More from the marketplace of outrage

Sikhs offended by Jay Leno’s comments have filed a lawsuit against him for his ‘racist’ comments. His crime? He made a joke about the US Presidential candidate’s wealth, saying that the Sikh Golden Temple was Romney’s summer home.

In an ironic turn of events, the Ahmadiyyas who were so outraged by the Jesus and Mo cartoon and ‘politely’ requested that the UCL atheist group remove it from their Facebook page have now in turn been told by the Kirklees Muslim Action Committee that they have no right to put on an exhibition about the Qur’an, as they ‘are not even Muslims’. Despite causing offence, the Ahmadiyyas say: ‘We believe the Holy Qur’an is our holy book and we hope to show it to the public.’ The exhibition has been postponed on police advice.

And so the saga continues…

In Kenan Malik’s interview with author Monica Ali for his book From Fatwa to Jihad, Ali says:

What we have developed today is a marketplace of outrage. And if you set up a marketplace of outrage you have to expect everyone to enter it. Everyone now wants to say, “My feelings are more hurt than yours”.

And that my dear friends is why not causing offence is NOT a principle.

(Ahmadiyya link via Sigmund; Harry’s Place link via Adam Barnett)

Jesus and Mo is the point

Some atheists are not happy with One Law for All’s use of the Jesus and Mo cartoon on leaflets to promote the 11 February Day in defence of free expression. They feel that since the Jesus and Mo cartoons have been deemed offensive, it is best not to use them.

But that’s the whole point isn’t it?

We’re rallying in order to say that the right to offend is part of free expression. No one needs to rally for inoffensive speech, do they?

And if I hear one more hypothetical on why we shouldn’t offend if we can avoid it, I might just scream. The latest one: ‘If a Muslim comes to your house you will not plaster the Jesus and Mo cartoon all over to offend them on purpose now will you?’

Look my Muslim parents don’t remove their Korans, hands of Fatima or whatever they have hanging everywhere when I enter their home, now do they? They don’t rush about saying we must hide all religious symbols and books since our atheist daughter is arriving. They assume that I can manage to enter their home, have a wonderful visit, all without being offended and screaming atheism-phobia.

Correspondingly, why is it that you think I would need to remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon from my fridge let’s say if my parents visit or for that matter other Muslim family members and friends?

Ahh the well-meaning. If only they were not always so well-meaning at my expense…

On a serious note though, this is what happens when you buy into bogus accusations. If people believe that you must even censor yourself in your own home/Facebook page to avoid causing offence, can you imagine what they expect you NOT to say in the public space…

Please, if we leave it to them, this is the beginning of the end of free expression. But luckily we’re not.

What about the children?

In a letter to the National Secular Society, Children & Families Minister Tim Loughton has said he was not convinced that it would be practicable for Government to implement a national register of madrassas and that any consideration of this would have to include all supplementary schools. To focus only on madrassas would appear discriminatory and could reinforce unhelpful stereotypes.

This despite the fact that there have been loads of evidence of abuse taking place in these schools. A BBC investigation revealed that over 400 allegations of physical abuse (and 30 of sexual abuse) were made at Britain’s madrassas in the last three years. Only 10 cases went to court, and of these only two apparently led to convictions. A Channel 4 Dispatches documentary also revealed abuse. [Read the Council of Ex-Muslims statement on the Dispatches documentary here.]

Err but hold on, what about the children?

Oh yes, sorry, the Chidren and Families Minister has more to worry about than abused children and their families…

Yet another example on how defending Islam and Islamic schools take priority to defending children and citizens from abuse.

(Via Anne Marie Waters)

What about all those leaving Islam

I am meant to be working rather than blogging right now (it’s getting addictive). But I just got this email, which of course I must share with you.

makahar@gmail.com on behalf of getmak@gmail.com writes:

I was just wondering how it feels that despite all your propaganda on Islam, tens of thousands of people (especially Christian women!!) convert to the faith every year??

I guess we can just sit back and relax whilst watching your labour bear no fruition, ahhhh :-)

As I’ve said before in my speech on the Islamic Inquisition, 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. I can’t begin to tell you the numbers of men and women, including wearing the hijab or burka, I have met who are closet atheists…

And by the way whoever you are, their leaving Islam in their multitudes (even if not publicly) has nothing to do with my labours (though I would be happy to take credit for it if you like).

It has everything to do with Islam and Islamism.

The sooner we get rid of Islamism, the sooner you will be able to save Islam from its rubble.

Charges of offence and Islamophobia are secular fatwas

Here is my speech at today’s Blasphemy Conference in London:

There have been a number of recent attacks on free expression here in the UK. They include 17 year old Rhys Morgan being forced to remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon or face expulsion from his Sixth Form College and demands by the UCL Union that the Atheist society remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon from its Facebook page. There has also been a threat of violence, police being called, and the cancellation of a meeting at Queen Mary College where my One Law for All co-spokesperson Anne Marie Waters was to deliver a speech on Sharia. More recently, LSE’s Student Union has passed a resolution ‘No to racism; no to Islamophobia’ and told the Atheist society to remove its affiliation with the Student Union again over a Jesus and Mo cartoon on its Facebook page.

None of this is new. Having been involved in the fight against Islamism and the Islamic Republic of Iran for some 25 years now I have faced many such threats, attempts at intimidation and censorship, bans, calls for the cancellation of events, and bogus accusations.

But for Islamism, this is business as usual even if it is a university Student Union acting as its go between. Islamism has been wreaking havoc in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere for several decades – with a majority of its victims being ‘Muslims’ or those labelled as such. Where it has political power, Islamists forgo all niceties reserved for western public opinion about ‘respect’ and ‘not causing offence’ and imprison and murder anyone who speaks their minds and ‘offends’ their norms and sensibilities.

Despite their track record, it is absurd how the fundamental debate on Islam and free expression here in the west is framed within a context of offence, racism and Islamophobia.

In some ways, these bogus accusations serve Islamism in the same way that Sharia law serves them where they are in power. It helps to threaten, intimidate and silence criticism and dissent. In my opinion, charges of offence and Islamophobia are the equivalent of secular fatwas. [Read more…]

Blasphemy is always good

I’ll be speaking at the Blasphemy, religious hatred, and human rights: Who speaks for the sacred? conference today Saturday at Conway Hall in London.

My talk will focus on how accusations of blasphemy, offensive speech and ‘Islamophobia’ censor and restrict free speech, limit citizen rights, and aid and abet Islamism. With all that’s going on, it’s a good time for blasphemy…

I’ll be bringing leaflets for the 11 February London rally for Free Expression to the event in case anyone wants to come and pick some up for distribution. And yes, it’s got Jesus and Mo on its cover…

Other speakers at the conference are Kenan Malik, Andrew Copson, Austin Dacey and Jacob Mchangama. See what they’ll be speaking about below. [Read more…]

LSE Student Union: Can we have a resolution on Christianity-phobia, Atheism-phobia and Judaism-phobia too?

I ask that the LSE Student Union hold another Emergency meeting to issue a resolution on Judaism-phobia, Christianity-phobia and Atheism-phobia. If criticising Islam is racist and discriminatory, well why not the criticism of Judaism, Christianity, or Atheism? I feel left out and to be honest – slightly offended…

Here’s what the resolution on Christianity-phobia would look like. [This is the SU’s original resolution; I have just exchanged the two terms. The comments in brackets are my own].

No to racism – no to Christianityphobia!

Union notes
1. The rise of Christianityphobia in the United Kingdom and world-wide
2. The rise of the extreme right in Europe [including Islamism, which is a far-Right movement]
3. The Christianityphobic offences internationally
4. Recent Christianityphobic incidents at LSE. [The Jesus and Mo cartoon will suffice as evidence] [Read more…]

LSE Student Union supports criticism of religion – just not Islam

One way that people in Iran survive under the Islamic Republic of Iran is by making fun of its leaders and the clergy. Mockery can be a form of resistance too. Such jokes can be considered blasphemous, particularly since the regime’s leaders represent god’s rule on earth. Free expression, including mockery, though, is sometimes all that people have at their disposal to refuse and resist.

But please don’t mention it to the LSE Student Union as they will soon be issuing resolutions against the people of Iran… They will do anything to defend Islam and Islamism, and I do mean anything. They have just issued a resolution on Islamophobia most likely in order to try and silence and censor the LSE Atheist Secularist and Humanist Society for posting a Jesus and Mo cartoon on their Facebook page.

Of course the resolution states very clearly that the LSE Student Union supports free expression and criticism of religion – but only if the religion is not Islam…

(Link via Mike Tobin)

People’s beliefs are only respectable to themselves

The below is an interview with the late Marxist Mansoor Hekmat on the ‘Fight against Religion’. And a fight it is…

This like everything else of his is a must read:

Azar Majedi: In a recent interview with Porsesh magazine you said, “secularism is a set of minimum conditions”, and that [you] “do not want just secularism, but a conscious fight against religion on the part of society.” What are the characteristics of such a fight?

Mansoor Hekmat: In talking about religion, and particularly Islam in this period [in history], we should bear in mind that we are talking about a phenomenon that can be shown to be the source of suffering, oppression, indignity and humiliation for people. So, we are confronted by a problem, by a disaster, which has to be mitigated in very much the same way that one deals with drug addiction, for example. Drug addiction is not considered a private matter alone, and there are efforts to eradicate it. [In other words,] even if people are allowed to use drugs, you will still not consider that enough of a reason for them to do so, and believe something must be done to urge them to grow out of that habit. It is the same with religion. Religion is a phenomenon involving the freedom of the individual to believe in anything, and yet believing in a set of intellectual, political, and civil beliefs called religion, [in general,] and Islam, [in particular,] has played havoc with people’s lives and, as a result, you fight against it in the same way you would fight against any other disaster. Relinquishing it to the “private affair of the individual” is not, in my view, sufficient in and of itself. What I mean is society must do something so that Islam is eradicated. Simply put, we must do something so that the people themselves eradicate it willingly and voluntarily, may not be influenced by it, held captive to it, and oppressed, made wretched, and drowned in superstition. What is the solution? Education – a free state that educates its citizens on political, social, civil, historical, biological, physical, and natural facts [of life]; civil laws that protect the people against the encroachments of religious firms, against the religion industry. In my opinion, religion is to be looked on as something like the tobacco industry. Everyone is free to smoke, yet you legislate against tobacco companies so that they are not able to take advantage of people’s addiction, not cause too much damage to their health, and not have a free hand in drawing children and youngsters into addiction, etc. In the same way, there must be similar laws with regards to religion. There must be laws so that the religion industry, quite a business in its own right, cannot ruin people’s lives. It is possible to do something during a generation’s time so that a free society would be built which will have eradicated religion just like malaria or drug addiction. [Read more…]

The right to offend is fundamental to free expression

Here’s One Law for All’s statement in support of LSE ASH:

One Law for All calls on the London School of Economics Student Union to respect and uphold the rights of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH), in particular its right to freedom of expression.

Their accusation that the publication of a cartoon featuring Jesus Christ and the Prophet Mohammed amounts to ‘racism and discrimination on campus’ is both absurd and dangerous.

The right to offend is fundamental to the right to free expression. Indeed, offence is a highly subjective concept, thereby rendering every word, drawing, or speech potentially offensive.

The LSE SU should understand the difference between prejudice against a group of people and criticism of a set of beliefs.

The ASH must be allowed to continue their activities unhindered and any action against them dropped. [Read more…]

We give this kuffar the right to speak

Bruce Gordon has written about the attacks on free speech and 11 February Day for Free Expression in the South African Times Live. He ends by saying:

These are direct attacks not only on the freedoms and rights of atheists and skeptics, but on everybody, everywhere. These are attacks on the basic human right to disagree, the right which is fundamental to all the others.

For too long fear has been treated as not simply a valid alternative to argument, but a superior one. For too long authoritarians of every stripe have told us, “Your facts are rendered irrelevant by our fists” and caused chaos, destruction and war through their violence.

As South Africans, of every faith and none, of every alignment and none, we stand against this privately in our everyday lives. We know that our rights begin in the rights of others, because we have seen what happens when that principle is cast aside.

On the 11 of February, One Law for All is arranging a rally to stand up against this. What do you intend to do? Are you prepared to stand up and say “We give this kuffar the right to speak”?

Iran: Two trade unionists released, but more arrested

24 January 2012

Two worker activists by the names Sharif Saed Panah and Mozaffar Saleh Nia, both members of the Free Union of Iranian Workers, who were arrested earlier this month, have been released on bail. The release follows several weeks of campaigning both inside and outside Iran. The released workers were jubilantly greeted by their family and supporters outside the offices of the Ministry of Intelligence in Sanandaj.

However, a number of other trade unionists have been detained, or summoned to the Intelligence Ministry: In Tabriz, Shahrokh Zamani and Mohammad Jarahi were detained while out on bail, while Nima Poor-Yaghoub and Sasan Vahebi-Vash were summoned. Zamani and Jarahi are both members of the Follow-up Committee to Set up Free Labour Organisations. Last August, a court sentenced all four to long prison terms: Zamani to 11 years, Jarahi to five years and six months, Poor-Yaghoub to six years and Vahebi-Vash to six months. [Read more…]

Islamophobia is used to scaremonger people into silence

The Guardian has published a letter calling for an inquiry into the ‘anti-Islam’ press.

Whilst racism must be unequivocally condemned, the signatories – like the Guardian, confuse racism with a criticism of Islam. They are not one and the same no matter how many letters and articles the Guardian publishes.

Islamophobia is nothing but a political term used to scaremonger people into silence. [And yes I’m looking at you Islamophobia Watch.]

Well I am sorry but no can do.

You cannot attribute human qualities to a belief system or Islam and Islamism in order to rule out and deem racist any opposition or criticism.

Just in case they didn’t know, let me repeat. Criticism, mockery, opposition to and even hatred of a belief Is. Not. Racism.

Now if the signatories bothered to think rather than parrot Islamist propaganda, they would see that this is the case.  In their own letter they refer to a poll commissioned by the ‘moderate’ Ahmadiyya Muslim community, in order to ‘inform its plans to counter the tide of prejudice against Islam and highlight strategies to promote better community relations.’

That’s what the term is there for – to protect Islam – from prejudice, not Muslims. Given the havoc Islamism (and its banner, Islam) are wreaking worldwide, a criticism is not just a right but a historical task and duty.

(Link via Anne Marie Waters)

It’s London School of Economic’s turn

Now it is the London School of Economics Student Union;s turn having instructed the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH) to remove cartoons featuring Jesus and Mohammed from their Facebook page. LSESU ASH is not complying with the instruction and has appealed to LSESU to withdraw it.

Good on them.

LSESU ASH President Chris Moos, who will be speaking at the 11 February rally for free expression, made the following statement on behalf of the Society’s committee:

‘There are no reasonable grounds for the LSESU’s instruction because we are in no way violating their policies or byelaws. The cartoons on our Facebook page criticise religion in a satirical way and we totally reject any claim that their publications could constitute any sort of harassment or intimidation of Muslims or Christians. [Read more…]

Free Expression Day of Action is our chance to take a stand

The One Law for All 11 February rally for Free Expression is being held in London from 14:00-16:00 hours at the Old Palace Yard opposite the House of Lords. [Here is leaflet for download and distribution.]

Confirmed Speakers at London Rally: Hasan Afzal (Stand for Peace), Jenny Bartle (National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies), Roy Brown (International Humanist and Ethical Union), Nick Cohen (Writer), Sue Cox (Survivors Voice Europe), Christopher Crowley-Jenns (Kings College London), Alex Gabriel (Blogger), A C Grayling (Philosopher), Faisal Gazi (Spittoon.org), Jennifer Hardy (Queen Mary Atheism Humanism and Secularism Society), Kenan Malik (Writer), Chris Moos (London School of Economics Atheist, Secularist, and Humanist Society), Rhys Morgan (Student activist), Maryam Namazie (One Law for All and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain), Yasmin Rehman (Campaigner), Pragna Patel (Southall Black Sisters), Gita Sahgal, (Centre for Secular Space), Terry Sanderson/Keith Porteous Wood (National Secular Society), Kate Smurthwaite (Comedian), Bahram Soroush (Labour Rights Activist), Rupert Sutton (Student Rights), Jac Thomas (Kings College London Atheist, Secularist & Humanist Society), Marco Tranchino (Central London Humanist Group), Anne Marie Waters (One Law for All) and Susan Zhuang (University College London Atheist, Secularist & Humanist Society). There will be a message from Richard Dawkins and the Jesus and Mo cartoonist.

The call for action follows an increased number of attacks on free expression in the UK, including a 17 year old Rhys Morgan being forced to remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon or face expulsion from his Sixth Form College and demands by the UCL Union that the Atheist society remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon from its Facebook page. It also follows threats of violence, police being called, and the cancellation of a meeting at Queen Mary College where One Law for All spokesperson Anne Marie Waters was to deliver a speech on Sharia.

The Day of Action has already been endorsed by nearly 100 groups and individuals including Jessica Ahlquist, Centre for Secular Spaces, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, Richard Dawkins, Equal Rights Now, Jesus and Mo Creator, Taslima Nasrin, National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies, National Secular Society, Salman Rushdie, Southall Black Sisters, and Peter Tatchell. To see the list and add your own, click here.

Moreover, One Law for All and the National Secular Society are following up on the incident at which a One Law for All meeting was cancelled at Queen Mary after death threats. Tower Hamlets police said this morning that investigations in to the incident are on-going. They are working with university security and examining CCTV in attempts to identify the offender. They have also offered a police presence when the speech is rescheduled. We reported that the person making the threats had been seen again at the Francis Bancroft building on Wednesday 17. Furthermore, Dominic Bell, Vice President of the Student Union at University of London, said that his union is ‘committed to freedom of speech’ and would aim to improve the quality of security at their events. He said the union is ‘working on improving our monitoring and assessment of risk and [he] will be meeting the Director of Student and Campus Services and the Head of Security more frequently to go through this’.

In addition to the London, there will be actions and acts of solidarity in other cities, including Australia, France, Gambia, Germany and Poland. To see the list or to add your own action or event, click here.

Clearly, the time has come to take a firm and uncompromising stand for free expression and against all forms of threats and censorship.

The right to criticise religion is a fundamental right that is crucial to many, including Muslims.

11 February is our chance to take that stand.

You need to be there.

Enough is enough.

For more information, and details of the Day of Action, visit One Law for All.
BM Box 2387
London WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
onelawforall@gmail.com

Join London Rally’s Facebook page here and Tweet #11FebFEDay.

The rally is sponsored by The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason UK.

Below is media coverage of the rally and attacks on free expression:

A Day to Stand up for Free Expression, South African Times Live, 24 January 2012 [external link]

How freedom goes, The Spectator, 22 January 2012 [external link]

Strong religious belief is no excuse for intimidation, The Independent, 22 January 2012 [external link]

11 February: A Day to Defend Free Expression, New Zealand’s Scoop, 20 January 2012 [external link]

Islamist stops university talk with threats of violence, National Secular Society Newsline, 17 January 2012 [external link]

Inaccurate, dogmatically secularist scaremongering!?

Ah yes, the old ‘inaccurate, dogmatically secularist scaremongering [which] plays directly into the hands of the far right and will be used to bolster a racist narrative about the Islamic threat to the West’ response to Joan Smith’s article on the Islamist threat to free expression.

I know, I know. Saying that people have a right to speak is somehow scaremongering but issuing death threats and bogus accusations of racism aren’t. Hmm, I suppose when you are so prone to defending religion, logic does need to take a back seat.

The article says:

So, to summarise, we have one individual who disrupted a meeting, a polite request by an Ahmadiyyah student group that an illustration which offended Muslims should be withdrawn, and a dubious report of a threat to Salman Rushdie which Rushdie himself says in baseless. And this supposedly amounts to a pattern of Muslim intimidation of critics of Islam.

Interesting how Islamists have a way of trivialising things – and forgetting a tiny little thing like their track record.

The website reporting this journalistic gem is linked to the Islamic regime in Iran so I suppose enough said.

When offending sensibilities is more important than death threats

A complaint has been lodged against four authors who read out excerpts from Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses in protest to his being prevented from attending Jaipur Literature Festival due to death threats.

One of the authors, Hari Kunzru, says:

‘We wanted to demystify the book. It is, after all, just a book. Not a bomb. Not a knife or a gun. Just a book.’

Yes just a book but clearly Islamist ‘sensibilities’ are more important than death threats and murder.

In support of the authors and Rushdie, I publish the following from the Satanic Verses here. [Read more…]

How freedom goes

The recent attacks on free expression have been mentioned in the press, by well-known secularists, namely Joan Smith: ‘Strong religious belief is no excuse for intimidation‘ and Nick Cohen: How Freedom Goes. Both have endorsed the 11 February One Law for All day of action in defence of free expression.

They may be ‘lone voices’, as Nick Cohen says, but – trust me – not for long.

Human Rights Watch – You are Disgusting!

Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth says in the group’s annual report that the past year’s Arab Spring uprisings across the region have shown it is vital for the West to end its policy of backing ‘an array of Arab autocrats’ in exchange for supporting Western interests. So far so good.

But then the organisation and Roth fall for the same old affliction of the post-modernist left, which is that ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’. Therefore, according to this sad piece of logic (or lack thereof) if the Islamists replace the bad autocrats, then they must be good. Really?

He says: ‘The international community must … come to terms with political Islam when it represents a majority preference, he said. ‘Islamist parties are genuinely popular in much of the Arab world, in part because many Arabs have come to see political Islam as the antithesis of autocratic rule.’

I beg to differ. Even if a majority prefers something, it doesn’t necessarily make it good and right, nor does it mean that the new option is the ‘antithesis of autocratic rule’. Islamism is also autocratic and in many places supported by the West.

And the reality is very different. A majority don’t support Islamism unless you believe that people like to have their rights and freedoms limited and are different human beings from those sitting in the plush Human Rights Watch offices. [Read more…]

I want to live

So says the trembling voice of a 21-year-old youth in Karaj prison. Zaniar says that his death sentence and that of his cousin, Loqman, have been confirmed on appeal, but the prison authorities have not officially informed them. “Please do something”, he fearfully asks me. “I am very worried. They might call me at any moment and execute me”.

This dialogue is not lifted from a film; this is not a scene from a novel or a movie about the Middle Ages. This conversation took place just a couple of days ago. The two have been charged with ‘Enmity against God’ and ‘Corruption on Earth’. Details here.

Something must be done. The authorities intend to execute Zaniar, aged 21, and Loqman, aged 26, in public. Zaniar is asking the world to do something. He hopes that each of us, according to our individual situations and capabilities, will dedicate a portion of our time to this issue and take action. From today we are asking all of you, our friends, and all organisations for the defence of human rights and groups against the death penalty, to take action. Let us all join together and work to save Zaniar’s and Loqman’s lives by promoting news coverage of the situation, signing petitions and protest letters, and organising demonstrations and meetings. This is our duty. [Read more…]