Nahla Mahmoud went on Channel 4’s 4thought.tv programme to talk about her opinions on ‘What does Sharia Law have to offer Britain’ and found herself the only person out of seven interviewed who was against sharia and for secularism.
My interview has triggered a debate in the Sudanese media, both at home and in the diaspora, from which campaigns have emerged inciting people against me calling me a ‘Kafira’ (infidel) and ‘Murtadda’ (left Islam) . I guess Sudanese government officials have time to watch Channel 4 because the Sudanese Armed Forces’ Facebook page posted my picture declaring me an infidel and apostate. Who knew that my private beliefs could denigrate a country’s government, religion, and armed forces?!
I can’t imagine why she would prefer a secular state…
Another issue is marital rape, honour killings and domestic violence: in Pakistan, there are 300 cases of acid burnt women with no charges pressed against their husbands. Here in the UK, a study reported by the One Law for All campaign shows that 4 out of 10 women in Sharia court cases were party to civil injunctions against their husbands. The One Law for All campaign as well as other groups like Secularism Is a Women’s Issue are among the frontline defenders campaigning against Sharia courts, fighting for women’s rights and demanding gender equality.
You might almost think that women had special reasons to care about secularism and that secularism has every reason to be welcoming to women. Almost, but then someone would come along and tell you otherwise.
But Islam is hard on children, too.
Other discrimination against children that must be considered is the lack of exposure to different ideas and thoughts. Children from an Islamic background are often taught to close their minds to new ideas and some are brought up to hate their Jewish, Christian and Hindu classmates, as well as any gay students in their class.
In addition to my own experiences at school in Sudan, one can grab any school curriculum from an Islamic state see how it restricts critical thinking and any questioning of religious doctrine. Evolutionary theory is banned from most educational systems in Islamic states, as it contradicts the creationist story in the Quran. Sudanese professor, Faroque Ahmed Ibrahim, stated in his open letter that teaching evolution at University of Khartoum was among the main reasons he was tortured and imprisoned by the Sudanese government. Moreover, little girls are often taught from birth that they are ‘lesser’ human beings, which results in lower self-esteem and lack of confidence later in life. It is however, the case with most other faith-based schools and education including Christianity and Judaism which, sadly, have the same ‘holy-centralised’ ideology.
It’s hard on gays, non-Muslims, atheists.
Cases such as Iranian Ali Ghorabat for apostasy, Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Haji Aghaee for enmity against God, Sudanese theologian Mahmoud M. Taha for his progressive Islamic views and Egyptian Nasr H. Abu Zaid for his critical views on the Qur’an show the widespread persecution of people who dare to question blind belief.
This is not a thing of the past: just this month Kuwait jailed Abdel Aziz Mohamed Albaz for criticizing Islam, Saudi Arabia jailed Raif Badawi for his liberal views, Tunisian artist Nadia Jelassi is facing prison for her ‘un-Islamic’ artistic pieces. Countries like Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen implement the death penalty for those who renounce or criticize Islam, but they also punish anyone who is progressive, liberal or wishes to think freely and live a modern, 21st century life.
Being an atheist and an ex-Muslim should have been a private matter for me under a secular state. However, under an ‘Islamic Inquisition’ as fellow secular campaigner Maryam Namazi describes, it became necessary for dissenters, especially those who are persecuted, to publicly air our views and call for equal treatment because this persecution will not end until we stand together and speak out. I chose to speak out on Channel 4 and in many other venues in the UK because I cannot stand by and watch others suffer the same discrimination and persecution that I faced. The current persecution of the five groups I discussed above, both here in the UK and around the world, provide a duty for everyone to stand up for the simple principle: all humans are equal.