tends to exclude brown and black people. Muslimness tends to exclude doubters and dissenters – anyone not ‘authentically’ regressive enough, not veiled enough, not segregated enough, not submissive enough, not pro-Sharia enough, not modest enough, not angry enough and not offended enough. Everyone else is an ‘Islamophobe’, an ‘Uncle Tom’, a ‘native informant’, a ‘coconut’ or a ‘westernised, neo-colonialist.’

The not-so-funny thing about identity politics is that whilst it claims that each particular ‘group’ has a singular identity (as if that were even possible), the identity is so restrictive that it keeps out many more people than it allows in. In fact, that’s the whole point. If you want in, you have to make sure you look the part and follow the rules. If you terrorise a primary school in Birmingham to prevent lessons saying that being gay is OK, if you defend Sharia courts despite their promotion of violence against women, or legitimise apostates being shunned and killed, then you will automatically pass the Muslimness authenticity test! Not so much if you are a gay Muslim, or an ex-Muslim, or a feminist who doesn’t want to wear the hijab or fast during Ramadan, or a secularist who is opposed to Sharia law.

Another major problem with identity politics is that those with power determine Britishness or Muslimness or Jewishness or Hinduness… and the limits of permissibility within these ‘groups’. Therefore, ‘Muslimness’ becomes what Cage, Mend, the Muslim Council of Britain or the Iranian and Saudi regimes say it is. In Trump’s US, Christianness becomes regressive anti-abortion laws and moves to end Roe V Wade. In Modi’s India, Hinduness means that one can be murdered for eating beef.

The Parliamentary Group’s promotion of identity politics and ‘Muslimness,’ has, therefore, everything to do with appeasing the religious-Right by pushing the false narrative of an ‘authentic’ Muslim: a homogenised caricature imposed upon a diverse people by fundamentalists-playing-victims.

This feeds into stereotypes, and collaborates in the erasure of class politics, dissent and political and social struggles; it diminishes solidarity both within and without the so-called group. Also, ironically, it actually exacerbates racism by insisting that brown and black citizens are ‘different’ and in need of paternalistic protection and treated with hyper-sensitivity in case (god forbid) they start burning books…or worse.

The politics of difference (and superiority) have always been a pillar of fascist and racist politics whether that difference is based on race or – as we now increasingly see – ‘culture.’ (Whose culture this is does not get discussed. Is it the culture of the Islamists who want to stone people to death or the women and men who refuse and resist?) For me, it is clear as daylight: the adoption of any definition of ‘Islamophobia’ is a triumph for fundamentalists. It has nothing to do with combatting racism.

A few other key points:

  • Religion and belief are personal matters; lived experiences as varied as the people who hold them. Homogenising countless diverse people based on essentialised characteristics is part of a fundamentalist project designed to manage dissent. It has everything to do with power and control, and nothing to do with the right to freedom of belief and religion, or the fight against racism.
  • Equalities legislation already considers discrimination against someone on the basis of protected characteristics such as religion or belief against the law. The insistence on normalising the term ‘Islamophobia’ appeases fundamentalists by conflating criticism of Islam and Islamism with bigotry against Muslims in order to restrict free expression, particularly blasphemy and heresy.
  • Free speech matters most to minorities and migrants, the poor, disenfranchised, witches, apostates and heretics. Popes and imams, capitalists and kings don’t need it; they already have access to all the forms of expression available, as well as the brute violence to back it up. Any limit on free speech limits the rights of the oppressed and aids the oppressor – even if the oppressor belongs to a ‘minority’ religion.
  • Free speech is an individual right. It is not a group right. It is I who decides how to exercise my free speech, not the APPG nor any ‘useful tests’ proposed by some professor such as Tariq Modood proposes to ascertain if my speech is to be considered ‘reasonable criticism’ or ‘Islamophobic.’ With limits, speech is no longer free.
  • Finally, as needs to be clarified in any discussion of Islamophobia: rejecting the term ‘Islamophobia’ itself, or rejecting any attempts at defining it, does not mean that anti-Muslim bigotry doesn’t exist. The rise in hate crimes and xenophobia, the dehumanisation of those deemed ‘other’, the criminalisation of migration and those helping desperate migrants all make the continued fight against racism as urgent as ever. Racism is a matter of life and death at worst and humiliation and discrimination at best for many people from Muslim, minority and refugee backgrounds. But fighting racism by imposing blasphemy laws gives the impression that something is being done against racism. Racism, however, is only being exacerbated by promoting difference and superiority, rather than secularism, citizenship, equality and our common humanity irrespective of background and belief.

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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