See interview in English with Maryam Namazie by Eli Vieira, President, LiHS – Secular Humanist League of Brazil below or here. Maryam is now an Emeritus member of the LiHS.
You can see the interview in Portuguese here.
LiHS: You are a very busy activist taking a stand for a number of noble causes such as equal rights for women in Islamic countries, ‘one law for all’ (against Sharia law) in the UK, and support for those ex-Muslims who would have been perhaps executed for the ‘crime’ of apostasy. From whence comes all that energy? Have you always been like this and supported these causes?
Maryam Namazie: I have been active for over twenty years now – much of it the result of having lived through a revolution and witnessed its suppression and expropriation by the political Islamic movement in Iran. All the great revolutions – like the French, Russian and Iranian ones – change the world we live in and affect generations even when they are crushed as was the case in Iran (though we still see the revolutionary movement alive and well in Iran today).
And I think while we all hear about or live through things that outrage us into action, it does help a great deal to be linked into and part of progressive social movements and political parties as I am. For me, the determining moment came in 1994 when I was sitting in an Iranian refugee camp in Turkey and first heard of the late Marxist and worker-communist Mansoor Hekmat who has been my hero ever since – and that of any entire generation in Iran. I feel stronger because of it.
LiHS: You witnessed the upsurge of two Islamic states – Iran and Sudan. Are these a threat for the future of humankind? Could there be an Islamic state in which human rights are respected?
Maryam Namazie: Islamic states are a threat to humankind though not the only one – US-led militarism is another. I do think the two feed off each other and need the other for legitimisation in the same way that Israel and Hamas do or the Soviet Union and the US did during the Cold War. But like any threat much depends on the resistance it meets. Worse threats have been pushed back by the working class and progressive movements and this will be too.
In my opinion, an Islamic state that respects human rights is impossible; in fact the two are antithetical. It is the same for any religious state where religious dogma and rules take precedence over rights and freedoms and real live human beings. In fact religion is at its best when it restricts and represses. Religious laws and states belong to an era of medievalism and brutality. The enlightenment managed to push back the Church’s role in public life to a large extent – the same is needed with Islam in political power.
LiHS: Since the outbreak of riots against the supposed results of Iran’s last election, the issue has since almost vanished from mass media in the western world, or at least in Brazil. A friend of mine in Iran has almost been arrested. Do any of the organisations you represent, particularly Equal Rights Now, have privileged access to information on what is happening there? How great is the support for democracy and secularism in Iran?
Maryam Namazie: News on the situation in Iran may have vanished but the protests are ongoing; people use any excuse to come out and show their opposition. The fraudulent election was one such case as everyone knows elections in Iran are not elections by any standards. I think the protests are not one off riots but the reflection of an unfolding revolution in Iran – one that could herald a new dawn for the country and the world.
Many of the organisations I am involved with – including the 24 hour New Channel TV – which is constantly being jammed by the Islamic regime of Iran because of its importance and the Worker-communist Party of Iran have wide reaching contacts within Iran. In fact New Channel TV has millions of viewers and receives hundreds of calls a day from Iran. The message coming out of Iran is very clear if one cares to listen and that is that the days of the Islamic regime are numbered and that people want nothing less than to drag Iran into the 21st century.
LiHS: What do you do in your everyday time in order to live a happy and interesting life, beside your tireless efforts to promote human rights and secularism in the world?
Maryam Namazie: I have a four year old son, which is the best thing that has ever happened to me. If I had known how wonderful it is to have children I would have had many more but unfortunately it’s a bit late for me to have a large family given that I am 43 now. I also have a wonderful partner and loving family and friends, which I think are so important. A lot of my personal time goes into being with my family but when I can I love to watch movies (sadly I love any romantic comedy no matter how cheesy) or music videos, dance, and I could sit in a café all day every day and not tire of watching people passing by.
LiHS: What is the role of science in your worldview? Does it have anything to do with your views about Islam and Christianity? What in your opinion is the common evil between Islam, Christianity and other religions?
Maryam Namazie: Science represents free inquiry, improvement, and human advancement whereas religion represents dogma, medievalism and regression. I think all religions are the same – Islam only matters more now because it is linked to a political movement.
LiHS: Do you think atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and sceptics from Latin America as ourselves could help you in any of your causes? How?
Maryam Namazie: Of course – I mean where would we be without the support of civilised humanity everywhere? There are so many ways to help too – and every act of support however small is appreciated and crucial for us. It could be anything from signing up to our campaigns, donating to our cause, volunteering, including by translating our materials, publicising our work in the Latin American media and amongst people and organisations there and so on. On November 21, we are organising a rally against Sharia and religious laws in Britain and in support of secularism and equal rights. We are asking people to stand with us in city centres across the globe to support our action. It doesn’t have to be very big – even a few people holding a banner or a placard saying no to Sharia and religious laws. We would post the various actions with any photographs on our website. Maybe some of your readers might be able to do something in support of our rally on November 21?
LiHS: Would you come to Brazil for a possible future meeting of freethinkers and human rights activists? We promise we wouldn’t let Catholics baptise you.
Maryam Namazie: Oh well then, yes I would love to. I will go anywhere I am invited to share information and meet friends but also to confront opponents – and what better place than Brazil. I’m not too worried about being baptised – after all it means nothing to me – and in any case the National Secular Society has a debaptism certificate if I need it!
LiHS: Do you have any other advice for LiHS as a starting secular humanist organisation in Brazil?
Maryam Namazie: I wish you all the success in the world – I think it is hugely important for all of us to have an organisation like yours in Brazil. Even newly formed and small organisations can make a world of difference so keep at it. You have all our support and warm wishes and please do call on us if there is anything we can do to help.
LiHS: Maryam Namazie, it’s been a great pleasure talking to you. You are surely one of the most admirable women in the world, and we look forward to hearing from you many times in the future.
Maryam Namazie: That’s very kind of you to say. It has been a pleasure and I know we will be working together for many years to come.