We need your help

Dear friends

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain was one year old on June 21. [We are asking members and supporters to join executive committee members for drinks to celebrate our anniversary in central London on 5th July 2008 from 2pm onwards. For more details, please RSVP by emailing us.]

For many, this will come as a surprise given the organisation’s importance and the scope of its activities so far. In the short time since the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain was launched in June 2007, it has achieved much with volunteers alone. Some of the highlights are:

• We currently have 120 members and 90 supporters. Given that membership in our organisation comes with certain risks, these numbers represent many more that are unable or unwilling to renounce religion and Islam publicly. Moreover, there are thousands of members across the world and councils have been formed in a number of countries.
• Our website has 7-8,000 unique visitors a month and up to 298,729 hits per month; our forum has over 300 members and is a crucial place for people to debate, share information and talk about issues and problems.
• We have provided referrals and assistance to tens of ex-Muslims in need of refuge and in fear for their safely and lives.
• We have organised a successful launch in the Houses of Parliament in June 2007, which was covered in all the major newspapers. So far, over 45,000 people have seen the launch on youtube. We also organised a conference in March 2008 on the topic of “Sexual apartheid, political Islam and women’s rights” and are organising a one year anniversary celebration in central London on 5th July 2008 and an International Conference entitled Challenging Islam and Political Islam on October 10, 2008.
• Our spokesperson, Maryam Namazie, has written articles and been quoted in the media and appeared on a number of television programmes. In March 2008, Times published an article on Maryam entitled: It’s time to take a stand against Islam and Sharia, Maryam Namazie, head of the Council of Ex-Muslims in Britain, says that rights are for individuals, not religions or beliefs. Also in February 2008, Elle Quebec selected Maryam as one of the top 45 women of 2007.
• Maryam has also spoken at numerous events and conferences including to Humanist MPs at the Houses of Parliament, the European Parliamentary Working Group on Separation of Religion from Politics, and at the World Humanist Congress in Washington, DC in early June.
• 26 MPs supported an Early Day Motion in support of the CEMB’s launch…

Clearly, though, we cannot continue like this for much longer – as a solely volunteer-run organisation without office space or any substantial resources. This untenable situation has to change – and soon – if the CEMB is going to give those who leave Islam the full support they need, challenge political Islam, defend humanist, secularist and progressive values from the perspective of those who have suffered and lived under Islam, and change society for the better.

It can with the support of like-minded people. With your donation – however small or for that matter large – we can begin to further professionalise the organisation and carry out life-saving and crucial work, such as:
* Provide support to atheist freethinking ex-Muslims by breaking the taboo that comes with renouncing Islam and religion but also to provide access to services, resources and information for those who fear for their lives.
* Document and highlight the status of ex-Muslims.
* Respond and challenge the political Islamic movement.
* Campaign against the political Islamic movement, sharia law and in defence of rights, free expression, and secularism.
* Create a regular publication and annual report to inform members, supporters, media and the public about activities, campaigns and positions.
* Work closely with kindred organisations and others on issues of mutual concern.
* Facilitate the establishment of Councils of Ex-Muslims internationally. Right now we have already had requests from the USA, Canada, Australia, and other European countries but have been unable to meet the demand for assistance and support and more…

In this day and age, political Islam is one of the greatest threats to civilised humanity. Challenging this movement and supporting those on the frontlines risking their lives to stand up to this reaction is a task for 21st century humanity.

If you can, please donate. You can:
* Send a cheque made payable to the CEMB and mail to BM Box 1919, London WC1N 3XX, UK.
* Donate via Worldpay on our website by going to this link: http://www.ex-muslim.org.uk/.
* Leave a legacy to our organisation.
* Hold a fundraiser for us either at home amongst your friends or organise larger fundraisers, concerts or socials.
* Mention CEMB in articles and letters to the editor that you write…

You will help decide the success of the CEMB and its place in progressive history. Thank you.

Maryam Namazie
Spokesperson

P.S. For more information or an update on our activities visit our website: http://www.ex-muslim.org.uk/. To read Maryam’s latest speech entitled freedom of expression and political Islam presented at the World Humanist Congress in Washington DC on June 6, click here. To see her speak at the alternative Islam conference in Koln Germany on 31 May, click here.

Freedom of Expression and Political Islam

Freedom of expression matters. It is not a luxury, a western value and it’s certainly not up for sale (though obviously governments and the UN mistakenly think it to be so).

Sometimes – actually more often than not – it is all we have.

But like many other rights and freedoms, it becomes most significant and finds real meaning when it comes to criticising that which is taboo, forbidden, sacred.

Freedom of expression matters most, therefore, when it comes to criticising religion.

I think this criticism has always been an important vehicle for progress and the betterment of humanity’s lot in centuries past. This is also true today in the 21st century and particularly with regard to Islam.

Of course Islam is no different from other religions. You can find just as much misogyny, cruelty and inhumanity in the Bible or other religious books as you can in the Koran. And I don’t think Islam, Christianity, Judaism or what have you are fundamentally any different from Scientology or Moon’s Unification Church, which are deemed to be cults endangering social and personal development. After all, isn’t that what religion is?

But even so, today – as we speak – there is still a distinction to be made between religion in general and Islam in particular but for no other reason than that it is the ideology behind a movement that is, in many places, part and parcel of the state, the law, criminal so-called ‘justice’ or injustice system or sharia law and educational system.

I think this point is key for a principled criticism of Islam and more importantly a progressive and humane response to the outrage of our era.

This means, firstly, that we have a duty to criticise Islam; this goes beyond the mere right to and freedom of speech and expression.

I am always taken aback by complaints about how reports on Islam often concentrate on the subject of violence and rarely focus on the reality of Islam in everyday life. In fact, though, the reality of Islam in everyday life is far more violent than anything that can be fathomed. Entire generations slaughtered over decades – long before 9/11 – and buried in mass graves in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The human cost of Islam in power is enough of a reason – the only necessary reason – to make criticism a task and duty.

After all, it is impossible – let me repeat impossible – to challenge a political movement that has wreaked havoc primarily for the people of the Middle East and North Africa if you are not allowed to fully and unequivocally criticise its ideology and banner.

I know some say that the problem is not Islam but the fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. But in my opinion, you can’t have Islamic feminism, Islamic reformism, Islamic democracy, Islamic human rights, and moderate interpretations of Islam when it is in power.

Of course there are innumerable Muslims or those labelled as such who have humanist, secularist, moderate, egalitarian, atheist, communist and other progressive viewpoints but this is not one and the same with Islam in power being as such.

In my opinion, a ‘moderate’ or ‘reformed’ religion is one that has been pushed back and reigned in by an enlightenment. And not before.

But criticism of Islam alone is not enough if it does not also come with a criticism of the political Islamic movement and religion industry. The right wing’s criticism of Islam and its sudden championing of women’s rights in the Middle East – whilst legislating religious morality and misogyny here at home – self-servingly ignores the main issue at hand, which is religion and political power.

If we are going to win this battle again – as in centuries past – we have to push Islam and religion out of the public sphere. Full stop.

And for this, freedom of expression and freedom to criticise religion are key.

I don’t think we can compromise on this because too many lives are at stake. And in my opinion compromise includes the misguided liberal attempts at building interfaith coalitions or deeming all religions and beliefs as equally valid. It also includes the more reactionary sorts of appeasement such as that of the recently launched Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which aims to ‘to promote respect and understanding about the world’s major religions and show how faith is a powerful force for good in the modern world.’

Religion wouldn’t need one public relations campaign after another if it was so good, now would it? Even calling it ‘faith’ and avoiding the term religion won’t get around the fact that it is the genocidaire of our age.

Either way – misguided or purely out of economic and political interests – these endeavours only serve to increase, justify and consolidate the role of religion in society – and are part of the problem rather than any solution.

In my opinion, you have to choose.

You must either defend the human being or you must defend Islam and religion. You can’t defend both because they are incompatible with and antithetical to each other.

Of course this doesn’t mean that people don’t have a right to religion or atheism. Of course they do but as a private affair. Having the right to a religion or belief does not include the right not to be offended or the right to have your belief or religion respected, tolerated, and deemed equal and equally valid. Concepts such as rights, equality, and respect raised vis-à-vis individuals are nowadays more and more applicable to religion at the expense of people and their rights and freedoms. And that’s why a criticism of religion is deemed racism, defamatory, libellous – again concepts originally raised regarding people not religion and beliefs!

Islamists and their apologists have succeeded in blurring the distinction between individuals and beliefs. Their use of rights and anti-racist language – at least in the west – are devious ways of silencing criticism and opposition.

Of course the human being is sacred and worthy of the highest respect, rights and equality but not religions, beliefs, cultures.

Clearly, criticism of Islam and Mohammad are not racist or an attack on Muslims anymore than Christ in a nappy in ‘Jerry Springer the opera’ is an attack or racism against Christians.
Actually it is racist to see Islam and Muslims as one and the same and Islamists and Muslims as one and the same. It is racist to imply that this is the belief of all those deemed to be Muslim when in fact it is the belief system of a ruling class and its parasitical imams, organisations and states. It is racist to imply that people choose to live the way they are forced to. That they actually deserve no better and that their rights are culturally relative. Not that they do but even if everyone believed that women were subhuman and gays perverts, criticism of a belief is not one and the same as attacking the person who holds the belief. Female genital mutilation is a good example. You can criticise and condemn the belief in and practice of FGM, but this does not amount to an attack on women and girls who are mutilated or who support the practice.

This type of politics – knowingly or unwittingly – attempts to make criticism of Islam and religion more difficult. Defining certain beliefs as sacred is a tool for the suppression of society. Saying expression offends is an attempt to restrict it.

I still find it astonishing how religion in power hangs the likes of sweet 16 Atefeh Rajabi and stones Maryam Ayoubi to death – even specifying by law the size of the stone to be used – in Iran or sentences Parwiz Kambakhsh to death in Afghanistan for downloading materials critical of women and Islam from the internet and it is criticism of Islam that is offensive!

In the face of this onslaught, a defence of freedom of expression and a criticism of religion, Islam and political Islam is an historical duty and task but it has to be based within a politics that puts people first, that holds the human being – and nothing else – sacred, if it is to have real meaning and affect real change.

It has to be done in conjunction with a defence of secularism – as the strict separation of religion from the state – rather than mere neutrality. It has to be done alongside a defence of universal rights, citizenship rights, and a humanity without labels other than human.

And it has to be done alongside a criticism of US led militarism – particularly important to say as we are here in Washington, DC. This is not a clash between western and Islamic values. Progressive values were fought for and gained by the working class and progressive social movements and so belong to all of humanity. If we don’t look at it in this way we will make friends with false allies and also fail to make links and show real solidarity with a vast majority fighting on the frontlines against Islam in power and US led militarism in places like Iran.

Also, this is not a clash of civilisations but actually the clash of the uncivilised. Human civilisation exists despite political Islam and US-led militarism and is very much at odds with it. After all, political Islam was brought to centre stage during the Cold War as a green belt around the then Soviet Union and as a response to the rise of the left and working class movement in the Iranian revolution.

Western governments have never had a problem with Islam in power – their only problem was that it had moved out of its sphere of influence since 9/11. In fact, their ‘interventions’ in Iraq for example has only strengthened this movement. In the New World Order, in fact, US-led militarism needs and feeds off political Islam. They are two sides of one coin, with the same capacity for infinite violence and brutality, the same reliance on religion and the same bleak message for the people of the world.

Freedom of expression is one of the only means we have at our disposal to resist both camps of reaction and to protect humanity.

We have to defend it unequivocally and unconditionally.

The above is Maryam Namazie’s speech at a plenary session at the World Humanist Congress in Washington, DC on June 6, 2008

Background and political necessities of third camp

Patty Debonitas interviews Hamid Taqvaee on Third Camp TV

Patty Debonitas: You wrote the manifesto and started the Third Camp movement. Tell us why you wrote the manifesto?

Hamid Taqvaee: The Manifesto of the Third Camp against US Militarism and Islamic Terrorism was written at a time when the conflict between the US and the Islamic Republic of Iran was at its peak. Everybody was talking about the possibility of an invasion of Iran; in the same way they invaded Iraq. It was the beginning of the nuclear crisis, which is still ongoing, with all the ensuing talks about “a military solution”, “economic sanctions as an alternative solution”, and so on, and also the role the Islamic Republic of Iran was playing in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. These were the determining factors involved in writing the Manifesto of The Third Camp. The Third Camp itself was born out of the idea that in those conflicts neither of the two poles, that is, neither the Bush administration, or the Western governments in general, nor the Iranian regime represent the interests of the people of the world. The people, be it in Iran or in the world at large, have their own interests, their own goals, if you like, and thus their own corresponding policies. Therefore, they should be represented by and mobilised as a “third force” in this conflict between the two reactionary camps. That was the whole idea behind building the Third Camp as well as writing its Manifesto.

Patty Debonitas: I think you wrote it in 2006? But what I wanted to know is we have always had antagonism between powerful states, like in the Cold War. And I don’t think that even in the Cold War period neither Russia nor the US really represented anybody other than their own government and the politicians attached to it and some other people who had vested interests in there. Why did the idea that there is nobody representing the people occur to you in 2006?

Hamid Taqvaee: It is very different from the situation we had during the Cold War. During the Cold War one pole was the Soviet Union which was the outcome of the October Revolution. At that time, people wanted freedom, people wanted equality; so a camp took shape around those ideas. (And then, of course, the situation changed in the Eastern camp, that is, in the Soviet camp.) What we had, therefore, was a conflict between the state capitalism, prevailing in the Soviet Union, and its allies, and a Western government type of capitalism, i.e., free market capitalism. This was the basis of that conflict. Of course, one pole, the Soviet Bloc, was always talking in the name of Marxism, socialism, and communism.

But here the situation is totally different. What we call political Islam, or the Islamist movement, was created, all over the world, originally and directly by the US. The US’ role in the creation of the Taliban in Afghanistan, for example, is common knowledge today. Or the way that the Western governments, in general, helped Khomeini and the Islamists seize power as a counter-revolutionary force in Iran in 1979. Both of these poles, the first and second camp, if you will, Western militarism and the Islamist movement, both have the same origin. At the time they called it “the green belt” to be created around so-called Communist Russia (or the Soviet Union). When the revolution in Iran started, the Soviet Union was still a threat for the West. So they thought of creating a “green”, meaning Islamic (as green is a sacred colour in Islam) governments in the countries neighbouring Russia. The West thought of it as a strong “wall”, as a wise defensive tactic, against the Eastern Bloc, or the Soviet camp. That was the reason you had the Taliban against the Russians in Afghanistan. That was also the main reason why Khomeini was helped in 1978-79 by the West to seize power in Iran as a counter-revolutionary force in the name of the revolution. So, those two poles were helping each other against the then Soviet Union. But as soon as the Cold War ended and the Soviet Bloc fell, the previously collaborating camps started to fight each other. Now the Islamist forces had won their own wars, as it were, and therefore began to take care of the problems with their own methods.

The Taliban built a totally brutal regime in Afghanistan whose character was, in the first place, terrorism against the people there. The same thing was, and still is, true about the regime in Iran. As soon as it seized power it turned out to be against women’s rights in Iran, against all liberties, against modernism, against workers, and so on. In short, it was against everything the revolutionary people had set out to achieve. Of course, in the beginning Khomeini came to power because he had raised a pseudo-revolutionary flag against the Shah as the “servant of the foreigners”. And soon after the Shah had fallen he realised, under the force of the revolution that showed no signs of losing momentum, he had to posture against the US to somehow identify his regime with the revolution of the people. The Shah was gone, so now they had to show that they were against the US, against “the great Satan”, as he would put it. Hence, the hostage-taking at the US embassy and the empty “down with America” slogan, which is still being raised after almost 30 years. It is, of course, possible to be genuinely against the US from a totally reactionary, Islamist point of view. In that case, being against the US just means being against modernism, being against the 21st century, being against civil rights, being against civil society. And that is exactly what the Islamic Republic meant and practiced, and still means and practices. All of those rights and achievements, they claimed, had come about as a result of Western influence. For example, if women in Iran did not wear hijab, it was because of Western influence, and the West according to them was evil and represented Satan. We are against that. Or they claimed “Civil Society is a Western concept and that we are a Muslim society believing in the Koran. So torture is okay, because, according to the Quran, you can torture, or kill, or basically do whatever you wish to anyone who is against God and happens to be your captive now.” Or they are against gays because Islam says you have to get rid of gays. You have every right to kill them, execute them, including by putting them in a sack and throwing them off high cliffs. That is what they actually do in Iran. Or they cut off the fingers and/or the feet of the thieves. And other similar savageries. So now, practically from the morrow of the victory of the revolution, we witnessed a very reactionary movement in Iran; the same as with the Taliban in Afghanistan, of course. We call this movement “political Islam”; it is against modernism and all human values represented in Western culture, values that people have gained through the ages. Take secularism and freedom of speech, for example. People of the world, especially the labour movement in many countries, have fought for at least two, three hundred years, from the great French revolution onwards, for a civil society, with separation between church and state, as well as freedom of speech at the core of it. Freedom of speech was fought for, and achieved, especially as a means to criticise religion and in practice to mobilise against religion. These were achievements of the people of the world that Islam totally rejects based on their being “Western values”! They say, “We are against the West, so ‘to us our own culture’”, as it were. And today not even “to us our culture, to the Westerners their culture”, as the Jihadists are now waging their holy war against the “infidel Westerners” at large!

On the other hand, and at the same time, we have a way of thinking in the West called “cultural relativism’, which is what lies hidden, indeed beneath the surface of multi-culturalism as its theoretical cornerstone. It was not just the Koran, it was also Neo-liberalism contained in cultural relativism that welcomed the exact same thing: to us our culture, to them their culture. The Neo-liberal thinkers argued, “Civil Society is for us Western people. Those people are Muslims. They have different values, they have different cultures; they have different lifestyles. Let them be! Don’t criticise them! Who are we to judge!? Even in the West, let’s say, in Germany, male members of a Turkish family kill a female member because she got herself a boyfriend. Even in purely and grossly inhuman instances such as this the defenders of multi-culturalism, the bigoted heroes of cultural relativism, would caution their “fellow-Westerners” against the universal human values by saying, “be careful! They are not of us. They are from an ‘Islamic country’ called Turkey, so it may be OK for them to kill their wife, sister or daughter in defence of what they consider to be their honour.” So you can see that Islamism and multiculturalism are basically two sides of the same coin; they both deny the universality of human rights and human values, albeit from two opposite standpoints.

To summarise: now, after the Cold War, we have a new force in the world. It calls itself the Islamic movement, which is, in character, political Islam, that is, organised Islam endeavouring to conquer state power. It is against the West; but against what in the West? This movement is against progress, modernism, secularism, freedom, civil society and civil values, in a nutshell, against whatever the human race has achieved through the ages which are now found accumulated in, and represented by, Western culture. They just went backwards to the Middle Ages to challenge modernism under the banner of Islam. And, on the other side, we have people in the West who said that’s OK! That’s a new civilisation!! And that is how we came to have the phoney concepts such as “conflict of civilisations”, or the “dialogue between civilisations”, that sort of garbage.

The Third Camp says, “no!” Because when you come to think of it, and in a certain sense, it actually boils down to only two camps. One is civilisation, freedom, the last stage of all the achievements of the people of the world that happens to be found now in the West. But, having said that, it does not mean it originated only in the West. It is the product of hundreds of years of struggle by people across the world for a better, freer life. All those generations of the human race who struggled for freedom, for modernism, for equality, for civil society, for separation of church from the state, and so on, and so forth, struggled for something the end result of which we presently call “Western civilisation”. But, in fact, it is human civilisation, that is, civilisation as a collective achievement of humanity. So that’s one camp, the camp of people, civilised people, which is represented by this Manifesto. And then there are the other two forces that have their own conflicts, but are both totally opposed to humanity at large. Both of them are actually against Civil Society. Islamists say, “We are for an Islamic society so we are against Western Civil Society.” And in the West we have those who say: “There is no such thing as universal civilisation, that is, there are no such things as universal human values as a collective achievement of the whole humanity.” So they are against civilisation as such, indeed, in the name of Post-modernism. Post-modernism is, therefore, as reactionary as Islamism. They have, in my opinion, the same reactionary character vis-à-vis human civilisation, that is, as far as universal human values are concerned, in two different wrappings. Third Camp means, simply put, the camp of the people, the camp of the civilised world.

Patty Debonitas: So anyone can join?

Hamid Taqvaee: Yes, it’s the camp of people who believe in the universality of our values simply as humans. It doesn’t matter whether you are Iranian, Muslim, non-Muslim, whatever. Because if, and only if, we are human beings, so we can be united, that is, we can have the same interests all over the world, regardless of our sex, ethnicity, creed, and race. Such factors do not matter because we are all people, we are all human beings, and, therefore, we love freedom, we love each other, and we want to have a compassionate, modern, technically advanced, civilised society. In this sense, when you come right down to it, you are not only against the Islamist movement because you are a civilised human being, but, by the same token, you are against Bush and Post-modernism as well; you are against all pseudo-spokespersons of “Western civilisation” who want us to recognise “Islamic civilisation” as well. From their standpoint, whatever Islam says “is good for the Muslim people.” Don’t criticise it; don’t even talk about it! “They kill their own daughters, sisters and wives, maybe because their religion or their culture, in general, condones killing in the name of what it considers to be their ‘honour’. Their religion says women are not equal with men. So let it be that way for them.”

Again, just to summarise, we are confronted with a movement with two factions: Post-modernism and Islamism. They are, in character, one and the same reactionary movement as far as humanity, as far as the universal values of the civilised people across the world is concerned. Just forget, for a moment that the US wants to attack Iran. That’s just the political situation at this moment. Our movement, the Third Camp movement, on the other hand, has deeper roots. It goes beyond that particular political confrontation, which could well prove to be only a transitional phase. Our movement is the movement of the people of the world who are represented neither by the Bush administration (or Western governments, in general, or, in a yet wider sense, by Post-modernism and Neo-liberalism) nor by the Islamist forces. They are the people who want to have a civilised, modern society based on liberty and equality. Our movement is the movement of these people, who, first of all, believe people of the world, throughout the world, have common interests, have the same political goals and ideals. Freedom is the same for everybody. Happiness is the same for everybody. Equality is the same for everybody. It does not matter what the colour of your skin or your religious background or your nationality is. It just does not matter. In this sense, the Third Camp is a camp of the people of the world representing the achievements of the French Revolution, the October Revolution, representing Spartacus, representing any movement in the world that has been about fighting for liberty and equality. Liberty and equality are currently being fundamentally denied, theoretically as well practically.

This is, in a certain sense, a new phenomenon, and the Third camp is all about mobilising to fight against it.

Patty Debonitas: Denied by whom?

Hamid Taqvaee: By both sides. By, on the one side, Western governments and Western bourgeoisie, which includes, of course, its theoreticians such as Post-modernist thinkers and strategists. When you come right down to it, Post-modernism involves nothing but denying universal human values. That’s what Post-modernism is all about. Or take Cultural Relativism which is a direct derivative of Post-modernism. If 50 years ago someone asked a thinker in the West, a liberal thinker let’s say, “how do you think the people of Africa should be liberated,” he/she would answer, “they need social welfare, they need good schools, they need hospitals, they need a modern life, they need a civil society.” But, if asked today, he/she would first ask, “what is their religion”, “which ethnic group do they belong to?”, and other questions like these. The same liberals can’t give you a straight answer today, because, for them, now everything about human beings “depends”, in other words, is “relative”, and not “universal”. If you are a Muslim, you could, from their point of view, very well be happy with your hejab. As a Muslim – which, for today’s liberals, is defined as almost everyone just born in what we call an Islam-stricken country – you may very well have accepted lashing and maiming people or pushing them off cliffs as a suitable code of punishment for yourself and those of your culture, as it were. Maybe you as a Muslim even enjoy hunger, because it’s considered a blessing, or you are culturally used to it by now, or, whatever! “Who are we, the Western people, to judge you?” That’s the kind of condescending, reactionary thinking we are up against in the West itself in this day and age! Nobody raises a voice against present day inhumanities, and against the spokespeople of the Western Liberal tradition who condone them in theory and practice through churning out only justifications. Not even the so-called progressive Western opposition! Look at the women’s lib movement today. It raises no objection against hejab in Iran. I haven’t seen a feminist activist today talking about the deprivation of all women’s rights in Iran.

Patty Debonitas: You mean women activists in Europe, for example?

Hamid Taqvaee: Yes. Women’s rights activists in Europe or in the West to be precise. Or civil rights activists in Germany or, let’s say, in Britain, or in US and Canada. They don’t criticise the hellish conditions the Islamic Republic of Iran has created for women. By law, and I mean by law, officially, women count as half of men in Iran. But the feminist movement won’t raise any objection anymore. Why? Because its leaders, thinkers, spokespersons and activists are Post-modernists now! So, not only do they not raise any objections, but, for them, it’s the other way around, in fact. Today they claim it is Iranian women’s right to live by whatever values and standards they believe in. Recognising the right of people to believe in anything they wish is one thing; respecting every belief anyone happens to believe in is quite a different thing. You have the right, and you should judge and criticise religion. That’s the basis of freedom of speech. People began demanding freedom of speech 300 years ago because the church wouldn’t let anyone criticise the Bible, Christ, and so on. So freedom of speech without having the right to criticise religion is just an empty phrase. And now look at the UN Human Rights Council which just recently passed a resolution that says nobody should “insult” religion, especially Islam!

Patty Debonitas: So we are going back?

Hamid Taqvaee: Yes, of course, we are. We are going back to the Middle Ages. Having respect for Muslims, as believers in Islam, is one thing; having respect for Islam itself, having respect for its anti-human content (like the anti-human content of any religion) is something quite different. Because I respect people, because I respect human beings, I respect their right to believe in anything they wish. But, by the same token, I also must have the right to criticise whatever I consider to be against humanity, including religion. If religion is against people which it is, as we have experienced during the Dark Ages for a few hundred years and we know what Christianity did in Europe, and we also have the experience of the Islamic Republic which is presently doing the same in Iran, then we have every right, and not only the right but the duty, indeed, to criticise it; and not only that, but also to fight it.

If religion seizes state power in any society, it will do the same thing as the Taliban did in Afghanistan or the Islamic Republic is currently doing in Iran or Christianity did for 500 years all over Europe. That sort of “skill” in creating Hell on Earth is inherent in religion. So if a state won’t let its citizens criticise religion out of “respect” for religion, and forbids the “insulting” of religion, it simply means that the state has no respect whatsoever for humanity in general! Respecting human beings means I have, as a citizen of universal humanity, the right, that is, the right in practice, to criticise all the beliefs in the world I believe to be against human values. It doesn’t matter whether it is religion or the theory of Cultural Relativism I wish to criticise; whatever the name, it just does not matter. Any way of thinking such as “women are not equal with men”, for instance, is against people, against the whole humanity. It just does not matter whether this belief, this dogma, emanates from God or Mr. Bush or Cultural Relativism; whatever the stamp you put on it, it is against people, and I must have the right to criticise it, and not only that, but to mobilise people, to start a campaign in order to put an end to it; the same way people in Europe put an end to the rule of the church in the Middle Ages.

So my point is that the Manifesto of the Third Camp is not solely rooted in the conflict between the US and Iran. That was the issue back then, but the ramifications of the content of the manifesto go much deeper and further. The Third Camp is a movement against today’s capitalism, today’s bourgeoisie and its states, and all the doctrines we are confronted with, doctrines which, in a very fundamental way and on the philosophical, social, and political levels deny the very essence of humanity. Our movement is a movement for survival; the survival of civilisation. It’s the movement of the people of the world who want to continue to live as civilised human beings. The civilised people of the world want to save their humanity no matter how they are labelled by the other two camps. The civilised people of the world want to save their humanity despite all the strivings by the other camp, or camps, to divide us into different categories such as creed, ethnicity, gender-specific, religion, or race which we, as human beings sans phrase, are not born with. Those categories, or divisions, are human-made, as it were, or, more precisely, fabricated by the ruling classes, by their states, by some almost extinct tribal chiefs in the Middle East, and by the sort of thinkers who think people of the world have no common interests and are, inherently, divided. Now they even claim we have different types of civilisations! I think it’s much closer to the mark to say it is the first time we hear such nonsense! We only have one universal civilisation, which is the achievement of humanity as a whole. But now we are pushed back, and Christianity, Islam, or better to say, religion in general, makes a socio-political come back, claims that we belong to different kinds of civilisation, and that we shouldn’t criticise “other civilisations”! That’s sheer garbage! What we say, from the standpoint of the interests of the people of the world, is that we have to not only criticise those ways of thinking, be it Islamic, non-Islamic, Neo-liberal or Post-modernist, not only should we have the right to criticise such reactionary garbage, but we should also actually mobilise a movement against them. And that movement, we believe, is the Third Camp.

The above is the first part of an interview from Third Camp TV. Thanks to Jamshid Hadian and Patty Debonitas for the above.

Find out more about the third camp by visiting its website.

You can also see Third Camp TV on New Channel.

Siyaves Azeri responds on Fitna

A reader has commented on WPI’s statement about Fitna the movie as follows: “Some people could say that this is PC editorial by someone that should not be PC. When do we people discuss the verses used in the movie? For the moment too much of the global debate is about moviemaker rather then the movie.”

The central point of WPI’s statement about Fitna is that this movie and the uproar surrounding it should be understood within the context of the confrontation between two reactionary poles of state terrorism led by the USA and political Islam. Fitna is not a theological statement, nor is it a purely ideological statement. It is, first and foremost, a political statement that takes the side of one of these reactionary poles. It produces and reproduces certain theses that ironically are supported by both sides of this polarisation.

WPI’s statement correctly emphasises that political Islam as a political force that claims a greater share of power on the global scale nowadays is a product of Western governments and not rooted in the beliefs or culture of the people that live in the region. Political Islam was brought to the fore of the political scene during the Cold War against the rival camp of state capitalism that was led by the Soviet Union, on the one hand, and against egalitarianism, libertarianism, left and communism in the countries of the Middle East that are plagued by Islam, on the other hand. Western governments and political Islamic forces and states are in unison in introducing political Islam and Islamic ideology as the representative of the people in Islam-ridden countries – or those who are known to be “Muslims.” Fitna, the movie also repeats this thesis insistently. It also reproduces an ideological idea that is shared by the two poles of international reactionism: the false dichotomy between the “us” and “them.” The “us,” in this particular case, happens to be the Western governments which, on the one hand flirt with political Islam and Islamic terrorism, support Islamists politically, economically, and militarily, bring them into power and legitimise them as the representatives of the people in countries that are plagued by Islam and the “Muslim population,” while, on the other hand, pass anti-immigrant bills, ghettoise immigrants, promote hatred by falsely pointing to them as the cause of unemployment and the source of crime etc. and leave immigrant ‘Muslims’ to the mercy of mullahs, imams, religious schools – the budget of which is generously provided by these very governments. The “them” happens to be the “Muslim,” whom is claimed to be represented by the political Islamic forces and states – a claim that is also supported fiercely by Western political forces both in position and opposition. What is ignored is the fact that the so-called “Muslim” is the firsthand victim of Islam, Islamic ideology, and political Islam. What is kept hidden is the fact that the so-called “Muslim” has escaped to the West from the atrocities and crimes that are committed by political Islam and Islamic terrorism in the hope of finding humane living conditions.

The politics that Fitna, the movie represents is the immediate ally of the policy that has launched the attack against freedom of speech and expression under the pretext of respecting the beliefs of “them” –Muslims. Fitna does not do this indirectly only, that is, it does not only indirectly ally the holy attack on freedom of expression by providing an alibi or forming the ground for a counterattack on freedom of expression by, for instance, provoking the Muslims or hurting their religious feelings and faith. It directly and immediately reproduces the ground for the attack on freedom of expression by blaming the “Muslim” and not the system of belief that is Islam, itself. Even when apparently Islam is the subject of criticism, it is “criticised” for not fitting Europe, that is, it is not criticised as a system of belief per se but as a religion that suites the “Muslim” but happens to be a threat against the European. Therefore, according to this view, Islam is good if it is exercised against the people in countries that are plagued by Islam, in that case it can be tolerated and there is nothing in it to be criticised.

Fitna also participates in this holy jihad against humanity and freedom of expression by promoting racist views and launching ethnicist, racist attacks on people from a Eurocentric point of view. It responds to one political reactionism with another form of political reactionism; it retaliates one superstition with another form of superstition, which is as dangerous as the other. What both poles of reactionism in this backward confrontation sacrifice is human dignity and the most basic of human rights and the ideas of freedom and equality.

The WPI’s statement does not intend to be “politically correct” as it correctly underlines the political and worldly benefits and positions behind the make of the film Fitna, on the one hand, and the holy war against freedom of expression, basic human rights, and humanity in general, on the other hand. The ideological struggle against reactionism in form of religion, ethnicism, nationalism, racism, political Islam etc. can only be perpetually and insistently actualised if it is a part of a political struggle; an important aspect of ideological struggle is to decipher the political realities and necessities that produce and reproduce ideological structures. In the world today, a persistent ideological fight against Islam in particular and religion in general is tightly interwoven with the political struggle of the pole of humanity against the two poles of international reactionism, namely political Islam and Islamic terrorism and state militarism. WPI’s statement on the occasion of Fitna the movie shows the only possible way to launch this struggle.
Siyaves Azeri is the Head of the Committee of International Relations of WPI. He can be contacted directly.

Islam matters because of political Islam

More than many other things, Islam matters.

But I think it matters mostly because it is the banner of a reactionary political movement.

Otherwise, Islam is no different from other religions.

You can find just as much misogyny, cruelty and inhumanity in the Bible or other religious books as you can in the Koran.

And Islam, Christianity or Judaism are fundamentally no different from Scientology or Moon’s Unification Church, which the German government deems to be ‘cults endangering social and personal development.’

After all, what do they think religion is?

But even so, today – as we speak – there is still a distinction to be made between religion in general and Islam in particular but for no other reason than that it is the ideology behind a movement that is, in many places, part and parcel of the state, the law, criminal so-called ‘justice’ system, judiciary, and educational system.

I think this point is key for a principled criticism of Islam and more importantly a progressive and humane response to the totalitarianism of our era.

This means, firstly, that we have a duty to criticise Islam; this goes beyond the mere right to and freedom of speech and expression.

Clearly, the German government – in fact all European governments – the United Nations, the religious nationalist European left and other apologists for Islam don’t think so. Germany’s Minister of the Interior Wolfgang Schäuble, for example, is so concerned about Islam’s image that he is quoted as saying that media reports on Islam often concentrate on the subject of violence and rarely focus on the reality of Islam in everyday life.

But the reality of Islam in everyday life is far more violent than anything even a minister in a government with close relations with the political Islamic movement could fathom. Entire generations slaughtered over decades and buried in mass graves in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The human cost of Islam in power is enough of a reason – the only necessary reason – to make criticism a task and duty.

After all, it is impossible – let me repeat impossible – to challenge a political movement that has wreaked havoc primarily for the people of the Middle East and North Africa if you are not allowed to fully and unequivocally criticise its ideology and banner.

Now I know some say that the problem is not Islam but the fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. But in my opinion, there can be no Islamic feminism, Islamic reformism, Islamic democracy, Islamic human rights, and moderate interpretations of Islam when it is in power.

Of course there are Muslims or those labelled as such who have humanist, secularist, moderate, feminist, atheist, communist and other progressive viewpoints but this is not one and the same with Islam in power being as such.

In my opinion, a ‘moderate’ or ‘reformed’ religion is one that has been pushed back and reigned in by an enlightenment. And not before.

Criticism of religion has always been an important vehicle for progress and the betterment of humanity’s lot.

And it is within this context that criticism of Islam finds meaning. The right wing’s virulent criticism of Islam and its sudden championing of women’s rights in the Middle East – whilst legislating religious morality and misogyny here at home – self-servingly ignores the main issue at hand, which is religion and political power.

If we are going to win this battle again – as in centuries past – we have to push Islam and religion out of the public sphere. Full stop.

There can’t be any compromise because too many lives are at stake. And compromise includes the misguided liberal attempts at interfaith coalitions thereby increasing the numbers of religions and beliefs that have access to power in society or more reactionary sorts of appeasement such as that of the German government or the likes of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. In case you haven’t yet heard, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation launched recently in order ‘to promote respect and understanding about the world’s major religions and show how faith is a powerful force for good in the modern world.’ Religion wouldn’t need one public relations campaign after another if it was so good, now would it? Even calling it ‘faith’ and avoiding the term religion won’t get around the fact that it is the genocidaire of our age.

Either way – misguided or purely out of economic and political interests – these endeavours only serve to increase, justify and consolidate the role of religion in society – and are part of the problem rather than any solution.

The fundamental problem being that they are more concerned with religion – either apologising for it or trying to show how much better ‘their own’ religion is – than with real live human beings.

In my opinion, you have to choose.

You must either defend the human being or you must defend Islam and religion. You can’t defend both because they are incompatible with and antithetical to each other.

Of course this doesn’t mean that people don’t have a right to religion or atheism. Of course they do but as a private affair.

Labelling millions of people as Muslims and collaborating with Islamic organisations as the German government is doing with its Islamic conferences only helps to hand over millions of often resisting people to the political Islamic movement. This despite the fact that according to the government’s own admission, the Islamic organisations at the annual conferences represent at best 10-15% of those it has deemed to be Muslims.

This type of politics ignores the distinction between the oppressed and oppressor and actually sees them as one and the same. It ignore the important distinction between Muslims and those deemed to be such and Islam and political Islam. It is politics that implies that people want to live the way they are forced to. That they actually deserve no better because it is ‘their own culture and religion’ imputing on innumerable people the most reactionary elements of culture and religion, which is that of the ruling class, parasitical imams and self-appointed ‘community leaders’.

And so, criticism of Islam is deemed racism; it is not.

And so rights, equality, integration are raised vis-à-vis religion rather than the human being. Since when has people’s integration meant the integration of their so called beliefs?

As I have said, whilst criticism of Islam and political Islam is an historical duty and necessity it has to be based within a politics that puts people first to have real meaning and affect real change.

It has to be done but for humanity’s sake.

In the face of this onslaught, secularism, universalism, citizenship rights, a humanity without labels and values worthy of 21st century humanity can only be defended via another transformative enlightenment by this century’s avant-gardes. We must give no more concessions to religion and cultural relativism; we must no longer respect and tolerate inhuman ideals, values and practices. An uncompromising and shamelessly aggressive demand for secularism is only a minimum if we are to ensure that humanity is safeguarded. Today, more than ever, we are in need of the de-religionisation of society – a concerted battle against the religion industry, which is above the law, unregulated and never held accountable for its fatwas, murder and mayhem.

As Mansoor Hekmat, the late Marxist thinker said: ‘It has been proved time and time again that pushing back religiosity and religious reaction is not possible except through unequivocal defence of human values against religion. It has been proved time and time again that preventing religious barbarism does not come about through bribing it and trying to give it a human face, but through the fight against reactionary religious beliefs and practices. What price should be paid… to realise that Islam and religion do not have a progressive, supportable faction?’ (Mansoor Hekmat, In Defence of the Prohibition of the Islamic Veil for Children.)

The above is Maryam Namazie’s speech at an alternative to the Islamic conference in Koln, Germany on May 31, 2008.

The above was first published in WPI Briefing 205, dated June 3, 2008.