Won’t be blogging until the end of the month

I won’t be blogging until the end of the month due to some personal problems I am trying to sort out.

I’ve also had to pull out of my speaking engagements this month so Nahla Mahmoud will be going to Reading Skeptics tomorrow and Sundas Hoorain will be speaking at the July 25 event on the Olympics’ failure to uphold gender equality and neutrality in my place.

Hopefully I’ll be blogging again soon.

The struggle continues

On 11 July, the International Day against Stoning, brave women and men (including a 16 year old who had acid thrown on her face) marched to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Kabul to denounce the brutal execution of Najiba, a young woman, by the Taliban four days ago.

See more photos here and be inspired. There are some here too.

By the way, days after the execution that outraged the world, Karzai (with the blessing of coalition forces) has invited the Taliban to disarm and join the political process!

Can there be anything more outrageous?

The struggle continues…

As an aside, some reports on the execution insist that under Sharia, it is impossible to determine whether adultery has taken place because 4 witnesses are needed. They conveniently forget to mention that a confession or pregnancy suffices to prove sex outside of marriage and that is how all victims are sentenced to death. A ‘confession’ always takes place after some form of torture and abuse.

(Link of protest via Mina Ahadi)

It has to stop

I have just been informed that a Dutch MP of the Socialist Party, Harry van Bommel, has successfully submitted a resolution in the Dutch parliament calling for the Dutch government to instigate an initiative during the 67th UN General Assembly with the goal of an international condemnation and prohibition of stoning.  The resolution has been accepted.

Clearly, we need other parliaments doing the same as we need to end stoning now.

The lives of tens of women and men depend on it.

In Iran, at least 22 people await death by stoning sentences.

In Sudan, Intisar Sharief Abdala was sentenced to death by stoning.  The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies says of her case:

On 22 April 2012, judge Sami Ibrahim Shabo sentenced Intisar Sharief Abdala to death by stoning and ordered the case file to be sent to the high court for the confirmation of the sentence subsequent to a lapse of appeal period. The case was initially put before the court alongside two others accused: Lutfi Abu-Alros Jaeo and Alrisala Khamis.

The court acquitted the second accused for insufficient evidence against him; the third accused recently killed in a car accident. All three were illiterate and stated in the police and trial record that they don’t know to write or read.

Intisar is believed to be 20 years old, although some reports state that she is a minor. [Human Rights Watch says she is under 18, is imprisoned with her 5 month old baby and her feet shackled.] [Read more...]

Stoning must end now

In commemoration of 11 July, International Day against Stoning, we call on people worldwide to demand an end to the barbaric practice of stoning to death.

11 July has been chosen by the International Committee against Stoning to mark the day that 31 year old mother of two, Maryam Ayoubi, was stoned to death in 2001 under Khatami’s ‘reformist’ presidency. Though she had fainted out of sheer fear, she was nonetheless carried out on a stretcher and stones were thrown at her body until she was dead.

Stoning is a medieval act of barbarity that the Islamic regime in Iran and other Islamic gangs and states use to mete out punishment against women who have sex outside of marriage and in some cases also against men and homosexuals. It is a tool to frighten people into submission.

Even so, there is ample opposition and resistance to stoning in countries where women are stoned to death. In Iran, in particular, where the regime has stoned to death hundreds of people, there is an extensive social movement against stoning. It has become impossible for the regime to stone people in public for a very long time now and the practice of stoning has effectively been suspended, particularly after the campaign to defend Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. [Read more...]

There are as many different Muslims as there are unfettered minds

Musa Budeiri, a professor at Birzeit University, the oldest Palestinian University, has been asked by the university to issue an apology to Islamist students who were offended by cartoons posted on his door.  The Islamists distributed leaflets on campus saying that the cartoons were ‘an insult to Islam’ and that the professor should apologize and be punished.

Whilst Budeiri refused to apologise or go abroad for a semester, he agreed to give an explanation for the educational objectives in posting cartoons. He said:

“They have opened up a discussion and have exhibited an ability of students to exercise their empowerment, potentially to ask, question, object, discuss, defend, in order to express their ideas and beliefs. This is something I have always fought for, and tried to convey since the first days of my teaching career, Much more than the ‘knowledge’ confined in the pages of official textbooks.

“It is a shame that instead of pursuing this path, and advancing their ideas by argument and reasoning, and winning as many adherents to their point of view as are convinced, (and these will never constituted the whole community, because people are individuals and not robotic replicas, and each mind is an individual creation possessing its own unique characteristics), they chose to resort to abuse, and threats of physical violence, attempting to appropriate to themselves the sole authority of what Muslims can and cannot think, can and cannot do. There are and will remain as many different Muslims as there are unfettered minds.”

Hear! Hear!

Whilst Budeiri says the university never informed him that he wouldn’t be teaching again as some Islamist students have claimed, he has received no response about his contract for the next academic year, which starts next month.

Clearly, Budeiri must be unequivocally defended as must free expression.

As an aside, you can read the University’s response here. It seems the University has been afflicted with ‘whataboutery’ and prefers attention be focused on the Israeli occupation’s trampling of the Palestinian people’s academic freedom. It also considers defence of its professor as a form of imperialism.

Yes I know, it’s the same old arguments.

Yes, the Israeli occupation is wrong on so many levels – academic, political, human. We need a two state solution and we need it now.

Also imperialism stinks big time, but try and focus will you?

(Link via Rumy Hassan)

Letter to Trevor Phillips, Chair of Equality and Human Rights Commission

Maryam Namazie and Anne Marie Waters of One Law for All and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain met with Trevor Phillips, Chair of Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), on 28 June to raise our concerns about sharia courts in Britain and the Charities Commission’s refusal of charity status for secular organisations. Nobel Laureate Harry Kroto was also present at the meeting.

Below is our follow up letter:

Dear Trevor,

Thank you once again for meeting with us. We appreciate your taking the time out to hear about the work of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and One Law for All.

Just to highlight a couple of the issues we raised:

On One Law for All and Sharia Law

1) There are currently two major bodies carrying out sharia based arbitration and mediation in the UK – these are the Islamic Sharia Council (a registered charity) and the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal (operating as an independent tribunal under the powers of the Arbitration Act 1996).

2) Both bodies acknowledge that the bulk of their work is in family matters such as child custody, divorce, domestic violence (both a family law and a criminal law matter). The Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve in 2008 said arbitration in the UK was not intended for family matters. [Read more...]

Coffee morning for ex-Muslim women

Join the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain’s
Coffee Morning for Ex-Muslim Women

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain is organising monthly coffee mornings for women who want to meet like-minded ex-Muslims to chat, discuss concerns and make new friends.

The first coffee morning will be held this Friday 13 July from 11:30am-1pm in central London.

If you would like to join us, email Maryam Namazie at exmuslimcouncil@gmail.com for further details.

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

Allah ordered the execution

Below is a Reuter’s report of a woman being executed near Kabul, Afghanistan by the Taliban this Sunday. It says she was accused of adultery and that Taliban members were ‘sexually involved’ with her, possibly via rape, and that she was tortured and killed to settle a dispute…

Watching the very disturbing video, I can’t help but think how alone she is in her last moments. She looks behind once and then faces away from the Islamist crowd.

I am taken aback by the fact that she makes no sound and no plea.

Men in the crowd say Allah ordered the execution with smiles on their faces after she is shot countless times in what seems to be an eternity.

At times like this I wonder how the world carries on.

Like W H Auden, I too wish clocks would be stopped and pianos silenced.

And of course so does many a nameless, faceless beloved left behind, maybe her loving parents, children, or the love of her life…

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message [She] Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

[She] was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

(Video Link via Mersedeh Ghaedi)

Not that kind of atheist

It seems the wonderful PZ Myers considers me a ‘Humanist’ Atheist. In his blog entitled ‘what kind of atheist are you?’ he says my type of atheist has the following strengths and weaknesses:

Strengths: This is the heart of an atheist movement that will endure and grow. Ignore it and we can expect atheism to fade away.

Weaknesses: Pragmatically fickle. If the atheist movement does not address human concerns, they’ll leave and follow institutions that do. Why be an atheist if an inclusive, progressive church were to do a better job? Why be an atheist if we neglect the concerns of women or minorities, or belittle civil rights?

As an aside, the very thought of being labelled a humanist and pragmatist gives me the shivers. I despise pragmatism, and though I have no problems per se with being called a humanist, I feel increasingly uncomfortable with the label given the fact that pragmatism – and not principle – is such a large part of mainstream Humanism. As I’ve said in my recent speech at the fifth anniversary of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, pragmatism doesn’t change the world – it maintains the status quo. And we so desperately need to change it.

There is an assumption in the Humanist Atheist label that people like me are in the atheist movement for support and if we don’t get it we will go elsewhere. Even a church (gasp, shudder)!?

The reality is that we don’t have the support we deserve but we’re still here.

This is because we ex-Muslims have a stake in the atheist movement just as much as anyone else. We’re not outsiders.

I am an atheist not because the atheist movement cares about rights (it doesn’t) or has been overly supportive (which it hasn’t) but because I despise religion and Islam.

I have become an atheist – not because it’s pragmatic – but as a result of my battles against the Islamic Republic of Iran and Islamism. The Islamic regime of Iran recently wrote a piece on me called ‘Get to know this anti-religion woman’.

If I had to say what type of atheist I am, I’d say a militant atheist.

Strengths:  We need militancy in the face of religious barbarity. Can we please stop tiptoeing around, appeasing, and tolerating religion?

Weaknesses: None. There are enough people compromising on all our behalves, thank you very much.

UPDATE: PZ has made an important correction!

(Link via Chris Roche)

How dare you not defend Alex!

In a letter to the editor in the latest edition of the National Secular Society’s very excellent Newsline, Raymond Carlise writes:

I have considered Edward Conduit’s appeal to sign the petition in defence of the Indonesian atheist who has been jailed for saying there is no God, but have concluded that I cannot sign [the] Avaaz petition for Alex.
There may well be no God for Alex, as for you or for me. With the Indonesians however it’s evidently a different matter. The limits of subjectivity and of objectivity have to be recognized.

Really?

Hmm. But isn’t Alex also an Indonesian? What about his culture and opinion? Or does that not count?

This is the same racist cultural relativism that sees the ‘other’ as one and the same with the state and established religious institutions that oppresses them and ignores and justifies violations of rights and freedoms at the expense of countless dissenters such as Alex.

Raymond would never hold such appallingly low standards for himself – after all, the Church of England is the established church and the queen, its head. There are bishops in the House of Lords and prayers in parliament, councils and schools. The UK is not a secular society by any means so whilst Raymond may be a secularist or atheist – if I may paraphrase his words – ‘with the British however it’s evidently a different matter’…

How dare he not defend Alex and worse still justify this lack of empathy and basic human solidarity by hiding behind a racist notion that ‘Indonesians’ are different and deserve less.

If the world was filled with people who thought this way, we’d still have slavery, racial apartheid and women without the right to vote.

Thankfully that is not the case.

Alex, a young civil servant, has been sentenced to two and a half years merely for saying there is no god on facebook. The case is being appealed by Islamists who think the sentence is too short!

Secularists everywhere must be at the forefront of defending him. If you haven’t done so already, do it now.

Sign Ed Conduit’s petition and one that was initiated earlier on Alex’s behalf.

Write to the Indonesian authorities here and demand his release.

We must not and cannot leave Alex alone.

I just won’t allow it.

July 2012: Dogma will never determine where I sit, what I wear or how I live

July 2012 is here. The photo for this month’s Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar is that of Amanda Brown, We are Atheism founder.

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

Incidentally, there is a report in Alarabiya Farsi (though I can’t seem to find the English version) stating that there is a court hearing for Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, the Egyptian blogger whom the Nude calendar is in homage to, and her boyfriend, Karim Amer, on 4 July. She is accused of ‘insulting religion’ and ‘promoting prostitution’. She’s also been accused of ‘acts incompatible with chastity’.

If it’s true – which wouldn’t surprise me – it’s nothing short of an outrage, though, thankfully, Aliaa and her boyfriend are not in Egypt where they would most likely face serious repercussions.

This only reiterates the importance of the Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar and supporting people like Aliaa.

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

The courage to think

Over one hundred people joined the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain’s hugely successful 5th anniversary celebration luncheon in London on 23 June 2012.

Guests heard from philosopher AC Grayling, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, comedian Kate Smurthwaite, writer Gita Sahgal, singer/songwriter Shelley Segal, dancer Maryam Freeflower, DV8 Physical Theatre Director Lloyd Newson, and poet Lilith. Magician Neil Edwards also performed whilst CEMB founder Maryam Namazie gave the closing address. Fariborz Pooya was Master of Ceremonies.

In his keynote address, AC Grayling said: ‘…The history of the world and not just the western world but of the world in the last 3-4 centuries has turned on the very crucial fact – the fact that there were people who had the courage to think for themselves…’

Lawrence Krauss said: ‘…We are all ex-Muslims… it’s true in the sense that all of us are fighting ignorance and superstition and a world where policies are made and people are oppressed on the basis of these things…’

Writer Gita Sahgal said: ‘…Council of Ex-Muslims is particularly important because it is dangerous to declare yourself having lost faith even in Britain and in fact in some places it is getting more dangerous. One of the reasons it is getting more dangerous is because …there is virtually no support from any public source for people who have actually left their religion.’

You can see a video of the event below:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Photos of the event can be found here.

The CEMB also received many wonderful messages of support and solidarity to mark its fifth anniversary, including from Richard Dawkins, Taslima Nasrin and Mina Ahadi.

In her closing address, Maryam Namazie said: Whilst CEMB is many things to many people… it is first and foremost a challenge to political Islam. It is meant to shock and provoke. Throughout history that is how barbarity has been pushed back – not by tiptoeing around it, accommodating it, appeasing it, tolerating it but by facing it head on.’ She went on to say: ‘Pragmatism never changed the world but we intend to.’ You can read her full speech here.

The CEMB is grateful to all those who have volunteered their time, and supported or donated to the organisation over these five years.

We look forward to your continued support and another successful five years!

For more information, please contact:
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

NOTES:

1. The CEMB is desperately seeking free office and/or meeting space in central London. If you can offer such space, please contact us as soon as possible.

2. We depend on donations and legacies to continue our important work so please donate if you can.

Richard Dawkins: A most popular figure

Richard Dawkins was on Aljazeera’s The Stream last week. I was invited on a Google+ panel to ask questions, though I was only able to ask two.

Anyone who watched it could plainly see the programme’s bias in favour of religion. Look no further than the title labelling Dawkins a ‘polarising’ figure and the opening comment about his being called an ‘atheist fundamentalist’, which is of course the religious lobby’s sad attempts at equating atheism with Islamism and religious ‘fundamentalism’. Not that any of the bias was able to stop Dawkins from giving his usual brilliant responses.

But seriously, comparing Dawkins’ children’s book on science with religious indoctrination, saying Islam and science were compatible and that the barbarism of Islamism was the result of atheism and secularism surely had to be some of the most absurd assertions ever made by apologists for religion and Islam.

There is still much to say about the claims made in the programme by both hosts and guests and hopefully one day soon I will attempt to respond to the Islam-related ones but for now, if you haven’t seen the clip, watch it.

As an aside, the restricted format of the programme made it difficult to respond to Dawkins’ kind words about me and thank him. Suffice it to say that I have been walking around with an extremely large head for the past few days…