The veil is yet another restriction on women

I’ve been meaning to comment on a recent article in the Guardian (surprise, surprise) about how wonderfully liberating the hijab is and am glad I was reminded of it today.

The author, Nadiya Takolia, says:

…in a society where a woman’s value seems focused on her sexual charms, some wear it explicitly as a feminist statement asserting an alternative mode of female empowerment. Politics, not religion, is the motivator here. I am one of these women…

…In a world as diverse and changing as our own, the hijab means a multitude of things to the many women who choose to wear it. I speak as a woman who just happens to come from the Islamic faith, and for me the hijab is political, feminist and empowering. This dimension is increasingly important for many women who choose to wear it; it’s a shame it is understood by so few.

It’s ironic how hijabis often portray their wearing of the hijab as a form of liberation from the sexualisation of women in society when it is just one other form of sexualisation and control. In fact, it sexualises girls from a young age and demands that they be covered and segregated so as not to cause fitna or chaos in society.

In the real world, this isn’t called liberating or empowering. It’s called something else and it’s far from a choice for a majority. It’s no more a ‘choice’ than other forms of control and sexualisation, such as female genital mutilation or the chastity belt and foot binding.

Rahila Gupta has recently written a piece in Open Democracy on this very issue. It’s called The hijab or the bikini: The shaping of young girls’ sexuality.

In it she says:

By calling for a ban on lingerie and beauty pageants for young girls, the French report shifts responsibility from parents to the corporate sector which, to some extent, disguises the fact that the state is challenging parental hegemony. Additionally, it shifts the public debate and opens up a space to call for the banning of hijabs worn by young girls which also draws attention to girls’ sexuality, conversely by covering them up. Both sets of girls are robbed of the freedom and innocence (i.e. not being constructed as objects of desire) of childhood. Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson for Council for Ex-Muslims is forthright in her condemnation of the imposition of hijabs on young girls, ‘child veiling must be banned full stop. This is a children’s rights issue. 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…. They [parents] 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.’  This is an important perspective in the debate on veiling which is often missing in the West out of ‘respect’ for other cultures and religions.

As an aside, whilst Rahila  supports a ban on child veiling, she opposes my demand for a ban on the burka. I have commented on this by saying:

It is not enough to say that a burka ban is ‘counter-productive and seen as an onslaught on Muslims’. This can be said about any position regarding Islam and Islamism. One can say the same about those opposing child veiling and sharia law and its discrimination against Muslim women and so on. Firstly, it disregards the reality that Islamism and its rule target Muslims first and foremost. Also I believe women’s rights campaigners cannot evade their responsibilities. Yes there is racism that we must confront but as Rahila has herself said many times, we cannot ignore the enemy within because we live in a racist society. The burka has real negative implications for women and their rights and lives. As we do on all other issues, we can bring an opposition that is different from Sarkozy’s position or that of the racist ruling elite just as we bring a different perspective against Sharia law from the racist far-Right that targets Muslims and immigrants.

(Guardian link via Asad Abbas)

Sharia law: neither equal nor free

Here’s a letter being sent out today by my One Law for All co-spokesperson Anne Marie Waters:

Dear friend

Update on Baroness Cox’s Equality Bill

One Law for All has been spending a lot of time recently working with Caroline Cox and her team in promoting the Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equalities) Bill. The aim of the Bill, which was introduced to the House of Lords last year, is to make arbitration services in the UK subject to equality laws and to bar any arbitration where parties are of unequal standing; for example, it would disallow arbitration providers placing greater weight on the testimony of one party over another, as is the case with sharia law where a wife’s word is worth only half of her husband’s. The Bill will also create a criminal offence and make it illegal for arbitration bodies to pretend they have greater jurisdiction than they do – in other words, preventing them from misinforming people that they must obey their rulings. It will also place a duty on public bodies in the UK to inform women of their rights under British law.

The Bill is due for a second reading in the House of Lords this October. Many Peers have already pledged support but we need your help in persuading them further. If you have time, please write to any members of the House of Lords and ask them to consider the seriousness of this Bill and its need in maintaining a society where all people are equal before a single secular and democratic law. In your letter, you could point out to Peers that the Islamic Sharia Council and the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal both openly acknowledge that the testimony of women is given less value than that of men, that custody of children is awarded to fathers regardless of the circumstances, and that sharia family law permits, and therefore encourages, domestic violence and the abuse of women and children. You can find out how to write to Peers here. You can read the bill here. [Read more...]

You want to ban hate speech? Isn’t that what religion is?

I was on a panel discussion this past weekend on free expression.

In such discussions, there are always those who are proponents of banning ‘hate’ speech because they say it causes emotional distress and can lead to discrimination.

My response is that much of religion is hate speech. Have they read the Koran or Bible recently?

Whenever I hear a sura of the Koran, I feel distressed. And by the way, every time we hear religious edicts that say apostates should die, or that women are subhuman, can’t that also be considered adding to the discrimination apostates or women face?

We have been tortured, executed and stoned to death with ‘Allah O Akbar’ ringing in our ears:

(The singer says, with Allah O Akbar, we have been totured, executed and stoned to death.)

Nonetheless, you can’t ban religion because it is hate speech.

Of course I know when people defend the banning of hate speech, they don’t mean banning religion – that’s always off-limits; what they usually mean is that they want a ban on the uncompromising criticism of religion.

I say let the religious bigots – and for that matter all bigots – express themselves freely.

And we will too.

Speech – however distressing or hateful – is not the same as physical harm.

And anyway, you can’t stop hate with censorship. You can only stop it by challenging it head on.

None of your business!

For those who think all ‘Muslims’ think alike and love to live under restrictions and Sharia law, here’s a brilliant video of a Saudi woman refusing to comply with the demand of the morality police that she leave the mall because her hair is showing, she’s got nail polish and lip stick. She stands her ground in a way that will make you smile all day, every day for the rest of the week.

(Link via Hassan Radwan)

We don’t draw the line

I am off to Brighton today to join a panel discussion on ‘Where do you draw the line’ on free expression.

I say no where. Let people talk even if what they say is disgusting. You can’t and mustn’t stop people from reciting the Koran because it’s inhuman just as you can’t and mustn’t stop us from speaking out against it.

Here are the details of the event: 4.30 – 6pm at the Brighton Dome, Pavilion Theatre, a panel discussion staged by Index on Censorship and Free Word as part of this year’s Brighton Festival For more information, click here.

By the way, don’t forget that this has an impact on real lives. Today is an International Day of Action in support of Shahin Najafi, an Iranian rapper and songwriter living in Germany who has received a fatwa of death by the two Iranian Ayatollahs Makarem Shirazi and Safi Golpayegani. Shahin has been accused of offending Islam in his rap, Naghi. A bounty of 100,000 US dollars has been offered as reward for his murder on a website affiliated to the Islamic regime of Iran.

I’ll be sure to mention Shahin today in my interventions. If there is an action in his defence, why not join it. You can also support Shahin by joining his Facebook page and visiting his website.

Where do you draw the line?

On 26 May 2012 from 4.30 – 6pm at the Brighton Dome, Pavilion Theatre, I will be joining a panel discussion staged by Index on Censorship and Free Word as part of this year’s Brighton Festival called ‘Where do you draw the line?’

Open dialogue is the key to a healthy, cohesive society, but some fear the disruptive, dangerous potential of truly free speech. Inspired by themes of DV8’s show Can We Talk About This? the event presents an interactive conversation about how, when and why we censor ourselves. Chaired by Kenan Malik, author of From Fatwa to Jihad and regular guest on The Moral Maze, the discussion moves between panellists and the audience using electronic polling terminals, with poll results screened live.

To buy tickets and for more information, click here.

Freedom of Expression, Multiculturalism and Political Islam

I got back from Kamloops yesterday. Though I was exhausted, I’m really glad I went – fantastic people, speakers and organisers!

Here’s the speech I gave:

* Kuwait’s parliament recently voted in favour of a legal amendment that would make blasphemy a crime punishable by death following the arrest of a man accused of insulting Mohamed on Twitter.

* In Saudi Arabia, Hamza Kashgari, a 23-year-old reporter from Jeddah, faces the death penalty for blasphemy after he Tweeted an imaginary conversation with Mohammad.

* In April, two young Tunisians, Jabeur Mejri and Ghazi Beji, (one in absentia) were sentenced to seven years in prison for posting cartoons of Mohammad.

* Alex Aan, a 30 year old atheist, faces up to 5 years in prison charged with blasphemy for saying there is no god on Facebook.

* Asia Bibi faces execution in Pakistan for blasphemy.

* In Egypt, a court upheld the conviction of comedian, Adel Imam, of ‘offending Islam’. Author Alaa al-Aswany says: the court ruling sets Egypt back to the “darkness of the Middle Ages” and that this is “an unimaginable crime of principle”.

* In Britain, 17 year old Rhys Morgan was forced to remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon or face expulsion from his Sixth Form College and there were demands by various student unions at London universities that Atheist societies remove Jesus and Mo cartoons from their 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

Here’s one such experience from Canada of a bogus accusation of racism: in 2002/2003, the Canadian Council for Refugees banned me from their e-mail listserv of refugee rights activists because my writings, particularly ‘Islam, Political Islam and Women’s Rights in the Middle East‘ were deemed in violation of their anti-racist policy by ‘not maintaining and/or promoting an environment free of discrimination and bias by its wholesale condemnation of Islam and Muslims and not demonstrating an acceptance of the equity of all faiths’.

But for Islamism, a far-right political movement, and its apologists, this is business as usual. 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 therefore absurd how the fundamental debate on Islam and free expression here in Europe, North America and Australia is framed within a context of offence, racism and Islamophobia. Let me explain. [Read more...]

Kamloops here I come

I am off to Kamloops, BC Canada to speak at the Imagine No Religion 2 Conference being held during 18-20 May 2012. For more information on the conference, click here. It’s been sold out.

I’m looking forward to seeing some of the greats there (I’ll be seeing PZ again, yay!) but am not looking forward to the long journey and I am going to give power point another try…

I’ll be back on 22 May and may not be able to blog until then.

HOLD THIS DATE: 23 June Luncheon for CEMB’S 5th Birthday

Hello

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) will be 5 years old next month.

To celebrate the work, significance and achievements of this unique organisation, we are holding a fundraising luncheon on Saturday 23 June 2012 in London from 13.00-16:00 hours.

The luncheon will be a wonderful opportunity to meet other like-minded individuals and enjoy a three-course lunch, great entertainment and speakers in an intimate setting whilst supporting our work.

In the five years since our establishment, the CEMB has been a beacon of hope for thousands of ex-Muslims who have renounced Islam and religion. It has helped to break the taboo and challenge Islamism, which punishes apostasy with the death penalty.

And during this time, we have done it all – from helping to return a young woman back to Britain from North Africa where she had been sent as punishment for her ‘disobedience’ to securing the release from detention and the right to asylum for many across Europe. We have also given large numbers of people a new ‘home’ via our forum and meet-up group. Moreover, we have helped to highlight the plight of ex-Muslims, apostates and blasphemers internationally, including Indonesian atheist Alex Aan currently in prison and German-Iranian rapper Shahin Najafi facing a death fatwa from Iran’s ayatollahs. The One Law for All campaign against Sharia law in Britain, which we initiated at our first international conference, has also made waves across the globe as has our unequivocal defence of free expression, equality and citizenship rights.

None of this could have been done without your help. So thank you!

We hope to have another successful five years with your continued support. You can do this by attending the 23 June luncheon. Ticket(s) are £45.00 per person or £35.00 for students/unwaged. To purchase tickets, send a cheque made payable to CEMB to BM Box 1919, London WC1N 3XX or pay via Paypal or Worldpay. Please make sure to include your email address and telephone number so that we can provide further details of the venue upon receipt of payment.

If you can’t come to the luncheon but would like to help, please send in a donation. On 23 June, why not organise a coffee morning or a luncheon party at your home to raise some extra money for the CEMB? No amount is too small and helps us help others and make a real difference.

We hope to see you at the fundraising luncheon or hear from you about how you can help us with the important work that lies ahead.

If you have any questions about the luncheon or a fundraising event you want to hold in your own home, please feel free email me at exmuslimcouncil@gmail.com or call at +44 (0)7719166731.

Thanks again.

Best wishes,

Maryam

Maryam Namazie
Spokesperson
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
BM Box 2387
London WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
exmuslimcouncil@gmail.com
www.ex-muslim.org.uk

May 26 2012: Day of Action to Defend rapper Shahin Najafi facing a death fatwa

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) supports the International Day of Action in support of Shahin Najafi, an Iranian rapper and songwriter living in Germany who has received a fatwa of death by the two Iranian Ayatollahs Makarem Shirazi and Safi Golpayegani. Shahin has been accused of offending Islam in his rap, Naghi. A bounty of 100,000 US dollars has been offered as reward for his murder on a website affiliated to the Islamic regime of Iran.

The CEMB calls on all to join in the various meetings, rallies and actions to be held on 26 May in order to defend Shahin’s right to free expression and his right to be free from threats and intimidation. A criticism of religion is key to the basic right to free expression.

To support Shahin and to stand up for freedom of expression, please join the Facebook page and visit his website.

For more information, contact:
Maryam Namazie
Spokesperson
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
BM Box 1919
London WC1N 3XX
telephone: +44(0)7719166731
e-mail: ex-muslimcouncil@googlemail.com
website: www.ex-muslim.org.uk

Conspiratorial nut-jobs, Nazis and extremists

Here’s a wonderful letter I received recently from a thoughtful ex-member of the far-Right British National Party. There is a lot we can learn from Alistair Barbour in challenging the far-Right. As I have said before, when the pathetic excuse of an ‘anti-fascist’ and Post-modernist Left allies itself with Islamic fascism, it leaves the space open for the far-Right to address this issue from an inhuman and racist perspective. That’s why the work of groups like One Law for All is so important. And it will be made all the stronger with voices such as that of Alistair’s. Alistair gave me permission to publish his letter in full.

Dear Ms Namazie.

I hope you don’t mind me sending this mail through this site I am a subscriber to your blog on ‘freethought blogs.com’ and received your posting relating to the far right. I have tried to send this article to that email address also but as it says ‘no reply’ I don’t hold out much hope of you getting it through that channel. If this email can not be sent to Ms Namazie would it be possible to let me know.

I am thoroughly ashamed to admit that a few years ago I was becoming very concerned about certain things in our country that I actually joined the BNP [the far-Right British National Party]. A shameful weight that I shall carry round my neck for ever. Please allow me to explain as briefly as I can.

I had never been one for watching TV and the internet was a total unknown source for me so I had heard little bits about the BNP but very little really. I was too busy working and bringing up 2 sons on my own. Looking back now I can see the pattern of why I became political.

There was real problems with the country, political Islam being one of the them. At the time I spoke to the 3 main party’s and they just appeared to not want to face up to some very real problems that society was facing. Anyways a friend of mine asked me to come to a political meeting, a BNP meeting. I thought what the hell, it will be interesting won’t it.

Anyways to try and be as brief as possible. I know now that I was primed. I had been thought the courts for a few years. My ex-wife had taken my house and left me with 2 sons. I definitely got the best deal, two great sons who are now young men,but I think at the time the anger with the unfairness in the system was festering. My sons were now older and I suppose I maybe noticed what was going on in my country. [Read more...]

We need more cartoons

Iranian cartoonist Mahmoud Shokrayeh has been sentenced to 25 lashes for ‘insulting’ a Member of the Islamic Assembly, Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani, by drawing him in a football kit. The cartoon is criticising the interference of politicians in sports.

Another Iranian cartoonist, Mana Neyestani, condemned the sentence as “cruel and uncivilised” and called on others to publish more cartoons of Lotfi Ashtiani in solidarity with Shokrayeh.

Here’s one by Vahid Nikgoo showing Lotfi Ashtiani looking into a mirror with a speech bubble saying: “I’ll take you to court and sentence you to lashes so that you won’t draw me like this anymore!”

 

 

 

 

 

If you can draw cartoons, I’m not sure what are you waiting for?

I think this calls for a new Jesus and Mo cartoon…

Finally, they’re getting it

According to the National Secular Society’s Newsline:

A British TV channel that broadcast a talk saying it is acceptable to murder someone who has shown disrespect to the prophet Muhammad is facing a heavy fine or potential closure by Ofcom. The regulator ruled that DM Digital is the first UK broadcaster to break the broadcasting code for material “likely to encourage or incite the commission of a crime or lead to disorder” or more likely the first one Ofcom has recognised as breaking the broadcasting code.

The media regulator commissioned two English translations of the programme which revealed that the presenter of the show said: “If someone takes a step in the love of the Prophet, then this is not terrorism.” He also made a number of comments citing a “duty” to kill those who insult Mohammed, including: “I hail those who made this law [Pakistan's blasphemy law] which states that one who insults the prophet deserves to be killed – such a person should be eliminated.”

Ofcom said: “We considered that the broadcast of the various statements made by the Islamic scholar … was likely to encourage or incite the commission of a crime.”

Finally, Ofcom is getting it!

Imagine if they had commissioned English translations for a 24 hour period and for all the Islamic channels. Oh the gems they would find…

Yes to profiling of Muslims?

The atheist author Sam Harris says:

We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it. And, again, I wouldn’t put someone who looks like me entirely outside the bull’s-eye… But there are people who do not stand a chance of being jihadists, and [airport] screeners can know this at a glance.

In his addendum addressing the uproar, he says that those who ‘don’t see the link between Islam and suicidal terrorism’ might object to this but that it is a fact that ‘suicidal terrorism is overwhelmingly a Muslim phenomenon.’ He adds:

To say that ethnicity, gender, age, nationality, dress, traveling companions, behavior in the terminal, and other outward appearances offer no indication of a person’s beliefs or terrorist potential is either quite crazy or totally dishonest. It is the charm of political correctness that it blends these sins against reasonableness so seamlessly…

I suppose Sam Harris has a point – that is if you believe that one’s ethnicity, dress, gender and nationality (very different things from behaviour) can give some indication of one’s potential.

If so, we might take him up on his suggestion and profile Christians in order to avert the real risks of far-Right extremism in Europe and the USA. Of course this is absurd because – in most instances – you can’t tell who is Christian, atheist, Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, animist, or humanist just by looking at them. And even if you do manage to herd all the Christians into one special screening area (maybe after an interview as this information is not on one’s passport) how can you assume that they (or Norwegians for that matter) are potential Breiviks or far-Right terrorists?

You can’t.

It’s the same with Muslims.

Harris will find my example of profiling Christians incomparable because he will say that Islamic terrorism is a greater risk. Of course it is today but the first victims of Islamic terrorism – and for many decades and long before September 11 – are Muslims themselves or those deemed to be such. In any case, which threat is greater is irrelevant if we agree that profiling is an absurd and racist way to address far-Right political movements like Islamism.

This is exactly what I keep banging on about when I speak of what can happen if you allow the far-Right to have hegemony on the debate on Islam, terrorism, and Sharia law because the post-modernist left and many liberals are too pathetic to stand for social justice, citizenship rights and equality.

Sam Harris’ argument shows clearly how far-Right discourse has crept into the language and politics of some atheists and secularists.

Like Harris, the far-Right conflates Islam, Muslims, terrorism and Islamism so as to make it seem as if they are all one and the same. And like them, he blames all Muslims for Islamic terrorism. Profiling can only be an acceptable response if one allocates collective blame.

If you want to know more about the distinctions between Muslims and Islamists you can read my speech on the Islamic inquisition though I talk about this in many speeches, articles and blog entries but it’s basically the difference between Christians and far-Right extremists.

As an aside, it’s interesting how the concept of profiling always and only comes up with regards to minorities. Harris says he doesn’t mean that non-whites alone must be profiled but now he is the one who is being totally dishonest.

Shahin Najafi’s death fatwa: They are at it again

The Islamic Republic of Iran’s Ayatollah Golpayegani has issued a death fatwa against 31 year old rap artist Shahin Najafi for apostasy. Shahin’s rap entitled Naqi is deemed to be ‘offensive’ to a Shia imam. The Fars press agency (which is a government mouthpiece) has announced the ‘establishment of a campaign to execute Shahin Najafi’ who lives in Germany.

What utter nerve.

The German government and EU should issue a warrant for Golpayegani’s arrest. Rather than promulgating arrest warrants for dissidents and free thinkers like Hamza Kashgari, INTERPOL can then promulgate the arrest of a real criminal.

Is that really too much to ask?

As the late Mansoor Hekmat has said:

…No one took Mr. Khomeini to court for issuing a death fatwa against Salman Rushdie; notwithstanding that inciting to murder is a crime in all countries of the world. And this is only a small corner of a network of murder, mutilation, intimidation, abduction, torture, and child abuse. I think that the Medellin drug cartels (Escobars), the Chinese triads, and Italian (and American) mafia are nothing in comparison to organised religion.

Here’s Shahin’s rap:

Go on Shahin Najafi’s Facebook page and click ‘like’ to support him.

Often, the silence is deafening

I have just returned from the Center For Inquiry’s Rhine River cruise where Richard Dawkins, Ronald A Lindsay and I were speaking. I gave two talks – one on Sharia law, Islamophobia and Secularism and the other on Free Expression and Islam. Here’s my speech on Sharia law:

My talk today is on Sharia law, Islamophobia and Secularism.

It’s a difficult topic, not – as one might assume – because of the threats and intimidations that surround this issue, or the palpable fear associated with it. While these are very real and colour everything, I find this topic difficult primarily because of how many people and organisations are siding with Sharia law at the expense of rights, equality, and secularism.

There are reasons for why a large segment of the population has become convinced that it is not possible to act or intervene and that it is racist to do so.

People will often tell me that they don’t know enough about Sharia law to oppose it but doesn’t everyone know what Sharia law is even if they don’t know of the existence of Sharia courts in Britain or Europe.

You’d have to live under a rock not to know what Sharia law means for people across the world.

Sharia law is Islamic law and it’s based on a combination of sources, including the Quran, the Hadith or Sunna (sayings and actions of Islam’s orophet Mohammad), and Islamic jurisprudence and rulings or fatwas issued by scholars.

Sharia law is far from monolithic and consistent; there are four prominent schools of Sharia in Sunni Islam and one major school in Shia Islam.

But despite the inconsistencies, there is consensus within all schools regarding the necessity of the death penalty for apostasy and sexual “crimes” including homosexuality, on the need for women to be veiled, and on different treatment under the law accorded to men compared with women as well as Muslims compared with non-Muslims.

Sharia law rulings that everyone is familiar with is people being hung in Iran for examples from cranes in city centres for apostasy, blasphemy, heresy, being gay, and enmity against god. There are 130 offences punishable by death under Sharia. Another recent example is of morality police in Iraq stoning dozens of Iraqi youth to death because of their haircuts and tight jeans. Or in the case of Afghanistan, for example, a majority of women prisoners are there for ‘moral crimes’. The case of Gulnaz, which was highlighted in a documentary commissioned by the EU and then banned by it to safeguard their relations with the ‘justice’ institutions, is better known. She was given a 12 year sentence after being raped. After much protest, she was pardoned by Karzai so she could to marry her rapist! And of course there is the latest example of the Islamist-dominated government in Egypt introducing a law that would allow a man to have sex with his wife for up to six hours after her death…

Despite all the evidence – there are quite a few of people some of whom are humanists, freethinkers and atheists who will say they don’t know enough about sharia to criticise it though they know very well what religion in political power means since they spend quite a large chunk of their time fighting Christianity’s role in the public space. But bring up Islam and Sharia law and suddenly the response is hardly audible.

Often times the silence is deafening.

When people tell me that they don’t know enough about Sharia law to oppose it – though we hear about its abominations day in and day out – I think what they really mean to say is that it is not their place to oppose it.

In its very essence the reason for this – for the conviction that it is not one’s place to act – is a false belief that to do so would be tantamount to racism. And I do think this is why we don’t see the outrage that barbarism of this kind deserves and demands.

Now, if you are fighting Islamism or Sharia law in Iran, Egypt or Afghanistan the debate is not framed around racism and Islamophobia. I remember being on a panel discussion in Sweden with a famous Syrian atheist, Sadiq al-Azm and when the Swedes called his criticism of Islam racist, he said I’ve been arrested, imprisoned and called many things but never this. This accusation of racism is specific to the debate in North America, or Europe or Australia.

If you criticise Islam or Islamism in Iran, you’re not labelled a racist, you are accused of enmity against god, corruption, blasphemy, heresy and apostasy. So the accusation of racism and Islamophobia is specific to the debate taking place in the west.

Just to give you an example, when the Saudi government arrests 23 year old Hamza Kashgari for tweeting about Mohammad, it doesn’t accuse him of racism; it accuses him of blasphemy – an accusation punishable by death. The same government though will accuse critics of Saudi policy abroad as Islamophobic.

What I’m trying to say is that Islamists and their apologists have coined the term Islamophobia, – a political term to scaremonger people into silence – by deeming it racist to criticise anything related to Islam. [Read more...]

The only hatred is towards Alex Aan himself

Here is Rafiq Mahmood’s letter to the editor in response to a 3 May piece in the Guardian on Indonesian atheist Alexander Aan:

I read Kate Hodal’s piece on Alexander Aan (Indonesia’s atheists face battle for religious freedom – 3 May) with great interest having recently visited Alex with his legal team.

I was more than a little annoyed at the impression given by Ms Hodal in describing the members of the Legal Assistance Foundation in Padang as “a ragtag team of young smokers in T-shirts and sandals”. The Indonesian Legal Assistance Foundation (Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia) is a charitable organisation set up to defend the legal rights of poor people. They are dedicated and professional lawyers who work extremely hard under the most difficult of circumstances. The Padang branch are open 24 hours and are on call to help people anywhere in the entire province of West Sumatra. Very sadly, as Ms Hodal should know, smoking is widespread and endemic in Indonesia being promoted by massive uncontrolled advertising. It is not unusual for people to work in T-shirts and sandals in offices which are not air-conditioned in a tropical country and casual dress is also a policy in LBH offices so as to put their clients at ease.

Perhaps it did not come across in the article how weak legally the case against Alexander Aan is. There are three counts on the indictment, all relating to an alleged posting on the facebook page Ateis Minang (Minang – West Sumatran – Atheists) of a link to a graphic novel style website covering an incident in the life of Muhammad where he allegedly had sex with his wife’s maid. The website story itself claims to be based on accepted Hadith. [Read more...]

May 2012: Nudity is such a natural thing

May 2012 is here. The photo for the Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar is that of Sonya JF Barnett who also designed the calendar.

She joined the ‘Scream’ and Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar because:

 I felt that women needed to stand in solidarity with Aliaa. It takes a lot of guts to do what she did, and the backlash is always expected and can quite hurtful. She needed to know that there are others like her, willing to push the envelope to express outrage. ..

For me, nudity is such a natural thing, and I find it abhorrent that in this day and age people still attach such a stigma to it. We are given certain allowances on what is acceptable, and cannot use our own bodies as a form of expression, simply because others have a shortsighted and narrow view of what should be permissible. A nude body is not a dangerous weapon, yet it’s treated like one…

We have to try and propel society forward, to fight against the ridiculous oppression of our own bodies. The calendar is one form of that expression, and if we don’t do things like this, nobody will.

By the way, here is the censored photo for Facebook since it doesn’t permit nudity…

You can download the calendar or purchase it here and join the scream on Facebook or Tweet #NudePhotoRevolutionary Calendar.