Maryam considers the question of who gets to speak for British Muslims. Her answer is no one and everyone.
She says there’s been a huge fuss about the fact that Maajid Nawaz included her in the brief film he made for Newsnight.
In the programme I explained why I define myself as an ex-Muslim. It is not enough for me to call myself an atheist when I receive death threats for leaving Islam. Calling myself ex-Muslim is a public challenge to Islam, Islamism and its death penalty for apostates. Until people are free to come and go as they please and without fear, there is a political necessity to label myself in this way.
Of course it made sense to include her in the film. Vyckie Garrison and Libby Anne have a lot to tell us about the Quiverfull version of Christianity, and ex-Muslims have a lot to tell us about being Muslim. The experience of exes is highly relevant to understanding religions, and all the more so when they are categories who are disadvantaged by those religions.
The point of the programme though is not that I represent the “Muslim community” but that regressive self-appointed imams and Islamist organisations do not necessarily do so. This is an important point that is often ignored in the media and by Government.
There is no homogeneous “Muslim community”. The “community” includes feminists, gay rights activists and those deemed apostates. Muslim does not equate Islamist; Muslim does not equate support for stonings, amputations, gender segregation and women’s inequality.
After all, people’s ethnicity, religion, gender, race, class, ability, sexuality, identity… do not define them; it is their politics and choices that do.
Well I would say both do, but I know what she means – it’s the things we’ve chosen that we really want to represent us, portray us, be what people associate with us.
I have just as much a stake in this debate as anyone else – Muslim or not – because to a large extent my life depends on it. As Islamists tell me all the time, no one is allowed to leave Islam and doing so especially publicly goes beyond the matter of apostasy to a matter of treason. This is they say is deserving of capital punishment in all countries.
You’re not allowed to leave Islam and you’re especially not allowed to talk and write about why you left Islam – it’s all or nothing; permanent or treasonous; total commitment or total crime. A nightmare.