Marseilles and Boston

I haven’t been able to blog at all recently as my son is off from school and it is near impossible to do anything other than swimming (for 6 hours straight), eating ice cream, or watching Wreck it Ralph for the 100th time.

FYI, I’ll be speaking in Marseilles this Saturday and Boston next weekend and should be able to blog regularly soon after:

22-24 August 2013
Marseilles, France
Maryam Namazie will be speaking on Arab revolutions and Feminism panel organised by the Green Party’s Feminism Group. More information can be found here.

30 August – 2 September 2013
Boston, USA
Maryam Namazie will be speaking at Atheist Alliance of America Conference. For more information, click here.

CEMB needs your support

Dear Friend

PROTECT NAHLA MAHMOUD

Following her interview on Channel 4 on Sharia law, Islamists have threatened Sudanese secular campaigner and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) Co-Spokesperson Nahla Mahmoud with death, calling her a ‘Kafira’ and ‘Murtada’ who has offended Islam and brought “fitnah”. The threats have been reported to the police who have advised that nothing can be done about the particular threats made by Salah al Bandar who has until recently been a Lib Dem Councillor. The police have even urged Nahla not to “anger” him further.

Hundreds of individuals and groups have already signed on to an open letter calling for the authorities to take action. You (and/or your organisation) can read more about the specific threats made and sign the open letter here.

After receiving a number of complaints from CEMB supporters, Spencer Hagard, Chair of the Cambridge Liberal Democrats, has written to al Bandar seeking an urgent response from him. Pending the outcome of his enquiry, the link between al Bandar’s webpage and the Cambridge Liberal Democrats website has been temporarily discontinued.

The Lawyers Secular Society is providing support and looking into various options available to address the matter.

Clearly, everyone has a right to religion or atheism without fear and intimidation. This is something al Bander and his Islamist friends need to learn.

EVENTS

14 September Rally and March for Secularism

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain is endorsing the Central London Humanist Group’s Secular Europe March and Rally on Saturday 14th September 2013.

We will assemble at 12.30pm in Temple Place, next to Temple Tube Station; the March will start at 1.00pm and end in a Rally at Richmond Terrace, opposite Downing Street at around 2pm.

Confirmed speakers include Sue Cox (Survivors Voice), Charlie Klendjian (Lawyers Secular Society), Rory Fenton (AHS President), Philosopher AC Grayling, Adam Knowles (Chair of GALHA – LGBT Humanists), Philosopher Stephen Law, Houzan Mahmoud (Organisation for Iraqi Women’s Freedom), Nahla Mahmoud (Council of Ex Muslims of Britain), Maryam Namazie (Fitnah, CEMB and One Law for All), Pragna Patel (Southall Black Sisters), Naomi Phillips (Chair of Labour Humanists), Nina Sankari (Polish Rationalist Association) and Anne Marie Waters (One Law for All) amongst others.

More information available here: Join event page on Facebook and Event page on Meetup. We will be using the hashtag #SECM2013.

Other events

In the upcoming months, there will be evening drinks in London with philosopher Arif Ahmed and a meet-up of apostate asylum seekers and refugees on 19 September; lunch in Manchester on 24 August and Birmingham on 7 September organised by the Northern Ex-Muslim Meetup Group and the CEMB’s Annual General Meeting on 12 October 2013 in London.

Maryam Namazie and Nahla Mahmoud will also be speaking in Marseilles, Boston, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Nottingham, and Brighton in the coming months. More details can be found here. [Read more…]

New website on Islam and Quran

A Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain member, The Rationaliser, has a new website to help with research on Islam or the Quran.

Features include:
1: Search
2: Ability to view each verse word-by-word and to see where else in the Quran the same Arabic word is used (helps with context)
3: Verses have links to tafsirs explaining them
4: Verses link to any relevant hadiths
5: Verses also link to the “circumstances of revelation” (Asbab Al Nuzul)

 

Tafsirs included are:
• Al-Jalalayn
• Al-Tustari
• Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi – Tafhim al-Qur’an
• Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs

Hadith collections included are:
• Al-Adab Al-Mufrad
• Bulugh al-Maram
• Jami` at-Tirmidhi
• Muwatta Malik
• Riyad as-Salihin
• Sahih Bukhari
• Sahih Muslim
• Shama’il Muhammadiyah
• Sunan Abu Dawud
• Sunan an-Nasa’i
• Sunan Ibn Majah [Read more…]

I’m in Edinburgh this weekend

I will be speaking in Edinburgh, Scotland tomorrow 11 August 2013 from 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm at: The Jam House, 5 Queen Street, EH2 1JE at Skeptics on the Fringe Festival. I’ll be speaking on “Secularism is my right; freedom my culture”. More details here.

I know I’ve received a lot of responses to my two recent blog posts, which I promise I’ll respond to as soon as I can by Monday evening latest.

Enough about white men!

Alex Gabriel’s recently compiled list called “100 of Britain and Ireland’s Secular Thinkers You Should Know About, Who Aren’t White Men” includes some really wonderful people (many of whom I have worked with closely). It also includes people who are not so great. Given the inconsistencies, it does give me a sense of a “racism of lower expectations”. It seems you don’t need to have done much to be on the list; you don’t even need to live in the UK or Ireland or be “secular” or a “thinker” for that matter – just as long as you aren’t white and male. [Also, many who have spent a lifetime working for secularism haven’t even got a mention.]

Of course, it’s always good to find out about secularists we might not know of but the list starts by denigrating white men rather than promoting secularists on their own merit. The title of the original list of which this is an updated one is even worse: it was called “100 interesting atheists in Britain who aren’t old, white, privileged straight men”.

Frankly, I find the practice of reducing people in this way – white and male – to be just as abhorrent as reducing them to let’s say “Muslim”. There’s an implication of a homogeneous community where none exists and an assumption that based on one’s colour, age or sex, one is automatically a certain way or privileged, which is not the case. Reducing people in this way ignores where people stand on issues, their politics, their choices, and their struggles. It ignores class politics. Plus it’s demeaning and dehumanising.

I would stand with Richard Dawkins and A C Grayling (mentioned in the list as examples of “white men”) any day of the week and not with someone like Saeed Kamali Dehghan who is on the list and is Iranian-born like myself but who has made a career (at the Guardian no less) out of defending the “reformist” faction of the Islamic regime of Iran. He wouldn’t be called a secularist unless you redefine the term to mean only those who are not “white men”.

Of course this is not to say that we shouldn’t be promoting secularists and atheists who aren’t visible and aren’t given a platform. As someone mentioned on the list, I know full well the difficulties of not being seen or heard and the importance of support like that which Alex is trying (albeit poorly) to give. There has to be better ways of doing it.

Also, this is not to say that sexism and racism don’t exist (read this piece by Soraya Chemaly on why there aren’t more women in atheism) but one doesn’t choose their allies and friends based on their colour or their sex or age…

I know it has become fashionable with multiculturalism and cultural relativism to create imagined communities based on identity politics but it is regressive to do so. This point of view basically sees all white men as problematic and makes excuses for Islamists in the name of tolerance and respect. I know this is not what Alex is doing but this type of thinking is what leads to liberals and lefties defending Islamism as a defence of “Muslims” and “minorities”.

Megan McCauley’s recent Tweet is a good case in point in what happens when one sees things this way. She says:

…Islamophobia is an act of white supremacy when it comes from a white perspective, like say Dawkins

[Read more…]

Report them!

I haven’t been following the cases of sexual harassment and assault at Skeptic conferences or organisations very carefully but don’t understand why those who have been accused of committing a crime are not reported to the police?

If a crime has been committed (and they are crimes unless it’s a sharia court) it’s important to take action – not just by demanding action from the employer or conference organiser but by calling on the police and legal system.

Attempts at addressing them “internally” reminds me of what the church does – deals with any “problems” without putting its dirty laundry out for all to see.

Skeptic or not, atheist or not, if a crime has been committed, it needs to be investigated properly, with both sides having a fair hearing and what not.

I know the police and justice system often fail miserably particularly when dealing with sex abuse cases, however, better that they are dealt with there than on blogs and via organisational board meetings.

If there’s crime, report it!

Support Picnic during Ramadan

An initiative in Algeria is organising a picnic during Ramadan to stand up to the inquisition and defend freedom of conscience. They are protesting the harassment of those who do not choose to observe fasting during Ramadan. The picnic will be held on August 3, 2013 at 12pm in Algeria.
 
Many Algerian, Moroccan, Tunisian, Middle Eastern secularists, including Muslims, amongst others, are supporting this initiative by calling for a rally on the same day and same time at the Trocadero in Paris to support the gathering of “de-Jeuneurs Tizi Ouzou”.
 
I won’t be able to join the Paris initiative but I’ll be doing some very public eating on 3 August at 12pm which will be uploaded on social media. I suggest that you all do the same in solidarity if you can’t get to the rally.

As secularist Soad Baba Aissa of the Association pour la mixité, l’égalité et la laïcité en Algérie says (translated from French):

“We think it is interesting to support this appeal because it is in line with the struggle for freedom of conscience and opposition to the societal “inquisition” which can be seen in Algeria, as in many other Muslim majority countries.
 
The initiative is courageous in Algeria, as it was in Morocco. These are pacifist actions that challenge and strike the conscience. This is similar to Amina’s FEMEN Tunisia fight. They are against the current and show national and international opinion that citizens are not fixed in a “pre-supposed” Muslim identity and origin. “The Muslim community” is not a family or a homogeneous group. As in all families, groups, and societies, there are men and women who fight for freedom of conscience, equality, and pluralism. This is the case throughout Algeria, as it is in North Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe.”

You can see a list of signatories, including mine, defending this action here.

On Raif Badawi: When is it going to end?

raif badawi-cbsnews-comI reported on Raif Badawi before here.

The founder of a website calling for religious liberalisation has been sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes. How does someone survive 600 lashes? Since they couldn’t execute him for apostasy as was initially planned, they hope to kill him with 600 lashes (150 at a time).

His lawyer said that Raif, a father of three, had confirmed that he was a Muslim but told the judge “everyone has a choice to believe or not believe.”

Indeed they do, but not yet under Sharia and Islamism in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iraq…

When is it going to end? It has to soon.

It’ll be a good day when innocents like Raif walk free and the rulers of Saudi, Iran and elsewhere are in jail where they belong.

Raif must be freed. No ifs and buts.

***

As an aside Muslims for Progressive Values has issued a statement in his defence here. (Thanks to Chris Roche for the link.) There shouldn’t be one person – Muslim or not – who doesn’t denounce this sentence and demand that Raid be released.

Protect Nahla Mahmoud

nahlamahmoudFollowing an interview on Channel 4 on Sharia law, Islamists have threatened Sudanese secular campaigner and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain Spokesperson Nahla Mahmoud with death, calling her a ‘Kafira’ and ‘Murtada’ who has offended Islam and brought “fitnah”. The threats have been reported to the police who have closed the case and advised that nothing could be done.

We the undersigned are extremely concerned about the safety of Nahla and that of her family in Sudan. We ask the authorities to investigate the threats made particularly by Mr Salah Al Bandar.

Nahla writes: “I am most concerned with the harassment by Mr. Salah Al Bandar. Not only is he endangering my health and sense of safety and security in the UK, but he is also organising against me back in Sudan in ways that are potentially very dangerous for both myself and my family. As a consequence, my younger brother has been physically attacked in Sudan, my mother has been seriously threatened and I continue to get threats and have had to endure a number of cyber stalking episodes by Mr Al Bandar or his associates.”

Mr Al Bandar claims to be a “democratic, liberal Muslim” who has been politically active and until recently a councillor with the Lib-Dem Party in Cambridgeshire; he is a director at the Sudan Civic Foundation in the UK. He has attempted to silence Nahla with his threats which include the following: [Read more…]

Amina is free; viva Amina

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Amina has been freed though she still faces charges. Her lawyer said:

“Amina is still on trial for desecrating the cemetery but the public indecency and forming an alliance to assault properties and individuals charges have been dropped.”

Congratulations to FEMEN and all those who fought to free her. We must continue the fight until all charges are dropped.

The Free Amina campaign sent this email about it (google translated from French):

“Amina is free. Thanks to you all. Those who donated to allow her to resume her studies, her lawyers, her supporters, including Tunisians and French, and of course FEMEN. Thanks to you all.

Her courage is a lesson. The severity of her detention has unveiled the injustice that prevails in Tunisia. We will continue to expose and fight whilst freedom of conscience is not being respected, whilst Jabeur Mejri is in prison (sentenced to seven years for blasphemy), whilst his friends Ghazi Beji or Nadia El Fani cannot return to Tunisia for fear of risking the same punishment, whilst democracy has not become a reality of the promised revolution. Amina is free; her name has become a promise. So will Tunisia!”

***

On another worrying note, three FEMEN activists and a journalist have been kidnapped by Ukrainian and Russian secret services and another FEMEN activist beaten and hospitalised. Here is more information on it. La lucha continua…