When will LibDems side with us?

2014-01-22It’s not surprising that the Liberal Democrats have again sided with Islamist values at the expense of Muslims, ex-Muslims and others.

Not surprising but frustrating nonetheless.

In the latest saga, they have decided to admonish their candidate Maajid Nawaz who has received death threats for merely stating the obvious: he – like many Muslims – is not offended by Jesus and Mo cartoons. Muslims are not a homogeneous bunch after all but are treated as such by the LibDem Party.  To them, Muslim values are considered one and the same with Islamist values: medieval, intolerant, and forever offended… Which is of course why they are more concerned with a cartoon causing “unnecessary offence” then death threats made against Nawaz by one of their own members, Mo Shafiq, who has effectively incited violence against Nawaz through his deliberate use of the term ‘Gustakh-e-Rasool’, which means ‘enemy of the prophet’. It’s the same lack of concern they have shown when another of their members Salah Al Bandar threatened Nahla Mahmoud with death by calling her a “Kafira” and “Murtada” who has offended Islam and brought “fitnah”.

After all, in the world according to the LibDems, death threats is what “Muslims” do. But saying a cartoon isn’t offensive to Muslims – as Nawaz did – well that just shows a lack of sensitivity…

In a statement, they write: “The Liberal Democrats are a party of respect, tolerance and individual liberty. We fundamentally believe in freedom of expression and as such defend Maajid’s right to express his views. But as a party we urge all candidates to be sensitive to cultural and religious feelings and to conduct debate without causing gratuitous or unnecessary offence.”

What the LibDems and many others keep forgetting is that respect, tolerance and even liberty is for people not beliefs, not cultures and not religions. We do not need to respect or tolerate beliefs but we must do so when it comes to people.

Plus why does the person who threatens and feels offence represent cultural and religious feelings but not the likes of Nawaz?

Algerian sociologist said it best in her recent interview with Fitnah’s Unveiled:

There are two underlying questions here: the first one is about the limits to respect for ‘The Other’s’ culture/religion…; the second is about who speaks for culture; who speaks for religion?

On respect, the real question is: should everything be respected? Is Female Genital Mutilation to be respected because old men think that is their culture – and even if some women also think it is their culture? Should forced marriage or child marriage be respected? Should public flogging for adultery be respected? Should stoning to death be respected? Or for that matter should the death penalty be respected at all?

There is a relativist culture of non commitment and neutrality that has been expanding – certainly in the West, under the influence of liberalism, of human rights organisations and of political correctness and the fear of appearing racist. Accordingly, everything is equal; everything has to be respected on par – the right of the capitalist and the right of the worker, the right of the one who holds the gun and the right of the one who runs for his life away from the gun… It is high time to admit that there are conflicting rights, antagonistic rights.

It seems to me that progressive people have forgotten the virtues of being partisan. I want to stand for the right of the worker, not that of the capitalist, for the right of the man who runs for his life, not for the right of the man who holds the gun, and for the right of women to live their lives without interference from extreme-Right religious people.

There can be a principled response regarding respect for ‘The Other’ and its limits, but this first question can also lead to another: who decides that THIS is The Culture of a group?

We could immediately produce, of course, hundreds and thousands and even millions of people, in each specific country, who would vouch that ‘this’ (be it stoning, FGM, child marriage, etc…) is by no means their culture/their religion, not the culture they feel they belong to, or the religion they believe in. 

Do we believe that those presently standing in their own countries or in the diaspora against FGM, public flogging, death penalty for atheists, etc… have less legitimacy in representing their people, their culture, their religion than those who stand for it?

Are we really saying that women fighting against sex segregation today in their own countries are alien to their culture? That they are illegitimate representatives of their cultures?

This stems from a definition of culture as fixed in the past, a-historical, not as a moving, living, permanently changing, social organisation. But then WHEN is a culture arrested in history, in which year? In the years of slavery, in the years when women did not vote, in the years when women did not have access to contraception, or could not open their own bank accounts? In which of these historical steps is a culture ‘arrested’ to be seen as authentic?

To me, the women who fight against FGM or stoning for sex outside marriage or for gender equality, etc are the representatives of today’s culture in their country.

It seems to me that cultural relativists are furiously and deeply racist since they exclusively promote as true and legitimate the worst possible opinions of extreme-Right Muslims. If anyone, white, European, would utter similar opinions about their white European co-citizens, these same cultural relativists would shrink in horror and refuse to shake their hand. One can only conclude that cultural relativists think that a Muslim must be a horrible reactionary, otherwise s/he is not a true Muslim. Isn’t that racist?

For me and many like me, Nawaz represents a majority of Muslims and ex-Muslims and just plain 21st century humans. When will the LibDems side with them, with us, and stop aiding and abetting the Islamists and their apologists?

Sign a petition to support Nawaz, Tweet #TeamNawaz and contact Liberal Democratic party members, counsellors and MPs though I can only say good luck with getting through to them. We are still waiting for justice for Nahla and an acknowledgement that death threats against people are more serious than offended sensibilities over a cartoon…

(Via Chris Moos)

Support ex-Muslim atheist Nasir Irshad! He must be granted asylum in the UK

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) is pleased that an Afghan atheist recently gained asylum and protection in Britain for his atheism. Whilst this is being hailed as the first case of its kind, the CEMB has worked on countless asylum cases over the past several years with a rising number securing asylum based on their atheism and due to a well-founded fear of persecution for apostasy and leaving Islam.

In light of the abysmal situation for ex-Muslims in many countries under Sharia law, as highlighted in our recent report “Political and Legal Status of Apostates in Islam”, asylum and protection for apostates and ex-Muslim atheists is a basic right.

Whilst the numbers of those being granted protection are increasing, there are still large numbers of ex-Muslims facing refusals and deportation to countries where they face death at worst and a loss of liberty and rights at best.

One such case is that of Muhammad Nasir Irshad who is currently detained at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre awaiting deportation to Pakistan where he faces a real risk of persecution because of his atheism. His appeal has been refused; he had no legal counsel during his appeal given that legal aid was also refused him and he has been fast-tracked for deportation. The Home Office has refused his claim asserting that ex-Muslim atheists are not in danger in Pakistan.

Nasir Irshad has approached the CEMB to assist with his case. We call on the Home Office to immediately cancel any attempts to deport Nasir and to grant him the protection he deserves and which is his right. Needless to say, the Home Office will be held accountable for Nasir’s life and liberty.

For more information, contact:
Maryam Namazie
Council of Ex- Muslims of Britain
BM Box 1919, London WC1N 3XX, UK
tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
email: [email protected]
web: http://ex-muslim.org.uk/

End Ban on Female Fans in Iran; Stadiums for All

Stadiums4all_pic1

Today, over 130 distinguished signatories are calling for “Stadiums for All” and an end to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s 34-year ban on female fans in the run-up to the June 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Signatories to the open letter include Alda Facio, Founder and First Director of the Women’s Caucus for Gender Justice at the International Criminal Court; Amel Grami, Professor at the Tunisian University of Manouba; Amina Sboui, Tunisian Activist; Åsa Dahlström Heuser, President of the Secular Humanist League of Brazil; Fatou Sow, International Director of Women Living Under Muslim Laws; Fereydoon Farahi, Singer and Musician; Harold Walter Kroto, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry; Hassan Zerehi, Journalist and Editor-in-Chief of Shahrvand Newspaper; Jean-Claude Pecker, Astronomer and Former Director of the Nice Observatory; Lawrence Krauss, Theoretical Physicist and Cosmologist; Marieme Helie Lucas, Founder of Secularism is a Women’s Issue; Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson of One Law for All and Fitnah; Mina Ahadi, Spokesperson of the International Committee against Stoning and Execution; Nazanin Afshin-Jam, Human Rights Activist; Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan; Richard Dawkins, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science; Shadi Sadr, Human Rights Lawyer; Shahyar Ghanbari, Iranian Lyricist, Songwriter and Singer of Persian Pop Music; Siba Shakib, Author and Steven Weinberg, Theoretical Physicist and Nobel Laureate in Physic.

The ban on women in stadiums is yet another example of gender segregation and discrimination against women. For many years now, women in Iran have opposed the ban, including by issuing petitions, organising meetings and protests at stadiums and even risking arrest by dressing as men in order to circumvent the prohibition. This open letter aims to gather further support for women and men in Iran opposing gender segregation and for stadiums for all.

The full list of signatories to the open letter can be found below.

To support Stadiums for All, please sign the petition here and Tweet: #IRWomenStadium.

The ban on female fans in Iran must end. And it must end now. [Read more...]

UK’s smacking law like Sharia

ban-smackingYou can smack a child in the UK if it’s for “reasonable chastisement and does not leave a serious mark”. It reminds me of the Sharia law that allows men to beat their disobedient wives as long as they leave no marks (or at least according to the “Islamic feminist” interpretation).

The Children’s Commissioner for England, Maggie Atkinson, had finally brought some sense into the Government’s debate by saying that parents should be banned from smacking their children.

Of course they should. Children are not the properties of their parents. They are human beings that deserve protection, even more so than adults, because they are so vulnerable.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling says he isn’t opposed to smacking as “sometimes it sends a message”. I’d like to smack Grayling in order to send my message but hold on, I’m not allowed to smack an adult and even a pet – but a vulnerable child – it’s permissible under the law.

And it shouldn’t be.

 

To UN: UK Public institutions continue to fail to uphold an environment free of discrimination

CAMPAIGNS-protests-against-universities-uk-guidelines-on-gender-segregation_347312114 January 2014

Ms. Farida Shaheed
Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

Dear Ms. Shaheed,

We write to draw your attention to the increasing incidence of gender segregation on public university campuses in the United Kingdom, and to seek your intervention in this matter.

Gender segregation reinforces negative views about women, undermines their right to participate in public life on equal terms with men and disproportionately impedes women from ethnic and religious minorities, whose rights to education and gender equality are already imperilled.

The practice first came to light after two men were forcibly removed from the ‘Women’s’ section and several students were refused entrance to the ‘female only’ section at a public debate at University College London (UCL) on 9 March 2013 between the Islamist Hamza Tzortzis and the American cosmologist Lawrence Krauss, organised by Tzortzis’s Islamic Education and Research Academy. Seating at the event was divided such that men were seated at the front of the lecture theatre and women at the back. The two men were readmitted only after Lawrence Krauss threatened to pull out of the debate (video) if segregation was enforced. Following an internal investigation, UCL banned the organisers from conducting events on their campus in future and reaffirmed its Policy on Gender Segregation.

We are compelled to seek your intercession in this matter after Universities UK (UUK), the representative body of British universities, issued, on 22 November 2013, Guidance for universities on ‘External speakers in higher education institutions’. The Guidance featured a hypothetical case study (of a visiting speaker who insisted that the audience be segregated by gender) which concluded that “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”. The case study triggered a protest by students and women’s rights campaigners outside the London offices of UUK on 10 December 2013, and, following sustained criticism, was withdrawn on 13 December, pending further legal advice. (The original guidance is attached: ExternalSpeakersInHigherEducationInstitutions.)

UUK has claimed that the case study was merely ‘hypothetical’. However, besides UCL, there have been several cases of students complaining about gender segregation, for example at Leicester University and Queen Mary University London. A poll by the Times Higher Education revealed that out of 46 universities that responded, 29 do not have prohibitions against gender segregation in place. The Federation of Islamic Students Societies, for example, has issued guidelines on how to run a successful Islamic student society. These prescribe to “maintain segregation between brothers and sisters, keeping interaction between them at a minimum”.

Universities UK claims that it has still not abandoned the case study, which is merely pending “review”. Instead, a number of public statements made by their Chief Executive, Nicola Dandridge, and by the organisation itself, give us reason to fear that the case study may quietly be reintroduced to the report, with purely cosmetic alterations that do not neutralise the danger it poses to gender equality and women’s rights.

We hope you will appreciate that it is difficult enough resisting gender-segregation in public spaces even with equality and human rights legislation demonstrably in our favour, and that a recurrence of this Guidance will irretrievably damage the cause of gender equality and women’s rights in Britain by emboldening the apologists of this practice.

Should you wish to investigate these incidents, we would like to forewarn you of a common misconception that has been encouraged by apologists for this practice, namely that it is “voluntary”. It is not, inasmuch as it is beyond dispute that attendees at these events are expected to sit in specific zones, on pain of eviction. The prefix “voluntary” merely implies that such events will sometimes have three sections – men’s, women’s and mixed. We hope you will agree that this token concession does little to address our principal objection to this practice, which is that it amounts to the appropriation of a public space in the name of religion or culture, in a manner that undermines the dignity of both men and women and creates a hostile, degrading and humiliating environment for women. We also hope you will concur that, for many women, particularly those from ethnic minorities, the ‘choice’ of mixed/segregated seating is often made under considerable duress.

Finally, we would also like to draw your attention to a legal note submitted to UUK by Radha Bhatt, an undergraduate student of the University of Cambridge, which provides a succinct illustration of the manifest illegality of gender segregation under Britain’s Equality Act 2010 and the European Convention on Human Rights, and reminds UUK of its Public Sector Equality Duty towards the imperatives of eliminating discrimination, advancing equality of opportunity and fostering good relations between those who share protected characteristics.

We are concerned that beyond the cases we have brought to your attention, there is a persistent issue of discrimination through gender segregation at public universities in the UK and also elsewhere. Recently, for example, a professor at York University in Canada faced reprimand for upholding gender equality in his classroom. Gender segregation is often done in the name of respecting cultural and religious rights with culture, religion and ethnicity often presented as inextricably intertwined and seen to supersede women’s rights and equality in the hierarchy of rights.

Even though the UK is a signatory to CEDAW and despite the fact that the issue has been brought to the attention of university administrators and policy makers, public institutions in the United Kingdom continue to fail to uphold an environment free of discrimination.

We thank you for your consideration, and look forward to your intercession on this pressing human rights issue.

Yours Sincerely,
Radha Bhatt, undergraduate student of the University of Cambridge
Marieme Helie Lucas, Founder of Secularism is a Women’s Issue
Nahla Mahmoud, Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Chris Moos, Secretary of LSE SU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson of One Law for All and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation
Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters
Abishek Phandis, President of LSE SU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Fatou Sow, International Director of Women Living Under Muslim Laws

For further enquiries please contact:

Maryam Namazie
One Law for All and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation
[email protected]
077 1916 6731
@maryamNamazie

Pragna Patel
Southall Black Sisters
[email protected]
02085719595
@SBSisters

Chris Moos
LSE SU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
[email protected]
074 2872 0599
@LSESUASH

In support of professor Grayson and gender equality at York University

York University is standing by its sexist decision to allow a student to be excused from a group project because the presence of women interfered with his “firm religious beliefs” even after his professor refused the request. To defend professor Grayson and gender equality, please sign the petition here.

Here’s a letter we have signed in support of Professor Grayson.

Dear Professor Grayson

We are writing to you in full support of your decision to uphold gender equality in your class at York University.

Whilst religious belief is absolute, manifestation of belief is not and can be limited to uphold gender equality. Any form of segregation, whether by race, sex or otherwise is discriminatory.

In the UK, the representative body of Universities in the UK met with widespread opposition when it issued guidance endorsing gender segregation; it was forced to withdraw their guidance after the prime minister intervened. A legal notice issued this week on behalf of a female student reiterates that “gender segregation reinforces negative views specifically about women, undermines their right to participate in public life on equal terms with men and disproportionately impedes women from ethnic and religious minorities, whose rights to education and gender equality are already imperilled.”

A petition has been initiated in your support and reminds York University of its duty to eliminate discrimination and advance gender equality. We would like to see a clear, principled, and earnest retraction from York University’s administration, including from Mr. Martin Singer, Dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, and Noël A. J. Badiou, Director at York University’s Centre for Human Rights, of this transgression of women’s equality. This irresponsible move by York’s administration sets a dangerous precedent for women’s rights in Canadian universities. We hope that York’s administration starts to understand the implications of capitulating to bigotry and sexism under the guise of religious exceptionalism. As one of the biggest educational institutions in Canada, York must send the message to Canadians and to the world that racism, homophobia, and sexism, are always unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

We all stand in solidarity with you and all those who support rights and equality for all people.

Signed

Ariane Brunet, Programme Director, Centre for Secular Space
Chris Moos, Secretary of LSE SU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Esam Shoukry, Spokesperson of Defence of Secularism and Civil Rights in Iraq
Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, Founder of Global Secular Humanist Movement
Farzana Hassan, Writer and Women’s Rights Activist
Gita Sahgal, Director of Centre for Secular Space
Harsh Kapoor, South Asia Citizens Web
Kiran Opal, Human Rights Activist, Ex-Muslims of North America
Lalia Ducos, Women’s Initiative for Citizenship and Universal Rights
Lawrence Krauss, Theoretical Physicist and Cosmologist
Marieme Helie Lucas, Secularism is a Women’s Issue
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson of Fitnah and One Law for All
Mina Ahadi, Coordinator of International Committee Against Execution and Stoning
Muhammad Syed, Ex-Muslims of North America
Nas Ishmael, Ex-Muslims of North America
Peter Tatchell, Director of Peter Tatchell Foundation
Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters
Raheel Raza, President of Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow
Richard Dawkins, Scientist
Sadaf Ali, Ex-Muslims of North America
Sarah Haider, Ex-Muslims of North America
Siamak Amjadi, Coordinator of Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation
Soraya Chemaly, Writer
Tarek Fatah, Founder of Muslim Canadian Congress
Zari Asli, Founder of Friends of Women in the Middle East Society

Joint statement on legal note to Universities UK against their guidance condoning gender segregation

Protests-equality_2764314kJoint statement of Southall Black Sisters, One Law for All, Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation and LSE SU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society

We are pleased to learn of the legal note submitted to Universities UK (UUK) yesterday in the name of Radha Bhatt, a student of Cambridge University, against their Guidance condoning gender segregation. (Legal Note can be found here: 560365 Letter to Universities UK 06 01 2014 (final).)

We share Radha’s apprehensions that gender segregation reinforces negative views specifically about women, undermines their right to participate in public life on equal terms with men and disproportionately impedes women from ethnic and religious minorities, whose rights to education and gender equality are already imperilled.

Radha’s legal submission makes it unmistakably clear that despite UUK’s protestations, the law could scarcely be more unequivocal on gender segregation. The practice is specifically condemned by the Equality Act as amounting to less favourable treatment of women. We hope it will be noted that this condemnation applies equally to ‘voluntary’ segregation, a notorious misnomer used to pressure students to comply with ‘Mixed’ and ‘Segregated’ zones.

The existing rights legislation recognises that gender segregation undermines the dignity of both men and women and creates a hostile, degrading and humiliating environment. We hope Radha’s representations will remind UUK of its Public Sector Equality Duty towards the imperatives of eliminating discrimination, advancing equality of opportunity and fostering good relations between those who share protected characteristics.

Abhishek Phadnis, President of the LSE SU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society commented: “The beliefs of visiting speakers are no excuse to legitimise discrimination against women or any group. We applaud Radha for her principled and courageous stand, and hope that UUK will heed her solicitors’ advice to redraft its guidance to reflect the manifest illegality of gender segregation. Following up on our rally against gender segregation, we are looking forward to continuing to work with Southall Black Sisters, One Law for All and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation to ensure that the rights of all students in the UK are fully upheld at all times.”

Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters commented: “We welcome the legal advice which clearly states that UUK’s position on gender segregation in universities breaches both domestic and international human rights and discrimination law in substance and in process. We note that not a single women’s rights organisation was consulted about the guidance. Had it gone unchallenged, it would have had a profoundly detrimental impact on black and minority women who already struggle to assert their fundamental rights to education, freedom and independence. The whole sorry affair is symptomatic of a bigger battle waged by the religious right (aided and abetted by public bodies like the UUK) to control women’s minds and bodies. We must remain alert to the dangers of religious fundamentalism in all religions because its very goal is to use public spaces to gain power and to destroy the very principles of democracy and the universality of women’s human rights.”

Maryam Namazie, spokesperson for One Law for All and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation said: “For too long, cultural relativists have excused discrimination against women in the name of ‘respect’ for religious beliefs. Whilst the right to belief is absolute, the right to manifest it is not. Equality must trump religious beliefs, particularly if we want to respect human beings rather than beliefs. Moreover, let’s not forget that Muslims are not a homogeneous group. Endorsing segregation of the sexes means siding with far-Right Islamists – like Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, the Islamic Education and Research Academy and the Islamic Human Rights Commission – at the expense of rights and equality of many Muslims, ex-Muslims and others. We unequivocally support Radha’s stand and will continue to fight for an end to gender segregation at universities, including via teams of sex apartheid busters and a rally on March 8th.”

You can find regular updates on our campaign here.

For further enquiries please contact:

Maryam Namazie
One Law for All and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation
[email protected]
077 1916 6731
@maryamNamazie

Pragna Patel
Southall Black Sisters
[email protected]
02085719595
@SBSisters

Chris Moos
LSE SU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
[email protected]
074 2872 0599
@LSESUASH