Britain should ban the niqab

Interview-photo-by-Shokooh BakhtiariHere’s me on Channel on whether Britain should ban the niqab/burqa? Err yes. See it here.

By the way, Fitnah’s third issue is almost ready for publication and will focus on secularism. It’s good to remind everyone to look at the November issue of Unveiled which focused on the veil and burqa. I am posting my editorial as well as an interview on it with Marieme Helie Lucas below for those who haven’t seen it.

Neither Veil nor Submission
Maryam Namazie

The niqab (and burqa) must be banned to protect women’s rights and secularism – and not just out of concern for security. It’s a shroud, strait jacket, and mobile prison for women and girls who are bound and gagged and made invisible. According to Algerian writer Karima Bennoune, the veil represents ‘the ever-encroaching fabric erasure of women’s bodies.’

Calling it a ‘right’ and ‘choice’ is as formal as formal can be when it is often deemed compulsory and imposed and policed by Islamists – often using brute force. Also, let’s not forget, the veil is a tool like many others to control and restrict women and girls. To me, saying it is a right and choice is like saying FGM, the chastity belt, foot-binding, or Suttee are such.

A ban is not a violation of the right to religion. Whilst the right to religion and belief is absolute, the right to manifest and express one’s beliefs can be and is at times restricted for a number of reasons, including protecting public security, health, order, and the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

Men in Shi’a Islam might have the ‘right’ and ‘choice’ to marry four permanent wives and unlimited temporary wives, for example, but it is nonetheless banned in many places because it is deemed to be exploitative. Uniforms are another way in which the right to dress is restricted in society for health reasons.

The European Court of Human Rights confirmed this when it ruled in favour of Turkey’s right to ban the veil at universities (now under question due to Erdogan’s efforts to Islamicise the country). If dress can be restricted to protect health or public safety, why not to protect women’s rights and secularism?

Moreover, rights often conflict with one another. What about the adverse impact of the niqab and burqa on the rights and choices of unveiled or differently veiled women? It is not as harmless as is often portrayed. In the Shabina Begum case, the House of Lords granted that restricting Shabina from wearing the jilbab to school was permissible in order to protect the rights of others who feared being coerced into veiling. As Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas says: “The ‘right’ to veil is always followed with the right to beat up women who do not.” Clearly, the right to veil has a corresponding right to unveil or not veil at all. The unveiled or improperly veiled woman is always held up adversely in comparison to the chaste, veiled woman.

Moreover, this is more than merely a question of ‘dress.’ It is important to remember that the niqab (as well as the burqa and the veil in general) is a highly contested political and social symbol. Many Muslims or those labelled as such are at the forefront of the fight against the burqa, niqab and veil – often at great risk to themselves.

In Iran, the slogan ‘neither veil nor submission’ has become a rallying cry in the ongoing fight between women and Islamic regime’s morality police. In another recent case in Sudan, Amira Osman Hamed who faces flogging for refusing to wear the hijab says: ‘I’m Sudanese. I’m Muslim, and I’m not going to cover my head.’In this day and age, the veil in general and the burka and niqab in particular are associated with Islamism’s efforts to limit rights and impose Sharia law. The enormous increase of veiled women and girls across the world and in Europe is a direct result of the rise of the contemporary Islamist movement and the ensuing pressure on women and girls to veil. Women are always the first targets of Islamism. And veiling restrictions on women is a particular signifier of things to come. The lawyer putting forth Turkey’s case for restricting the veil at universities said it well: ‘the hijab is not just a dress but a sign of political conviction; it shows near and present danger.’

A good case in point is Madani Free school in Derby where girls as young as 11 have to wear the burqa; all teachers, including non-Muslims, must wear the veil. Those who criticise the fuss over a ‘piece of clothing’ miss the point. The niqab and burqa are the most visible signs of Islamism’s war on women. It also represents sex apartheid and Sharia law and all that follows. In Madani School, burqa-clad girls must sit in the back of the classroom. On school trips, they must give way to boys and male teachers who cut in front of them in queues. Music is banned… (As an aside, child veiling is tantamount to child abuse. In the same way that children are not labelled Conservative or Marxist children because of their parents’ political beliefs, children should also be free of religious labels and faith schools until they are ready to make a choice of their own upon reaching 16.)

Calling for a ban on the niqab or burqa is not about criminalising Muslim women anymore than banning FGM criminalises girls and women who are mutilated. Whilst a ban won’t solve everything (there has yet to be a single prosecution with regards FGM) changes in the law, including bans, are important steps in changing culture and attitudes and defending rights.

Moreover, calling for a ban is not about cultural imperialism or colonialism. Islamist efforts in many places are forms of colonialism too. The burqa and niqab are not traditional forms of dress but newly imposed ones for a majority of contexts. Plus there are bans on the niqab or veil in a number of countries outside of Europe. This is not about East versus West. In Egypt, the Ministry of Health has prohibited the wearing of the niqab by nurses in hospitals. Egypt’s top Islamic school, al-Azhar, has issued a ban on wearing the niqab in classrooms and dormitories of all its affiliate schools and educational institutes. Al Azhar also obliges women to show their faces in court via a decree issued in 1880. In Iraq, the niqab has been banned by a fatwa. In Kuwait, women wearing the niqab have been banned from driving. In Azerbaijan and Tunisia, veils are banned from public buildings and schools. In Syria, until recently, teachers were banned from wearing the niqab…

Unfortunately, many secularists in Europe have shown a lack of clarity and moral courage when it comes to banning the burqa and niqab. Secularism is a human right (as philosopher AC Grayling says) and one that needs to be actively defended, promoted, and articulated; it is a fundamental precondition for women’s rights and equality.

Secularists have a responsibility to seize the initiative (particularly given the far-Right’s attempts at hijacking the issue to promote their anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim bigotry). Calling for a ban is not in and of itself racist though racism and prejudice are very real and need to be opposed on par with sex discrimination.

A ban has nothing to do with a ‘clash of civilisations;’ it has everything to do with a global struggle between secularists, including many Muslims, on the one hand and theocrats and the religious-Right on the other.

A Manifesto against Totalitarianism which I signed in 2006 with 11 others including Salman Rushdie on the Danish cartoon controversy still applies today:

“We reject the ‘cultural relativism’ which implies an acceptance that men and women of Muslim culture are deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secularism in the name of the respect for certain cultures and traditions.

“We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of ‘Islamophobia,’ a wretched concept that confuses criticism of Islam as a religion and stigmatisation of those who believe in it.”

And to that I must add the wretched concept that confuses a criticism of the niqab, burqa and veil as a stigmatisation of those who believe in it and wear it…

The veil is nothing but the flag of the Muslim far-right
Interview with Marieme Helie Lucas

Maryam Namazie: Limitations on the veil in schools and an all-out ban on the burqa or niqab are often seen to be authoritarian. Your views?

Marieme Helie Lucas: First of all, it is useful not to conflate the two issues: that of veiling girls in schools and banning the face covering. I will thus answer them as two separate questions.

When talking of veils in schools, one automatically refers to the veiling of under-aged girls, i.e. not the veiling of women. The question thus becomes: who is to decide on girls’ veiling – themselves or the adults who are in charge of them? And which adults?

I know of only one book that looks at this issue; it is a pamphlet entitled ‘Bas les Voiles’ (by Chahdortt Djavann, Gallimard 2003) that was published by an Iranian woman exiled in Paris at the time when the Stasi Commission in France was collecting the views of concerned women (and men) before the adoption of the new law on religious symbols in secular state schools. The author states that the psychological damage done to girls by veiling them is immense as it makes them responsible for men’s arousal from a very early age. This point requires special consideration given the new trend to veil girls as young as 5 as shown in the numerous campaigns throughout North Africa. The author goes on to explain that the girl’s body is thus turned into the site of “fitnah” (seduction or source of disorder) meaning that she cannot look at it or think of it in positive terms. This attitude builds girls that fear, distrust, and feel disgust and anguish at their own bodies. At such an early age, little girls have no way of countering this shaping of their self; they are entirely under the thumb of anti-women men. The women growing up from these psychologically damaged girls are likely to need a lot of help to be able to reconsider themselves and their bodies in more positive terms, to reconstruct their self image, to conquer their bodily autonomy, to abandon guilt and fear – and to give back to men the responsibility of their sexual acts. I think it would be very useful for more women researchers to delve into the psychological damage done to girls who are veiled from an early age. [Read more…]

CEMB November Update: Apostasy, Sex Segregation and Islamist Double-Speak


The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) and Atheist Alliance International have published a new report on the Political and Legal Status of Apostates in Islam with the support of The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science UK. The report examines sources for laws that prohibit apostasy from Islam, reviews legislation and government policies in various countries that persecute apostates and blasphemers, and highlights the cases of some of the many persecuted individuals, with a focus on atheists, secularists and freethinkers. You can read the report here.

CEMB has joined others in condemning the endorsement of gender apartheid by Universities UK in British universities. Any form of segregation, whether by race, sex or otherwise is discriminatory. Separate is never equal and segregation is never applied to those who are considered equal. By justifying segregation, Universities UK sides with Islamist values at the expense of the many Muslims and others who oppose sex apartheid and demand equality between women and men. Please sign the petition, and find out how to join the sex apartheid busters and protest at UUK offices on 10 December here.

CEMB is appalled that the Cambridgeshire Lib Dems has decided to side with their member and former councillor Salah al Bandar rather than CEMB Spokesperson, Nahla Mahmoud, who he has threatened. The head of the Cambridgeshire Lib Dems has stated that the matter is closed after commissioning an “independent translation,” which has not been made available to the public. Terms like Kafir(a), Murtad(a) and Fitnah are only ever derogatory and threatening and must be seen as such. Clearly, the group is the latest victims of Islamist double-speak. Whilst the matter may be closed for them, it is certainly not for CEMB. We will be commissioning our own independent translation, which will be made available to the public. More details can be found here.

A number of ex-Muslim groups have recently formed and affiliated with the CEMB, including Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA), Ex-Muslims of Austria and Ex-Muslims of Scotland. [Read more…]

New Report: Political and Legal Status of Apostates in Islam

Apostasy_Report_Web_Page_001The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and Atheist Alliance International have just published a new report on the Political and Legal Status of Apostates in Islam with the support of The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science UK.

The report examines sources for laws that prohibit apostasy from Islam, reviews legislation and government policies in various countries that persecute apostates and blasphemers, and highlights the cases of some of the many persecuted individuals, with a focus on atheists, secularists and freethinkers.

You can read the report here: Apostasy_Report_Web.

Rescind endorsement of sex segregation at UK universities


* There will be a protest at Universities UK offices in London on 10 December 2013, International Human Rights Day, to oppose sex segregation. You can join Facebook Events Page here.

* Teams of Sex Apartheid Busters are being organised to break segregation wherever it is instituted. To join, email 

UniversitiesUKSegregationUniversities UK (UUK) has issued guidance on external speakers saying that the segregation of the sexes at universities is not discriminatory as long as “both men and women are being treated equally, as they are both being segregated in the same way.” The guidance has been supported by the National Union of Students.

UUK add that universities should bear in mind that “concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system” and that if “imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition to the segregated areas contravenes the genuinely-held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event, or those of the speaker, the institution should be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully.”

We, the undersigned, condemn the endorsement of gender apartheid by Universities UK. Any form of segregation, whether by race, sex or otherwise is discriminatory. Separate is never equal and segregation is never applied to those who are considered equal. By justifying segregation, Universities UK sides with Islamist values at the expense of the many Muslims and others who oppose sex apartheid and demand equality between women and men.

The guidance must be immediately rescinded and sex segregation at universities must come to an end.

Join initial list of signatories below by signing the petition here.

Initial List of Signatories:
A C Grayling, Philosopher
Abhishek N. Phadnis, President, London School of Economics Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Anissa Helie, Academic
Charlie Klendjian, Secretary of Lawyers’ Secular Society
Chris Moos, Secretary, London School of Economics Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Deborah Hyde, Editor of Skeptic magazine
Deeyah Khan, Film Director and Music Producer
Dilip Simeon, Chairperson of the Aman Trust
Elham Manea, Author
Faisal Gazi, Writer and Blogger
Fatou Sow, International Coordinator of Women Living Under Muslim Laws
Gita Sahgal, Director, Centre for Secular Space
Harsh Kapoor, South Asia Citizen’s Web
Helen Palmer, Chair of London Humanists
Kate Smurthwaite, Comedian and Activist
Marieme Helie Lucas, Coordinator, Secularism is a Women’s Issue
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson for One Law for All and Fitnah
Mina Ahadi, International Committee against Stoning
Nadia El Fani, Tunisian Filmmaker
Nahla Mahmoud, Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Nina Sankari, Women’s Rights Campaigner
Ophelia Benson, Writer
Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs of the British Humanist Association
Peter Tatchell, Director of Peter Tatchell Foundation
Polly Toynbee, Journalist
Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters
Rahila Gupta, Women’s Rights Campaigner
Richard Dawkins, Scientist
Rohini Hensman, Social Activist
Rory Fenton, President of The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies of the UK and ROI
Rumy Hassan, Academic
Safia Lebdi, Founder, “Les insoumis-es”
Salil Tripathi, Writer
Soad Baba Aissa, President, of Association pour l’ Egalité, la Mixité et la Laicité en Algérie
Terry Sanderson, President of National Secular Society
Yasmin Rehman, Women’s Rights Campaigner

Sex apartheid not discriminatory?

Universities UK, a “representative” body of UK Universities, has issued guidelines on external speakers saying that the segregation of the sexes at universities is not discriminatory as long as both men and women are segregated side by side rather than women being made to sit in the back! The guidance states:

Assuming the side-by-side segregated seating arrangement is adopted, there does not appear to be any discrimination on gender grounds merely by imposing segregated seating. Both men and women are being treated equally, as they are both being segregated in the same way.

So racial apartheid would have been non-discriminatory if white and black people had been segregated in the same manner? In fact that is the very argument the apartheid regime of South Africa used when faced with criticism:”separate but equal.”

The Universities UK guidance adds:

“Segregation in the context of the facts outlined above would only be discriminatory on the grounds of sex if it amounts to ‘less favourable treatment’ of either female or male attendees.” … “It should therefore be borne in mind that […] concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system.” …

“Ultimately, if imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition to the segregated areas contravenes the genuinely-held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event, or those of the speaker, the institution should be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully.”

Clearly, this is not about people’s belief systems.

If it were so, Muslims would be unable to ride buses, the underground, enter their workplaces via entrances used by both men and women, eat in non-segregated restaurants… They wouldn’t even be able to get to the segregated meeting room since men and women would be mingling freely on the streets and halls right up to their entry into the segregated hall kindly organised by Universities UK.

gender_segregation-150x150And what next? Another set of guidelines asking unveiled women to veil so as not to “result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system.” Maybe they can ask that niqabs be handed out to unchaste and unveiled women before entry.

More importantly, what about the women and men, including Muslims, who don’t want to be segregated? What Universities UK conveniently forgets is that segregation of the sexes and the veil are highly contested even amongst Muslims. By justifying segregation, they choose to side with Islamists at the expense of women’s rights and equality.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that segregation is never applied to those who are considered equal but rather to separate the “superior” from the “inferior.” Women are too “beguiling” to sit next to men; they will cause chaos and fitnah and therefore must be segregated and veiled. Universities UK agrees.

The guidance must be rescinded immediately.

I suggest writing and calling and exposing this lot until they do. Here are their details:

Woburn House 20 Tavistock Square London WC1H 9HQ
Tel: +44 (0)20 7419 4111
Twitter: @UniversitiesUK

I would also suggest that NO speaker or audience ever agree to enter a room that is segregated. We should boycott universities that accept this guidance and the speakers that agree to speak in such situations.

How do you think racial apartheid ended? When people refused to accept it and to submit.

And this is how gender apartheid will end too. Not by appeasement and certainly not by institutionalising misogyny against women. It will end when we insist: no more!

Here is the guidance in full: ExternalSpeakersInHigherEducationInstitutions

(Via Chris Moos)

Walking a tightrope: Between the pro-Islamist Left and the far-Right

1236466622-one-law-for-all-campaign-against-sharia-law-in-britain29189_29189Opposing Sharia and Islamism in the west is like walking on a tight rope most of the time – thwarting attacks from the Left, refuting cultural relativism, preventing alliances with the far-Right, explaining the issues ignored by government and the media, mobilising support for secularism and citizenship whilst opposing racism and xenophobia, and making linkages with the many fighting Islamism on the ground in countries across the world. It’s easy to fall off the tight rope and doesn’t surprise me when it happens given all the pressures involved.

Most disconcerting for many are the pressures from the Left; it is particularly hard when your “natural allies” betray basic human principles whilst using the language of rights and tolerance to defend the denial of rights and the intolerable.

Take this past weekend’s panel discussion at the NYU Global Secularisms conference that I was on. One of my co-panellists said she opposed all fundamentalists, including secular ones, when asked about my talk and another accused me of aiding and abetting racism against Muslims and Arabs by my very use of the term Sharia (I’ll have to comment on these later).

Add to this constant demonization, the day to day difficulties of doing such work, including the threats and all the clandestine attempts at intimidation and it is quite easy to see how one can be disillusioned and fall off the tightrope. (Just this week, I was asked to reassure a ‘moderate Muslim gentleman’ – read Islamist – with the content of my talk though he wouldn’t be attending and wanted me disinvited.)

I suppose it’s easier for people like me to stay the course coming from an Iranian Left political tradition with crystal clear clarity and an uncompromising defence of humanity. The Left I belong to has opposed cultural relativism and defended universal values and hasn’t sided with the Iranian regime or Syria’s Asad like Stop the War Coalition and the Socialist Workers Party.

When faced with such betrayal, I can fully understand that, for some, staying on course becomes impossible. What I can’t understand and will never accept, though, is falling off the tightrope or even trying to stay on whilst simultaneously finding solace in and partnership with the far-Right.

The argument in favour of collaboration with the far-Right is that we need as many allies as possible in the fight against Sharia and Islamism, which means that we must be “inclusive” and “tolerant” of those whose views we may find distasteful – all for the “cause.”

Sound familiar?

Is this not what the pro-Islamist Left says in justifying its collaboration with the Islamists?

I for one already work with many groups and individuals whose views I find distasteful; it is possible to do that in specific campaigns like One Law for All. But no movement includes or represents everyone. There are limits. And there are principles that are more important than any “cause.”

Also, creating movements is not merely a numbers game. When Stop the War Coalition brought in Islamists as partners, it ignored Islamic terrorism and discrimination against women. It sided with oppressive regimes, segregated meetings and defended Sharia and the veil. It brought lots of people to the streets initially but at what cost and for how long?

Collaborating with the likes of the English Defence League (EDL) may increase numbers in the short-term, but it’s self-defeating. This isn’t only about numbers. Aims and principles matter too.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. I’m against the war on Iraq as is Al Qaeda but we’re against it for different reasons. I’m against Sharia and so is the EDL and the supposedly reinvented Tommy Robinson but we’re against it for different reasons.

I oppose Sharia in Britain and everywhere because universal rights, secularism, women’s rights and equality mean something to me. The EDL and Tommy Robinson oppose it because they want to defend their “homeland” (which I am reminded is a human right recognised by the UN) from “the changes and dangers brought to it by mass influxes of people from cultures they don’t understand or recognise.” Can you not see the fundamental differences in position? Theirs is a xenophobic position that blames immigrants and minorities for everything wrong with Britain. It’s a racist perspective that sees the teeming masses as the “other” trying to change white, British, Christian culture.

But people’s “culture” is not based on their immigration or citizenship status. Not every white European represents enlightenment values – as the EDL clearly proves. Nor is every immigrant or minority a regressive theocrat. This is not about a clash of civilisations between a regressive “east” and a secularist “west” but a clash between theocrats and the religious-Right on the one hand and secularists and democrats, including Muslims and immigrants on the other.

Where we each stand is based on our politics and choices not on our “identity” or immigration status. I too am one of those teeming immigrant masses after all as are many who are at the forefront of doing much of the dirty work of defending secularism in Britain and elsewhere.

It always annoys me to no end when I hear that the EDL are the only ones speaking out against Sharia. Please, we were speaking out against Sharia when EDL/BNP-types were openly collaborating with neo-Nazis and for white supremacy. Their language may have changed but political movements and organisations are thankfully not merely judged by the duplicitous language they use.

An undue focus on Britain, “homeland” and the west means that one can only see the likes of the EDL, thereby seeking common cause where there is none.

It also means that one cannot see the real allies in this fight, including amongst the “teeming hoards of immigrants” and women and men struggling in Iran, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Algeria, Mali, Bangladesh, Egypt, Turkey and elsewhere. One Law for All and the fight against Sharia and Islamism is a continuation of their struggle and fight – not that of the EDL’s and far-Right.

The far-Right will never have a place in One Law for All. I will make sure of that.

As an aside, I must briefly address the fact that Tommy Robinson has left the EDL. I for one have nothing against working towards common goals with those who have left far-Right organisations – EDL or Islamist. One Law for All already works with ex-Islamists and ex-members of the BNP and EDL. However, I am doubtful that Tommy is a changed man. When Ed Hussain or Majid Nawaaz left Hizb ut Tahrir and founded Quilliam Foundation, they criticised the Islamist organisation they left and created a new position and space for themselves and others. Tommy has yet to do that. So far, all I have heard from him is how proud he is of his time with the EDL; he continues to defend the organisation. He has merely criticised certain elements within the EDL but not the organisation itself and its politics. One can’t be ex-EDL and still defend the EDL if one wants to show that they have truly changed. Islamists do this all the time by changing their organisational name and carrying on with business as usual.

Personally I think this is all a publicity stunt for Tommy to reinvent himself into a more palatable persona without any lasting change in his politics. (Notice how the BBC follows him everywhere?) For his politics to be considered different, he would need to take responsibility for the EDL’s far-Right politics during his leadership and must be judged not only by what he says but by what he does. Only time will tell whether he is the same old Tommy; I certainly hope not.

Lib Dems: Wrong Answer, Again!

Nahla Mahmoud MCUNahla Mahmoud, Spokesperson of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, was threatened after speaking out against Sharia law including by Salah al Bandar (or Salah al Bander) who has until recently been a Liberal Democrat Councillor and is currently an esteemed member. Details of his threats can be found here as can information on his dubious background here.

Spencer Hagard, Chair of the Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats, initiated an investigation when the threats were first made public in English and found them “groundless”. Instead, he said the inquiry “increased [his] previously high esteem for” al Bandar.

When he was further pressed, he commissioned an “independent translation” and reached the very same conclusion, which says:

1.  Nahla Mahmoud’s allegations against Dr Al Bander are very serious, in their nature, and in the scale and persistence of their dissemination.
2.  The allegations are based on Dr Al Bander’s posts on ‘SudaneseOnline’.  We have had these independently translated into English.
3. None of the independent translations supports the allegations made in Nahla Mahmoud’s articles of 2 August 2013, 2 September 2013, 4 September 2013, and 28 September 2013. By a combination of of mistranslation, omission of key phrases, and highly selective and partial quotation, she has created serious distortions of the meaning of Dr Al Bander’s posts.

4. Our conclusion is that Dr Al Bander has no case to answer in respect of the allegations by Nahla Mahmoud.

5. We are therefore satisfied that there is nothing in Dr Salah Al Bander’s behaviour which conflicts with his continuing membership of the Liberal Democrat Party.

When asked for a copy of the “independent translation”  by Janet Wright who lives in Cambridgeshire, Hagard refused. Janet wrote to him saying:

You say “You will see that the matter has been thoroughly investigated”. But that is exactly what I cannot see, because you have not shown me the evidence. As an academic, you know that repeating an assertion is not the same as providing evidence.

Would you please be kind enough to send me the independent translation you commissioned, with some information about who did the translation? Then I hope I will be able to see that Mr Al Bander is completely innocent of the charges made against him. Many thanks.

I very much wish to be reassured about the principles upheld by Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats. But the more you tell me you have evidence exonerating Mr Al Bander but you will not show it to me, the more worried I become.

Hagard wrote back: [Read more…]

Open Letter to Stop the War Coalition on Agnès Mariam de la Croix

Here’s an open letter to Stop the War Coalition that I signed which (yet again) highlights their support of those who defend oppressive regimes like Iran’s and Syria’s. The open letter was published here. You can read it below.

By the way, here’s a good article by James Bloodworth on this issue saying she is “the equivalent of one of Hitler’s brown priests” and that though she has now pulled out, she would have fitted in so very well…

News recently broke that Stop the War Coalition (StWC) invited Mother Superior Agnès Mariam de la Croix to speak at its November 30 International Anti-War Conference. Fellow guests included MPs Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn and journalists Owen Jones and Jeremy Scahill.

Responding to a firestorm of protest, Jones and Scahill vowed to boycott the event if the Syrian-based nun spoke alongside them. Eventually she decided to “withdraw” from the conference and StWC issued a statement without explanation. Nor did it divulge why anyone would object to a Syrian cleric’s participation in an ostensibly pro-peace event.

Here are some reasons why we consider Mother Agnès-Mariam’s inclusion in an anti-war event to be a “red line” for opponents of conflict. Despite contrary claims, she is a partisan to—rather than a neutral observer of—the war in Syria.

syria-12Mother Agnès claimed that the Syrian opposition faked films of Bashar al-Assad’s 21 August 2013 sarin-gas attack on Ghouta in the suburbs of Damascus. In her 50-page dossier on the horrible events of that fateful morning, she wrote that the dead, gassed children documented in those videos “seem mostly sleeping” and “under anaesthesia.”

According to Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, a Jesuit priest exiled by the Assad regime for speaking out against its suppression of peaceful protests and currently a prisoner of al-Qa’ida’s Syrian affiliate, ISIS, Mother Agnes “has been consistent in assuming and spreading the lies of the regime, and promoting it through the power of her religious persona. She knows how to cover up the brutality of the regime”.

Moreover, Syrian Christians for Peace have denounced Mother Agnès for claiming there had never been a single peaceful demonstration in Syria. The also accused her of failing to disburse any of the money she raised in the name of their beleaguered community. They have asked “that she be excommunicated and prevented from speaking in the name of the Order of Carmelites.”

Having a massacre denier and apologist for war criminals like Mother Agnès speak alongside respected journalists such as Jeremy Scahill and Owen Jones is not only an insult to them and their principles. It is also, more insidiously, a means of exploiting their credibility and moral authority to bolster hers, both of which are non-existent.  No journalist should be sharing a platform with Agnès when she stands accused of being complicit in the death of French journalist Gilles Jacquier by his widow and a colleague who accompanied him into Homs during the trip arranged by Mother Agnès in January 2012.

Given that her UK speaking tour is still scheduled to last from the 21st to 30th November we, the undersigned, feel compelled to express our profound and principled objections to those who give a platform to a woman condemned by Syrian pro-peace Christians for greasing the skids of the regime’s war machine.

Signatories: [Read more…]

Iran: Stop the execution of Zaniar and Loghman Moradi Now

zaniarandloghmanmoradiZaniar and Loghman Moradi are two political prisoners who were arrested in 2009 and sentenced to death for ‘enmity against God’ after being accused of murdering the son of a cleric in Marivan, Iranian Kurdistan.

They have written frequent open letters from prison; in one letter to Ahmed Shaheed, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights in Iran, they recounted the horrific tortures they faced forcing false confessions.

The death sentences against Zaniar and Loghman Moradi and the massive international campaign organised on their behalf has meant that the two youth are now well known internationally. Following the mass execution of 18 political activists on 26 October and the executions of Habibollah Golparipour and Shirkoo Moarefi, the risk of execution of the two has increased.

Two witnesses, a man and woman in Marivan, have now come forward and announced their readiness to testify on the murder of Marivan clergy’s son. Their testimony may hold clues to the murders committed by Hiwa Dab, a commander of the regime who had a hand in a number of murders and who was executed by the regime as a cover up attempt.

The lawyer of the two men has stated that Zaniar and Loghman were originally arrested for political activities against the regime; after 5 months imprisonment, they were charged with the killing of the clergy’s son. Their forced confessions were made under torture.

We, the undersigned, demand the immediate abolition Zaniar and Loghman Moradi’s execution order and call for their release. The Marivan clergy has been repeatedly asked to refuse to collaborate in this sham but he has given a number of justifications for playing along, including his concern about losing his position and pay.

By signing this petition, please call for the revocation of the sentence.

A copy of this petition will be sent to the Parliament of Europe and the UN and international media.
Mina Ahadi, Spokesperson, the International Committee against Executions
Amaneh Ghaderi, Mother of Zaniar Moradi
Eqbal Moradi, Father Zaniar Moradi

Unveiled: Neither Veil nor Submission

fitnah-UNVEILED-nov13_Page_01Fitnah’s November issue of Unveiled (Volume 1, Issue 2) has now been published and can be found here: fitnah-UNVEILED-nov13.

editor: Maryam Namazie
design by: Kiran Opal

Content includes:

The veil is nothing but the flag of the Muslim far-right, An interview with Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas. In this must-read interview, Marieme Helie Lucas says:

“If we do agree that this sudden rise of specific veils worldwide passing off as THE ‘Islamic’ veil is neither cultural nor religious but a political flag that fundamentalists use in order to increase their political visibility at the expense of women, then we must also admit that wearing this form of veil – now – in Europe and North America has a political purpose; the women who wear it, whether they are aware of it or not, are wearing the flag of a far-right political party. Hence I could hardly agree with the formulation: ‘a woman choosing how to dress.’ This veil is definitely not to be equated to wearing high heels versus flat shoes, or miniskirts versus trousers. It is not a fashion; it is a political marker. If one decides one is going to wear a swastika as a brooch, one cannot ignore its political meaning; one cannot pretend one does not care for the fact that it was the ’flag’ of Nazi Germany. One cannot pretend one just likes its shape. It is a political statement.”

Neither Veil nor Submission, Editorial by Maryam Namazie on the niqab ban. In it, she writes:

“The niqab and burqa in particular are the visible signs of Islamism’s war on women and the society at large. It also represents sex apartheid and Sharia law and all that follows. In Madani School, burqa-wearing girls must sit in the back of the classroom. On school trips, they must give way to boys and male teachers who cut in front of them in queues. Music is banned… The call for a ban has nothing to do with a clash of civilisations. It has everything to do with a global struggle between secularists, including many Muslims, on the one hand and theocrats and the religious-Right on the other.”

Newsflash provides updates on women’s rights and issues in a number of countries worldwide.

In the Art Corner, one can find information on an Afghan rap singer and censored packaging in Iran.

Recent highlighted campaigns, include End Stoning Now and End Legalised Paedophilia in Iran

Full issue can be found here: fitnah-UNVEILED-nov13.

My speaking engagements this month

I will be speaking in Brighton tomorrow 6 November at a meeting organised by the Brighton Secular Humanists at 730pm at Sallis Benney Theatre, Brighton University, Grand Parade, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 0JY. More information available here.

After that I will be speaking at NYU during 15-16 November at the Global Secularisms Conference at New York University. For more details, visit here.

The show will go on

passion_for_freedom_03The show will go on.

The 5th Passion for Freedom Festival will take place as planned from 02 November 2013 even though the original venue – out of sheer cowardice – pulled out last minute.

The festival will now be held at:
Embassy Tea Gallery
195-205 Union Street
London SE1 0LN (Closest underground Southwark)

The 2 November private view and movie screenings can be attended by reservation only. To reserve your place on the guest list please email: RSVP@PASSIONFORFREEDOM.CO.UK.

Shortlisted artists will exhibit works which will be judged by an international Selection Panel including Anda Rottenberg, Sarah Maple, Deeyah and Nick Cohen.

Passion for Freedom is affiliated with One Law for All.

For more information on the festival, click here.

Forbidden Talk: Atheism in Middle East

See an interview with me on Levant TV’s “Forbidden Talk” programme on “Atheism in the Middle East.” Levant TV is a new channel with a focus on the Middle East.

Here’s to the day when speaking about atheism doesn’t end up on the forbidden talk section of a TV channel. With atheism on the rise in the Middle East and North Africa, that moment will be coming… And not a moment too soon.

UPDATE: By the way, I am listening the programme right now, and can’t believe they had to have Saleem Chagtai (Islamic Education and Research Academy) wasting our time with the usual nonsense. I know they are hoping for balance, but how come they only remember balance when it comes to us?