No more spaces for 28 June Debate on Sharia Law in Britain

There are no more spaces available for the One Law for All and the National Secular Society debate on the use and practice of sharia law in Britain on Tuesday 28 June 2011 from 18.00-20.00 hours. The event will be chaired by Jim Fitzpatrick MP.

The focus of the debate is the practice of sharia law under the powers of the Arbitration Act 1996 and whether sharia tribunals should be permitted to hear cases of family and criminal law.

On Sharia Law: ‘We are not asking for charity, we are entitled to justice’

There is ample evidence to show that Sharia law’s family code is bad for women and children in particular.* Nontheless, there will always be those who will defend it for various reasons like apologists Mehdi Hassan and Nesrine Malike and Islamist Musleh Fardahi. Better that they do so openly so the battle lines become more clearly drawn.

I, and countless others like me, however, will continue to choose to defend women and human beings over religious laws any time, any day. This time, though, let the women of Algeria speak for me and us:

The above video ‘Singing for Change’ is against the introduction of Sharia law in the 1984 Algerian Family Code.

Here are the wonderful lyrics:

Women, words are no longer enough
We must cross the river because justice is discredited when the scales are weighted.
Oh people of Algeria, the truth is hidden
Women let me tell you of 20 years of madness.
In the congress of deceit of the year 1984
They got together and voted a law of oppression.
They stole women’s rights and parted; their minds at rest
They did as they pleased and took us for fools
What came over you judge, why are you afraid of me?
I weather all the storms, my words contain no venom.
Our marriage is decided by men.
We are forbidden to work and doors are closed to us.
With the family code, our wings are clipped.
We aren’t asking for any favours; history speaks for us.
We are not asking for charity, we are entitled to justice.
What came over you judge, why are you afraid of me?
I weather all the storms, my words contain no venom.
Our voices rise today, for here a woman has no rights.
I’m telling you the story of what the powerful have done.
Of rules, a code of despair, a code obsessed with women.
Women come out of the dark; out of 20 years of trouble.
I brought up my children, they are now adults.
With one word, he repudiated me and sent me from the house.
Everything concerning my children is in the hand of the traitor.
My opinion is not taken into account, plus the pain and torment.
Judge, stop pursuing an unfounded fear.
Write that I want to experience my dignity now.
Family code committing the unspeakable.
Guardians pull the strings behind the weddings of the gazelle.
Oh my sister always under age
You’re called to order
Listen to this song, its tune will never change.
May the word spread, this law must be undone.
And never done again.
To those listening to this story, this situation can no longer be endured.
Today, as yesterday, it’s impossible.
Men, one hand cannot applaud; with you, the sun shines again and forever.
What came over you judge, why are you afraid of me?
I weather all the storms, my words contain no venom.

* See One Law for All’s report.

Sharia law in Britain Debate: House of Commons, Tuesday 28 June 2011

One Law for All and the National Secular Society invite you to a debate on the use and practice of sharia law in Britain. This is to be held in a committee room in the House of Commons on Tuesday 28 June 2011 from 18.00-20.00 hours. The event will be chaired by Jim Fitzpatrick MP.

The focus of the debate is the practice of sharia law under the powers of the Arbitration Act 1996 and whether sharia tribunals should be permitted to hear cases of family and criminal law.

If you would like to attend please RSVP for details.

For further information, please click here.

For all our beloved: Protests to mark 20 June

20 June means a lot to those of us involved in the fight to get rid of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

It marks 20 June 1980 ‘one of the greatest crimes of the 20th Century, comparable to Nazi Germany, the genocide in Indonesia and Rwanda, and much more brutal than what took place in Chile. It is one of the most important catastrophes and human tragedies of the 20th Century. They attacked, suppressed, killed and buried in unmarked graves, innumerable people. They massacred many of the best, the most passionate and progressive people in order to remain in power.’ Read more of Mansoor Hekmat’s interview about it here.

20 June also marks the day the Islamic regime of Iran killed 27 year old Neda Agha-Soltan in 2009.

This is for her and the innumerable not with us today:

I have struggled on how best to commemorate our belovedNeda Agha-Soltan but it is hard to find the words that can do her justice. Neda’s murder has affected us all so deeply.

People have sung songs for her and erected monuments in her name. And the cries of ‘We are all Neda’ have been heard in every corner of the globe.

Part of it has to do with the fact that we have been there when her life was ended on 20 June 2009 – when she was shot in cold blood in broad daylight by the Islamic regime of Iran’s baseeji on the streets of Tehran. We have seen one video clip of her walking with her music teacher amongst the crowd of protestors and then another where we see her falling down slowly being held by her teacher and another. Whilst her eyes look straight into the mobile phone filming her last moments you first hear her music teacher calmly saying ‘Neda don’t be afraid;’ and then screams of ‘stay with us’ whilst blood pours from her mouth and nose. And then she is gone. (Heartwrenching film here.)

How can anyone not be moved and outraged?
Of course she is not the only victim of this regime. Tens have been killed during the June protests alone, thousands arrested and tortured with many still languishing in prison. Some have even received death sentences for taking part in the June protests. And we cannot forget the 100,000 who have been slaughtered over the past thirty years very often behind closed doors and under cover of darkness and buried in mass graves. The only difference with this state sponsored murder was that it happened before our very eyes.

Neda’s death removed any masks the Islamic regime of Iran may have still had and left only its barbarity and brutality naked and bare for all to see. Nothing it could say and do would change this reality. It blamed the CIA, the BBC, the doctor Arash Hejazi who stepped in to help her, and even blamed Neda herself for faking her death only to be killed later by her collaborators (according to Press TV) but to no avail. This time the world had seen it for themselves.

And as a result none of us will ever be the same.

There are times in human history when individuals become symbols and, today, Neda has become ours.

She symbolises all the loved ones we have lost and are losing to this indiscriminate killing machine. She symbolises the fact that it is a crime to be a woman in Iran – and as she has said herself ‘condemned to live without being able to breathe,’ in a country where ‘women cannot live like human beings.’
But what makes her a symbol more than anything else is that despite thirty years of repression and medievalism, despite the fact that Neda was born under Islamic rule, she represents that courageous refusal to kneel. 

Her mother pleaded with her not to go to the protest that day. She had no choice. She said: ‘I have to go. If I don’t go out, who will?’

Yes, there are millions like her living under sexual apartheid, veiled, gagged, bound, burnt, hacked to death, hung, decapitated, stoned to death… Many of them are right here in Europe where the rise of Islamism along with its threats and intimidations, Sharia courts, burkas and madrasas further deny rights and freedoms and restrict secular spaces.

But Neda is a symbol first and foremost because she personifies the millions refusing and resisting day in and day out and demanding a life worthy of 21st century humanity.

In a world where cultural relativism is the order of the day and all we hear over and over – as if a sermon over the corpses of innumerable women – is that it is ‘their culture and religion,’ respect it; tolerate it; do not offend it, Neda clearly shows that her culture and that of millions who poured out on to the streets of Iran in protest is antithetical to the Islamic regime of Iran’s brutal culture. It is opposed it; it wants to breathe.

It is her life and resistance, her demand for freedom against all odds, her desire to live like a human being that has made her our symbol – the symbol of an unfolding revolution in Iran.

But she is even more. We remember Neda when we battle for equal right here in Europe, when we fight honour killings, child veiling, Sharia law courts, the burqa and Islamic schools here or wherever else we happen to live and whether we are Iranian or not. Neda’s murder by the Islamic regime in Iran and the rise of Islamism globally are intrinsically linked. Clearly, the fight for a different and secular society in Iran is intrinsically linked to the fight for a different and secular one right there in Europe. And Neda is its symbol.

How can we honour Neda best?

By finishing what she and many others went out to do that day. By creating a society and world where people can breathe. And that can only really happen with the end to the Islamic Republic of Iran and Islamism as well as religion’s adverse role in the public space, including the Vatican’s.

Throughout history, reaction has always been pushed back by standing up to it and confronting it head on.

The 21st Century must be the century that rids itself of political religion.

This has begun in Iran and Neda is its banner…

The above speech was given at a Neda Day event 29-31 October 2010 in Padenone, Italy.

See Anthony Thomas’ film ‘For Neda’ here.

*******

Here are a list of cities where protests will be taking place; Join them!

Open letter to the the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague

Dear Mr. Luis Moreno Ocampo

During the past thirty two years, the hands of the Islamic regime in Iran have been stained with the blood of tens of thousands of people. We have already presented some documents on these crimes to the ICC.

In the last two months alone, the regime has executed more than 60 people. This statistic only includes however, those executions that officially have been announced. The number of secret executions must also be added to it. Moreover, women and men even get raped in the prisons of the Islamic regime. New cases of rape by the guards and interrogators of the regime are frequently reported. Now some brave women have stepped forward and are disclosing rapes by the men of the regime in prisons.

From Ghezel-hesar Prison it is reported that every day a number of prisoners are being hanged under the very eyes of other prisoners and even the bodies of the victims are subjected to violence. On March 13th this year, about a hundred prisoners were killed by firing a volley of shots at them in this prison. Their crime was that in the prison they had protested against capital punishment! Many families still do not know where their beloved ones are buried.

The Islamic regime has even tried to stop families of the victims from holding a mourning ceremony. Moments after the funeral of Abdullah and Mohamed Fathi, who were executed last month, their mother was arrested and interrogated for a few hours. During the mourning ceremony of Ezzatollah Sahabi, his daughter, Haleh Sahabi, was attacked by the men of the regime which caused her death. In prisons, due to bad hygiene, lack of food, and the depriving of patients from access to medical care or medicine, the regime cause the death of prisoners. These are parts of the reality of how prisoners and their mourning relatives are treated by the Islamic regime. To these crimes stoning, gouging out the eye, mutilation, throwing down from height, and other medival punishments must be added.

Now we are on the eve of June 20th, the international day in defence of political prisoners in Iran. To the call of Campaigne for Freedom of Political Prisoners in Iran, meetings are going to be held on this day in at least 46 cities around the world for freedom of political prisoners and in protest against capital punishment.

A while ago, you announced that there are documents at your disposal according to which you can request from the ICC, a number of arrest warrants against a number of Libyan officials. Several times more documents than those have already been published on crimes against humanity committed by Khamenei and other leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. So do not hesitate to request arrest warrants against these criminals! The message of demonstrators on June 20th is clear: Arrest the criminal leaders of the Islamic regime! They are evident examples of criminals against humanity.

Yours faithfully

Mina Ahadi
Spokesperson of the International Committee Against Execution
And the International Committee Against Stoning

June 17, 2011

International Committee Against Stoning (http://stopstonningnow.com)
International Committee Against Execution (http://notonemoreexecution.org)

June 20: Global Day for Freedom of Political Prisoners in Iran

June 20th is the anniversary of the holocaust of thousands and thousands dissidents in Iran by the Islamic regime (1981). These days are as well the anniversary of the people’s uprising against the regime (2009), under which Neda, Sohrab and the others were steeped in blood.

Right now, thousands of political prisoners are in clutches of the Islamic rags and subjected to contempt, torture and execution. To the call of the Campaign for Freedom of Political Prisoners in Iran, protest meetings are going to be held in over 40 cities around the world by human rights organisations and political parties on June 20th.

In support of this call, the International Committee against Execution and the International Committee against Stoning, in turn, call upon all those, who in defence of Sakineh Ashtiani, went across the world to the streets and protested against the Islamic regime, all those who advocate human rights and all freedom-loving people, to organise protest meetings in front of the embassies and consulates of the regime or in city centres.

Let’s take to the streets on June 20th and raise our voices against capital punishment and stoning to death. Let’s hand in hand give this action still more global extent. Let’s with might defend political prisoners in Iran and demand immediate freedom of them and an end to torture, stoning to death and execution.

The International Committee against Execution
The International Committee against Stoning
June 9, 2011

Here are a list of cities where the protests are taking place.

Humanitarianism isn’t enough

On Sunday 19 June, I will be speaking at the Northeast Humanists conference in Newcastle on Humanism and Humanitarianism. Here are details if you can come to it.

I have been thinking about what I will be saying. Most likely it will be something to this effect:

Obviously humanitarianism is a good thing; it’s good to care about the promotion of human welfare and social reforms. But humanitarianism and charitable works have become the social duty of the day and have replaced the more urgent need for social justice and solidarity. Whilst humanitarianism gives the impression of neutrality, it more often than not helps maintain the status quo at the expense of those trying to change things.

A few days ago, I posted an interview with Hamid Taqvaee on the Iranian ‘elections’ which actually addresses this matter as well:

‘…There are reformists [in Iran] – like Ms Shirin Ebadi – who at one point began a campaign to remove mines left over from the Iran-Iraq war. This is a humanitarian task but if it becomes the only task – whilst every day people are being executed and stoned and she has nothing to say about them or is silent on the serial killings and complains that there is censorship in the country when journalists are being killed, this is either pleading ignorance or assuming that the people are ignorant!’

Clearly, when you live under an Islamic inquisition, humanitarianism isn’t the answer; solidarity and support in getting rid of this colossal beast is.

In his interview, Taqvaee goes on to say that even a demand for reform requires getting rid of Islamism.

‘It’s like saying Hitler’s rule was bad because during his reign, they took two years to asphalt our roads! Of course the roads should also have been asphalted but those who reduce the problem to this are actually trying to cover up the main issues at hand.’

‘…A precondition for those who speak of reform under Nazism is to call for the fascists to get out of government and to be prosecuted. Otherwise, what reform? You can’t be under Hilter’s yoke and complain about the lack of asphalted roads. This is no longer called reform. Under a regime where writers are killed, you can no longer merely complain about censorship.’

Let’s go out driving (and cycling) on 17 June

Manal al-Sharif is the young woman behind the Saudi Women2Drive Campaign, which calls on women to come out driving in contravention of the driving ban in Saudi Arabia on 17 June as a form of protest. Whilst al Sharif has been forced to pledge that she will withdraw from the campaign in order to secure her release from prison after having been arrested for posting a video of herself driving on Youtube, others are preparing to come out on the day in full force.

And we must stand (drive) with Manal and them.

Since I don’t drive*, I will be cycling.

Cycling – by the way – is just as ruinous a feat for women as driving so it should be just as fun.

According to Ayatollah Alamolhoda, the Friday Prayer leader of Mashhad, Iran, a woman who wears her headscarf back and cycles is more dangerous than any ‘ferocious animal and stinging insect’ (darandeh va gazandeh). Of course he says it is not ‘haram’ (forbidden) for a girl or woman to cycle in her own house. But on the streets! That is a different story.

According to him, a women cycling can result in ‘corruption’ and ‘prostitution!’

So I do hope you will come out with me on 17 June to defend women’s rights to drive and cycle and challenge these reactionaries of our times.

Don’t forget this isn’t just about driving or cycling. They are only indications of the status of women in countries under Islamic rule and one more very good reason why religion (rather than women) should be kept off the streets.

Upload a photo of yourself driving around if you can. I know I will. I think we should all do something to support this important cause. You can find out more and join the campaign on its Facebook page.

You can also sign a petition here.

Here is the video of Manal driving that got her arrested:

* I know – it is embarrassing that I don’t drive and I do have a long-winded story to justify it, which I will tell you sometime.

On the 2009 Iranian ‘Election’ – They Must Be Prosecuted!

Two years have past since the 2009 sham elections in Iran. To read a brilliant analysis on the elections and the situation in Iran, read the below:

Interview with Hamid Taqvaee

Kazem Nikkhah: You have said that elections in Iran are a farce. Why?

Hamid Taqvaee: Calling these events an election is a farce, including in comparison with elections in Turkey and even Pakistan let alone the west. There are no events and changes that take place that have anything to do with people’s votes or what is called an election. And I’m not just talking about this particular election but all of the elections in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Our use of the term farce is not just propaganda to expose the regime; the elections in Iran are a farce because they are not real elections.

Kazem Nikkhah: One person does leave and another comes in their place though…

Hamid Taqvaee: Yes, there is a change within the ruling gang but the public don’t play a role in this…

Kazem Nikkhah: But isn’t this the case in elections in other countries that are not considered to have sham elections?

Hamid Taqvaee: We are also critical of elections in the west for example but ‘elections’ in Iran are a wholly different story. The crux of our criticism of elections in parliamentary democracies in the west is that people get to vote and then have no say until another four years when someone else takes over who is not very different from his or her predecessor! But in the west there are political freedoms, and people come and vote for various political platforms and policies. Of course there are mechanisms in which the ruling parties and classes manufacture public opinion with the assistance of the media.

But from a legal and rights perspective, any party can introduce its candidate(s). The situation in Iran, however, is incomparable. You don’t have any political freedoms or the freedom to form political parties. Even the most basic political and civil freedoms don’t exist. In the first instance, only the factions closest to the state and only those given the go ahead by Khamenei, the supreme spiritual leader, can participate. The rest are excluded. Only the closest insiders can run and that is why the final few candidates are always pillars of the regime – and the regime’s most criminal elements at that. That’s why they all have known track records of repression and crimes against the people. Look at this election – from Ahmadinejad, Karoubi, Mousavi to Rezai – all have been instrumental in the repression and executions that have taken place. Even many in their own ‘second Khordad’ or ‘reformist’ faction are not allowed to participate in the election. If in Turkey or Pakistan a Council of Guardians decided on who could run, the election would be cancelled! In other elections, if a candidate gets less television airtime than another, complaints are made to rectify the situation. Now if you compare the situation in Iran with that of Sweden or Denmark or France, you will see that even in the first instance what happens in Iran is anything but an election!

Kazem Nikkhah: Are you saying that a real election is better than this sham?

Hamid Taqvaee: You can have any criticism against real elections but the issue is that what takes place in the Islamic Republic of Iran is not an election. The general criticisms of parliamentary elections are irrelevant when it comes to Iran. This sort of criticism is a form of concession to the regime. Karoubi, for example, has said that if he becomes president, he will end censorship. Come on! This regime kills journalists, including in the well known serial murder cases. Under Mr Khatami, the head of the so-called reformists, a number of journalists whose ‘crime’ was to somewhat criticise the regime were killed and their bodies found on roadsides. The evidence is there; the bodies are there. It’s clear what happened but the killers are no where to be found. Sort of like the siphoned off billions that are no where to be found! So for such a regime, talk of removing censorship is a bad joke. To simply say there is censorship in Iran is absurd. What censorship! In the Islamic Republic they murder journalists. They don’t just purge articles; they basically purge journalists! It’s the same when one talks about the elections. To criticise the elections in Iran as you would elections in France is a concession to the regime. This is not the issue either especially given that the regime is more repressive, dictatorial and inhuman than for such types of criticisms. In the last so-called election, Karoubi said he went to sleep for a few hours and when he awakened, Ahmadinejad’s votes were up by several million! They themselves confess to the fraud that takes place. And still it is called an election!

Kazem Nikkhah: Let me say it this way, if we compare this election with that of other regimes like the former Shah’s regime, it may be the first time that there is some sort of competition between the candidates and the public is being asked to intervene. Doesn’t any of this have any value?

Hamid Taqvaee: As I have said before this has nothing to do with elections but it is a political event. Elections in Iran mean that someone will be victorious from the infighting within the regime’s factions and its in-crowd and become the president or the head of the Islamic assembly. All these are real fights amongst those governing but it has nothing to do with the fate of the people. In this sense, the election is a mechanism within the ruling gang – and that too in the most limited sense of the word. Even many of the ‘Second Khordad’ or so called reformists from within the ruling gang are not included. And there are splits within the reformists as well as the conservative faction. They are at each other’s throats. In my opinion, the reason for all this is that they are feeling the heat. This is an important point. It’s because the people not only don’t accept the elections but the entirety of the regime.

Kazem Nikkhah: People are taking advantage of the climate to come and show their opposition to the regime so some believe this is a positive occurrence in the elections and therefore, it isn’t a farce.

Hamid Taqvaee: The issue is not that the people take advantage of the sham election to speak their minds. They take advantage of many other things too to do the same – especially because they know it is a farce. Okay some will vote for a variety of reasons, including getting a stamp in their passport or fear or expedience but no one in Iran goes to vote with the same motives as those in France. During the Shah’s time this was the case and today, in other ways, it is also the case. Even if there wasn’t a political crisis in Iran and infighting amongst the ruling factions, people who go and vote know their vote is worthless. Another reason for my saying it is a farce to call it an election is that the Islamic regime gets its legitimacy from the Koran, Islam, and the Supreme Spiritual Leader and so on, not people’s votes. They have set up unelected institutions like the Supreme Spiritual Leader, the Council of Guardians and so on, that can also veto anything they want. From deciding who can run for the elections to what legislation is passed in the Islamic Assembly. This has happened on countless occasions. So how can this be called an election? Now Ahmadinejad might be president or Mousavi or anyone else. But any decisions made on the international scene or domestically in the Assembly needs Khamenei’s approval. If he doesn’t approve, he makes a speech at Friday prayers and all unfavourable decisions are scrapped. In such a situation, even if there was no election fraud, the elections are meaningless.

Kazem Nikkhah: If it is a farce, why even talk about it? What is its political significance?

Hamid Taqvaee: As I’ve said before, its political significance is that the rulers are at each others’ throats because they don’t have the support of the population at large. From the people’s viewpoint, this is an opportunity to come forward and undermine them. The elections are not about electing one person over another; it’s about the Islamic regime’s survival. You see this in their own statements – they’ll say for example if we don’t take care, none of us will survive and we’ll endanger the entire system.

Kazem Nikkhah: Amongst the opposition there are two main positions and the Worker-communist Party (WPI) of course has a third stance. Those who are nationalist-Islamic and second Khordad or so-called reformist say that people should participate in the election and vote for a ‘reformist’ candidate. They say this will somewhat improve this situation in Iran. Another grouping of opposition says people should stay home and boycott the ‘election.’ The WPI says people should ruin it for them. What do you mean by this?

Hamid Taqvaee: I believe this is already taking place. People are not sitting at home. When Mousavi went to Ahvaz, the pipemanufacturing workers declared that all the candidates were one and the same. When he went to Zanjan, the students condemned him for his role in the 1988 mass killings. The Sherkat-e Vahed workers also declared that the ‘election’ has nothing to do with the interests of workers and people. People aren’t quiet. In Iran, the issue is not only that people don’t accept the election or this or that candidate. They don’t want the entirety of the regime and they make use of the opportunity to declare that they have already made their choice. That the regime has to go. That they have chosen happiness over mourning and life over execution and killings… They need to come out in the streets to say the heads of the regime should be prosecuted not elected.

Kazem Nikkhah: When Khatami became president the WPI’s stance was that people selected him as a way of intensifying the factional infighting; wasn’t this positive? Wouldn’t this be the case if Karoubi or Mousavi became president?

Hamid Taqvaee: Let me first explain the Khatami era. Our position was that the people hadn’t voted for reform as was being said by some but that in fact their vote was a vote against the supreme spiritual leader. We said it was a vote for the overthrow of the regime. We said by voting against the supreme leader’s candidate, the people aimed to weaken the regime. Not that we agreed. People made these calculations; they weren’t correct. You see the infighting will intensify the more they know people are against all of them. Even now, the second Khordad or so-called reformist faction has built political capital on Mr Khatami’s winning of x number of votes. Even though he holds no weight now, this gives them a notch up and was a mistake. What I mean is that the regime’s factions should be at each others’ throats but this will only fully happen when they all feel the heat.

The supporters of the supreme leader are saying that if a so-called reformist comes to power, he will loosen the reins, and protests will intensify. The so-called reformists are saying if a conservative candidate wins, they will increase repression and the people’s protests will intensify. In a sense, both are revealing a truth; the reality is that whether Ahmadinejad, Karoubi or Mousavi becomes president, there won’t be any fundamental or even any superficial change in the situation.

They call Khatami a reformist! My question is what did Khatami do that could be labelled as reform? They themselves say he didn’t do anything – but of course they say it was because the opposing faction didn’t allow it. The point of the matter is that when he was president, he did not do anything. And not only did the numbers of executions and stonings not diminish but the serial murders took place under his presidency. The attack on the students happened under his presidency…

Kazem Nikkhah: They say the opposing faction was responsible.

Hamid Taqvaee: Okay but you were the president. If you wanted to you could have resigned on 18 Tir of the Persian calendar (July 9) when the attack on the students took place. Otherwise what’s the point of being president! It is ridiculous to ask people to vote for you as a reformist and then say you cannot make any reforms because others won’t allow it! You could have informed people on day one so they wouldn’t vote for you. What this means is that the supreme leader was not on board. And this takes us back to my first point and that is that this regime cannot be elected because there is a supreme spiritual leader that can veto everything. Because this regime gets its legitimacy from Islam and not the people.

With regards the reformists, I must add that in my opinion in Iran reformism – like elections – is a farce. The so-called reformists say things that are tragic comedy. It makes one laugh and cry at the same time. It’s like saying Hitler’s rule was bad because during his reign, they took two years to asphalt our roads! Of course the roads should also have been asphalted but those who reduce the problem to this are actually trying to cover up the main issues at hand. There are reformists – like Ms Shirin Ebadi – who at one point began a campaign to remove mines left over from the Iran-Iraq war.

This is a humanitarian task but if it becomes the only task – whilst every day people are being executed and stoned and she has nothing to say about them or is silent on the serial killings and complains that there is censorship in the county when journalists are being killed, this is either pleading ignorance or assuming that the people are ignorant! It is an insult to people’s intelligence for someone to come and work for ‘reforms’ in this manner.

A precondition for any reform is that the supreme spiritual leader is set aside. If they really mean what they say, they should bring a platform that says they want the supreme leader’s resignation, an end to an Islamic regime, Islam’s separation from the state, educational system and people’s lives…

Kazem Nikkhah: Doesn’t this go beyond reform?

Hamid Taqvaee: No, as I said before, a precondition for those who speak of reform under Nazism is to call for the fascists to get out of government and to be prosecuted. Otherwise, what reform? You can’t be under Hilter’s yoke and complain about the lack of asphalted roads. This is no longer called reform. Under a regime where writers are killed, you can no longer merely complain about censorship. Khatami, Kahroubi and Mousavi are defenders of the Islamic system under the banner of reformism; they are not reformists.

The other point is that this is election-related. Three months before the election, suddenly Mohsen Rezai steps up to say he wants to give women insurance or Karoubi says he wants to end child executions. Well I say Mr Karoubi, when you were the head of the Islamic Assembly did you bring any legislation calling for an end to child executions? In your era, hundreds of young 17, 18 year olds were executed and are being executed right now too…

Kazem Nikkhah: Why are they saying these things now?

Hamid Taqvaee: They know that people have sympathy towards these issues – particularly that our Party has initiated a massive campaign against executions. This issue and the existence of New Channel TV station are hot topics and so they say this to collect votes. They say this so that maybe some will vote as a result of certain misgivings and say it is a choice between bad over worse. That they will say Karoubi or Mousavi are better than Ahmadinejad. In this sense, in that society both the election and reformism are a farce and without meaning. We don’t have reformists. They haven’t brought any reforms nor wanted to. That the supreme spiritual leader cracks a smile does not make reform. That you ask for your cousins to also become candidates in the election is not reform.

There is nothing viler in the world than stoning. This regime stones people to death and I have yet to see one of these so called reformists call for an end to stoning. The first precondition for reformism is to come forward and say that stoning must be abolished and that anyone who issues a stoning sentence must be prosecuted… or for example Karoubi is now defending the rights of minorities. Where was he when the regime attacked Kurdistan and slaughtered people in Sanandaj? His badge of honour is that he was one of Khomeini’s chosen ones – the very imam who issued the order to attack. And now he is remembering minority rights? During Khatami’s era, we labelled them ‘Voltaire Pasdarans’ – that is yesterday’s notorious Pasdars have slightly shortened their beards and become Voltaires and freedom-lovers! This doesn’t count. It’s ridiculous and has nothing to with freedom-loving. In fact, I think, we should grab the reformists by their collars and prosecute them for their high-level roles and participation in the regime’s killings.

In the US, Obama came to power with the slogan of change and reform. His political capital and badge of honour was that he had opposed the war in Iraq when he was a senator. Now had he supported Bush, he wouldn’t have been labelled a reformist. They think that people in Iran are ignorant. It’s an insult to people’s intelligence for people like Mousavi, Karoubi or Rezai to come and call themselves reformists! Their hands are soaked with people’s blood from when they were in the Pasdaran and part of the ruling murderous gang. From Abdolkarim Soroush who led the cultural revolution and slaughtered students to Mohsen Rezai who in the Pasdaran attacked women, workers and youth, to Karoubi and Mousavi whose track record includes the massacres in 1981 and 1988. All of them are criminals and murderers. In addressing these candidates, the issue is not even political. The issue is not that they are politically right or left wing. They all have criminal records and some like Rezai are even wanted by Interpol for their role in terrorist activities abroad. These people have assassinated opponents abroad like Gholam Keshavarz, Sedigh Kamangar, Bakhtiar, Fereidoun Farrokhzad,Ghasemlou, and Sharafkandy in Mykonos and tens of others. They are a bunch of murderers. A political critique or a label of reformism is too much for them. It is not as if the debate is about aspects of their platform. No! The people’s fight with them is that they are murderers. They must be held accountable…

The above was an interview on the 2009 sham elections in Iran with Hamid Taqvaee (Secretary of the Central Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran [WPI]) and Kazem Nikkhah in Persian broadcast on June 12, 2009 on the WPI’s New Channel TV. This is a summary translation into English by the magazine “Social Revolution” September 2009.

For those who don’t know the difference between a Muslim and an Islamist

I often get people asking how one knows the difference between a Muslim and an Islamist.

It’s easy.

It’s the difference between a Nazi and a German; a member of the British National Party or the English Defence League and a Briton; a Christian versus a member of the Klux Klux Klan or Christian Voice.

And this is how I know that the members of the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) who came to the Dublin Atheist Conference the first weekend in June are not some pious Muslims but Islamists and there to promote Islamism in all its vileness. It’s a gut feeling really. I can see them a mile away.

But for those who are not so sure, there are a couple of giveaways.

Firstly, they are members of an Islamic organisation but since Islamism is so reviled they usually give their organisations benign names like Islamic Education and Research Academy (an oxymoron in my opinion) to dupe the public. If one wants to, though, it isn’t hard to find their links with Islamism.

Also, their aims make it quite clear who they are. Just take a look at their website to see what I mean. You don’t need to go further than their ‘About Us’ section to get a clue to the nature of their organisation. The section recites a verse of the Koran saying: ‘Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good; enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, they are the ones to attain felicity. [3:104]” And they say they are a “global Dawah organisation committed to presenting Islam to the wider society.” Dawah usually denotes the preaching of Islam and literally means summoning or inviting, like a missionary. This may sound innocuous enough if one falls for the Islamists’ double speak but for the rest of us, we know what ‘forbidding’ and Dawah means during an Islamic inquisition.

Furthermore, you can always tell the nature of an organisation by the friends they keep. A far-Right group will invite Geert Wilders on their platform because they share an affinity with him and his anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim perspective and belong to his movement. And the iERA will always have fascist Islamists on their platform and as heads of their organisation for the very same reason. Here are a couple of examples:

In an essay on his website entitled, “Terrible and brutal Islamic punishments or wise and just guidance from Allah?” iERA’s chairman Abdur-Raheem Green argues that homosexuality and adultery are “inexcusable, and justly punished with severity.” For this he stipulates death: “a slow and painful death by stoning. It is indicative of just how harmful this crime is to society.” He also calls for the prohibition of ‘free mixing between sexes’.

Their senior ‘lecturer’ Hamza Tzortzis argues: “Some people object to Islam making the public expression of homosexuality a criminal act. This is subjective and only strikes a chord amongst those who cannot escape the social constructs in their own societies. There are societies past and present which accepted paedophilia and cannibalism as normal parts of human life and they would find Western society oppressive preventing them from carrying out these practices.”

There are many more examples but I won’t continue listing them here for fear of losing my lunch but please feel free to do your own search.

Thanks to Adam Barnett for the below links on the iERA in case you are a glutton for punishment:
Ibis Hotel hosts anti-gay hate preachers
Bigots and extremists in a panic
Changing the World through Dawah

As an aside, I am not for banning Islamists or deporting them to countries that are already suffering under and struggling against Islamism. I say, if they have committed a crime (and again that’s not hard to spot either) – arrest them and put them in jail where they belong. But that is I suppose another story…

Video of Islamic Inquisition speech at the World Atheist Conference in Dublin

Thanks to Ruairi OBaoill for putting my speech on the Islamic Inquisition at the World Atheist Conference in Dublin on Youtube so that people can see the speech and discussion that the Islamists attending conveniently censored.

Here’s my previous comment on the questions they raised.

Join us to defend equality and oppose religious tribunals

Dear Friend,

As you may well be aware, The Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill was introduced to the House of Lords last week which aims to reduce the power and influence of sharia tribunals and courts in Britain; One Law for All and the National Secular Society have spoken out in its support as it signifies an important recognition of the injustices being perpetrated against women in religious tribunals in Britain. It further represents a strong assertion of the value of a single legal system and the protection of the rights and equality of women. To read more about the bill, see here.

Debate at House of Commons – 28 June 2011

Since our last letter to you, we have written to every MP and Peer in the Houses of Parliament asking that they attend a discussion on sharia law, and its practice under the power of the Arbitration Act 1996 and sent them a copy of our book ‘Sharia Law in Britain; A Threat to One Law for All and Equal Rights’. Here is a copy of the letter sent jointly with the National Secular Society.

To help us make this event as successful as possible, we ask again that you contact your Member of Parliament and urge him/her to attend this important debate. When contacting your MP, please inform him/her that sharia law operates in a way which is not in the public interest as it discriminates against women and children as a matter of course. Examples you can cite include that under sharia, the testimony of a woman is worth only half of a man, and fathers get child custody rights regardless of the circumstances of the case. You may also highlight a growing campaign among sharia advocates to effectively decriminalise domestic violence for Muslims in Britain. Thanks to those of you who have already done so. The discussion will take place in the House of Commons from 6-8pm on Tuesday June 28 and will be chaired by Jim Fitzpatrick MP. The meeting will be open to the public, space permitting; to attend, please RSVP [email protected]

Once again I want to thank you for your continued support. We have many more plans for the year ahead and will keep you up to date on all that we do to promote equal rights and end discriminatory laws in Britain.

I also want to thank you for your continued donations. We couldn’t have come this far without your support. But we need a lot more. If you can, please donate or join our ‘100 Club’. Every bits helps.

Warmest wishes
Anne Marie Waters
Spokesperson
One Law for All

P.S. We now have a Twitter account. Follow us on One_Law_for_All.

P.S.S. We are now asking for entries for our 2011 Art competition. For more information, click here.

One Law for All and the National Secular Society back Bill that aims to curb sharia courts in Britain

From the National Secular Society’s Newsline, 10 June 2011

A parliamentary Bill has been tabled in the House of Lords that would stop sharia courts in this country claiming that they have legal jurisdiction over criminal or family law. At meetings launching the Bill to the press and for peers, the Baroness tabling it was joined on platform by Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society who also spoke. This demonstrated the broad base of support for the Bill, which included religious and women’s groups. The One Law for All group was represented and copies of their publication One Law for All was distributed to participants. Both meetings were lively and constructive.

The Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill, was introduced into the House of Lords by Baroness Caroline Cox (independent). Its intention is to tackle the discrimination suffered by Muslim women within the Sharia court system. The Bill, which applies to all arbitration tribunals, will firmly outlaw the practice of giving women’s testimony half the weight of men’s. The Bill addresses human rights issues and does not mention Islam.

The Bill’s proposals include:
• A new criminal offence of ‘falsely claiming legal jurisdiction’ for any person who adjudicates upon matters which ought to be decided by criminal or family courts. The maximum penalty would be five years in prison.
• Explicitly stating in legislation that sex discrimination law applies directly to arbitration tribunal proceedings. Discriminatory rulings may be struck down under the Bill.
• Requiring public bodies to inform women that they have fewer legal rights if their marriage is unrecognised by English law.
• Explicitly stating on the face of legislation that arbitration tribunals may not deal with matters of family law (such as legally recognised divorce or custody of children) or criminal law (such as domestic violence).
• Making it easier for a civil court to set aside a consent order if a mediation settlement agreement or other agreement was reached under duress.
• Explicitly stating on the face of legislation that a victim of domestic abuse is a witness to an offence and therefore should be expressly protected from witness intimidation.

Lady Cox said: “Equality under the law is a core value of British justice. My Bill seeks to preserve that standard. I have no desire to interfere in the internal theological affairs of religious groups, and my Bill does not do that. My Bill seeks to stop parallel legal, or ‘quasi-legal’, systems taking root in our nation. Cases of criminal law and family law are matters reserved for our English courts alone.

“Through these proposals, I want to make it perfectly clear in the law that discrimination against women shall not be allowed within arbitration. I am deeply concerned about the treatment of Muslim women by Sharia Courts. We must do all that we can to make sure they are free from any coercion, intimidation or unfairness.

“There is considerable evidence that many women are suffering in many ways (such as domestic violence or unequal access to divorce) due to discriminatory practices in our country today and we cannot continue to condone this situation. Many women say, ‘we came to this country to escape these practices only to find the situation is worse here’.”

Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society, said: “Laws should not impinge on religious freedom, nor should courts judge on theological matters. But by the same token democratically determined and human rights compliant law must always take precedence over the law of any religion. Yet religious law can already be enforced under English law through the Arbitration Act and that is what this Bill is seeking to address.

“Religious arbitration has already been outlawed in two Canadian provinces and under this new Bill the Arbitration Act would not be able to determine family or criminal matters nor agreements that are discriminatory against women. A nation could be defined by those subject to one law. This Bill aims once more to give every citizen equal protection by the same just law – one law for all.”

Anne Marie Waters of the One Law for All campaign commented: “We welcome any Bill that can halt the advancement of sharia courts and religious tribunals in Britain and promote equal rights. It is particularly important that women are informed of their rights under British law, and that domestic violence or other family or criminal law matters are not dealt with by sharia-based bodies – these put women at a grave disadvantage and treat children as the property of their fathers.”

Sharia debate in Parliament

the public are invited to a debate in Parliament jointly organised by the One Law for All Campaign and the National Secular Society. The practice of sharia law will be debated and in particular whether it should be permitted under the powers of the Arbitration Act. Sharia tribunals and councils are in free operation across the United Kingdom – some operate under the power of the Arbitration Act 1996. The debate will be chaired by Jim Fitzpatrick MP.
When: Tuesday 28 June 2011, evening
Where: Houses of Parliament, Westminster

If you would like to attend please email [email protected] for details.

Sharia law does bear strange fruit – blood on the leaves and blood at the roots

The Islamists (I wouldn’t call them Muslims) who came to the Dublin World Atheist Conference to ‘positively and intellectually engage’ (their words) with PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins and I (I am finding myself in excellent company these days) have put together a video of their encounters.

Interestingly, whilst they have included their comment to my speech on the Islamic inquisition, and given an introduction saying that my speech was ‘agressive,’ ‘hate-filled’ and ‘caticaturing Islam and Islamic law,’ neither my speech nor my response to the question raised has been included (starting at 29:10 of the video below).

Now this is most likely because I am a woman/slut/slave (you know the drill)and therefore not meant to be seen and heard and definitely not meant to be answering back.

When I mentioned on Twitter how ‘brave’ they had been at leaving my response out, I was told that the video was merely a trailer (all 37 minutes of it) and that more was to follow….

Well don’t hold your breath.

Thankfully, the event was videotaped and videos of the discussions will be made available in time. However, since that may take a while, let me just quickly respond to the Islamist’s comment here:

I always find it surreal when an Islamist makes a comment or asks a question at one of my talks as I know full well that the ‘engagement’ is for public consumption. There is no engagement and no time for niceties in countries where they rule (and even in ‘communities’ here where they have the upper hand). They just hang apostates like myself from cranes in city centres – no questions asked.

The Islamist commenting on my speech says he has studied Sharia law for ten years; well I have lived it. And whilst he is right that Sharia law bears fruit it is not in the way he portrays but more like the ‘strange fruit’ Nina Simone sings of – blood on the leaves and blood at the roots…

Anyway here is a link to PZ Myer’s discussion of the video.

Here’s the video itself:

The Islamic Inquisition

I had a brilliant time this weekend, first debating Islamist Lauren Booth (who works at the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Press TV – yuck!) at howthelightgetsin philosophy and music festival at the Hay and then the World Atheist Conference in Dublin, Ireland. A brilliant conference. Wish I had been there from the start but glad I did go even if only for the last day.

I got to see Richard Dawkins again and meet the brilliant PZ Myers too, which was a highlight for me and make tons of new friends and allies.

I am off now to stuff envelopes with volunteers of One Law for All. We are finishing up a mailing to MPs and Peers on a 28 June meeting we are organising to help highlight the need to ban Sharia law…

Anyway, here is my speech. I didn’t obviously use all of it as I had mentioned faith schools and the veil and burka at the morning’s panel discussion on building secular alliances. I am sure it still needs an edit but am posting since people have been asking me for it.

The Islamic Inquisition

Maryam Namazie
Keynote address at the World Atheist Conference
June 4-6 2011

In this day and age, Islam matters because of Islamism. Islam per se is fundamentally no worse than any other religion.

The tenets, dogma, and principles of all religions are equal.

I don’t believe in good or bad religions; in my opinion all religion is bad for you.

Religion should come with a health warning like cigarettes: ‘religion kills.’

But even so, today – as we speak – there is a distinction to be made between religions in general and Islam in particular, but for no other reasons than that it is the ideology behind a far-Right regressive political movement that has state power in many places with Sharia law being the most implemented legal code in the world.

Islam matters to us today because we are living through an Islamic inquisition and not because it is becoming more ‘popular’ as its proponents like to argue. They call it the fastest growing religion. I’d personally like a count of how many people are leaving it, or would like to leave if they could without being killed.

Islam’s appeal has not grown amongst the general public; in fact it’s the opposite.  Its record in political power speaks volumes for itself: stonings, honour killings, amputation of limbs, child ‘marriages’, sexual apartheid, decapitations, public hangings, bombs in discotheques and on buses, the slaughter of entire generations in the Middle East and North Africa…


It is the difference between Christianity today and one during the inquisition.

A religion that has been reined in by an enlightenment is very different from one that has political power and is spearheading an inquisition. That’s why anything from downloading information on the status of women in Islam by Perwiz Kambakhsh in Afghanistan, publishing caricatures of Muhammad in a Danish newspaper, to the name to name of a teddy bear in the Sudan become matters of life and death (often with Western government complicity).

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

A ‘personal’ religion is impossible under an inquisition. You can’t pick and choose as you’d like.

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

One of the characteristics of an inquisition is a total ban on freethinking and policing of thought. Censorship is rife so that one can face the death penalty for reading a book or visiting an internet site.  Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake for heresy in 1600; today there are numerous examples of people being killed for similar reasons. Some of those killed just this year by the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has 130 offences punishable by death include by the way, include: Ali Ghorabat for apostasy and Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Haj Aghaie for enmity against god.

Under an inquisition, torture is the norm. According to their handbook at the time, inquisitors were instructed not to find any accused innocent under any circumstances. The same applies under Islamism. You are guilty. Full Stop. Guilty for laughing, guilty for listening to music, guilty for wearing jeans, for driving, for loving, for thinking and for breathing.

The purpose of the so called Sharia justice system is to elicit a confession. In Iran, for example, even its media outlets are involved. Press TV, which is based in the UK, has had a documented role in forcing tortured prisoners to ‘confess’ to their crimes on television. Most recent cases are Maziyar Bahari and Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.

Under the inquisition, you were killed even if you confessed. A confession would just mean that you would be strangled before being burnt to death rather than being burnt alive. The same applies for Islamism. It’s a killing machine.

Sharia law is designed to teach the masses the damnable nature of dissent.


Moreover, under the inquisition, once you were baptized, it could not be undone. The same is true with Islam. You are just not allowed to leave.

Of course there are distinctions in the practice of Islamism as in every phenomenon but it is a question of degrees. A little less vile is still repugnant. The misogyny and inhumanity behind a law that stones people to death in Afghanistan and Somalia are the same as one that denies women the right to divorce and child custody in a sharia court in Britain.

Have expectations been so lowered that – after all we have seen and heard – there are still those who will say that a reformist, liberal or a softer version of Islam or political Islam is possible and tolerable? These notions would have been ridiculed by the avant-gardes of the enlightenment.

It is an insult to humanity.

Religion in general and Islam in particular can only be considered liberal and reformed (at face value at least if even that is possible) 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.

If you look at Christianity for example, it’s not that the tenets, dogma, and principles have changed; it has not become more humane since the days of the inquisition and witch burnings. What has changed is its social and political influence in today’s society, in people’s lives, in its relation with the state, the law and educational system. To the degree that it has become undermined and weakened, that is the degree that people have managed to free themselves from the clutches of religion, and in having happier lives and a better society. Progressive human values have been achieved at the expense of Christianity and religion.

The same has to be done with Islam and Islamism.

And it is being done but mainly by the people living under Islamic laws or those who have fled them and sought refuge in the west.

During the anti-Christianity Enlightenment the raging debate against religion was raised by elites and intellectual giants, which eventually filtered down to popular culture. Now it’s the other way around –it is bubbling from below whilst many intellectuals and elites are either in bed with the Islamists or excuse it as ‘people’s culture.

After all whose culture are we talking about?

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s culture (educated until 5th grade) who ‘wants to live’ or that of the Islamic regime of Iran that wants to stone her to death?

Whose?

Sakineh’s 22 year old transport worker son, Sajjad, who writes open letters to the people of the world despite threats and intimidations asking for help in saving his mother’s life or the regime that has already flogged his mother twice – once in front of his very eyes when he was only 17?

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 societies and communities and hand them over lock, stock and barrel to regressive and parasitical Islamic organisations, imams and states.

After all, there are innumerable characteristics that define people and that people define themselves with but in this day and age we are increasingly being identified only by religion. This has a lot to do with the rise of Islamism and a new world order that has pushed back concepts of universalism and citizenship. Within this context, labelling people as Muslim and Muslim alone is actually part of the process of constraining them in order to feign ‘representation’ and limiting their rights.

Any attempt to promote ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ versions of Islam and Islamism also does the same.

If you want a ‘cuddlier’ version of Islam, then 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.

After all not everyone is a Muslim or an Islamist for that matter. There are innumerable political parties, civil society and social movements with various beliefs and values and classes. By boxing people into a homogeneous community of Muslims, it shrinks the space to breathe and move.

And it ignores the fact that Muslims, or those labelled as such, are the first victims of Islamism and at the frontlines of resistance. It ignores the slaughtered generations of the Middle East and North Africa buried in mass graves, hacked and stoned to death and hung from cranes in city centres and it ignores the resistance taking place day in and day out against Islamism.

Nowhere is opposition greater against Islamism than in countries under Islamic rule.

Condemning Islamism and Islam is not a question of judging all Muslims and equating them with terrorists.

There is a distinction between Islam as a belief system and Islamism as a political movement on the one hand and real live human beings on the other. Neither the far-Right nor the pro-Islamist Left seem to see this distinction.

Both are intrinsically racist. The pro-Islamist Left (and many liberals) imply 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.’

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.

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.

The distinction between humans and their beliefs and regressive political movements is of crucial significance here.

It is the human being who is meant to be equal not his or her beliefs. It is the human being who is worthy of the highest respect and rights not his or her beliefs or those imputed on them.

It is the human being who is sacred not beliefs or religion.

The problem is that religion sees things the other way around.

And this is the main reason why religion must be relegated to being a private matter.

More importantly than the fact that it divides, excludes, denies, restricts and so on is the compelling fact that when it comes to religion, it is not the equality, rights, freedoms, welfare of the child, man or woman that is paramount but religion itself.

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.

And within this context any criticism of Islam and Islamism are deemed to be racism and Islamophobia. This is nothing but political scaremongering in order to silence criticism against Islam. The term is used to shield Islam and Islamism from criticism and so everything from opposing executions in Iran to demanding an end to Sharia courts in Britain are deemed racism by Islamic lobbyists and their supporters, including from within the Left, like the Socialist Workers’ Party in the UK. It has become politically incorrect to criticise Islam. But Islamophobia does not refer to the fear of a certain people. It refers to the fear of a certain religion. And what is so wrong with that? Shouldn’t we have the right to be critical of Islam – especially given its practices, its record? The term takes its cue from xenophobia and homophobia, but it an entirely different thing.

Targeting a belief, religion or Islam is actually fair play and legitimate given the world that we live in.

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

At a minimum, we must have the complete separation of religion from the state, the law and educational system. The promotion of secularism is therefore an important vehicle to protect society from religion’s intervention in people’s lives, especially in the face of religion’s rising access to power.

Of course nowadays, secularism is often portrayed negatively. Religious groups and many others equate secularism as the other extreme of religious fanaticism. But this is untrue.

Religion excludes whilst secularism is inclusive and ensures that a sect or group does not impose its beliefs on all. That a person’s religion is a private affair.

Faith schools must be abolished. Religion in general and Islam more so because of the rise of Islamism, indoctrinates children – often violently. Religious schools by nature must teach the superiority of their belief system and the baseness of non-believers and kafirs.  Unfortunately, the debate on faith schools has for too long focused on scrutiny, monitoring, and changing admission codes and employment practices rather than that they are fundamentally bad for our children. This is because they are more concerned with the inclusion of religion – the religion of the child’s parents – than the inclusion, wellbeing and educational needs of the child. Schools and faith are antithetical to each other. Education is meant to give children access to science, reason and the advances of the 21st century. It is meant to level the playing field irrespective of and despite the family the child is born into. It is meant to allow children to think freely and critically – something that religion actually prohibits and punishes. Education can only truly be guaranteed by a secular educational system and by ending faith schools once and for all.


Religious symbols in schools and public institutions must also be prohibited. What secularism does is require that at minimum government offices and officials from judges, to clerks to teachers to doctors and nurses are not promoting their religious beliefs and are instead doing their jobs. In the same way that a teacher can’t teach creationism instead of evolution and science in the classroom; a pharmacist can’t refuse contraceptive pills to a women because of her beliefs; a male doctor can’t refuse to treat a woman patient or vice versa. We are seeing this happening more and more as religion gains influence in society.

Banning religious symbols is sometimes portrayed as restrictions on religious beliefs or freedoms and religious intolerance but again this is not so. One’s religious beliefs are a private affair; public officials cannot use their positions to impose or promote their beliefs.

Moreover, when it comes to the veil, much more needs to be done than banning the burqa and neqab and the veil from public spaces. The veil is a symbol like no other of what it means to be a woman under Islam – hidden from view, bound, and gagged. It is a tool for restricting and suppressing women. Of course there are some who choose to be veiled, but you cannot say it is a matter of choice because – socially speaking – the veil is anything but. There is no ‘choice’ for most women. In countries under Islamic rule, it is compulsory. Even here, in Britain, according to a joint statement about the veil from ‘Muslim groups, scholars and leaders’, including the Muslim Council of Britain, Hizb ut Tahrir and Islamic ‘Human Rights’ Commission, it is stated that the veil ‘is not open to debate’. The statement goes so far as to ‘advise all Muslims to exercise extreme caution in this issue since denying any part of Islam may lead to disbelief.’

As I have said before, take away all the pressure and intimidation and threats and you will see how many remain veiled.

When it comes to the veiling of girls in schools, though, child veiling must not only be banned in public institutions and schools but also in private schools and everywhere.

Here the issue extends beyond the principle of secularism and goes straight to the heart of children’s rights.


While adults may ‘choose’ veiling or a religion, children by their very nature cannot make such choices; what they do is really what their parents tell them to do.

Even if there are children who say they like or choose to be veiled (as some media have reported), child veiling must still be banned – just as a child must be protected even if she ‘chooses’ to stay with her abusive parents rather than in state care, even if she ‘chooses’ to work to support her family in violation of child labour laws or even if she ‘chooses’ to stop attending school.

The state is duty bound to protect children and must level the playing field for children and ensure that nothing segregates them or restricts them from accessing information, advances in society and rights, playing, swimming and in general doing things children must do.

Whatever their beliefs, parents do not have the right to impose their beliefs, including veiling on children just because they are their own children, just as they can’t deny their children medical assistance or beat and neglect them or marry them off at 9 because it’s part of their beliefs or religion.

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…

The same applies to Sharia courts for so-called minorities something that was successfully opposed in Canada and is now being promoted in the UK as a way to promote ‘minority rights’. Aside from the fact that Sharia law is inherently unjust, it is discriminatory and unfair to have different and separate systems, standards and norms for ‘different’ people. The concept of an Islamic court adheres to a principle of separate but equal similar to that promoted by the former Apartheid regime of South Africa. It was clear then as it is clear now that separate is not equal. In fact it is a prescription for inequality and discrimination. It makes a group of people forever minorities and never citizens equal before and under the law.

Today, also more than ever, we are in need of the de-religionisation of society, not as a private affair but against the religion industry, which is above the law, unregulated and never held accountable for its fatwas, murder and mayhem.

And we need an acknowledgement of the Islamic inquisition and real solidarity with and a strengthening of the anti-Islamic enlightenment bubbling from below that despises Islamism and Islamic morality, scorns the clergy, and rejects an ordained social hierarchy, not more of the same attempts at rescuing Islam and Islamism over the dead bodies of our beloved.

Let me end with a quote from the late Marxist, atheist and humanist Mansoor Hekmat:

I realise that the interests of some require that they rescue Islam (as much as possible) from the wrath of those who have witnessed the indescribable atrocities of or been victimised by Islamists. I also realise that the extent of these atrocities and holocausts is such that even some Islamists themselves do not want to take responsibility for them. So it is natural that the debate on ‘true Islam’ vis-à-vis ‘practical Islam’ is broached over and over again. These justifications, however, are foolish from my point of view (that of a communist and atheist) and from the points of views of those of us who have seen or been the victims of Islam’s crimes. They are foolish for those of us who are living through a colossal social, political and intellectual struggle with this beast. The doctrinal and Koranic foundations of Islam, the development of Islam’s history, and the political identity and affiliation of Islam and Islamists in the battle between reaction and freedom in our era are too obvious to allow the debate on the various interpretations of Islam and the existence or likelihood of other interpretations to be taken seriously.

“…In Islam, be it true or untrue, the individual has no rights or dignity. In Islam, the woman is a slave. In Islam, the child is on par with animals. In Islam, freethinking is a sin deserving of punishment. Music is corrupt. Sex without permission and religious certification, is the greatest of sins. This is the religion of death. In reality, all religions are such but most religions have been restrained by freethinking and freedom-loving humanity over hundreds of years. This one was never restrained or controlled. With every move, it brings abominations and misery.

“Moreover, in my opinion, defending the existence of Islam under the guise of respect for people’s beliefs is hypocritical and lacks credence. There are various beliefs amongst people. The question is not about respecting people’s beliefs but about which are worthy of respect. In any case, no matter what anyone says, everyone is choosing beliefs that are to their liking. Those who reject a criticism of Islam under the guise of respecting people’s beliefs are only expressing their own political and moral preferences, full stop. They choose Islam as a belief worthy of respect and package their own beliefs as the ‘people’s beliefs’ only in order to provide ‘populist’ legitimisation for their own choices. I will not respect any superstition or the suppression of rights, even if all the people of the world do so. Of course I know it is the right of all to believe in whatever they want. But there is a fundamental difference between respecting the freedom of opinion of individuals and respecting the opinions they hold. We are not sitting in judgement of the world; we are players and participants in it. Each of us are party to this historical, worldwide struggle, which in my opinion, from the beginning of time until now has been over the freedom and equality of human beings…”  (Mansoor Hekmat, Islam and De-Islamisation,January 1999)

Maryam Namazie is spokesperson of the One Law for All campaign and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. For more information, go to my personal website or maryamnamazie.blogspot.com or email maryamnamazie[@]gmail.com.

Here is a video clip of the speech.

Mansoor Osanloo is free at last!

ITF Press Release

The ITF is delighted to announce that imprisoned trade unionist Mansour Osanloo was today freed from jail in Iran almost four years since his arrest and imprisonment, which set off a storm of international protest.

His release is conditional on his ‘good behaviour’ and the payment of a bond.

The ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) has led demands for Mansour Osanloo’s release. ITF general secretary David Cockroft commented: “This is a great day for Mansour and his family – and for his fellow Vahed union members and those of us in the international trade union movement who are honoured to call him a friend. It’s doubly welcome given the deterioration in his health during his time behind bars.

“He is free because trade unionists worldwide demanded justice.”

He continued: “That bail has been set falls short of the full pardon we all wanted, and which the Iranian government promised, but for now we can just take a moment to savour his richly deserved return to his family.”

“But – and sadly even on a day as good as this one there has to be a but – there are other innocents in jail in Iran for the same ‘crime’ of wanting to join a trade union. They include Mansour’s colleagues, Reza Shahabi and Ebrahim Madadi. For all of them, and us, the fight is not over. As much as we welcome the Iranian government’s move and its finally listening to reason, we know we must renew our insistence that those other prisoners are set free and the threat of re-arrest lifted from Mansour, and then commit the ITF, our member unions and friends in the trade union and human rights movements to campaigning on their behalf.”

The Vahed Syndicate responded to the news by saying that they would like to thank everyone who has fought so hard for his release.

Mansour Osanloo was a bus driver and is the president and one of the founding members of the Vahed Syndicate, a free trade union representing Tehran’s bus workers. From its beginnings in 2005 the ITF-affiliated union was subjected to heavy repression, including repeated attacks and arrests. Mansour Osanloo was heavily targeted. As well as being beaten up and having his tongue slit he was imprisoned in 2005 and 2006. Then in 2007, just one month after visiting the London head office of the ITF and meeting trade unionists in Brussels, he was arrested. Three months later he was sentenced to five years imprisonment on charges of ‘acting against national security’ and ‘propaganda against the state’; in 2010 another year was added to his sentence. In reality his only offence was to help found a genuinely democratic trade union.

For more details, including a film, press releases and history, please see www.itfglobal.org/campaigns/freeosanloo.cfm

Bahram Soroush protesting Islamic regime of Iran’s presence at the ILO

See below photos and new coverage of Bahram Soroush, member of Worker-communist Party of Iran, in Geneva, Switzerland at the opening of the 100th ILO Conference on 1 June 2011, calling for the expulsion of the Islamic Republic from the ILO.



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