Fitnah’s Unveiled: Against Gender Apartheid

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Unveiled
A Publication of Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation
January 2014
Volume 2, Issue 1

Editor: Maryam Namazie
Design: Kiran Opal

Read PDF file here.

Against gender apartheid: Mixing is the future of humanity
Interview with Marieme Helie Lucas

Maryam Namazie: What is the nature of the recent sex segregation scandal at Universities UK where the representative body issued guidance saying side by side sex segregation was permissible? Why does it occur and by whom is it imposed? Also, it’s more than just a question of physical separation isn’t it?

Marieme Helie Lucas: Just like with the niqab, it’s an extreme-Right political organisation working under the cover of religion to promote sex segregation as a pawn in the political landscape and using all possible means to make itself visible and impose its mores and laws. The idea is to permanently demonstrate that the law of god (as interpreted by them) supersedes the law of the people. It is a blatant attack on the very principle of democracy and one woman/man, one vote, particularly relevant in the aftermath of Nelson Mandela’s death. Read the rest of the interview here.

News Flash: December 2013

Iran: The new president Hassan Rouhani pledged during election campaign speeches that he ‘would not allow any agent to question anyone in the street’ and that ‘girls should feel secure’. But only four months later, the Headquarters for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has announced improperly dressed women will be issued with official warnings. Cleric Hayder Zahraei, who is in charge of the nationwide plan, said: ‘This grand plan will be implemented in some 200 cities across the country. The plan will be expanded and fully implemented in society.’ Brig. Genral Ahmadi Moghadam, commander of the State Security Forces, also said on August 12: “With Rouhani there will be no changes with regards to the veil.” On September 8 an order was issued to ‘intensify dealing with women who are not properly dressed’. Read the rest of News Flash here.

Arts Corner

Kiana Hayeri’s photographic project Beyond the Veil shows a predominantly young Iranian population (more than seventy-five percent is under the age of thirty-five) challenging compulsory hijab or veiling and restrictive rules in the way they dress or interact with the opposite sex despite fines, imprisonment and worse. Read the rest here.

Campaigns

More than a 100 protestors rallied outside the office of Universities UK (UUK) to condemn their endorsement of segregation of the sexes and demand gender equality on 10 December 2013, International Human Rights Day. The rally was organised by Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation, One Law for All and London School of Economics Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society. Read the rest here.

Letter to the Editor

Having naked women on your cover is offensive and pornographic, N Abraham: Having naked women on many of your covers daubed in slogans does not empower me – it reminds me of page three models who are said to be exploited by men/media. It feeds into western ideals that twerking is good, in my opinion, and loses the message these girls are trying to make (except look at her body; she wants to be a porn star. And I am not religious – yes we get that! It is also a bit clichéd). Much better to put Iman from a Vogue fashion shoot on the front – that would make a point without nudity (assuming you chose the right photo!) Also, having naked women half draped in the Muslim women’s covering showing their nude parts is offensive and belittles the women who choose to cover up…! I find this offensive. Women have the right to cover up or not. Your pictures and not just one, encourages pornographic imagery and the consequences of that – you saying these women want to be part of this industry under their burkas. I am not a feminist as defined by some people but a woman and this is my opinion.

Read our response here.

Editorial
Gender apartheid is an Islamist demand
Maryam Namazie

Segregation of the sexes is an Islamist demand though it is often couched as a right and demand of ‘Muslims’. When Islamists have state power like in Iran or Saudi Arabia, it’s the law. Transgressing it can mean fines, imprisonment or worse. There, women must enter government offices via separate entrances from men; they must sit behind men or boys in classrooms and at the back of the bus… Read the rest here.

Campaign against gender segregation will persist

fitnah-UNVEILED4-jan14-A4-v2.1_Page_01Dear friend

Thank you so much for all your support during 2013, particularly for our most recent campaign against gender segregation at universities in the UK, which we organised in conjunction with Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation, Southall Black Sisters, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and LSE Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society.

Nearly 9,500 signed our petition against guidance issued by representative body Universities UK (UUK) endorsing segregation of the sexes. Soon after our emergency 10 December rally at the UUK office and the ensuing public outcry, Prime Minister David Cameron intervened to oppose sex segregation at universities and UUK withdrew its guidance.

Whilst this fight has been won, the battle continues particularly since UUK aims to redraft its guidance rather than rescind it altogether.

The Campaign against Gender Segregation at UK Universities will persist to press on until there is no room for segregation of the sexes at universities, including by organising teams of sex apartheid busters and a huge march and rally against gender apartheid on 8 March 2014, International Women’s Day. We are also getting legal advice.

As Algerian Sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas says in an interview in the latest issue of Fitnah’s monthly, Unveiled: “Whether [it’s segregation] at the back or on the side, the old argument is always that this is done to protect women – for their own good, of course, and by doing so to restrict their freedom of movement… What is discriminatory is to assign a place to somebody, whatever that place may be. It says: keep to your place; to women’s place! Universities have no business pandering to such requests, and if they do, what’s next? Fundamentalist speakers will only address audiences where females are fully covered? It seems we are already witnessing some of the next steps. According to media reports, in one instance at a UK university, women were not only segregated but had to give their questions in writing to the speaker, whilst men could raise theirs… What is sure is that fundamentalists will not stop here and will produce more and more demands, since the aim is not to get satisfaction for a specific demand, but to gain political ground.”

In my editorial in the same issue, I write: “Gender apartheid is an Islamist demand to increase power and influence by asserting medieval rules on women and the society at large. The groups lined up to defend UUK’s indefensible position are all hard-core Islamists who hide behind ‘Muslim’ and religion to push forward their regressive and misogynist far-Right politics…: FOSIS (Federation of Student Islamic Societies), for example, has just had their winter council in December with Kamal El Mekki as speaker who supports death for apostates. Hizb-Ut-Tahrir says gays should be killed and has been classified as a hate group. iERA’s [Islamic Education and Research Academy] Abdurraheem Green says disobedient women should be beaten; iERA won’t even publish on their website the photos of their women speakers (for women-only events of course)…  The British jihadi Iftikhar Jaman who recently died in Syria fighting for Al-Qaeda affiliate ISIS was part of iERA’s dawah team… The irony of such groups defending sex apartheid out of concern for ‘women’s comfort’ is lost on the likes of UUK.” You can see the latest issue of  ‘Unveiled’ here.

Some of the media coverage on this scandal can be found here and include a BBC World Service and Channel 4 News debate between myself and the Islamist Hizb-Ut-Tahrir. You can also see my 4thought.tv interview in favour of banning the niqab here.

You can find out more about other aspects of our work in 2013 by visiting our website. Please also see a post by Anne Marie Waters who has left her position as One Law for All co-Spokesperson and also my blog entry on ‘Walking a tightrope: between a pro-Islamist Left and the far-Right’.

In the coming year, particularly important for us will be a conference we are co-organising on the Religious-Right, Secularism and Civil Rights in London during 11-12 October 2014. You can register for the conference now. Also help us raise funds needed to invite secular activists from across the world and strengthen the global secularist front against the religious-Right.  One way to help is to donate items for an auction which will be held sometime early next year.  You can also help by joining our small but growing group of monthly donors or give us a one off donation if you can. Here’s information on how to donate. We also need office space in central London if you can help.

Finally, we would like to thank you once more for your donations and in-kind help including as volunteers, by providing free meeting space at a local language school and by helping with publicity, our campaigns, design, editing, and more. We want to particularly thank those of you who donate on a monthly basis; it has made a world of difference being able to depend on regular support.

We look forward to continuing – together – our fight for secularism, rights and equality in 2014 and beyond.

Wishing you a happy New Year and warmest wishes

Maryam Namazie
Spokesperson
One Law for All
BM Box2387, London WC1N 3XX, UK
tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
email: onelawforall@gmail.com
web: http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/

Gender apartheid is an Islamist demand

This is the editorial of the January 2014 issue of Unveiled, Fitnah’s Monthly Publication.
By Maryam Namazie

Segregation of the sexes is an Islamist demand though it is often couched as a right and demand of ‘Muslims’. When Islamists have state power like in Iran or Saudi Arabia, it’s the law. Transgressing it can mean fines, imprisonment or worse. There, women must enter government offices via separate entrances from men; they must sit behind men or boys in classrooms and at the back of the bus…

Like racial apartheid in South Africa, gender apartheid is segregation based on the inequities between genders. The ‘logic’ behind it is that women are not equal but ‘complementary’ to men and if unveiled and unsegregated are the source of fitnah and affliction in society. Whilst this perspective is debasing to women, it’s also demeaning to men who are seen to be unable to control their sexual urges. An unveiled, unsegregated woman is like uncovered meat or sweets, asking for it – a whore. It follows, therefore, that the woman who refuses to veil (or ‘properly’ veil) or segregate and who enters the public space on her own terms is considered open season.

One of the slogans of the Islamists attacking women who had joined the 1979 mass demonstration in Iran against compulsory veiling was: ‘Ya rusari, Ya tusari’ (either the veil or a punch). Abdullah Mohammad Al Dawood, a Saudi Arabian writer, recently asked his followers to sexually molest women who work so as to stop women from leaving their homes. In Egypt, the sexual violence against women is often spearheaded by the state in order to prevent women from protesting in the public space…  This is also fundamentally why the Taliban bombs girls’ schools and why those who have sex outside of marriage are stoned to death:  to keep women/girls in their place – captive, covered, segregated, disappeared, not seen and not heard.

Whilst women and men often resist these anti-women rules at great risk to themselves across the Middle East, Asia and North Africa (and might I add also in the west), the likes of Universities UK (UUK) and Islamism’s apologists defend misogyny as a culturally relative ‘right to religion’.

If anything, however, can be learnt from the recent fight (and small victory) against the endorsement of sex segregation at UK universities, it is that gender segregation has nothing to do with the right to religion; after all ordinary Muslims (not a homogeneous group by any means) manage to go about their lives whilst freely mixing with the opposite sex all the time (and where mixing is banned, spend much of their time getting round segregation).

Gender apartheid is an Islamist demand to increase power and influence by asserting medieval rules on women and the society at large. The groups lined up to defend UUK’s indefensible position are all hard-core Islamists who hide behind ‘Muslim’ and religion to push forward their regressive and misogynist far-Right politics: Hizb Ut-Tahrir, FOSIS (Federation of Student Islamic Societies), Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA), and Islamic Human Rights Commission…

FOSIS, for example, has just had their winter council in December with Kamal El Mekki as speaker who supports death for apostates. Hizb-Ut-Tahrir says gays should be killed and has been classified as a hate group. iERA’s Abdurraheem Green says disobedient women should be beaten; iERA won’t even publish on their website the photos of their women speakers (for women-only events of course)…  The British jihadi Iftikhar Jaman who recently died in Syria fighting for Al-Qaeda affiliate ISIS was part of iERA’s dawah team…

The irony of such groups defending sex apartheid out of concern for ‘women’s comfort’ is lost on the likes of UUK.

As is the fact that Islamists have supporters amongst women. Having women supporters who are pro-gender apartheid doesn’t make segregation of the sexes pro-woman just like having black South Africans defending separate homelands for black people doesn’t makes Bantustans pro-equality. Just like having a Sikh spokesperson for the English Defence League doesn’t makes that organisation anti-racist…

A 20 December meeting entitled ‘A Muslim Women’s Unified Community Response: The attack on gender segregation in Islam’ in London shows that in fact segregation is the Islamist women’s demand (whilst feigning representation of all Muslim women). Per Islamist rules, the meeting is women-only because women are not allowed to address men; their very voices will cause fitnah if heard by men, which also explains why women must write their questions down at meetings rather than voice them. Speakers at this women-only event are from Hizb-Ut-Tahrir, iERA, Islamic Human Rights Commission, and University Islamic Societies. Another speaker is Yvonne Ridley who used to work for the Islamic regime of Iran’s Press TV.  Her former employer has also waded into the debate with a Member of the Islamic Assembly saying sex segregation has gotten attention in non-Islamic countries because universities in the west are ‘swamps of corruption’ and ‘Muslim students’ are in a position to influence and act as role models for non-Muslims…

Of course it is not just Universities UK. Whilst many got it right this time around and opposed UUK’s position that sex segregation is a deeply-held religious belief (sadly only because they see it as ‘their universities’ and not a Sharia court or burqa which only affects ‘the Other’), many – including the British government – have got it wrong countless times before.

Which is why UUK thought it could get away with endorsing gender apartheid and why Islamists can dare to speak of ‘women’s comfort’ whilst simultaneously waging an all-out war on women.

In other equally important fights against other aspects of the Islamist project to increase influence and power, there have been many, including humanists and secularists, who have defended Sharia courts as ‘people’s right to religion’ and the burqa and niqab as ‘women’s right to clothing’.

But as Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas says: “There is an ideological battle going on, as well as very concrete ones. Introducing parallel legal systems, making one’s political presence visible thanks to more and more women wearing a so-called ‘Islamic dress’, gender segregation, the revival of medieval forms of punishment such as beheading ( let’s not forget it happened in Woolwich not so long ago) or stoning or flogging or amputation of limbs – all this does not come in a vacuum. There is a correlation between all these demands; and there is a deliberate political will behind it.”

The demand for gender segregation like Sharia courts and the niqab help Islamists gain political ground at the expense of the innumerable, including many Muslims who are Islamism’s first victims.

The only way to stop Islamists from gaining more ground and in order to push them back, ‘progressives’ must begin to recognise this far-Right movement for what it is, defend universality and secularism, and fight it politically on all fronts in solidarity with the many women and men battling it from Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia to Iran.

La lucha continua (the fight continues)…

Against gender apartheid: Mixing is the future of humanity

male-female-1024x731-blabstaThe below Interview with Marieme Helie Lucas has been published in the January 2014 issue of Unveiled, Fitnah’s Monthly Publication.

Maryam Namazie: What is the nature of the recent sex segregation scandal at Universities UK where the representative body issued guidance saying side by side sex segregation was permissible? Why does it occur and by whom is it imposed? Also, it’s more than just a question of physical separation isn’t it?

Marieme Helie Lucas: Just like with the niqab, it’s an extreme-Right political organisation working under the cover of religion to promote sex segregation as a pawn in the political landscape and using all possible means to make itself visible and impose its mores and laws. The idea is to permanently demonstrate that the law of god (as interpreted by them) supersedes the law of the people. It is a blatant attack on the very principle of democracy and one woman/man, one vote, particularly relevant in the aftermath of Nelson Mandela’s death.

The UK has laws for gender equity; therefore, the government should be clear that these laws are the only ones applicable in the UK. However we know that this is not the case as it has already accepted a parallel legal system [what’s known as Sharia Courts or Muslim Arbitration Tribunals] which does not grant women the same rights as the law of the land does. This is a major setback.

Às long as all these attempts by Muslim fundamentalists – whether in the form of different rights for different categories of citizens, veiling, sex segregation and so on – is not analysed in political terms – as the expression of an anti-democratic programme, but rather in terms of religion or culture, the British government will not limit the rise of this extreme-Right movement, which will be increasingly difficult to control.

Those of us who clearly see the rise of a new form of fascism – mostly because we come from situations in which we have had to live under the boot of fundamentalists – are left to our own devices to struggle against it. It is not very different from the situation of anti-Nazi Germans who were not listened to, for far too long, until a bloody war was inevitable.

Maryam Namazie: Universities UK’s guidance first said (though it has now been withdrawn as a result of pressure) if women are not made to sit at the back of the room but are segregated alongside men, since none are disadvantaged, then there is no discrimination. Your views?

Marieme Helie Lucas: Whether at the back or on the side, the old argument is always that this is done to protect women – for their own good, of course, and by doing so to restrict their freedom of movement. By the same logic, some twenty years ago, Bangladesh suddenly restricted women from leaving the country as there was a lot of trafficking of women in the region. What appeared to be their solution was NOT to arrest pimps-protectors, but to prevent women from travelling without a wali (a male guardian from their family). Please note that Bangladesh does not even abide by the Maliki School, in which the institution of wali is legal.

What is discriminatory is to assign a place to somebody, whatever that place may be. It says: keep to your place; to women’s place!

Universities have no business pandering to such requests, and if they do, what’s next? Fundamentalist speakers will only address audiences where females are fully covered?

It seems we are already witnessing some of the next steps. According to media reports, in one instance at a UK university, women were not only segregated but had to give their questions in writing to the speaker, whilst men could raise theirs. As one knows, their voices are sexually attractive and fundamentalists plug their ears against temptation – hence the ban on singing in the areas the Taliban control…

What is sure is that fundamentalists will not stop here and will produce more and more demands, since the aim is not to get satisfaction for a specific demand, but to gain political ground.

Maryam Namazie: Omar Ali, of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, says ‘segregation’ is ‘an emotive use of language’. ‘If a society is set up to cater for religious needs on campus, why shouldn’t they?  ‘A lot of people would find it insulting to say this is something discriminatory against women.’

Marieme Helie Lucas: Why should religious needs be catered to on campus? If we launch a society for the rights of naturists, should universities cater to our need to organise healthy debates in the nude (in summer only), and to exclude or seclude those who do not adhere to putting our philosophy in practice? Or is Mr Omar Ali’s religious ideology considered by university authorities more valuable than my naturist philosophy? In that case, I could take the authorities to court for discrimination against my philosophy, for creating a hierarchy of rights amongst different views and beliefs.

What is to be allowed on campus? What is in keeping with a university’s general mission of expanding knowledge and reasoning? I presume that my naturist philosophy could be and should be of interest to all to debate about on campus, but that my insistence to put my beliefs in practice may not be considered as indispensable to the exchange of ideas.

Maryam Namazie: Separating men and women isn’t necessarily discriminatory and can reflect personal preferences, such as women-only gyms on women-only refuges. The head of Universities UK which issued the guidance endorsing segregation of the sexes says: “It is possible for women to choose to be educated in an all-women environment. It’s not something which is so alien to our culture that it has to be regarded like race segregation, which is totally different and it’s unlawful and there’s no doubt about that whatsoever.” Are racial and gender segregation incomparable? Why is it that everyone can see the distinction between a black university and racial apartheid but when it comes to gender, it’s not as obvious?

Marieme Helie Lucas: This is a very crucial question that I have debated a lot, including more than twenty years ago with feminist friends in the USA. While sex segregation was rapidly expanding in Algeria under the heavy weight of the first fundamentalist preachers and religious groups, I was trying to warn them about the potential backlash of their gender segregation policy in the name of feminism.

Many of our feminist weapons have been turned against us along the years… and I have come to this very sad conclusion that we were not smart enough to think, as thinkers and philosophers should, about all the facets of the concepts we were grappling with. Just think of our feminist praise for diversity, whilst all along we knew that difference was used to legitimise the racist South African apartheid regime, or the segregationist states of the USA. This concept is now used to legitimise the imposition of differences on women that make them unequal in the name of religion, ethnicity or culture.

I think we should urgently question the present trend to regroup with ‘the same’ in order to protect ourselves from ‘the other’. It seems to me that this is a general trend, from the creation of Israel to the dismantling of the former Yugoslavia, to the creation of ghettos – whether for Blacks – or increasingly for wealthy Whites, Asians, Muslims, Sikhs… you name it.

We are slowly returning to the ethnic/racial/religious/gender purity which induces us to stay amongst ‘the sames’. Decades ago, I wrote a chapter entitled ‘What is your tribe? The construction of Muslimness’ in which I discussed the fear of the other to discover that the other is the same…

Mixing is the future of humanity. [Read more...]

On Worker-communism

Below is a November 2013 WPI Briefing interview with Hamid Taqvaee on the formation of the Worker-communist Party of Iran (WPI) in November 1991. You can read more our differences here.

What was the background to the formation of the party?

All of the leadership and rank and file of the Worker-communist Party of Iran (WPI), when it was formed in November 1991, had been members or cadres of the Communist Party of Iran (CPI) which had been founded in 1983.

The formation of the WPI was certainly not the starting point of our political activities. It was a separation from the old party, the CPI, and forming a new one.

And what is certainly true for myself as well as many others who are in the leadership now of the WPI is that our political activities started way back before 1983. Most of us started our activities in the 1979 revolution in Iran and some of us even before that. We were politically active, we were Marxist activists.

The best way perhaps of looking at the WPI is not as a party that took shape from scratch but as a turning point in a form of communism that started with Iran’s revolution more than three decades ago and which was shaped mainly by Mansoor Hekmat at that time.

Why did you establish a new party?

The WPI was formed at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. That event was the cause and start of many new issues and challenges.

We needed to answer these challenges of the New World Order as it was named by George Bush (the elder) and the US. And the CPI was not ready for this. There was a nationalist trend in the old party that got stronger after the collapse of the Soviet Union and after the invasion of Iraq by the US under George Bush. Nationalism was gaining power and getting stronger in the Middle East and it had its effect on the old communist party as well – we were facing a new rise of nationalism in the party too.

One trend in the party wanted to get ready for these new challenges and the other trend was influenced by nationalism. There were long deliberations and debates within the party and during the course of these debates a worker-communism fraction formed which eventually led to the formation of a new party. [Read more...]

And so it should

Chris Moos and Abishek Phandis write:

We are delighted to learn that LSE has issued an unconditional apology for the appalling actions of its staff, which led to us being intimidated and harassed in a manner that does not behove a university. We welcome the LSE’s admission that its staff gravely misjudged the situation, and their acknowledgement that we were well within our rights to wear ‘Jesus & Mo’ t-shirts on campus and that this neither amounted to harassment nor contravened the law or LSE policies. Even though it caused us great distress to be publicly harassed and humiliated by LSE and LSE Students’ Union (LSESU) staff, LSE’s response vindicates our decision to stand up for our rights. Given that the LSESU officials were the ones who started the chain of harassment, it is of particular importance to us that the LSE has pledged to retrain LSESU officials and further work with the LSESU to improve their handling of such straightforward situations and events in the future, particularly where issues of freedom of expression are concerned.

Here’s LSE’s statement of apology.

And so it should.

Here’s a photo of me wearing their Jesus and Mo t-shirt to a debate on banning the burqa at LSE after the scandal taken for Vice:

DSC_0026a (1)

Oh the irony!

Here’s a debate I did today on BBC World Service with the Hizb-Ut-Tahrir rep on segregation of the sexes at UK universities. The irony of “debating” with an Islamist group that wants apostates and gays killed and supports stoning but uses rights language and cries of discrimination to impose sex apartheid at UK universities… At least the media has begun calling them Islamists rather than “Muslim organisations”!

Listen here.

In the media

Here is some press coverage on the sex segregation issue and the niqab. The first one is a debate with a member of Hizb-Ut-Tahrir. Ironic how a representative of a misogynist Islamist organisation can speak of women’s rights. And using language Universities UK has used to defend its indefensible position.

Whilst UUK has now withdrawn the section endorsing sex apartheid, we still need to be vigilant as they will be rewriting the guidance to most likely legitimise “voluntary” segregation. Rather than re-writing their document, the head of UUK should resign for the sex segregation scandal.

See some of the coverage below:

Religion and democracy: never the twain, The Times, 18 December 2013 [external link]

On sex segregation, BBC World Service, 14 December 2013 [external link]

Gender segregation guidelines u-turn following PM warning, Channel 4 News,13 December 2013 [external news]

Universities pull back from sex segregation as Cameron weighs in, Daily Telegraph, 13 December 2013 [external link]

On the niqab, Community Channel, 13 December 2013 [external link]

Sexual apartheid: Is there any room for gender segregation, This Week, 12 December 2013 [external link]

A future labour government will ‘not tolerate’ gender segregation at our universities, Left Foot Forward, 12 December 2013 [external link]

Outcry at ‘gender apartheid’ in new guidance for UK universities, The Independent, 11 December 2013 [external link]

University gender segregation ‘violation of women’s freedom’, BBC, 11 December 2013 [external link]

Backlash grows over university gender segregation guidelines, Daily Telegraph, 11 December 2013 [external link]

Gender Apartheid is real in UK universities so why aren’t more people fighting it? Daily Telegraph, 11 December 2013 [external link]

‘We will fight them like the suffragettes’: Protesters target Universities UK over sex segregation policy, Politics, 11 December 2013 [external link]

The segregation of women and the appeasement of bigotry at UK’s universities, The Spectator, 11 December 2013 [external link]

Sex apartheid in British universities deemed acceptable, Voice of Russia, 11 December 2013 [external link]

Gender Segregation protests against university guidelines, Channel 4 News, 10 December 2013 [external link]

Why we are protesting against gender segregation this evening, Left Foot Forward, 10 December 2013 [external link]

Sex segregation at university debates is not okay, Care2, 30 November 2013 [external link]

Should Britain ban the niqab? Channel 4thought.tv, 27 November 2013 [external link]

Leaving the Faith, BBC Radio 4, 27 November 2013 [external link]

British Universities shouldn’t condone this kind of gender segregation, The Guardian CiF, 26 November 2013 [external link]

Other press coverage can be found here.

We will continue our fight against gender apartheid at universities

More than a 100 protesters rallied outside the office of Universities UK to condemn their endorsement of segregation of the sexes and demand gender equality on 10 December 2013, International Human Rights Day. Chris Moos, a co-organiser of the rally and Secretary of the London School of Economics Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society was master of ceremonies.

At the rally, Pragna Patel, director of Southall Black Sisters, said:

For me, today is a particularly emotional moment. I stand here reminded of the heroic struggle waged against racial apartheid in South Africa, and yet find myself protesting against another form of apartheid that is also being justified with reference to that ubiquitous but flawed logic ‘separate but equal’. Who would have thought that in the 21st century, we would be protesting against policies adopted by institutions that should be in the business of producing and nurturing truth and knowledge, but which are instead endorsing the subjugation of one half of the human race? Who would have thought that in the 21st century, gender apartheid would become the new battleground?

Writer Yasmin Alibhai-Brown said:

UUK backs gender segregation and defends it. The reasons given- choice, human rights, freedom and the law- are all untested and spurious. This ‘advice’ is based on cowardice and proves collusion with fanatical religionists. Gender parity is non negotiable. UUK is unfit for purpose if it cannot understand that basic, fundamental value.

Comedian Kate Smurthwaite said:

The word equality has only one meaning. It’s not the back of the bus and it’s not the side of the lecture theatre. This is not about telling women who want to sit separately that they can’t. This is about allowing external speakers to demand that the audience be segregated.

James Bloodworth, editor of Left Foot Forward, said:

Opposition to gender segregation is an issue of fundamental freedom: people should be permitted to sit with who they like in a publicly funded university. It’s also a question of politics, though: we shouldn’t pretend that those who wish to segregate men and women view us as equals. They don’t. They think women are little more than a temptation to men; and they view men as uncontrollable predators whose view of women is on a par with that of uncovered meat.

Chris Moos added:

With alleging that “genuinely held beliefs” of speakers or event organisers trump existing equality legislation and allow some groups to take away the basic right of people to choose where to sit, Universities UK has become the laughing stock of the legal profession.Universities should be spaces where we all are treated equally no matter what their beliefs are. By proposing a framework that would allow a small minority of religious fundamentalists, who do not represent religion or religious people to impose their beliefs on others, Universities UK has set a dangerous precedent that would lead to students to be singled out and refused access to certain areas of their institutions merely on the basis of their gender. The right of individuals to express themselves freely within the law does not extend to the right of groups to impose their sensibilities or preferred seating order on others.

Marieme Helie Lucas, founder of Women Living Under Muslim Laws and Secularism is a Women’s Issue sent a solidarity message saying:

By bending to the Muslim Far-Right’s supposedly-religious diktats of segregating sexes on university premises, UUK also endangers further the women and men of Muslim descent – believers and unbelievers alike – who stand both against fundamentalism and against xenophobia and discrimination, in increasingly difficult circumstances.

In another message of solidarity, Human Rights Campaigner Peter Tatchell said:

The people who approved this policy are unfit to hold any public office – and should resign. Universities once pioneered the Enlightenment and liberal, progressive values. Now, it seems, they appease misogyny and cave in to religious sexism and intolerance. The right of women and men to sit where they like is not negotiable… Universities have a moral and legal duty to uphold equality and respect for all. If they don’t, we will fight them, just like the Suffragettes fought male chauvinism 100 years ago.

Maryam Namazie, co-organiser of the protest and Spokesperson for Fitnah and One Law for All ended by saying:

We will continue the fine tradition of the anti-apartheid movement and Nelson Mandela but also the ongoing resistance of the people of Iran and elsewhere against gender apartheid by breaking up segregation wherever we can. We are the new sex apartheid busters and will go to segregated meetings at universities with women dressed as men (like Iranian women who dress as men to enter football stadiums where women are banned) or as men dressed in drag (like the men who did so to support women’s rights after the Islamic regime in Iran paraded some men in the streets of Iranian Kurdistan wearing women’s clothing because according to them being a woman is the greatest source of humiliation).

UUK and Islamists: you have been warned! Gender segregation is as intolerable as racial segregation and cannot be permitted at our universities.

demo-4-photobyReza-MoradiOther speakers at the rally included: Ahlam Akram, director of Basira; Charlie Klendjian, secretary of the Lawyers’ Secular Society; Georgi Laag, founder of London Atheist Activist Group; Sean Oakley, founder and former president of Atheist, Humanist and Secularist society; Helen Palmer, chair of the Central London Humanist Group; Abhishek Phadnis, President of the LSE Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society; Erin Saltman, Research Project Officer at Quilliam Foundation; and Anne-Marie Waters, Council Member of the National Secular Society. Taj Hargey, director of the Muslim Educational Centre at Oxford and an Imam at the Oxford Islamic Congregation was one of those who sent messages of solidarity.

Soon after the rally, which received widespread coverage, including when Prime Minister David Cameron intervened to oppose sex segregation at universities, UUK was forced to withdraw its guidance. Whilst this fight has been won, the battle continues particularly since sex segregation is still taking place at universities and UUK has said it hopes to redraft the guidance.

The Campaign against Gender Segregation at UK Universities will continue to press on until it is made very clear that there is no room for segregation of the sexes in public places like universities, including by organising teams of sex apartheid busters to break up gender apartheid at universities and hold a huge march against sex apartheid on 8 March 2014, International Women’s Day. We are also getting legal advice.

Photos of the 10 December rally can be found hereand here.

The open letter kick-starting the campaign against UUK on 23 November was signed by philosopher A C Grayling; Scientist Richard Dawkins; women’s rights campaigner Yasmin Rehman; Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society; and Fatou Sow, Coordinator of Women Living Under Muslim Laws, amongst others.

In a short time, the campaign has received widespread support.

Media coverage of the protests can be found below:

Outcry at ‘gender apartheid’ in new guidance for UK universities, The Independent, 11 December 2013 [external link]

University gender segregation ‘violation of women’s freedom’, BBC, 11 December 2013 [external link]

Backlash grows over university gender segregation guidelines, Daily Telegraph, 11 December 2013 [external link]

Gender Apartheid is real in UK universities so why aren’t more people fighting it? Daily Telegraph, 11 December 2013 [external link]

‘We will fight them like the suffragettes’: Protesters target Universities UK over sex segregation policy, Politics, 11 December 2013 [external link]

The segregation of women and the appeasement of bigotry at UK’s universities, The Spectator, 11 December 2013 [external link]

Sex apartheid in British universities deemed acceptable, Voice of Russia, 11 December 2013 [external link]

Gender Segregation protests against university guidelines, Channel 4 News, 10 December 2013 [external link]

Why we are protesting against gender segregation this evening, Left Foot Forward, 10 December 2013 [external link]

British universities shouldn’t condone this kind of gender segregation, Guardian Comment is Free, 26 November 2013 [external link]

For more information, contact:
Maryam Namazie
Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation
One Law for All
maryamnamazie@gmail.com
077 1916 6731

Chris Moos
Secretary of LSE Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
c.m.moos@lse.ac.uk
074 2872 0599

Islamists and Universities UK: You have been warned!

To mark 10 December, International Human Rights Day, and in lieu of our protest rally against Universities UK’s endorsement of sex segregation at British universities, which is being held today from 5-6:30pm in London today, Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation announces the official start of sex apartheid busters.

Here’s what you can do:

* Join today’s rally. DATE: Tuesday 10 December 2013. TIME: 5:00-6:30pm. Universities UK, Woburn House, 20 Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9HQ (Closest Underground Stations: Euston or Russell Square).

Sign our petition against sex segregation at universities. Let’s get 10,000 signatures by the end of today.

* Contact us if you hear of any segregated events so we can organise against them.

* Become part of a team that will go to segregated events and stop the segregation. Anyone who is opposed to segregation and is pro-equality, women’s rights, and secularism is welcome to join.

From this day on, there will no longer be any segregated meetings at universities or public spaces if we can help it.

Islamists (and your apologists such as Universities UK): You have been warned!

To join Sex Apartheid Busters, contact Maryam Namazie.

Sex segregation in UK universities – a step forward for the Muslim religious-right

Here’s an article by Marieme Helie Lucas in support of the 10 December rally in London against gender apartheid. DATE: Tuesday 10 December 2013. TIME: 5:00-6:30pm. AT: Universities UK, Woburn House, 20 Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9HQ (Closest Underground Stations: Euston or Russell Square)

segregationA battle that concerns us all is being waged in the UK right now and has surprisingly very little echo outside Britain: Universities UK- a body that officially represents universities – made public their new guidance, according to which sex segregation could be practised in the universities at the request of guest speakers representing religious groups. (To see the guidance in full: ExternalSpeakersInHigherEducationInstitutions)

While protests flew in and an international petition ‘Rescind endorsement of sex segregation at UK Universities’ was posted on November 23, 2013, UUK published a response that pretended that they were only envisaging a theoretical case, a mere ‘hypothetical case study (p.27) in which an external speaker on faith in the modern world requests that the audience is segregated according to gender’.

They also pretended that there were only trying to apply ‘ a wide range of legislation from equalities law through to criminal law and the duty to protect the safety of university staff, students and visitors’, with the aim of ‘accommodating everyone’s views’ and ‘ensur (ing) that no one is unlawfully excluded from the event’.

This was a blatant lie, as a brief search in the media clearly shows. And it was only one among the many lies that were uttered by UUK authorities on the issue of sex segregation, secularism, higher education and the pervasive political importance of religious organisations in the UK.

Facts

In short, here are some facts: in March 2013 a Prof made the local news, when he started walking out of a debate in which he was one of the two speakers at University College London, if sex segregation was enforced on the audience, as was the case. A video shows him saying “quit the segregation or I’m out of here” after security staff tried to throw out three men who had gone to sit in the women’s section of the audience. Prof Krauss added “You are in a public arena and not in a mosque, not in a private event.”
Not surprisingly, women were seated at the back of the room: according to a student, ‘females were allocated seats at the back corner of the auditorium to view the debate from a disadvantaged position‘. Dana Sondergaard who attended the event, wrote on her Facebook page: “After having been told the event would NOT be gender segregated, we arrived and were told that women were to sit in the back of the auditorium, while men and couples could file into the front”.

The debate entitled Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense? was organised by the Islamic Education and Research Academy: Prof Krauss, a theoretical physicist and director of the Origins project, was to debate on the question of science vs religion with Mr Hamza Andreas Tzortzis, a lecturer and iERA member.

Interestingly, rumours had been spreading beforehand that sex segregation will be the rule during this debate, and Prof. Krauss had approached the authorities, making it clear that he would not speak to a segregated audience; he was assured in advance that this would not be the case. (Video: Krauss, stating that he had been promised no such segregation would take place.

In the week before the event, word of a segregated seating arrangement began circulating. On Friday, Dr. Krauss posted the following status on Facebook: ‘News update: Have now been informed that the event in London will NOT be gender segregated.’

However, one of the organisers said that the segregation had been agreed with the University and suggested more than once that the men should be refused entry.

Similarly, students alerted their unions and the authorities and were given similar re-assurance. However segregation signs were posted on doors in advance.

In a statement by concerned students, it is made clear that ‘Separate entrances were in place for women and men’, and that ‘A policy of sexual segregation was enforced at an event at University College London on Saturday, with the organisers’ security trying to physically remove members of the audience who would not comply’, and that ‘A policy of segregation was suggested by IERA in a statement before the event’.

This was raised by students with UCL, who gave assurances that no segregation would be allowed. ‘Several attendees approached UCL’s security personnel to alert them to the situation, but found that the staff were unwilling to intervene, and were instructed to comply with the organisers’ policy of segregation’.

Interestingly UUK first denied that enforced segregation took place, then argued that sexes were separated left and right, and not front and bottom, and finally said that, as a last minute arrangement, there was provision for a mixed area for married couples! UUK went on stating that 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.”

Students speaking to different media after the event used strong words to describe the situation and their reactions: ‘shocked’, ‘intimidating’, ‘threatening and divisive’, ‘genuinely fearful of the repercussions’, ‘disgraceful’, ‘insulting’, ‘a scandal’, ‘a violation’, ‘disappointed at UCL (which) did not keep its promise’ …

So much for the ‘hypothetical case study’ that UUK pretends to have addressed in its guidance document. Moreover, UUK lied to Prof Krauss as well as to students about not allowing segregation. It also pretended to ban in future religious groups that would request sex segregation, while they were in fact preparing the infamous guidance document that justifies this very segregation.

On the occasion of this incident, and thanks to Prof Krauss making his dissent public, one learnt with dismay that sex segregation had been enforced for over a year – at least – in many public debates or conferences, at the initiative of vocal Muslim fundamentalist organizations.

In Leicester university in a segregated event entitled Does God Exist?, organized by the same group and with the same guest speaker, Hamza Andreas Tzortzis, a message on the group’s website says: “In all our events, [the society] operate a strict policy of segregated seating between males and females.” The statement was removed after the Guardian contacted the society. A photograph passed to the Guardian shows signs put up in a university building, directing the segregation.

Leicester University denied enforced segregation. But a Leicester student told the Guardian he believed segregation was common practice at the society’s events to avoid offending those with strong religious beliefs.

More recently, in an article written on November 24, the author states that sex segregation openly continues elsewhere: ‘One recent example of an event held by the Islamic Society at the University of Northampton described seating arrangements as “open to both Brothers and Sisters, with segregation adhered-to” ‘.

In a report written by Student Rights on 13 May 2013, entitled ‘Unequal Opportunity – Gender Segregation on UK University Campuses’, one learns that those are far from being isolated incidents. According to the report, ‘180 events logged in the period March 2012 to March 2013 were investigated for evidence of segregation; 46 of these events (25.5%) at 21 separate institutions were found to have either explicitly promoted segregation by gender, or implied that this would be the case, with six of these cancelled before taking place’. The report concludes that ‘As all 21 of these institutions have equality and diversity policies which prohibit discrimination on the grounds of gender, as well as a legal responsibility to do so under the Equality Act 2010, this briefing uncovers potential failings in these duties’.

Meanwhile, UUK wrote in their guidance document 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.”

If we understand correctly, it creates a hierarchy of rights, in which the rights of religious groups supersede the rights of others?

UUK ‘s choice of partners

Not all Muslims –far from that – nor all people from Muslim descent, nor all faith based Muslim organizations hold that genders should be segregated. In fact two extremely important women’s organisations joined the protest against sex segregation, by signing the on line petition and by additionally writing separate letters to UUK, stating their dismay at and opposition to sex segregation in universities under religious pretexts: those are the international solidarity network of Women Living Under Muslim Laws – a non-confessional organization – and the Canadian Council of Muslim Women – a faith based organization -. Moreover, among the initiators (and among later signatories as well) of the online petition are numerous men and women of Muslim descent.

Who are then the religious groups that UUK see fit to invite to organize their events in the premises of universities – rather than other groups?

According to Stand for Peace, they are far from being ordinary religiously minded people; they are fundamentalists and very organized. ‘Tzortzis has previously been associated with Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an organization that campaigns for a global Islamist caliphate’. ‘He is on record condemning democratic principles and advocating for a Sharia state and advocating for a Sharia state: “We as Muslims reject the idea of freedom of speech, and even the idea of freedom. We see under the Khilafa (caliphate), when people used to engage in a positive way, this idea of freedom was redundant, it was unnecessary, because the society understood under the education system of the Khilafa state, and under the political framework of Islam, that people must engage with each other in a positive and productive way to produce results, as the Qur’an says, to get to know one another.” Stand for Peace also says that ‘IERA’s staff includes Islamist hate preachers such as Abdurraheem Green, Hamza Tzortzis (the opposing speaker at the debate) and Yusuf Chambers.’ The article goes on to give various examples of such hate speech: ‘Tzortzis wants to criminalize homosexuality.’‘Yusuf Chambers is a founding member of the iERA. In a recorded conversation conducted with Dr. Zakir Naik (who has been banned from entering Britain), Chambers specifically asks what the punishment for homosexuality should be (the answer is “Death”), and then asks Naik to refute suggestions that homosexuality has any natural or genetic origins. In the same interview, Chambers agrees that adulterous women should be stoned to death. [Read more...]

December 10: Protest Universities UK’s endorsement of Gender Apartheid at British Universities

CAMPAIGN-genderequaluk-Maha-Kamal DATE: Tuesday 10 December 2013

TIME: 5:00-6:30pm

AT: Universities UK, Woburn House, 20 Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9HQ (Closest Underground Stations: Euston or Russell Square)

Universities UK (UUK) guidance to universities on external speakers endorses gender apartheid by saying that 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!”

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.

Join Us on International Human Rights Day to unequivocally reject gender apartheid.

It’s 2013. Let’s not time travel.

Contacts: Maryam Namazie, maryamnamazie@gmail.com, 077 1916 6731 or Chris Moos, c.m.moos@lse.ac.uk, 074 2872 0599.

More information here.

We should not abandon secularism

fitnah-UNVEILED3-dec13-c_Page_01WE SHOULD NOT ABANDON SECULARISM
Unveiled: A Publication of Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation
December 2013, Volume 1, Issue 3
Editor: Maryam Namazie. Design: Kiran Opal

The publication is available here.

PDF version available for download.

URGENT ACTION: REJECT SEX SEGREGATION
IT’S 2013. LET’S NOT TIME TRAVEL
Universities UK (UUK) guidance to universities on external speakers endorses gender apartheid by saying that 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!” 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. Join us on International Human Rights Day to unequivocally reject gender apartheid. It’s 2013. Let’s not time travel. DATE: Tuesday 10 December 2013; TIME: 5:00-6:30pm; AT: Universities UK, Woburn House, 20 Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9HQ.

WE SHOULD NOT ABANDON SECULARISM
Maryam Namazie’s Interview with Pragna Patel and Gita Sahgal
Pragna Patel responds: “…If we don’t defend secular values and instead embrace religious ones then we will be guilty of developing counter resistance strategies against racism and imperialism that hides other forms of oppression. Religion cannot be embraced as a framework for articulating disaffection and alienation or to address questions of equality and rights since its very foundation is based on recognising some rights but not others. We see this most clearly played out in the clash between the right to manifest religion and the right to be free from religion. Women who want to be free from religious impositions that deny them their autonomy and sexual freedom are constantly excluded. But we need to alert to the ways in which this exclusion is actually articulated. Often demands for the right to manifest religion may seem on the surface to be progressive but in fact hide a highly reactionary agenda. A good example of this is the recent capitulation by Universities UK (UUK), a representative body of universities in the UK, to demands for gender segregation in universities… It would appear that UUK is ignorant of the history and struggles against racial discrimination based on the flawed logic of ‘separate but equal.’ Such logic legitimised racial apartheid in South Africa and now legitimises gender apartheid. There is a disturbing failure to recognise that this stance will allow the right to manifest religion (a qualified right) to trump the right to be free from gender discrimination and subjugation (an absolute right).”

NEWS FLASH: NOVEMBER 2013
“Afghanistan: Twelve years after the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan’s government is considering bringing back stoning as a punishment for sex outside marriage. The sentence for married adulterers, along with flogging for unmarried offenders, appears in a draft revision of the country’s penal code being drawn up by the ministry of justice. It is the latest in a string of encroachments on hard-won rights for women, after parliament quietly cut the number of seats set aside for women on provincial councils, and drew up a criminal code whose provisions will make it almost impossible to convict anyone for domestic violence.
“Iran: A document adopted by the Supreme Revolutionary Cultural Council with president Rouhani’s signature has been forwarded to the education and health ministries to “reduce the unnecessary mixing of males and females.” The section on gender segregation included the expansion of the culture of chastity and the veil…”

ARTS CORNER: BURKA AVENGER
“The Burka Avenger is a mild mannered unveiled teacher who becomes the burka avenger when her school is threatened with being shut down by Islamists, armed with pens and books…”

EDITORIAL: SECULARISM AS A UNIVERSAL RIGHT
Maryam Namazie
“…There are strong secular movements in so-called Muslim-majority countries like Iran, Pakistan, Algeria and Mali, despite the great risks involved. Karima Bennoune has brought to light many such groups and individuals in her recently published book, the title of which is based on a Pakistani play where the devotional singer who is beaten and intimidated for singing deemed ‘un-Islamic’ retorts: ‘Your fatwas do not apply here.’ The uprisings and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa, such as the mass protests against Islamists for the assassination of Socialist leader Chokri Belaid in Tunisia; the vast secular protests in Turkey against Islamisation; the Harlem Shake in front of Muslim Brotherhood headquarter in Egypt and the largest demonstration in contemporary history against the Muslim Brotherhood – 33 million people – are all evidence of that. Post-secularism (leaving people at the mercy of ‘their own culture’) and the systematic and theorised failure to defend secularism and people’s, particularly women’s, civil rights in many countries and communities, only aids and abets the religious-Right to the detriment of us all – believers and non. As British philosopher AC Grayling has said: secularism is a fundamental right. Today, given the influence of the religious-Right, it is also a precondition for women’s rights and equality and for rights and freedoms in the society at large. It must be actively defended, promoted, and articulated”…

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: UNDECIDED ABOUT LEGISLATING DRESS
Marieme Helie Lucas Responds for Fitnah
“…Women wearing the burqa in Europe today are instrumentalised by the Muslim extreme-right, whether or not they realise it. They display their ‘difference’ and ‘identity,’ which is exactly what the traditional far-right needs in order to fulfil its xenophobic agenda. Both the traditional xenophobic extreme-right and the Muslim extreme-right want a violent confrontation and need it in order to recruit fresh troops. This is not a reason for shying away from addressing the proliferation of burqas everywhere, but it should be an incentive to not isolate the ‘flag’ from the broader issue of the growing far-rights in Europe, including the Muslim far-right…”

Also see Maryam Namazie’s Channel 4Thought.tv interview on banning the niqab.

Previous issues:

Fitnah Unveiled number 2 on the burqa and veil

Fitnah Unveiled number 1 on the rise of fitnah

Contact Unveiled Editor:
Maryam Namazie
+44 (0) 7719166731
BM Box 1919, London WC1N 3XX, UK
Email: fitnah.movement@gmail.com
Blog: http://fitnahmovement.blogspot.co.uk
Site: www.fitnah.org