Rouhani smiles abroad whilst executions stepped up in Iran

Whilst Rouhani smiles abroad, executions have been stepped up in Iran according to Mina Ahadi and the International Committee against Execution. Since the election at least 213 prisoners have been executed. 27 were executed in the past two weeks. There are plans to execute 26 political prisoners imminently.

Rouhani was quoted saying he wanted to empty the prisons – it seems the regime intends to do so via executions…

Here Shahin Najafi and Majid Kazemi sing against executions as should we all.

Statement on the takfir campaign against activist Nahla Mahmoud

Nahla Mahmoud MCU

Below is a statement by several Sudanese rights activists against Salah Al Bandar’s takfir campaign against Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain spokesperson Nahla Mahmoud. Takfir is an originally Arabic word that literally means pronouncement of unbelief against someone; it is similar to the ecclesiastical concept of ‘excommunication’. Takfir in Islam is a justification for capital punishment.

Drawing on our belief  of and responsibility towards defending all rights and freedoms, and based on our principled position towards supporting the freedoms of expression and belief, as two basic rights for every human being and  as well as our stance on supporting the fundamental right to life and personal security, we, the undersigned, would like to  declare our solidarity with Nahla Mahmoud in the face of the takfir/death threats and intimidation campaign being orchestrated by Mr. Salah Al Bandar against her. We also call on the British authorities to protect Nahla and put an end to the violation by Mr. Al Bandar of her right to life and personal security as well as her rights of belief and freedom of expression, and to obligate him to stop intimidating her and her family in Sudan.

[Read more...]

We look forward to continuing our fight

1236466622-one-law-for-all-campaign-against-sharia-law-in-britain29189_29189Dear Friend,

We are writing to give you an update on One Law for All.

Rights for All Turkey

First, let’s begin with the good news. We are very pleased to announce that Rights for All Turkey is being established to defend secularism and equal rights in that country. It’s an important development given the role of Turkey’s secularists in challenging Islamism. The group will be affiliated with One Law for All. We look forward to our continued and close collaboration with our secularist friends in Turkey and the region. Here’s more information.

Two-day International Conference

To further highlight Islamism and the religious-Right’s assault on rights and freedoms and to strengthen the international front of secularists, One Law for All is organising a two-day international conference in London during 11-12 October 2014 with the organisation Fitnah. Notable speakers will join the conference to discuss and debate the Arab uprisings, Sharia and religious laws, the burqa and conspicuous religious symbols, freedom of expression and Islamophobia, faith schools and religious education, reproductive rights and secular values, amongst other topics. Details of the conference can be found here. Please put the date in your diary and get your tickets soon so you can take advantage of the discounted early bird special rate.

Other Events and Burka Debate

Given the renewed debate on the burka and niqab (face veil), we will be discussing the issue at a 15 October event at the LSE. We’ll also be speaking on women’s movements at the House of Lords and on Sharia law, secularism and the burka in Brighton, Salisbury and New York City. For more details, visit here.

In the past few months, we have been to Tunbridge Wells, Boston, Edinburgh, Marseilles, Manchester, Leicester, Dublin and Sutton in order to mobilise support and raise awareness on Sharia courts. Recently too, Maryam Namazie was awarded Dods Women in Public Life’s 2013 Journalist of the Year for her blogging and campaigning work in support of women’s rights. You can find out more here.

Passion for Freedom Festival

During 2-9 November 2013, the One Law for All-affiliated Passion for Freedom will be holding its 5th annual festival. Shortlisted artists will exhibit works at the UNIT24 Gallery together with special guest artists Mehdi-Georges Lahlou and Firoozeh Bazrafkan. Judges selecting the winning piece will be Anda Rottenberg, Sarah Maple, Deeyah and Nick Cohen. More information can be found here. [Read more...]

Rights for All – Turkey has been established

turkey=protestThe Rights For All – Turkey (HERKES ICIN AYNI YASA – TURKIYE) affiliated with One Law For All is being established to promote a secular legal system and challenge religion’s increasing role in the judiciary in Turkey.

The campaign will highlight discrimination against women, charges of blasphemy and government “reforms” that aim to weaken Turkish secularism, amongst others. It follows the Gezi protests which began as an environmental protest and developed into a call against Islamism and a defence of secularism.

Cases the campaign will focus on include several rape cases in which the perpetrators have gone unpunished. In Spring 2013, pianist and composer Fazil Say was convicted of 10 months imprisonment for blasphemy and “insulting Islamic values” for posting a Tweet of a poem by Persian poet Omar Khayyam. The government has also stated that a woman who doesn’t wear a headscarf is like a house without curtains and that Turkish women should have three children. The government’s repeated attacks on freethinking journalists, artists and intellectuals will also be highlighted.

Aims and objectives of the campaign:
• One secular law for all citizens living in Turkey regardless of their political ideologies, religion/beliefs, sex and background.
• An end to religious laws and norms in the judicial system, including with regards discrimination against women and blasphemy.
Rights For All, Turkey is affiliated with One Law for All Campaign against Sharia law in Britain.

For more information, please contact: Sinem Koc at sinemkoc15@gmail.com or Maryam Namazie at onelawforall@gmail.com.

Ask Rouhani: why don’t you free Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani?

I want to hold my children in my arms. Please help me!

For three years I have been consumed by longing for liberty and the chance to breathe freely. They told me that if I collaborated on a film for Press TV, I would be released. Press TV made its film and went on its way and there was no more talk of my freedom.

They say that my case is in Tehran and must be decided there. I entreat you to ask President Rouhani, a resident of Tehran, whether he has any news of my case. Doesn’t he want to free me so that I might finally travel with my son and embrace freedom once more?

For years and years, every moment of my life has been suffused with pain and suffering and fear and panic and the terror of execution and stoning. I can’t endure such sustained horror and anguish any more.

In New York, ask Rouhani: why won’t you free Sakineh? Tell him that if he means what he says about moderation and friendship, then let him prove it – let him show that he is truly a moderate by freeing people like me. My fate, my experiences and those of my children, and the torment that we have had to endure – these represent an example of how our lives have been disintegrating. I ask all the media that have always been supportive of me to ask Rouhani these questions no matter where they might find him. Why don’t you free Sakineh?

Respectfully,
From an Iranian women who has known suffering,
Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani

The International Committee Against Stoning calls on the international press to make public Sakineh’s words and to join in asking Rouhani this question.

The International Committee Against Stoning
25 September 2013

Sakineh Ashtiani Norway

Terrorism and the burka

cartoon-about-burqaI don’t need to tell you what has happened in the past few days.

In Nairobi, Islamists have attacked innocent civilians out for a day shopping. They said they were there to kill non-Muslims “only” but of course as is always the case, they killed anyone and everyone they could, including Muslims.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram has killed at least 142 people in the past week, after setting up check points and gunning down travellers.

This Sunday, in Pakistan, 82 people were killed when Islamist suicide bombers attacked a church.

2 civilians were killed in a bomb attack in Afghanistan yesterday.

Several bomb attacks in Iraq, including targeting a funeral, killed 26 people today. 800 have been killed by terrorism in August alone. And the list goes on.

Islamists show no mercy. They kill indiscriminately because after all the idea behind terrorism is to instil fear by targeting civilians going about their daily lives – a mall, a funeral, a wedding…

But remember this. Whilst terrorism is a mainstay of Islamism and is often rightly and swiftly condemned, the Islamist war on women is usually excused as a “right” and a “choice”. Mere words and a formality when faced with a movement that always targets women first.

Like terrorism, the burka is the visible aspect of Islamism’s war on women. And it too should be condemned. No ifs and buts.

You’re not Muslims

These handful of burka-clad women “respond” to the debate on the burka-ban on behalf of “Muslim women.”

Listen to their vile rhetoric.

They do not represent Muslim women” but Islamism. The burka symbolises everything Islamism wants at the expense of countless human beings, many of them Muslim.

Oh sorry I forgot, it’s a “right” and a “choice” – things that are non-existent when Islamism takes power.

(Thanks to Anne Marie Waters for the link)

Remembering Irtaza

irtazaHere’s my tribute to the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain’s young member and activist Irtaza Hussain who tragically committed suicide on 11 September. I gave it at last night’s evening drinks event with philosopher Arif Ahmed:

Irtaza was an active member of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. In his membership statement he wrote: “Islam quite simply did not provide enough answers at all and was fairly credulous. What is absolutely appalling is the state of ignorance within Muslims and how many of them make claims about Islam’s monopoly on knowledge yet still being miles away from having a proper appreciation of academia.”

Irtaza was well known amongst us. He joined our events, spoke to the media on our behalf, and defended the right to leave Islam, reason and free expression whenever he could. Despite all the torment and hurt and despair, he never stopped speaking out and helping others. Irtaza even contributed to a soon to be published report on the status of apostates from Islam for CEMB – a report which he will never get to see.

In one essay he had written in 2012, which he asked me to look over, he ends saying: “The critical thinking involved and the logical fallacies that we see as convenient are not just mere instructions considering the doors they have opened and the apathy that they have eliminated. They are powerful tools that we should be proud to have used them and we must continue to use them because we have strong reasons to do so. We must pat ourselves on the back and continue to do good as we do because not only are we bringing passion into the lives of many and ours; we are doing good and eliminating the bad within humanity. Let us continue to hold on to these progressive values and preach them with the regard that we have showed in disciplined discourse, with the use of reason and standing up for progressive values. We have a voice and we continue to use it.” [Read more...]

I won’t cover my hair

Amira Osman Hamed says:

I’m Sudanese. I’m Muslim, and I’m not going to cover my head.

Today, 19 September, she faces trial in the Sudan for refusing to wear the hijab and will be flogged if convicted.

She says she’s prepared to be flogged to defend the right to leave her hair uncovered in defiance of a “Taliban”-like law.

It would be good if secularists could take some time out of their busy schedule defending the veil and burqa to defend the likes of Amira.

Here’s a petition you can sign (thanks to Jane J for forwarding it to me).

Also Tweet: Save Amira Osman Hamed from flogging in Sudan. #Amira #Sudan #flogging. Do it now please.

amiraosmanhamed

To ban or not to ban the burka

Again the “veil controversy”. And as usual full of misinformation and deception.

Let me clear a few things up:

First off, no one is calling for an all-out ban on the veil though proponents often give this impression. Even the French ban is not an all-out ban; it merely bans all “conspicuous religious symbols” – not just the hejab but also the cross and skullcap – in public schools. The burqa ban too is a ban on face covering not an all-out veil ban.

Secondly, supporting a burka ban is not racist or discriminatory in and of itself. Proponents deceptively imply that the “authentic” Muslim woman is one who supports the veil, the niqab and burka and any opposition is an attack on “Muslim women”. But there is no homogeneous “Muslim community” anywhere. In fact, many women, including “Muslim women,” vehemently oppose the burqa and niqab and even the veil itself. Today, one of them – Amira Osman Hamed – is being tried in Sudan for refusing to wear the hejab (head covering).

Even the highest Islamic institution of Egypt, Al Azhar, obliges women to show their faces in court via a decree issued in 1880. And numerous Islamic scholars oppose the niqab or face covering and consider it un-Islamic.

Moreover, as Algerian secularist Marieme Helie Lucas says, the rights of the unveiled are just as implicated as those who are veiled. The “right to veil” rapidly becomes the right to beat up those who do not. Yes, certainly there are women who freely choose to wear the niqab or burqa but on a mass social scale, they are impositions.

Thirdly, whilst the niqab or burka are often framed within the context of “a woman’s right to choose”, it has to do with much more than mere religious identity and religious beliefs. Apart from the fact that it is a symbol of women’s subordination, it is also a tool of Islamism. The increase in the burka and niqab are a direct result of the rise of the far-Right political Islamic movement and part of that movement’s broader agenda to segregate society and impose sex apartheid.

To ban or not to ban the burka? Ban it, of course.

And not merely because of security matters or for purposes of identification and communication as is often stated but in order to protect and promote the rights of women and girls – all of them – and not just the few who wear the burka and niqab…

Frankly, I think every secularist and women’s rights defender should support a burka/niqab ban. That they don’t shows a lack of moral courage and clarity in the face of the religious Right’s barbarity and misogyny.

For me personally, nothing better portrays the outrage of the burqa and niqab than the below photo of an Afghan woman who is hardly discernible sitting amongst rubbish bags. The burqa and niqab dehumanises and relegates real live human beings – many of them children – to a life in a mobile prison, straight jacket – to a life within a rubbish bag.

How can anyone defend it or worse refuse to call for a ban?

burkaandrubbish

 

 

 

If you are still unsure, here are a few must read articles: 

Secularism vs communalism: learning from the ban on full face covering veil in France by Marieme Helie Lucas

The Law of Brothers versus the Law of the Republic by Karima Bennoune

The burka empowering? I think not! by Maryam Namazie

Read them and let sanity prevail.

Ex-Muslim Council 19 September Event

Just a reminder that we will be having a meetup for apostate asylum seekers and refugees followed by evening drinks with philosopher Arif Ahmed tomorrow 19 September from 6:30-8:00pm at The George on the Strand, 213 Strand, London WC2R 1AP. Entry is £3; £1 for unwaged, which can be paid at the door. All are welcome.

My CEMB co-spokesperson Nahla Mahmoud will MC the event.

I will also be paying a brief tribute to our young member and activist Irtaza Hussain who tragically committed suicide on 11 September. You can read some of the tributes to him on our forum here; feel free to add your own if you’d like.

Here’s a clip at around 25 minutes where Irtaza represented the CEMB on the BBC’s Big Questions on whether religion is good for children. He will be missed…

Insult to humanity

I have written about Raif Badawi, the wonderful Saudi blogger and website editor calling for religious liberalisation who was recently sentenced to 7 years in prison and given 600 lashes (600!) for “insulting Islam”.

His wife and three children have been forced to flee the country. Here’s what she says:

What’s important now is that his family be immediately resettled in a safe third country in order to ensure their safety. The Saudi government has threatened to effectively kidnap the children and take them back to Saudi Arabia via various means so time is of the essence.

Of course it goes without saying that Raif’s imprisonment and flogging sentence is an “insult” to humanity. The despicable Saudi regime should feel our outrage whilst Raif’s family should feel our support and solidarity…

Pharbin Malik

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain’s forum has just published an article to commemorate 16 year old Pharbin Malik from Birmingham who was killed by her father in 1989 for leaving Islam.

It says:

Pharbin Malik was sixteen years old when she died on a street in Birmingham, England, in 1989. She was killed by her father because she did not follow his religion anymore.

We could find no photograph of her anywhere online, or in newspaper archives.

It seems the world has forgotten her. And yet, her story reaches forward in time to touch raw and exposed nerves today.

Like there is no picture we can associate with her, so it is that we who leave Islam are somehow faceless, erased from history and kept hidden away.

The absence of her picture, and the silence accompanying her death, reflect the experiences of many of us who choose to leave Islam, and for that choice are forced to live in fear and silence.

We only have the bare details of her story. We want to know more. We want to know her dreams, her hopes, what she held in her imagination. We would love to know what she loved to do, who her friends were, what made her laugh. What was her favourite song? Did she dream of travelling the world? Perhaps her favourite subject at school was English literature or Art or History. Did she ever watch birds sitting on the window sill and imagine what it would be like to fly away?

You can read the article here.

Human essence of Syria’s revolution

Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat who fingers were broken by Asad has an exhibition in London.

He says the “exhibition is about the essence of the revolution – it’s human and creative side, which the media ignores. Wherever I go I try and show this hidden part of my people’s culture.”

He adds: “I am not worried about the future of my country. No revolution is pure. There will be victims and violence and it will take a long time. But after 50 years of injustice, a tsunami of public discontent has been unleashed and it won’t stop until the sun shines on Syria again.”

(Via Mostafa Saber)

March for secularism

Don’t forget to join the March and Rally for Secularism 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 on the event organised by Central London Humanist Group here: Join event page on Facebook and Event page on Meetup. We will be using the hashtag #SECM2013.

Be there!

Journalist of the year

I won “Journalist of the Year” for my blogging at today’s prestigious 2013 Dods Women in Public Life Awards. I was massively surprised (and pleased) given that other shortlisted candidates included “national treasure” BBC Olympics presenter Claire Balding.

Other winners at the award ceremony were the wonderful Malala Yousafzai (International Women’s Rights Champion); Michelle McDowell (Woman in Business); Rosemary Butler (Devolved Parliament or Assembly Member of the Year); Sanchia Alasia (Local Government Personality of the Year); Jo Swinson (MP of the Year); Meral Hussein-Ece (Peer of the Year); Denis Mukwege (Male Women’s Rights Champion); Fiona Logan (Public Servant of the Year); Francesca Martinez (Public Affairs Achiever of the Year) and Gee Walker (Voluntary Sector Achiever of the Year).

For more information on the winners, visit here.

By the way, a huge thanks to those who nominated me and also to those of you who read my blog which has now exceeded 2 million hits.

Here’s a photo of some of the winners at today’s ceremony. I’m the one with the ridiculous grin.

WIPL

Lottery indeed

Here is a small Iranian girl giving a sermon in defence of the Quran:

I find the use of children in promoting religion or the labelling of children as having a religion particularly sickening; it’s an insidious form of child abuse.

As Mansoor Hekmat says in his brilliant piece in defence of children’s rights:

The child has no religion, tradition and prejudices. She has not joined any religious sect. She is a new human being who, by accident and irrespective of her will has been born into a family with specific religion, tradition, and prejudices. It is indeed the task of society to neutralise the negative effects of this blind lottery. Society is duty-bound to provide fair and equal living conditions for children, their growth and development, and their active participation in social life. Anybody who should try to block the normal social life of a child, exactly like those who would want to physically violate a child according to their own culture, religion, or personal or collective complexes, should be confronted with the firm barrier of the law and the serious reaction of society. No nine year old girl chooses to be married, sexually mutilated, serve as house maid and cook for the male members of the family, and be deprived of exercise, education, and play. The child grows up in the family and in society according to established customs, traditions, and regulations, and automatically learns to accept these ideas and customs as the norms of life… The condition for defending any form of the freedom of the child to experience life, the condition for defending the child’s right to choose, is first and foremost, to prevent these automatic and common impositions.

Lottery indeed. Think about it, this little girl could have been playing, swimming, dancing… were she born in another family.

Religion – together we can (and must) find the cure:

large_RD_20Religion_203_20Resized_202

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(via Afsaneh Vahdat)

We too yearn for freedom

2013-634944836961439419-143The outrage over the attempted assassination of 15 year old Malala Yousefzai shot by the Taliban for defending girls’ education; the mass protests against Islamists for the assassination of Socialist leader Chokri Belaid and Amina Tyler’s topless activism in Tunisia where she wrote “My body is not the source of your honour” and “fuck your morals”; the protests in Turkey against Islamisation; the Harlem Shake in front of Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Egypt and the largest protest in Egypt in contemporary history against the Muslim Brotherhood – 33 million people (which was not to begin with a coup; the army only stepped in to take control and stop the revolution, not defend it)…

Even if you’re not looking, you can still see the immense resistance and dissent taking place. It’s a new period of human development after decades of Islamism, US-led militarism, unbridled free market reign, cultural relativism and the retreat of all things universal. Today is an era of the 99% movement and revolutions and uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa – many of them female-led. Whilst it may sometimes be hard to see given the perceived “gains” by Islamists or the army in the region (in fact as counter-revolutionary forces aimed at suppressing the revolutions), the change of era is palpable.

Nonetheless, many post-modernist and culturally relativist Leftists, liberals, and feminists continue to remain firmly on the side of the Islamists.

Any opposition to Sharia law, (which is based on the Koran, Hadith, and Islamic jurisprudence), the veil, and Islamic misogyny are met with charges of racism, Islamophobia, cultural imperialism and more. [Read more...]