The solution is the overthrow of Gaddafi’s regime by the revolutionary power of the people!

Statement by the Worker-communist Party of Iran (WPI) on the military attack on Libya:

Following the past few weeks’ widespread atrocities by the Gaddafi regime and army against the dissidents and the revolutionary people, the Security Council of the United Nations passed a resolution which specifically enforces a no-fly zone over Libya. Following this, a coalition of Nato forces, namely the USA, France and Britain, has started aerial military attacks against targets in Libya. In this connection, the WPI draws attention to the following:

The military attack on Libya took place at a time when the Gaddafi regime, aided by its army and armed mercenaries, and having attacked the revolutionary people and forces in a number of the liberated cities and recaptured those cities, was about to attack Benghazi, i.e. the main stronghold of the revolutionary people. The military attack by the Western powers stopped further advances by the Gaddafi army and in particular averted a massacring of the people of Benghazi. Clearly, the Western powers are following their own specific interests with this attack, but it should be noted that prior to the start of the Libyan revolution these states had no problem with the Gaddafi regime and that their present opposition to Gaddafi is something that the revolution has imposed on them. In fact, the current conflict between the Western powers and the regime of Gaddafi is a by-product of the advance of the revolution; the revolution should take advantage of this situation for further advances and for overthrowing Gaddafi and his repressive regime. The revolutionary people and forces should not allow the military attack to impede their intervention on the political stage. Furthermore, any attacks on non-military targets, the social infrastructure and civil life, and on residential areas and civilians, should be strongly condemned and an immediate halt to them demanded.

Meanwhile, the recent military action has opened up a field of rivalries and conflicts of the bourgeois blocs internationally, which can take on even wider and unpredictable dimensions. The only way to confront this situation too is the continuation and widening of the revolution to overthrow the Gaddafi regime. The revolutionary overthrow of the regime of Gaddafi and the establishment of people’s revolutionary rule is the surest way to put an end to all the dangers threatening the people of Libya.

Worker-communist Party of Iran (WPI)
21 March 2011

No Cuts! We won’t pay for their crisis! Join 26 March demo in London

Join National anti-cuts march and rally in London on 26 March 2011

The Worker-communist Party of Iran (WPI) in the UK will be joining hundreds of thousands of protesters this Saturday to say no to cuts in jobs, pay and services:

Assemble 11am Victoria Embankment
March from 12 noon through central London
Rally from around 1.30pm in Hyde Park

WPI – Organisation Abroad (UK)
More info: 07950-924434 wpiengland@gmail.com

Reminder: 12 March International Conference on Women’s Rights, Sharia Law and Secularism

Join us if you can tomorrow for an important conference. You can register at the door on the day so don’t worry about pre-reigstration at this late date. Hope to see you there:
Join us to mark the centenary of International Women’s Day at an International Conference on Women’s Rights, Sharia Law and Secularism
University of London Union, The Venue, Malet Street, London WC1E
(Closest Underground: Russell Square, Goodge Street)
12 March 2011
10.00-19.00 (Registration begins at 10am for a 1030am start)
Speakers include:

Ahlam Akram, Executive Committee member of the Arab Jewish Forum and Joint Action for Israeli Palestinian Peace (UK)
Helle Merete Brix, Writer and Commentator on free speech and the rise of political Islam (Denmark)
Philipp Bekaert, Member of Réseau d’Actions pour la Promotion d’un Etat Laïque (Belgium)
Julie Bindel, Journalist and Campaigner to end violence against women and children (UK)
Patty Debonitas, Spokesperson of Iran Solidarity (UK)
Nadia Geerts, Co-founder of Réseau d’Action pour la Promotion d’un Etat laïque (Belgium)
A C Grayling, Philosopher and Author (UK)
Maria Hagberg, Chairperson of the Network Against Honour-Related Violence (Sweden)
Anne-marie Lizin, Honorary Speaker of the Belgian Senate and Coordinator of the Association against Honour Crimes and Forced Marriages (Belgium)
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson of One Law for All, Equal Rights Now and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (UK)
Elizabeth O’Casey, Vice-President of the National Secular Society (UK)
David Pollock, President of the European Humanist Federation (UK)
Fariborz Pooya, Director of Iranian Secular Society (UK)
Yasmin Rehman Campaigner against violence against women and for community cohesion (UK)
Gita Sahgal, Writer, Journalist and Women’s Rights Activist (UK)
Nina Sankari, President of the European Feminist Initiative (Poland)
Sohaila Sharifi, Women’s Rights Activist (UK)
Annie Sugier, Cofounder of the League of Women’s International Rights (France)
Michèle Vianès, President of Regards de Femmes (France)
Anne Marie Waters, Spokesperson of One Law for All (UK)
There will also be a showing of Ghazi Rabihavi’s play Stoning – ‘A very strong and powerful piece of work, beautifully constructed’ as described by Harold Pinter.
Entry fee: £10 individuals; £3 unwaged and students.

Schedule of the day:
1000-1030 Registration

1030-1040 Opening Keynote

1040-1220 Religion’s Impact on Women’s Rights (A discussion on whether religion is compatible with women’s rights, the limits of religious freedom and the intrusion of culture, religion and tradition on women’s status)

1220-1225 On the Alliance for a Secular Europe

1225-1405 Religion and Secularism (A discussion on whether religion and secularism are interdependent, complimentary or contradictory)

1405-1520 Lunch

1520-1700 Religion and the Law (A discussion on religion’s intrusion in the law and on the importance of secularism)

1700-1720 Tea/Coffee Break

1720-1850 Stoning, A play by Ghazi Rabihavi

1850-1900 Closing Address

The Conference is sponsored by the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, International Committee against Stoning, Iran Solidarity, Equal Rights Now and One Law for All.

For more information, contact:
One Law for All, BM Box 2387, London WC1N 3XX, UK
Telephone: +44 (0) 7719166731
http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/
onelawforall@gmail.com

It’s time for Sharia courts to end not open up!

The Guardian has published a piece calling for the opening up of Sharia courts. You can read the piece here.

Here is my brief response though I will address it more fully at the 12 March conference:

Opposition to Sharia law is widespread and not just in Britain but primarily in countries under Islamic rule because people there are the first victims of such laws and also at the forefront of resisting it.

Even with increased transparency and scrutiny, they will remain bad for women and children in particular. This is because they are based on religious laws, which are fundamentally discriminatory and often brutal.

If one is concerned about people’s rights rather than the right of religion to do as it pleases, then the obvious response would be not increased scrutiny but a demand to end such courts.

That the Beth Din has existed for a century before does not deny the fact that both Sharia courts and the Beth Din have no place in the legal system. If you look at the campaign against Sharia courts in Ontario, Canada, that campaign was able to end the role of all religious courts, including the Beth Din in family matters. The same must be done here.

You can read a One Law for All report on why there is no place for Sharia and any religious laws in Britain or anywhere for that matter here.

Just because the far right or racists also oppose Sharia law doesn’t make it a no go area. It’s like saying Iranian dissidents can’t oppose US militarism because the the Islamic Republic of Iran is also against it.

In fact, it makes it even more urgent for progressive and secular forces to step in and push both Islamism and the far-Right back and defend humanity and 21 century values.

What is important to note is that Sharia law is the demand of Islamism to restrict citizen rights. Opposing Sharia law is a defence of the equality and rights of all citizens irrespective of their background and a much needed challenge to Islamism.

It is not racist to oppose Sharia laws but racism to deem a large number of our citizens to lower and different standards and rights.

On 12 March, One Law for All and some other organisations are holding a conference on Women’s Rights, Sharia Law and Secularism at ULU in London to discuss these very issues particularly given that it is the centenary of International Women’s Day. Join us at the event to learn more and join a progressive movement for equal rights and one law for all.

International Women’s Day, March 8: 100 Years of Struggle for Women’s Emancipation

CALL FOR GLOBAL ACTION

Women in Iran and in many other countries today continue to be deprived of many very basic human rights, although the UN designated March 8 as the day to “honor women” in 1975 and the first international women’s day was celebrated 100 years ago in Europe. A tragic garment factory fire in New York in 1911 killed 149 women workers, but ignited public interest in the US and eventually led to improvements in working conditions. Yet today, millions of women throughout the world work under horrific socio-economic conditions. Equal Rights movements in many countries have achieved much in the past 100 years, ironically Iranian women’s struggle for freedom and equality is hostage to medieval laws imposed by the Islamic regime in Iran.

Women of the world come together on this day to celebrate their achievements and re-affirm their commitment to continue their fight for the complete equality of all women throughout the world.

We invite all individuals and groups advocating equal rights to join us between March 3-13: organize conferences, seminars, rallies, concerts, petition writing campaigns and other innovative initiatives. Our primary focus will be the abolishment of gender apartheid and the abolishment of mandatory dress codes (hejab). We ask you to stand with us, and condemn violation of Women’s rights in Iran.

Through our joint action we ask the United Nations to pressure the Islamic regime in Iran:

• Stop gender-based apartheid

• Stop the incessant execution of political prisoners

• Stop the stoning of women

• Send a delegation to Iran to investigate the conditions of the prisoners

Fact sheet on the discriminatory laws in Iran:

• 1. Testimony of two women is equal to one man.

• 2. A man can marry a female child as young as nine years old.

• 3. A female is considered male property and subservient to him even in matters of sex

• 4. Forceful sex by a husband is not recognized as rape.

• 5. Divorce is the right of man.

• 6. The custody of children is the right of man.

• 7. Men have the right to have up to four wives and many female concubines.

• 8. Inheritance right of a male is twice that of the female.

• 9. Mandatory Hejab (covering of women) with no freedom of clothes for women.

• 10. Honor killings of the women have increased in Iran. Iran Human Rights reported on November

• 29, 2008: “A high ranking official in the Iranian police said in an interview with the daily newspaper Etemaad that there have been 50 honor killings in the last 7 months”

• 11. Article 1117 of the IRI constitution empowers the husband to forbid his wife from accepting a job.

• 12. Article 1005 of the IRI Constitution dictates that the husband has the right to control his wife’s freedom of movement and behavior.

Organisers and Supporters:

1-Nawal ElSaadawi , 2-Partow Nooriala 3-، Elahe Amani,4- Shahin Nawai , 5-Negeen Mossaed, 6-Shadie Shahin, 7-Esmail Khoi, 8-Seba Khoi , 9-Shahla Abghari -10-Siavash Abghari 11-Kourosh Parsa, 12-Jaleh Behruzi, 13-Elahe Machouf, 14–Mahshid Pegahi, 15-Golrokhe Jahangiri, 16-Samar Samremi, 17-Nastran Sameei, 18-Kathy Soltani, 19-Manij Marashi, , 20- Panta Bahrami, 21-B. Kordi, 22- Sorya Fallah, 23-Zohreh Sadeghi, 24–Sima Hafez, 25-F. Noori, ,26- Sudi Zadeh , 27-Farzaneh Azimi, 28-Farid Ashkan, 29-Behrooz Setoodeh,30- Parviz Showkat, 31-Bijan Karimi, 32-Nassrin Almassi,33- Reza Goharzad, 34-shahnaz shayni, 35-hosain mahjoob,36- farah saniefar, 37-reza saniefar, 38-khosrow Bandari,39- mehdi saeidpour, 40-Mo Kamali, 41-A. Mohabbatzadeh, 42-Homayoun Mobasseri, 43-Arjang borhan, 44-Pouran R. Falae, 45-Reza Brahani, 46-Masoud Fathi, 47-Misagh Parsa, 48-Akbar Moarefy,49-Niloofar Beizayee, 50-ShahlA BaharDoost, 51-Ayandeh Azad, 52- Roya Kashefi, 53-Mohammad Amini, 54-Parviz Dastmalchi, 55- Hamid Kowsari, 56- Maliheh Mahamadi,57- Reza Safari, 58- Amir Mombiani, 59-Esmail Khataei, 60-Mazdek Limakashi,61- Torab Mostofi, 62-Manijeh Shokohi, 63-Arjang borhan Azad, 64-Maliheh Zehtab, 65-Vida Meshayekhi, 66- Amir Hosein Tavasoti 67- Hasan Nayab Hashem, 68-Faranak Aeini, 69- Mohammad Barzanje, 70-Aria khosravi, 71- Shahin Anzali, 72- Ahmad Pourmandi, 73- Abar Doustdar, 74- Mehdi Fetapour, 75- Maryam Setat, 76- Ahmad Farhadi, 77-Behruz Beyat, 78. Reza Alavi, 79, Mohammad Taghdiri, 80. Ahmad Taghvaie, 81- Fariba Dawoudi, 82. Bijan Sina 83. Bijen Mehr 84. Mohammad Taghavi, 85. Mehrdad Darishpour, 86. Hassan Naderi 87. Mina Ahadi, 88. Maryam Namazie 89. Marzieh Danesh 90. Siroos Kasraian 91. Hamed Ebrahimi 92. Taraneh Moheet, 93. Ali Oghazian, 94. Nader Forouzi

To see other names and to add your name or organization’s name to this list, go to: Facebook page for March 8

To defend women’s rights, we must push back Islamism

The below is my speech at the International Conference ‘Islam in Western Countries’ held in Turin during 4-5th March 2011. I print it here to mark International Women’s Day.

In this day and age, Islam matters because of Islamism. Islam per se is no worse than any other religion. Religious laws, states and dogma belong to an era of medievalism and brutality.

But even so, today – as we speak – there is 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 far-Right movement that is, in many places, including in Europe, part and parcel of the state, the law, or educational systems.

Islam matters to us today because we are living through an Islamic inquisition.

And in an inquisition, ‘Islamic feminism,’ ‘liberal and humanitarian Islam,’ ‘Islamic reformism,’ ‘Islamic democracy,’ ‘Islamic human rights,’ and moderate interpretations of Islam are impossible.

Islamists will kill or intimidate anyone who interprets things differently or who transgresses their norms by living 21st century lives.

Religion in general and Islam in particular can only be considered liberal and reformed (at face value at least) when it has been pushed in a corner and out of the public space – when it has been forced to run soup kitchens rather than courts and Islamic Assemblies.

Given the havoc that Islamism is wreaking worldwide, concepts such as ‘Islamic reformism’ and ‘Islamic liberalism,’ and labels such as ‘Islamic societies’ or ‘Islamic communities’ deliberately or inadvertently become part of the effort to Islamicise countries and communities and hand them over lock, stock and barrel to political Islam. As do any attempts to promote ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ versions of Islam and Islamism.

If we want a ‘cuddlier’ version of Islam, we need to get rid of Islamism.

That does not mean that there are not many Muslims or those labelled as such who have humanist, secularist, moderate, feminist, atheist, liberal, socialist and other viewpoints but this is not one and the same with Islam in power being as such.

I think one of the problems we face when addressing this fight is the focus on Islam rather than Islamism. In reality the fight we face – in Europe and internationally – is first and foremost a political battle against a political movement rather than a purely ideological one.

When the focus is on Islam rather than Islamism, as is often the case, however, this fight is reduced to a fight against or for a belief system, which is exactly what the far-right and pro-Islamist Left do. The far-Right spends its time proving how awful Islam is compared to other religions and calling for a ban on the Koran (as if the Bible and Torah are any better). The pro-Islamist Left, on the other hand, spends its time promoting Islam as a ‘religion of peace’ and deeming racist any criticism of Islam and Islamism.

Neither the far-Right nor the pro-Islamist Left seems to see the distinction between Islam and Islamism on the one hand and real live human beings on the other – human beings with innumerable characteristics who are part of various social movements, classes, political parties, and civil society and who have various beliefs and values.

They don’t see the slaughtered generations of the Middle East, Asia and North Africa buried in mass graves, hacked and stoned to death and hung from cranes in city centres and they certainly don’t see the resistance taking place day in and day out.

In fact both of them are intrinsically racist. The pro-Islamist Left implies that people are one and the same with the Islamic states and movement that are repressing them. The far-Right blames all immigrants and Muslims for the crimes of Islamism. [It is important to note here that Islamism was actually brought to centre stage during the Cold War as part of US foreign policy in order to create a ‘green’ Islamic belt surrounding the Soviet Union and not concocted in some immigrant’s kitchen in London; moreover many of the Islamists in Britain are actually British-born thanks to the government’s policies of multiculturalism and appeasement.]

Both the far-Right and pro-Islamist Left purport that Islamism is people’s culture and that they actually deserve no better, 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’.

Their politics ignores the distinction between the oppressed and oppressor and actually sees them as one and the same. It denies universalism, sees rights as ‘western,’ and justifies the suppression of rights, freedoms and equality for the ‘other.’

As a result of such politics, concepts such as rights, equality, respect and tolerance, which were initially raised vis-à-vis the individual, are now more and more applicable to culture and religion and often take precedence over real live human beings.

Moreover, the social inclusion of people into society has come to solely mean the inclusion of their beliefs, sensibilities, concerns and agendas (read Islamism’s beliefs, sensibilities, concerns and agendas) and nothing more.

This is precisely what is wrong with multiculturalism. It gives precedence to cultures and religion rather than people and their rights and lives. And it says that human beings – depending on how they are pigeon-holed – are fundamentally different, and should be treated as such. The idea of difference has always been the fundamental principle of a racist agenda not the other way around.

But this is not to say that criticism of Islam is not important. It is.

It is impossible to challenge Islamism if you are not allowed to fully and unequivocally criticise its ideology and banner. And criticism of religion has always been an important vehicle for progress and the betterment of humanity’s lot.

But whilst criticism of Islam is a necessity, it has to be based within a politics that puts people first to have real meaning and affect real change.

I think this point is key for a principled criticism of Islam and more importantly a progressive opposition to Islamism and Sharia law, which is one of the main pillars of Islamism.

In just a few decades, we have witnessed the rapid rise of the application of Sharia law in Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Indonesia’s Aceh Province, Nigeria, Somalia, Pakistan, Sudan, and Europe, including Britain, resulting in ever-shrinking secular spaces and brutal and discriminatory laws, particularly against women.

Under Sharia law, child rape and sexual abuse is legal. Protestors like Neda Agha-Soltan are shot dead in broad daylight and women are sentenced to death by stoning for sex outside of marriage – like Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. Even lawyers defending those on death row, like Houtan Kian, are sentenced to death. Their only crime being that they are 21st century human being living under medieval Sharia laws.

And whilst Sharia law is now the most widely used religious law, this is not because people have suddenly become more devout and are demanding Sharia law and death by stoning when they didn’t before but because of the rise of Islamism.

Sharia law is fundamentally the demand of Islamism to limit citizens’ rights.

A good example is the increasing numbers of Sharia courts in Britain which did not exist prior to the establishment of an Islamic Republic of Iran and the rise of this contemporary movement. The One Law for All Campaign has come across many Muslim women who state that they did not need to go to Sharia courts before but have to now for civil matters.

Under Sharia law’s civil code, a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s; a woman’s marriage contract is between her male guardian and her husband and a Muslim woman is not permitted to marry a non-Muslim. A man can have four wives and divorce his wife by simple repudiation, whereas a woman must give justifications for requesting a divorce, some of which are extremely difficult to prove. Child custody reverts to the father at a preset age, even if the father is abusive; women who remarry lose custody of their children even if the child has not reached the preset age; and sons are entitled to inherit twice the share of daughters. Marital rape and domestic violence are seen to be the prerogative of the husband.

And whilst there is an obvious difference between stoning a woman to death and denying her the right to divorce and child custody, the fundamentals and misogyny behind Sharia’s civil and penal codes are the same – it is just a matter of degree.

Despite all efforts to package Sharia’s civil code as mundane, its imposition represents a concerted attempt by Islamists to gain further influence in Britain and Europe. By undermining legal principles of equality before the law, the universal concept of one law for all and the protection of the rights of women and children, these courts help to increase discrimination, intimidation and threats against the most vulnerable. They also deny people their rights and leave countless human beings at the mercy of Islamists.

Another good case in point showing that this is the demand of Islamism not ‘Muslims’ is the case of Shiria Khatun, a secular Muslim woman councillor from Tower Hamlets (an Islamist stronghold) who has been forced to dress more conservatively after receiving death threats. She has so far refused to wear the hijab, which she says is a more common sight on the streets of Tower Hamlets in London than in Bangladesh itself and that compared to the sixties: “It’s all changed so much now for younger women.”

If we don’t see the rise in Sharia courts, burkas, the veil and Islamic schools as a direct result of the rise of Islamism, these courts and schools are reduced to ‘minority relations projects’ that need support rather than a form of totalitarianism that must be stopped. It also prevents us from showing real solidarity with people living under Islamic laws elsewhere. And its stops us from holding those responsible for Islamism to account: The Islamic states and organisations such as Hizbullah, Hamas, the Muslim Council of Britain, and Muslim Brotherhood to the Saudi government and Islamic regime of Iran. Western governments for their role in the rise of Islamism not just during the Cold War but today. Some of their closest allies are Islamic states. Iraq has become more Islamic since the US-led attack. In Afghanistan, British troops are helping to set up Sharia courts and people are being sentenced to death for apostasy. And there is talk of bringing the Taliban back… And here in Europe, governments promote Islamic schools, ghettoise entire communities and hand them over to Sharia courts and Islamic organisations and shrug all responsibility to large segments of our citizens.

In the face of this onslaught, secularism, universalism and values worthy of 21st century humanity have to be defended and promoted unequivocally.

We must not allow any more concessions to cultural relativism; we must no longer allow the respect for and toleration of inhuman beliefs and practices. We must hold the human being sacred not beliefs and certainly not regressive political movements. We must stop sub-dividing people into a million categories beginning with religion and nationality and ethnicity and minority and not even ending in Human.

At a minimum, we must have the complete separation of religion from the state, the law and educational system. Secularism is an important vehicle to protect society from religion’s intervention in people’s lives. A person’s religion has to be a private affair. All religious and religious-inspired notions and references must be omitted from laws. No reference must be made to them in any official documents or in the media, whether as individuals or groups.

Faith schools must be abolished. Child veiling and religious symbols in schools and public institutions must be prohibited. Children and under 16s must be protected from all forms of manipulation by religions and religious institutions. Cultural and religious practices or ceremonies, which are violent, inhuman, or incompatible with people’s rights and equality must be banned. Any kind of financial, material or moral support by the state to religion and religious activities and institutions must be stopped. All religious establishments must be registered as private enterprises, taxed…

And it is the state that is duty bound to implement these. Everyday, the state intervenes to protect people whether they want it or not (e.g. in domestic violence or child neglect cases). It has to do so with regards to religion as well. Not necessarily because it likes to but because civil society and established norms force it to.

Civil rights, freedom and equality, secularism, modernism, are universal concepts that have been fought for by progressive social movements and the working class in various countries.

That people worldwide continue to struggle for equality, freedom, secularism and to overcome their lack of rights and repressive regimes is a confirmation of this universality.

Of course, cultural relativists have said and will say that universal rights are a western concept. This is just more deception on their part. When it comes to using the mass media to broadcast their decapitations, or using the web to organise terrorist attacks, and the internet to issue fatwas and death threats, the Islamists do not say it is western and incompatible with an Islamist society. It is only when it comes to universal rights, standards and values, and secularism, that they suddenly become western. Even if such rights and values are western, it is absurd to say that others’ are not worthy of them.

In fact, though, rights are gains taken by the working class and progressive social movements. Therefore, any gain or right obtained anywhere is a gain and a right for all humanity.

Today, more than ever, we are also 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)

Mark centenary of International Women’s Day by joining conference on Women’s Rights, Sharia Law and Secularism

Join us to mark the centenary of International Women’s Day at an
International Conference on Women’s Rights, Sharia Law and Secularism
12 March 2011
University of London Union, The Venue, Malet Street, London WC1E
10.00-19.00 (Registration begins at 10am for a 1030am start)

Speakers include:
Ahlam Akram, Executive Committee member of the Arab Jewish Forum and Joint Action for Israeli Palestinian Peace (UK)
Helle Merete Brix, Writer and Commentator on free speech and the rise of political Islam (Denmark)
Philipp Bekaert, Member of Réseau d’Actions pour la Promotion d’un Etat Laïque (Belgium)
Julie Bindel, Journalist and Campaigner to end violence against women and children (UK)
Patty Debonitas, Spokesperson of Iran Solidarity (UK)
Nadia Geerts, Co-founder of Réseau d’Action pour la Promotion d’un Etat laïque (Belgium)
A C Grayling, Philosopher and Author (UK)
Maria Hagberg, Chairperson of the Network Against Honour-Related Violence (Sweden)
Anne-marie Lizin, Honorary Speaker of the Belgian Senate and Coordinator of the Association against Honour Crimes and Forced Marriages (Belgium)
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson of One Law for All, Equal Rights Now and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (UK)
Elizabeth O’Casey, Vice-President of the National Secular Society (UK)
David Pollock, President of the European Humanist Federation (UK)
Fariborz Pooya, Director of Iranian Secular Society (UK)
Yasmin Rehman Campaigner against violence against women and for community cohesion (UK)
Gita Sahgal, Writer, Journalist and Women’s Rights Activist (UK)
Nina Sankari, President of the European Feminist Initiative (Poland)
Sohaila Sharifi, Women’s Rights Activist (UK)
Annie Sugier, Cofounder of the League of Women’s International Rights (France)
Michèle Vianès, President of Regards de Femmes (France)
Anne Marie Waters, Spokesperson of One Law for All (UK)

There will also be a showing of Ghazi Rabihavi’s play Stoning – ‘A very strong and powerful piece of work, beautifully constructed’ as described by Harold Pinter.

Entry fee: £10 individuals; £3 unwaged and students. To book a space at the conference, click here. You can register at the door on the day but pre-registration via email or telephone is preferred.

Schedule of the day:
1000-1030 Registration
1030-1040 Opening Keynote
1040-1220 Religion’s Impact on Women’s Rights (A discussion on whether religion is compatible with women’s rights, the limits of religious freedom and the intrusion of culture, religion and tradition on women’s status)
1220-1225 On the Alliance for a Secular Europe
1225-1405 Religion and Secularism (A discussion on whether religion and secularism are interdependent, complimentary or contradictory)
1405-1520 Lunch
1520-1700 Religion and the Law (A discussion on religion’s intrusion in the law and on the importance of secularism)
1700-1720 Tea/Coffee Break
1720-1850 Stoning, A play by Ghazi Rabihavi
1850-1900 Closing Address

The Conference is sponsored by the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, International Committee against Stoning, Iran Solidarity, Equal Rights Now and One Law for All.

For more information, contact:
One Law for All, BM Box 2387, London WC1N 3XX, UK
Telephone: +44 (0) 7719166731
http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/
onelawforall@gmail.com

A ‘cuddlier’ Islam

I’ll be speaking at an international conference on Islam in Western Countries in Turin, Italy during 4-5 March 2011 and I’ll be saying what I always say:

It’s not Islam that the problem per se (that is – no more than any other religion in general), it’s Islamism!

Fight Islamism here and everywhere and you’ll see how ‘cuddly’ Islam will appear (at face value at least).

If it doesn’t seem likely just take a look at the Church and see how their public image has changed since the inquisition…

For more information on the conference, click here.

Call to save the life of lawyer Houtan Kian and Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani



Urgent Action: Iran

2 March 2011
The Islamic Republic of Iran has sentenced Houtan Kian, the lawyer of Iran stoning case Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, to death by hanging. He had received four consecutive death sentences. Three were revoked; the fourth has been upheld. Reliable reports received by the International Committee against Stoning confirm this fact.
Houtan Kian was arrested in October 2010 along with Sajjad Ghaderzadeh, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s son, and two German journalists during an interview. Whilst the latter three have been released, Houtan Kian faces imminent execution. Moreover Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s death sentence has been confirmed. Upon hearing the news, it is reported that Sakineh attempted suicide but survived.
We are outraged at these heinous sentences of death and are calling for urgent action to stop their executions and secure their immediate and unconditional release. They have done nothing wrong. Houtan Kian’s only crime has been to defend a woman facing death by stoning. Sakineh’s only crime has been to be a woman in the Islamic Republic of Iran and under Sharia law.
Only strong international pressure will and must save them and the many others awaiting their death in the execution capital of the world.
Mina Ahadi, Coordinator of the International Committees against Stoning and Execution
Patty Debonitas, Spokesperson of Iran Solidarity
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson of One Law for All
ACT NOW!
Write, call, fax, and email officials demanding an end to the executions and the immediate and unconditional release of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and her lawyer, Houtan Kian.
You can contact the embassies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, foreign ministries in your country of residence, MPs and MEPs, the Islamic regime’s judiciary, the UN, EU and others.
You can also do an act of solidarity in a town centre to highlight their case, take action via social networking sites and raise the banner of ‘Free Houtan Kian and Sakineh’ and ‘End Executions and Stoning Now’ at upcoming International Women’s Day events.
Please send copies of any protest letters, actions and emails, and acts of solidarity to iransolidaritynow@gmail.com.
For more information contact: Mina Ahadi, minaahadi@aol.com, Tel: +49 (0) 1775692413 or Patty Debonitas, iransolidaritynow@gmail.com, Tel: +44 (0) 7507978745.

Mostafa Saber: On revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, and Iran

1. The revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, and of course Iran in 2009, despite their differences and distinctions, have common historical and universal characteristics. To categorize these revolutions (in the context of recent opposition and revolutionary movements in Yemen, Algeria and Jordan) as developments of the “Islamic world,” the “Arab world,” as “regional” (Middle East and North Africa), etc., explains some aspects of these developments, but ignores their essential characteristics and determinants. These popular revolutions and movements are the standard-bearers of a new revolutionary and radical era in the global arena. This is another page of the history of class struggle in the age of globalized capital, and if it does not have broader impacts than the “end of the Cold War” or “September 11″ on the world’s appearance, it will not have less than them either. The difference is that if “the fall of the Soviet Union” and the “War on Terror” display the struggle between different bourgeois poles, and serve as launching boards for reaction and retrogression, the recent revolutions stand against those reactionary developments and mark the beginning of a period of direct and broad participation of the working class and revolutionary people in the shaping of global social changes.

2. The above-mentioned revolutions and changes are first and foremost rooted in the economic and political situation of global capitalism at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, particularly in the past ten years. The most fundamental causes of these changes – the continuing technological revolution (starting from the 1970s onward), the rapid and unprecedented expansion of capitalism and the global market, and the degree to which billions of human beings all over the world share the same fate as wage slaves – are all expanding. On the one hand, there is a deepening of the global economic crisis, an exponential expansion of relative poverty, and an unprecedented explosion in the population of those who are jobless, starving, and lacking in rights. On the other, there is an expansion of accumulated legendary wealth, an oligarchy of banks and monetary institutions, and a handful of multi-billionaires, all of which are robbing human beings and plundering the natural environment.

The retrogressive political and cultural reaction that corresponds to these economic changes (dominance of the new right in the ’80s; emergence of the ideology of the new world order; post-modernist reaction in the 1990s; the war on terror; imposition of a police-state on the political atmosphere of the entire world; the expansion of corrupt, suppressive, deceptive governments; religious, ethnic and national reaction; and corrupt and servile journalism especially in the last decade) has cultivated a vast and fertile ground for worldwide dissent and radical protest against the status quo. The technological revolution – the expansion of internet, satellite, and mobile telephone in the past decade – has taken on colossal dimensions. At the same time, the possibilities for connecting, for exchanging ideas and learning, for forming a radical international culture, for rapidly and spontaneously organizing and demonstrating the presence of the masses, especially the young generations — these possibilities have soared. On these technological, economic, political, social and cultural bases, the world has entered a revolutionary period, one in which the involvement of broad swaths of society in each of these arenas, and the social changes thereby implied, are unprecedented in the history of humankind.

3. From the “anti-globalization” movement that announced itself to the world in Seattle, Washington in 1999 and expanded to the whole of Europe; to the millions worldwide that protested against the US invasion of Iraq in 2003; through until the recent workers strikes and youth protests in Greece, France, England and elsewhere against the increase in age of retirement, the increase in the burden of various fees, and other consequences of the economic crisis of 2009; from the “turning to the left” of America’s government under the pressure of public demands, to workers’ strikes and the dissatisfaction that increases day by day against the governmental capitalist dictatorship in China and the Russian mafia; from the Gaza Youth’s Manifesto for Change, which bashes Hamas and Israel equally, to hardened dissatisfaction and related changes in American society itself, which is challenging the traditional dominance of the two “Wall Street” parties — all of these, despite their differences and distinctions, have the same essence as those revolutions and revolutionary developments ongoing in North Africa and the Middle East, including what happened in Iran in 2009.

The common denominator among all these changes is the ascent of radical popular movements that aim to change the status quo, which, at the end of the day, is a reflection of the contemporary proletarian class struggle against slavery and global capitalist reaction. In other words, after almost 4 decades, the offensive of the new right — empowered by the descent and defeat of bourgeois socialism and communism (both “Eastern” state capitalism of the Russian type and the “Western” state capitalism of the welfare state) — continued without pause and pushed the world to an unprecedented state of reaction and degradation. Now it has been more than a decade since radical left demands for justice and freedom, and workers’ demands for equality, step by step, have been emerging here and there, trying — by making mistakes and then learning from them, and even sometimes by acting as pressure groups for other movements instead of representing itself – to declare its own clear and undiscounted presence, a declaration that cannot be anything other than putting an end to wage slavery and abolishing the capitalist system and all of its symptoms.

Lack of clear political objectives and identity; absence of leading political, communist, and workers’ parties and movements; non-existence of rooted and radical popular organizations ready to take the control of this energy, on the one hand, and the existence of deep, humane radicalism, enormous creative power, and mass organizational initiatives, carried over modern communications technologies that provide the opportunity to rapidly overcome the shortcomings inherited from the recent dark decades, on the other hand, are general characteristics of these revolutions and popular movements calling for deep and radical changes.

4. Revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and Iran, despite their distinct characteristics, all demonstrate various aspects of the same general and universal reflection of the world, and in reality, are an eruption of a revolutionary volcano in those areas where the earth’s crust is thinnest under the feet of contemporary capitalism.

The Middle East specifically, for historical reasons — including the issue of Palestine and the Arab-Israeli dispute, and the rise of political Islam (which was supported by the west in its empowerment of Khomeini to suppress the 1979 popular revolution in order to support the “Afghan Mujahedin” in drawing a “green belt” around the Soviet Union during the cold war era. In the aftermath of the crash of the Soviet Union, political Islam grew to fill the resultant vacuum, and a world with two fronts ['the West' and 'political Islam'] eventually emerged; after September 11, a global reactionary pole prevailed) — has been the point of confluence of the world’s tensest crises, dead ends and military disputes for the past two decades.

The power struggle between western militarism and Islamic terrorism in the past decade — (from the September 11 crime, the war on terror, the American and Western invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, the crimes of Israel against the people of Lebanon and Palestine, and the bombing of European cities by Islamists, to the emergence of groups like Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon) — has been the main source of retrogression and attacks against humanity in all its aspects, not only in the region but around the world. The Iranian peoples’ revolution in 2009, and now the revolutions of the people of Egypt and Tunisia (which undoubtedly are influenced by the 2009 Iranian revolution), are, from the political aspect, first and foremost against the “war on terror” and against the entirety of the reactionary atmosphere that the dispute between the bourgeois power centres have enforced on the world.

Neither did Iranian people, who rose in revolution against the regime of political Islam, intend or want to bring about another Western puppet dictator, nor did the people of Egypt and Tunisia, who were under the dominance of pro-Western dictatorships, have any intention of bringing political Islam to power. One common denominator of these revolutions, which has been noticed and supported by the people of the world, is precisely this freedom-embracing, secular quality, this valuing of human dignity and respect. As far as the conflict between political Islam and Western militaristic powers are concerned regarding the revolutions of Iran, Tunisia and Egypt: we can say that a giant and social third front is rising in front of these two [reactionary] fronts, and is shaping itself in the midst of the battleground between these two fronts, with the objective of putting an end to this prolonged reactionary war. Even if it is only for this common denominator of these [revolutionary] movements, we can say that a new era has emerged in the world’s politics: an era in which the West cannot suppress the opposition in the name of the fight against “Islamic terrorism.” An era in which Islamists and the most reactionary forces of the contemporary ages are not able, in the name of “the struggle against the West,” to drag humanity down to the burning depths of Islamic hell. Now, there is a third front in the field, one that is characterized by freedom, prosperity, respect, dignity, and equality of human beings and which has already had large impacts. A decisive political victory of this third power in a country like Iran or Egypt will change the political features of the entire world.

5. In a deeper level, these revolutions interrupt the entirety of the political equations in the Middle East and North Africa and, in this respect, the whole world. The various forms of governance in the region, whether they are pro-Western nationalist dictatorships or anti-West Islamic governments, are both unequivocally going to descend into deeper crisis due to peoples’ demands and participation. The influence of the West and the United States throughout the region, and the position of the Israeli government as the main ally and iron fist of the West, are going to be questioned and redefined. The Palestinian issue, which during the past decades had become a field where the dispute between political Islam reaction and Western militarism played out, is going to be redefined. These recent revolutions are going to send a shockwave of demands for justice and radicalism against Islamic reactionary movements and Palestinian nationalism, as well as against the crimes of the West, Israel, and right-wing movements in Israeli society.

The political balance, not only in Palestinian and Arab societies, but even inside Israel, is going to be altered. Already different parts of the Middle East and North Africa have started revolutions and popular revolutionary movements against poverty, misery, and absolute lack of rights, and for change of the status quo; these movements are going to spread in this [revolutionary] form or others. The position of women and the horrific reaction that exists [against women] in the Islamic-infested countries are going to change, and women’s liberation movements throughout the whole region will gain strength. Secularism and demands for freedom and equality are going to gain strength everywhere, and the working class is going to increase its political participation in different areas. All of these changes mean that the whole position of the Middle East and the reactionary balance that has been in place over the past decades are going to change fundamentally. This, in turn, is not only going to disrupt the global balance of power and international power equations between the bourgeois fronts, but between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in every country.

6. In a more historical perspective, the objective meaning of the current changes and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa is one of a revolutionary and popular initiative and attempt to completely transfer Arab-speaking and Islam-infested societies into the 21st century in all economic, social, cultural, and political dimensions. Based on these changes, the struggle between the two main social classes of the society – which is not only about how to integrate these societies into the 21st century, but is in its very essence about the definition of human societies in the 21st century — is going to intensify and take on new dimensions that expand beyond the region. The reality is that technological developments and unprecedented expansion of capitalism and global markets, which were explained above, not only resulted in an end to the main polarization of the Cold War era (i.e., the confrontation between the state capitalism of the East and free market capitalism of the west), but is going to end all hitherto bourgeois [divisions] or, redefine them according to the new balance of power and global capitalism’s needs. Thus, the division of the world between “industrial countries” and “the third world,” or other categories like “the Islamic world” or “the Arab world,” etc., will be put an end to. The world is moving inexorably towards a more homogenous culture and way of life. This historical inclination is primarily encouraged by capitalism in its own way, for more profitability, and therefore to equalize the status of the world’s proletariat. Capitalism naturally tends towards imposing ever-more arduous conditions on the entire world’s proletariat — in other words, the vast majority of contemporary human society. Politically speaking, this inevitably means pushing society towards retrogression and political reaction, towards police states, and towards attacking the rights and achievements that working and freedom-loving people have achieved thus far. This is a process the unfolding of which we have witnessed over the past 4 decades around the world. But history is not created by capitalism and bourgeoisie alone. To the contrary, and exactly against the political and economic tendencies of capitalism, the demands and tendencies of the proletariat — the vast human masses of our time who stand in defense of freedom and equality and prosperity and humanity — have found a global and common characteristic. Labor and social production have become global, as have peoples’ demands, from the level of wages and the degree of welfare, to political freedoms and individual and civil rights, to cultural preferences — all merge and unite and do so according to the highest global standards. This is a tendency that has, especially in the last decade, characterized various political movements, and we have witnessed their emergence throughout the world.

The Middle East, due to its complexities and intensive historical contradictions, is a place in which vast masses — from their own angle of interests, against the divisions of contemporary capitalism and its reactionary and anti-human satellites — have risen in revolution. But these battles, in order to triumph, ought to go to the roots. They ought to not only push back the powerful wave of political and ideological reaction of the capitalist class against communism, against the freedom-seeking nature of the working class, and against any demand for justice in the past few decades, but put an end to corruption, to the police state, and to religious and ethnic-nationalist states, along with their ideological excuses like “the end of history” and “triumph of democracy,” “cultural relativism,” “the war of cultures,” “Islamists,” etc. They should finally stand against the rule of capitalism and its global market, which is the root of all current poverty and misery, reaction and regression. The real answer to the immediate demands and desires of millions of people who have entered the field to determine their fate is nothing other than dispossession of all charlatans, generals, and billionaire mullahs; establishing socialism; and putting an end to capitalist barbarism.

In this historical context, the revolutions of Egypt, Tunisia, and Iran are standard-bearers of the working-class revolutions of the 21st century, with an aim of putting an end to 300 years of capitalist rule. The victory of these revolutions, more than anything else, will be due to the formation of leading radical and worker communist parties and political forces that aim clearly at the horizons of social revolution, at the emancipation of the entirety of humanity from the yoke of capitalism, and at organizing and leading the endeavors and efforts of the masses in this direction.

Achieving these objectives is undoubtedly more possible now than at any other time before the above-mentioned revolutions and developments in the Middle East and North Africa. The vast global support and appreciation of Iran’s 2009 revolution, and now of Egypt and Tunisia’s revolutions, and the passion and hope for emancipation among people of the world, are clear indications of the correctness of this evaluation. The crucial issue here is shaping this leadership and portraying the horizon of emancipation from the yoke of capitalism in the form of specific political choices in accordance with specific local situations. There is no need to emphasize that our party, in this regard, bears the heaviest burden.

Early February 2011
Mostafa Saber
Worker-Communist Party of Iran

Translation: Ahmad Fatemi
Editing: Maria Rohaly