Maryam Namazie speaks to Humanist MPs

Maryam Namazie was a guest speaker at a meeting on October 29 with Humanist MPs held at parliament. The meeting was organised by the British Humanist Association.

Maryam spoke about the importance of the Council of Ex-Muslims and the need for a concerted effort against political Islam through the defence of citizenship rights, secularism and humanity without labels.

She noted that the Councils across Europe are representative of a movement in Iran for similar demands, which is bringing political Islam there to its knees. She stressed that a US attack will only further strengthen the Islamic regime of Iran and push back the progressive social movement in that country.

On Trade Unions and Islamic organisations

Today, October 29, the Muslim Council of Britain and London trade unions are holding a conference entitled: ‘Recognising Strenghts and Building Partnerships; Trade Unions and Muslim Organisations in London’ at City Hall. The conference is supported by the mayor of London. Here is the statement of the Council of Ex-Muslims on the conference and the April 2007 joint seminar by the Trade Union Congress and the Muslim Council of Britain entitled Trade Unions and the Muslim Community:

Few of the ordinary people who are identified in Britain as ‘Muslim’ are represented by the Muslim Council of Britain; they are in fact secular and want religion and the state to be kept separate.

For British Trade Unions – that have an outstanding record of fighting for justice and fairness, defending free speech, fighting for workers’ right and defeating the Far Right – to engage with and give credibility to a right wing organisation such as the Muslim Council of Britain is unfortunate and mistaken. The MCB draws inspiration from the neo-fascist Jammaat-e-Islami. British Trade Unions have pioneered the struggle for equality, diversity and the rights of women and LGBT members. The Muslim Council of Britain has, for example, openly declared that gay and lesbians are unacceptable and harmful and maintained the discrimination against millions of women by the imposition of sexual apartheid and the veil.

For British Trade Unions to link to such right-wing Islamic groups is to betray the memory of Trade Unionists across the world who have died in the struggle against political Islam and the struggle for political and trade union freedoms British workers have fought for over centuries.
British Trade Unions should approach British ‘Muslims’ as fellow workers and encourage them to fully participate and integrate with other workers in Britain . It is a mistake to give credence to self-styled and self-appointed leaders of reactionary religious organisations.

We appeal to UNISON, Unite, SERTUC and other Trade Unions in London and the UK to maintain their heritage of secular and progressive thinking and not link to stereotypes of medievalism.

Johann Hari: Why do we ignore the plight of ex-Muslims?

Published today on The Independent
25 October 2007

Imagine a woman – let’s call her Beth – who has been an unthinking atheist all her life, just because her family and her friends are, too. One day, she decides to convert to Islam. As soon as she dons the hijab, her neighbours start to swear and spit at her in the street. A brick is thrown through her window; while she is sleeping, her car is torched.

When she speaks out publicly, the death threats come. She is a “whore” who will be “raped to death”. All the other converts to Islam are receiving the same threats. Some have been beaten. Some are on the run. When they approach the police, they are wary-to-hostile. The officers ask suspiciously: what have you been doing to anger these Muslim-bashers?

If this was happening this way, it would – rightly – be a national scandal. There would be Panorama specials, front-page fury and government inquiries into Islamophobia. But it is happening – only in the reverse direction. All over Europe, there are Muslims who are exercising their right in a free society to change their religion, or to become atheists. And they are regularly being threatened, beaten and burned-out, while the police largely stand by, inert.

Ehsan Jami is an intelligent, softly-spoken 22-year-old council member for the Dutch Labour Party. He believes there should be no compromise, ever, on the rights of women and gay people and novelists and cartoonists. He became sick of hearing self-appointed Islamist organisations claiming to speak for him when they called for the banning of books and the “right” to abuse women. So he set up the Dutch Council of Ex-Muslims. Their manifesto called for secularism – and an end to the polite toleration of Islamist intolerance. As he put it: “We want people to be free to choose who they want to be and what they want to believe in.”

Ehsan was immediately threatened with death. He was kicked to the ground outside the supermarket. He was grabbed in a street with a knife put to his throat. He can’t afford to be glib about the risk: he remembers the near decapitation of Theo Van Gough on the streets of Amsterdam. Yet instead of rallying to Ehsan, his party condemned him. The Dutch deputy Prime Minister, Wouter Bos, said they disapproved of an organisation that “offends Muslims and their faith”.

In Britain, my friend Maryam Namazie recently set up the British Council of Ex-Muslims. She was immediately flooded with calls from frightened people who wanted to join but were too intimidated. Endless phone threats inform her that she will soon be beheaded – but she has learned that the police just aren’t interested. “They have never been very helpful,” she says. “They act as if it’s your fault for ‘provoking’ these people, when in fact the Islamist movement uses threats and intimidation as a tool to silence their critics.”

People raised on the honeyed multicultural platitudes that religions such as Christianity and Islam are all about love and hugging puppies will wonder why these people would take such risks to leave their faith. This week I interviewed Mina Ahadi, the founder of the German branch of the Council of Ex-Muslims, after she was named Secularist of the Year.

Mina is a warm fifty-something woman with a big laugh, and when we meet – in a house in London I can’t disclose for safety reasons – she is wearing a big jumper and small, wire-rimmed glasses that make her look like any other German Hausfrau. But she has a very different story, taking me back to her childhood in rural Iran. She tells me: “As a Muslim girl, I was not allowed to do so many things. From the age of 12 onwards I was basically not allowed to leave the house. I couldn’t play on the street, I couldn’t mix with boys, I couldn’t even do the shopping. I hated it. There was terrible violence towards the women in my community, everywhere. One of my cousins, Nahid, went into a man’s house unaccompanied, and the men in my family tied her to a tree and whipped her. When I read the Koran for myself I was shocked, because many of these things are actually recommended by the Prophet Mohammed.”

She soon realised she was an atheist, a view reinforced by her reading of Charles Darwin. When she went to university, the Islamists began to force a theocracy on the Iranian people. She refused to accept the mass sackings of women and the enforced veiling. She was beaten for speaking out, and had to go into hiding. One day, her husband and four of their friends were taken away. Nine months later, in another hiding place, she read that they had been executed.

She decided to seek refuge in Austria, because she read in a book that women’s life expectancy there was higher than men’s, “and I thought – that’s my kind of country!” But she was amazed to find that even in Europe, Islamist groups were being treated as the respected spokesmen for all Muslims by politicians and journalists. Even here, the extreme wing threatened her with death for forming the International Committee Against Stoning to save women, and the police did little. On her visit to Britain, they offered her no protection at all.

If Christian fundamentalists were doing this – as they used to, and would like to again – none of us would hesitate in erupting in rage. But because Islamic fundamentalists are doing it, we feel awkward, and fall silent. The difference is the colour of their skin. There’s a word for this: racism.

Women such as Mina expose a hole in the stale logic of multiculturalism. She shows that secularism is not a “Western” value: she thought of it all by herself, in a rural village in Iran. Yet the attitudes that lead to the persecution of apostates are widespread even within British Islam, because we patronisingly assume it is “their culture” and do not challenge it. Some 36 per cent of British Muslims between the ages of 18 and 24 think apostates should be murdered. The younger British Muslims are, the more they believe it – a bad sign for the future, unless we start arguing back. This isn’t just kids sounding off. Some act on it: a Despatches documentary this year, Unholy War, found dozens of cases of apostates having their cars blown up, their kids threatened and even being beaten and left for dead, on British streets.

One way to keep up the pressure for this reform within Islam is to have a thriving movement of ex-Muslims. They demonstrate to ordinary Muslims that if they are appalled by the unreformed bigotry of their faith as it currently stands, there is a rich and rewarding alternative – secular humanism.

If we in Europe do not defend people like Ehsan and Maryam and Mina, who are fighting fundamentalist thugs for the basic human right to believe and say what they want, do we deserve these rights for ourselves?

Congratulations Mina Ahadi!

Maryam Namazie’s congratulatory message to Mina Ahadi on winning the National Secular Society’s 2007 Secularist of the Year award, October 25, 2007

Dear Mina

Your winning the 2007 Secularist of the Year award is a cause for celebration for people across the world. This well-deserved honour reiterates your leading role in the battle for secularism, rights and a world worthy of 21st century humanity.

You and your movement have always been about saving lives and putting people first. Thanks in large part to your efforts, it is this life-affirming politics that is finally gaining the recognition it deserves.

Putting people first is revolutionary in a world where people are dehumanised and deemed to be represented by political Islam or US militarism and labelled by a million characteristics beginning with religion, nationality or ethnicity and never ending in human.

In such a world, millions of often resisting and dissenting people are deemed to be represented by the likes of the misogynist and inhuman Islamic regime of Iran, the Muslim Council of Britain or the Islamic Human Rights Commission. In such a world, opposing the political Islamic movement and defending its victims is deemed to be in aid of US militarism whilst opposing US militarism is deemed to be in support of political Islam. In such a world, people, real live human beings, are absent from the equation.

To bring people back into the equation, to give their dissent and resistance a voice, to defend humanity without labels, is what you and your movement have done. This recognition is a victory for all of us.

I salute you.

Maryam Namazie

One law for all

October 22, 2007

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain notes with concern the Islamist campaign to give legal weight to Sharia law within British law. The campaign seeks to influence family and legal practitioners into dealing with particularly children of Muslim parents in accordance with Sharia law.

Universal principles and laws must apply to all, and practitioners must understand that no section of the population should come under the jurisdiction of religious laws under the guise of multiculturalism and legal pluralism. It is discriminatory and unfair to have different and separate standards and norms for ‘different’ people. Children in particular must be given full protection, rights, and equality.

Priority must be given to the welfare of children not religion.

On 2007 National Secular Society’s Secularist of the Year Award Winner Mina Ahadi

Congratulations to the brilliant Mina Ahadi who won the 2007 Secularist of the Year award this Saturday October 20! I will pass on any messages of congrats you post here or email me.

Here is what Richard Dawkins said:

I have long felt that the key to solving the worldwide menace of Islamic terrorism and oppression would eventually be the awakening of women, and Mina Ahadi is a charismatic leader working to that end. The brutal suppression of the rights of women in many countries throughout the Islamic world is an obvious outrage. Slightly less obvious, but just as outrageous, is the supine willingness of western liberals to go along with it. It is worse than supine, it is patronising and condescending: “Wife-beating is part of ‘their’ culture. Who are we to condemn their traditions?” A religion so insecure as to mandate the death penalty for apostasy is not to be trifled with, and ex-Muslims who stand up and fight deserve our huge admiration and gratitude for their courage. Right out in front of this honourable band is Mina Ahadi. I salute her and congratulate her on this well-deserved award as Secularist of the Year.

Here is introduction Keith Porteus Wood, the Executive Director of the National Secular Society’s gave on the day:

What can the National Secular Society say about the winner of this year’s Secularist of the Year award – other than to affirm our deepest admiration for Mina Ahadi’s courage and commitment?

Mina Ahadi started her serious political activities when she was 16 and living in Iran. She was at university in 1979 in Tabriz at the time of the Iranian revolution and she began immediately to organise demonstrations and meetings to oppose the compulsory veiling of women. This courageous dissent got her noticed by the Islamic regime’s authorities and soon she had to go underground to avoid retribution.

The end of 1980 her house was raided by the police and her husband and 4 of their comrades arrested. Mina escaped only because she wasn’t at home at the time.

Her husband and the 4 arrested were all executed by firing squad soon after. She lived underground for some time and then fled to Iranian Kurdistan in 1981, where she continued to struggle against the Islamic regime for the next ten years. In 1990 she went to Vienna. She moved to Germany in 1996 and has lived in Europe since then.

In all that time, Mina Ahadi has struggled mightily for the rights of women. She founded the International Committee against Stoning – which now has over 200 branches throughout the world. She also heads the International Committee against Executions and is the spokesperson for the newly formed women’s rights organisation, Equal Rights. She formed the Central Council of ex-Muslims in Germany early this year to help people renounce Islam and religion should they so wish.

This brilliant idea has now been replicated in several other European countries, including in Britain by our own Maryam Namazie.

Undeterred by the inevitable death threats, Mina has pressed on, determined as ever to protect women from the ravages of Islam.

Apostasy, of course, is forbidden in Islam and in some Islamist states it carries the death penalty – including in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan and Mauritania.

She calls such states “Islam-stricken” and her own experience of living and suffering under such regimes has made her ever more determined to rescue others from their clutches.

I cannot tell you how proud the National Secular Society is to honour this wonderful, compassionate, kindly but strong-as-steel woman. Ladies and gentlemen, Mina Ahadi.

Condemn the Attempt to Assassinate a Labour Activist from Sanandaj

On October 18, Majid Mohammadi, one of the worker activists of city of Sanandaj was attacked by masked armed men of the Islamic Republic and got wounded seriously. At the present, he is in Amir Alam Hospital in Tehran.

The worker-communist Party of Iran strongly condemns this criminal act. The Party will use its entire means in Iran and abroad to organize a strong line of protest against this new crime of the Islamic Republic. The WPI calls on all libertarian women and men to protest against this act.

The use of masked terrorists against workers is the continuation of defeated efforts of an exhausted regime in order to terrorize the society and the workers who form the front line of the struggle to topple the Islamic Republic. The widespread wave of public executions and stoning, the attacks against women under the pretext of women’s disobedience from Islamic dress codes, attacks against worker activists, teachers, and student leaders, sentencing worker leaders to lashes and imprisoning and torturing of student activists have fallen short to terrify and pull back the struggle of the people in Iran against the regime. On the contrary, these atrocities have caused widespread international support for the people of Iran. The protests in defence of Mahmood Salehi and Mansoor Asanloo on August 9 that was held in several cities around the world, widespread demonstrations on September 7 and October 10, and the divulgement of the Islamic regime for its atrocities and crimes is the answer that the Islamic Republic received from the international community. The response of the people inside Iran against these atrocities has been even stronger. The protests against Ahmadinejad in Tehran University on October 8, the united march of Haft-tape workers demanding their rights, prevalent meetings and demonstrations in defence of children rights the biggest of which was held in Sanandaj; all these show that despite its barbaric acts the Islamic regime is facing extensive and rising popular protest and resistance. These protests are leaning towards left and are getting more organized every passing day and carry the stamp of the working class. The Islamic Republic has already lost this battle on the political front. The Islamic regime looks for its only way to persist through inventing new types of atrocities and terrorizing the public.

The attempt to murder a worker activist from Sanandaj should be placed within this context. So understood, confronting this criminal act becomes even more important. We should show to the Islamic Republic that use of such means would cause massive international protests. All libertarians of the world, especially those in Sanandaj should protest against this crime and should condemn the Islamic regime; they should embrace Majid Mohammadi’s family in solidarity. The youth and the students should protest the assassination attempt against Majid Mohammadi on a nationwide scale and should demand the arrest and punishment of those responsible. Everybody should go to visit Amir Alam Hospital to show that this crime will be answered by massive waves of protests. Workers all around the country should openly condemn the murder attempt of Majid Mohammadi in their communiqués, pamphlets and in their general assemblies; they should demand immediate and unconditioned release of Mahmood Salehi, Mansoor Asanloo, and all political prisoners. The Islamic Republic should face the fact that an attempt to murder a worker activist will not terrify the public but will cause a wave of massive and extensive protests. This is the only way to confront the dirty means of assassination that is used by the Islamic regime.

The Worker-communist Party of Iran wishes quick recovery for Majid Mohammadi and deeply sympathizes with his family and comrades. The WPI works in order to organize extensive and massive protests against this barbaric act and against the Islamic Republic internationally. The Worker-communist Party of Iran calls on all libertarians, worker unions and progressive organizations all around the world to actively protest the assassination of worker activist, Majid Mohammadi.

Worker-communist Party of Iran
October 19, 2007

Support for the Workers in Iran

Support for the Workers in Iran at the Solidarity Week of the International Transport Workers’ Federation

To: The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF)

Dear Comrades

We have been informed that your federation has decided on a number of actions in defense of Mansoor Asanlou, the chairperson of the Union of Municipal Transportation Workers of Tehran and the Vicinities, during week of solidarity with transport workers of the world between October 15th and October 22nd.

The International Labor Solidarity Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran appreciates this decision. This is another valuable step following the international campaign to free Mansoor Asanlou and Mahmood Salehi that was called on by your federation and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) on August 9.

As you may know, beside Asanlou, the Islamic Republic has also detained Ebrahim Madadi and Mahmoud Salehi. Ebrahim Madadi is a member of executive committee of the Union of Municipal Transportation Workers of Tehran and the Vicinities. He has been arrested on August 9, the day of international support for workers in Iran, and has been in prison since then. Mahmoud Salehi, one the well-known worker leaders of city of Saqez in province of Kurdistan, has been imprisoned by the Islamic Republic for more than seven month despite the malfunction of his only kidney, which threatens his life. Mahmoud Salehi had formerly been detained and imprisoned two more times.

Nevertheless, eleven workers that had been arrested on May Day were sentenced to 90 days of imprisonment and 10 lashes. Their names are Khaled Savari, Eqbal Latifi, Yadollah Moradi, Tayyeb Molayei, Fars Goveyliyan, Sadiq Amjadi, Habibullah Kalkani, Muhiyiddin Rajabi, Tayyeb Chatani, Sadiq Sobhani, and Abbas Andaryari. Two well-known worker leaders in Sanandaj, Sheys Amani and Sadiq Karimi, have been sentenced to 2.5 years of prison. Five other worker activists, Ata Hosseini, Rahim Hosseini, Kamel Hakimi, Khaled Bikhali, and Anwar Hosseiynzadeh, who had been arrested during the demonstration for release of Mahmoud Salehi, have been sentenced to 40 lashes and 91 days of prison.

Ending oppression and threats against Iranian worker activists; unconditional and immediate release of detained worker leaders Mahmoud Salehi, Mansour Asanlou, and Ebrahim Madadi; condemnation and prohibition of lashing worker activists; condemnation of the attacks against workers’ protests are among the urgent demands of the workers in Iran. In the week of solidarity with transport workers of the world these demands should be emphasized as the headlines of international solidarity with the workers in Iran:

1-Unconditional and immediate release of detained worker leaders Mahmoud Salehi, Mansour Asanlou, and Ebrahim Madadi;

2-Abolition of prison and lash sentence against the workers that were detained on May Day in Saqez and Sanandaj, and stopping such sentences against workers;

3-Ending oppressions and threats against the worker leaders and activists in Iran;

4-Condemnation of the attacks of police forces to workers’ protests; a recent example of such atrocity is the attack against the picket lines of Shoushtar Paper Factory and Karoun Sugar Factory workers almost a month ago.

In solidarity;

Shahla Daneshfar
Coordinator of the International Labor Solidarity Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran
October 14, 2007

A healthy society cannot privilege religious belief

Press Release
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
10.10.07

British Universities have a public duty to immediately terminate the studies of any medical students refusing to attend lectures or answer exam questions on alcohol-related or sexually transmitted diseases. If a medic is not competent to deal with such diseases then there can be no question of that person ever becoming a doctor; it follows therefore that there is no point in training doctors with such critical gaps in their knowledge.

A healthy society cannot privilege religious belief. We do not allow vegetarian medics to turn their backs on mad-cow disease, or non-smokers on emphysema. This is an Islamist campaign to push boundaries, to undermine civil society and the universal right to health care and to discriminate on the basis of religion. It must be met with zero tolerance.

The General Medical Council and the British Medical Association should make clear that those who put their own personal beliefs before the health of patients and the public have no place in the medical profession.

Capital punishment: the most deplorable form of deliberate murder

In commemoration of the International Day against the Death Penalty on October 10, I refer those who have not yet done so, to read Mansoor Hekmat’s piece in opposition to what he calls the most deplorable form of deliberate murder. You can read the interview by clicking here.

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I have just read that the US supreme court will soon decide on whether to ban execution by lethal injection if it is deemed to be ‘cruel and unusual punishment’.

Of course its cruel and unusual but isn’t that what the death penalty is?

A ban on lethal injections is clearly not enough.

It’s not enough till the death penalty is banned everywhere.

On October 10, there are demonstrations across the world against this vile and inhuman state murder.

Join them.