Living in outrageous times: Charlie Hebdo and the culture of offence

ucl-ashI’ll be speaking at the below event tonight:

Living in outrageous times: Charlie Hebdo and the culture of offence
UCLU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society hosts this highly topical panel discussion with three excellent speakers.
29 January 2015
Chadwick G08, UCL
18:00 hours

In light of the recent events in Paris, we ask: do you have the right not to be offended? And if so, at what cost?

For more information, go to Facebook Page.

Commemorating Fadime and fighting for the lives of many more

Fadimedagarna_riksaffisch_2015I’ll be in Stockholm, Sweden during 17-19 January 2015 to commemorate Fadime Sahindal, killed in the name of honour 13 years ago in Sweden.

On 17 January, I’ll speak at a commemorative Gala, which will pay particular attention to abducted girls and women sold as sex slaves by the IS and Boko Haram in Iraq, Syria and Nigeria.

On 19 January, I’ll be speaking at an International Conference on Förstakammarsalen at the Swedish parliament organised by Never forget Pela and Fadime National organisation- GAPF.

For more detailed information please visit their website.

On Meeting of Women’s Rights Campaigners with Law Society

On Tuesday 13th January, women’s rights groups, including Southall Black Sisters, One Law for All, Nari Diganta and the Iranian & Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO), met with Mark Stobbs, the Law Society’s Director of Legal Policy at the SBS office. Our organisations welcomed the Law Society’s decision to withdraw its guidance on ‘Sharia’ compliant wills that endorsed discrimination against women and children. We also thanked the Law Society for making a public apology. The Law Society showed that it had listened to the voices of BME women’s rights campaigners and other secular organisations that had been alarmed by the original decision.

At our meeting, we raised our growing concerns, shared both by ourselves and the Law Society, about the devastating impact of the legal aid cuts on access to justice, which have been particularly detrimental to some of society’s most vulnerable groups, including BME women, many of whom are represented by our organisations. We welcomed the opportunity to work together with the Law Society to address the issue of access to justice. We stressed that any access to justice also means addressing the rise of parallel legal systems and religious-based arbitration and mediation.

We expressed our concern that in the past the Law Society has providing training courses on ‘Sharia’ and family laws and sought assurances that they would not provide further training or guidance in this area. We explained that many of our clients, unable to access the mainstream legal system, due to numerous barriers including legal aid cuts, have found themselves subject to pressure to use community based religious arbitration forums, including Sharia courts and tribunals. These forums seek to establish parallel legal systems, in which women and children are routinely discriminated.

To prevent discrimination and ensure equality before the law, we stressed that religion, which is inherently patriarchal and discriminatory, must be excluded from any mediation and alternative dispute resolution forums in respect of family matters, irrespective of whether they lie within or outside of the formal legal system. We were heartened by the Law Society’s willingness to hold further discussions with us about our concerns on this matter.

We look forward to working with the Law Society in the future to ensure that BME women are not discriminated against in law, mainstream or otherwise and have full and complete access to justice.

For more information, contact
Pragna Patel
Southall Black Sisters
pragna@southallblacksisters.co.uk
020 8571 9595
@SBSisters

Maryam Namazie
One Law for All
maryamnamazie@gmail.com
077 1916 6731
@MaryamNamazie

Latest Issue of Fitnah Unveiled on Sharia law and Law Society, Execution in Iran and more

A Publication of Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation
November/December 2014; Volume 2, Issues 8 and 9
Editor: Maryam Namazie; Design: Kiran Opal
See PDF Version here.

In this Issue:
* Sharia law is incompatible with human rights, Interview with Chris Moos, Pragna Patel and Gita Sahgal on the victory against the Law Society
* Execution is itself the murder of a human being, Interview with Mina Ahadi
* Reyhaneh Jabbari was executed: International Committee against Execution Press Release
*News Flash: October/November 2014 By Emma Robertson
*ArtsCorner
* Editorial: The Answer to Inhumanity is not more inhumanity, Maryam Namazie
* International Conference on the Religious-Right, Secularism and Civil Rights a huge success
* Manifesto for Secularism

Sharia law is incompatible with human rights
Interview with Chris Moos, Pragna Patel and Gita Sahgal on the victory against the Law Society

Maryam Namazie: The Law Society has now withdrawn its Sharia-compliant guidance on wills and issued an apology. Why did you initiate a campaign against it? Was it not a lot of fuss over nothing as some initially said?

Pragna Patel: It is easy to characterise this campaign as a ‘fuss about nothing’. The same was also said about our campaign against gender segregation in universities. What both incidents have in common is the ways in which so-called Sharia laws and values are normalised in public and institutional life as a ‘way of life’. Education and the law are key sites of control that religious fundamentalists and conservatives target. If we allow these forces to capture these sites, it will become impossible for us to challenge gender discrimination and inequality. The Law Society and its supporters argue that the Practice Note merely reiterates the fundamental principle in law that testators are fee to leave their property to whomsoever they wish. This misses the point entirely that the Law Society does not exist to maintain discriminatory values in society but to challenge them. Our argument all along has been that it is a key legal institution that should be promoting a rights-based culture within the legal profession and the wider society and not a profoundly discriminatory Sharia-compliant culture. [Read more…]

من چارلى هستم

من چارلى هستم

۱۵ ژانويه ۲۰۱۵

مصاحبه با فعال سياسى بهرام سروش

در مورد كشتار ١٢ نَفَر از كاركنان نشربه طنز چارلي هبدو وسبعا در دنيا محكوم شد. اما بعضي اين ترور را نتيجه كاريكاتور هاي تحريك آميز انها نسبت به اسلام ميدانند. واقعيت اين است كه چارلي هبدو همه مذاهب و قدرت ها را نقد مي كرده است. سوْال اين است كه چرا اسلام بايد حق ويژه اى داشته باشد؟ و آيا سكولاريستها و آتئيست ها هم مستحق  إبراز بيان و وجود هستند؟ به نام به احترام به مذهب صحنه را به اسلامى ها  واگذار کردند- امروز بيش از هر زمانى انتقاد به مذهب لازم است-

اخبار تکان دهنده هفته: شلاق رئيف بدوى

فتوای احمقانه هفته – فتوا عليه خال کوبى از ترکيه

Je Suis Charlie Hebdo

Je Suis Charlie Hebdo
Bread and Roses TV with Maryam Namazie and Fariborz Pooya
14 January 2015
The massacre of 12 at French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo by Islamists has been strongly condemned by people everywhere. Some, however, see it as a consequence of Charlie’s provocative cartoons on Islam and Mohammed. In fact, Charlie criticised all religions and all those in positions of power. Why should Islam have special privileges? And do secularists and unbelievers not deserve the same freedom of expression as believers. In the name of “respect” of religions, Islamists and the religious-Right have been given centre stage at the expense of free expression, which without the right to criticise religion is meaningless. In the era of ISIS, this criticism is needed more than ever. #IAmCharlie #JeSuisCharlie
Shocking News of the Week: Raif Badawi flogged 50 of 1000 lashes after Friday prayers in Saudi Arabia
Insane Fatwa of the week: Turkey’s top religious body has issued a fatwa urging Muslims who have tattoos to repent or have them surgically removed.

A defence of Charlie Hebdo must also turn into defence of other blasphemers and apostates

FRENCH: Toute défense de Charlie Hebdo doit également devenir celle d’autres blasphémateurs et apostats

Those of us who have openly criticised Islam and Islamism have faced many a threat and intimidation from the far-Right Islamist movement.

I have had phone calls saying I will be decapitated to recorded messages from the Islamic regime of Iran saying my time is near (yes, they have so many threats to make, they need to use recordings!). I’ve been called every derogatory and threatening term you can imagine from kafir, murtad, munafiq to fitnah and janazie (corpse)…

I don’t think there are many atheist, ex-Muslim or secular activists (including Muslims) like myself who have spoken up publicly and not faced some form of threat or intimidation.

So for us, Charlie Hebdo’s refusal to back down when so many have has meant a great deal over these years. Also, though, in addition to the rage one feels at any such tragedy, the massacre is personal for us.

It could really have been any of us. We are truly all Charlie Hebdo.

With the focus now on Charlie Hebdo and the crucial need and right to criticise Islam and religion, though, let us not forget the many across the globe who face execution or imprisonment for “insulting the prophet” and criticising Islam. Below you will find some examples which include Muslims, believers and atheists; the charges aim not to protect “Muslim sensibilities” as we so often hear in the west but to protect the status quo and the political power of Islamists.

A defence of Charlie Hebdo must also be turned into a defence of the many who refuse and resist.

Most urgent is the case of Raif Badawi who tomorrow on 9 January 2015 faces his flogging sentence. Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam” in Saudi Arabia. he is to receive the first 50 torturous lashes tomorrow after Friday prayers.

Columnist Fatma Naoot, accused of insulting Islam, will stand trial on Jan. 28 in Egypt on allegations she criticised Islamic animal sacrifices. [Read more…]

After the Charlie Hebdo Massacre, Support those Fighting the Religious-Right

FRENCH: Après le massacre de Charlie Hebdo, Soutenons ceux qui se battent contre la droite religieuse

1908487_10205228738736122_6331463129153098_nAfter the massacre in Charlie Hebdo in Paris on January 7, 2015, expressing indignation, as so many are doing, is not enough.

A quick look at the English-speaking media shows that whilst many condemn the violence itself, they also assert that Charlie Hebdo courted (and maybe deserved?) a strong response from “Muslims”. Charlie’s regular cartoonists did not spare Islam, any other religion, nor fanatics and bigots.

This trend in the media requires our attention. Apparently secularists, agnostics and atheists must keep silent and do not deserve the kind of respect that believers are entitled to; nor can they enjoy free speech to the same degree.

In the name of “respect” of religions and of the religious sentiments of believers, it is indeed the fanatical religious-Right that is being supported and given centre stage. Meanwhile, those who are on the forefront of countering armed fundamentalists are left to their own devices. It is high time to give these secularists prominence, to recognise their courage and their political clarity and to stop labelling them “Islamophobic”.

In October 2014, secularists – including atheists, agnostics and believers from many countries, in particular many Muslim-majority countries, met in London to denounce the religious-Right and to demand being seen as its alternative. It is high time to learn from their analysis and lived experiences.

The tragic massacre in Paris will undoubtedly give fuel to the traditional xenophobic far-Right and the immediate danger is an increase in racism, marginalization and exclusion of people of Muslim descent in Europe and further.  We do not want to witness “anti-Muslim witch hunts” nor do we welcome the promotion of “moderate” Islamists by governments as official political partners. What is needed is a straightforward analysis of the political nature of armed Islamists: they are an extreme-Right political force, working under the guise of religion and they aim at political power. They should be combated by political means and mass mobilisation, not by giving extra privileges to any religion.

Their persistent demand for the extension of blasphemy laws around the world is a real danger for all. France has a long – and now growingly endangered – tradition of secularism; which allows dissent from religions and the right to express this dissent. It has had a rich tradition to mock and caricature powers that be – religious or otherwise. Let us keep this hard won right which cost so many lives in history, and, alas, still does – as Charlie Hebdo’s twelve dead and numerous wounded demonstrate.

Signed:
Marieme Helie Lucas, Algerian Sociologist and Secularism is a Women’s Issue Founder
Maryam Namazie, Iranian-born Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, One Law for All and Fitnah and Co-host of Bread and Roses TV
Karima Bennoune, Professor and Martin Luther King Jr. Hall Research Scholar, University of California, Davis School of Law [Read more…]

For Charlie Hebdo: Rage and Solidarity

la-nouvelle-une-de-charlie-hebdo-sorti-ceI6HTgMy message to Charlie Hebdo’s editor in chief, Gerard Biard:

Dear Gerard

I spoke on a panel with you in November last year at the International Feminist and Secular Network in Paris.

I am writing to express my outrage at the cold-blooded murder of freethinkers at Charlie Hebdo today and to give my unequivocal support.

Freedom of expression and the criticism of religion and Islam are basic rights. Clearly, free expression without the right to criticise religion is meaningless. Throughout history, criticism of religion (that which is deemed sacred or taboo) has been intrinsic to human progress.

In the era of ISIS and the religious-Right, this criticism is a historical necessity and needed more than ever.

The Islamists who killed today said they were “avenging” Islam’s prophet but Mohammed cartoons are merely an excuse. The aim of such acts of terrorism – whether in Paris or Afghanistan – are to defend their theocratic and inhuman values. They must know that we too will defend our human values – secularism, equality, citizenship, the right to religion and to be free from religion, the right to criticise and mock religion… which are not “western” values but universal ones.

Today’s killers are part of the same movement that massacres schoolchildren in Peshawar, throws acid in the faces of “improperly veiled” women in Iran and crucifies secularists in Kobane. They need no excuses to commit murder and mayhem.

The battle to commemorate the lives lost today is an ongoing one. It’s a battle between secularists versus theocrats everywhere. And it is a fight that we have to win. No ifs or buts.

In solidarity

Maryam Namazie

We condemn the murderous attack on Charlie Hebdo by Islamic terrorists

The murderous attack today by Islamic terrorists on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo has aroused people’s anger and disgust around the world. Charlie Hebdo is a left, progressive satirical weekly which criticises and ridicules religion and religious beliefs, prejudices and taboos. In 2011 the magazine’s office was firebombed by Islamists for publishing a caricature of Muhammed, and its editor and writers have repeatedly received death threats. In today’s attack 12 people, including the magazine’s editor and three well-known French cartoonists, were killed. This is a direct attack on freedom of expression, on freedom to criticise religion and on civilisation and humanity. [Read more…]

Support Council of Ex-Muslims in 2015

Hello friend

We hope you are well and looking forward to the holidays and New Year.

We’ve had a brilliant year, thanks to your support. In 2015, we aim to continue supporting ex-Muslims and challenging apostasy laws whilst exposing hate speech like “kafir” and “murtad” and raising awareness on the special plight of ex-Muslim women.

7 February 2015 London conference on Apostasy, Sharia Law and Secularism

We will discuss the situation of ex-Muslims in Britain and internationally, apostasy and blasphemy laws, Islamism and the religious-Right, the veil and burqa as well as the successful campaigns against the Law Society and Universities UK for their legitimisation of Sharia law at a day-conference near Kings Cross on 7 February 2015.

Speakers at the conference will include Aliyah Saleem, Amal Farah, Chris Moos, Gita Sahgal, Imad Iddine Habib, Maryam Namazie, Nahla Mahmoud, Pragna Patel, Ramin Forghani, Rumana Hashem, and Yasmin Rehman amongst others. You can find out more on how to register here. Please register as soon as possible as space is limited.

Ex-Muslim Women’s Project

In the coming year, the CEMB will focus on the plight of ex-Muslim women, including by publishing a report, producing video testimonials and by providing additional support and assistance. Ex-Muslim women interested in taking part in video testimonials and working with the project, please get in touch as soon as possible.

Anti-Hate Speech Campaign and Poster Competition

If you have been called “kafir”, “murtad”, “munafiq”, “zindiq” or any similar derogatory term aimed at intimidation and incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence against ex-Muslims please contact us with the details. We are gathering evidence in order to push for changes in practice by police, institutions and government with regards to hate speech against ex-Muslims (and of course others including dissenting Muslims).

In lieu of our campaign, we are also organising an anti-hate speech poster competition; the winning poster will be used in our campaign against Islamist hate speech. Send in your submissions no later than 1 May 2015.

Past Year Highlights

Highlights in 2014 have included co-sponsoring a hugely successful “International Conference on the Religious-Right, Secularism and Civil Rights” and other events such as a Kafir comedy night, an ex-Muslim picnic and evening drinks; assisting nearly 400 ex-Muslims in Britain and internationally; increasing the profile of ex-Muslims in the media; publishing a report on iERA (an Islamist hate group, which is now being investigated by the Charities Commission); organising international days of action in support of blasphemers and apostates; supporting successful campaigns against Universities UK’s gender-segregation guidance and the Law Society’s note on Sharia-compliant wills; and making courts more open to apostate asylum cases. CEMB letters of support are highly regarded and influential in securing the right to asylum for ex-Muslims. Moreover, our web-forum continues to act as one of our most important vehicles with 4,000 plus users. The forum publishes articles and creates a safe space for ex-Muslims to help each other, and gain emotional and practical support. The CEMB forum Twitter account continues to grow and has been active in promoting issues surrounding apostasy, secularism and the religious-Right.

Internationally, a number of groups were formed and affiliated with the CEMB, including Ex-Muslims of North America, Ex-Muslims of Austria and Ex-Muslims of Scotland; they joined the Councils of Ex-Muslims in France, USA, Morocco (the first country with Islam as a state religion), and New Zealand. Recently, we have new affiliates from Pakistan and Turkey. During this year, Somali-born Amal Farah joined Sudanese-born Nahla Mahmoud and Iranian-born Maryam Namazie as spokesperson for the organisation and we set up an office in central London.

None of our work in 2014 could have been possible without your support so thank you! We are also grateful to Trust for London, The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science UK, the David Bleines Memorial Trust, Muriel Seltman and many others for their donations. We are particularly grateful to those who donate on a monthly basis via standing order.

Support Us!

As you well know, we rely on individual donations to do our work. We don’t get government funding or the huge amounts of support that Islamists do so we need your continued support to carry on doing the work we do. For the New Year, please join our small but important group of monthly donors or give us a one off donation if you can. Any amount helps and will be much appreciated! Here’s information on how you can donate.

We look forward to continuing, together, our fight for equality, secularism and rights and countering the religious-Right, racism and cultural relativism in the months and years to come.

Thanks again.

Warmest wishes
Amal Farah
Maryam Namazie
Nahla Mahmoud
Spokespersons
www.ex-Muslim.org.uk

Multiculturalism, celebration of Blasphemy and More

Here are a few of the latest Bread and Roses TV programmes, which I hadn’t posted on my blog.

Hope you enjoy them!

مشکل با نسبيت فرهنگى چيست؟
۱۷ دسامبر ۲۰۱۴
مصاحبه با نويسنده فرانسوى کارولاين فورت
سياسى نسبيت فرهنگى بطور سيستماتيک جامعه را به گروه هاى متفاوت بسته بندى کرده و جنبشهاى اجتماعى؛ سياسى و طبقاتى را ناديده مى گيرد
نسبيت فرهنگى بعنوان وسيله اى در خدمت عروج جريانات راست مذهبى و ميليتاريسم در آمده و تحت لواى تحمل عقايد گوناگون حقوق بايه اى مردم را پايمال مى کند
اخبار تکان دهنده هفته: گزارش شکنجه سازمان سيا
فتوای احمقانه هفته
فتواى داعش در مورد تجاوز به زنان برده

What is wrong with multiculturalism?
Interview with French author Caroline Fourest
16 December 2014
Multiculturalism as a social policy divides and segregates people into homogeneous communities and societies and ignores dissent, class politics and social movements. It has been instrumental in the rise of the religious-Right and militarism as well as the justification of rights violations in the name of “tolerance”.
Shocking news of the week: On CIA brutal torture report
Insane Fatwa of the week: On ISIS fatwa department’s guide on how to capture and rape female slaves

بر چسپها ى مرتد يا کافر نفرت پراکنى است!
۱۰ دسامبر ۲۰۱۴
مصاحبه با عماد الدين حبيب٬ رئيس سازمان اکس مسلم مراکش٬ اولين سازمان علنى آتئيست در کشورى که اسلام مذهب دولتى است
اين هفته: در کشورهاى اسلامزده بسيارى همانند سهيل عربى با اتهامات کافر٬ مرتد٬ و منافق تحت قوانين اسلامى به اعدام محکوم مى شوند. در کشورهاى غربى البته اين بر چسپها ى تحديد آميز و نفرت انگيز عليه آزاد انديشان٬ مخالفين و کسانى که اسلام را ترک کرده اند تحت آزادى بيان پنهان مى شوند. در حقيقت اين برچسپها بيان آزاد نيست بلکه نفرت پراکنى هر روز اسلاميون است.
اخبار تکان دهنده هفته:
سهيل عربى نبايد اعدام شود
فتوای احمقانه هفته:
کشىش آمريکاىى استیون اندرسون می گوید ایدز را می توان متوقف کرد اگر همجنسگرایان را اعدام کنند!

Should labels of Kafir or Murtad be deemed Hate Speech?
9 December 2014
Interview with Imad Iddine Habib, the founder of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco – the first public atheist organisation in a country with Islam as the state religion
Background: In countries like Iran, those labelled Kafir, Murtad, Munafiq or apostate and blasphemer like young Soheil Arabi are given death sentences under Sharia law. In the west, though, such intimidating and threatening labels against ex-Muslims as well as dissidents, freethinkers and Muslims who don’t toe the line are seen to be a question of free speech. In fact, it is hate speech perpetrated by Islamist hate groups.
Shocking news of the week: Soheil Arabi faces execution in Iran for his postings deemed “insulting to prophet” in Iran.
Insane Fatwa of the week: US Pastor Steven Anderson says AIDS can be stopped by Christmas is gays are executed.

چگونه مى توان قوانين شریعت در غرب را به عقب راند؟
۳ دسامبر ۲۰۱۴
سخنرانی پراگنا پاتل در کنفرانس سکولار ۲۰۱۴ در لندن
اخبار تکان دهنده هفته
دول ایران و سودان مخالفت خود را برای ممنوعیت ازدواج کودکان را در کمیته حقوق بشر سازمان ملل اعلام کردند
فتوای احمقانه هفته
فلج اطفال در نيجريه افزايش پيدا کرده است با توجه به فتواىی که ادعا مى کند واکسن فلج اطفال یک توطئه برای استریل کردن فرزندان خود و از بین بردن مؤمنان واقعی است

Should parallel legal systems like Sharia exist?
On Law Society and the withdrawal of its Sharia-compliant wills note
2 December 2014
Pragna Patel’s speech at Secular Conference 2014 in London
Shocking news of the week:
Iran and Sudan oppose UN Human Rights’ Committee’s call for ban of child marriages
Insane Fatwa of the week:
Polio remains endemic in northern Nigeria due to fatwa in Kano that claimed the free polio vaccine was a plot to sterilise their children and eliminate the ‘true believers’.

سهيل عربى نبايد اعدام شود
۱ دسامبر ۲۰۱۴

Soheil Arabi must not be executed in Iran. He has been sentenced to death for “insulting the prophet” on Facebook
Free expression not a crime; executing Soheil is one!
1 December 2014

Should blasphemy be celebrated?
Bread and Roses, 25 November 2014
Interview with FEMEN Leader Inna Shevchenko

آيا توهین به مقدسات و نقد مذهب مثبت است
برنامه نان و گل سرخ مجله ای سیاسی – اجتماعی در کانال جديد
۲۶ نوامبر ۲۰۱۴
مصاحبه با اينا شفچنکو٬ رئيس سازمان فمن

Press release – Women’s rights campaigners welcome withdrawal of the Law Society’s sharia wills practice note

24 November 2014

One Law for All, Southall Black Sisters, the Centre for Secular Space, Nari Diganta and the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation have welcomed the Law Society’s withdrawal of their sharia wills practice note.

The practice note advised solicitors on how to draw up ‘Sharia-compliant’ wills, stating that

“… illegitimate and adopted children are not Sharia heirs … The male heirs in most cases receive double the amount inherited by a female heir … Non-Muslims may not inherit at all … a divorced spouse is no longer a Sharia heir…” 

The ensuing campaign organised by women’s rights advocates Pragna Patel, Maryam Namazie, Gita Sahgal, Yasmin Rehman, Dianna Nammi, Rumana Hashem and Chris Moos has seen an open letter to Asma Jahangir, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief; and an open letter to the Law Society included signatories such as scientist Richard Dawkins, writer Taslima Nasrin and founder of Secularism is a Woman’s Issue Marieme Helie Lucas, amongst others.

On April 28, a well-attended protest at the offices of the Law Society featured speakers such as human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Muslim Institute Fellow Yasmin Rehman, Rumana Hashem from Nari Diganta – Women in Movement for Social Justice, Secularism and Equal Rights, and Diana Nammi, Chief Executive of the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation.

The organisers of the campaign also obtained legal advice from Karon Monaghan QC of Matrix Chambers, which stated that the Practice Note was unlawful as it provided guidance to solicitors that promotes an interpretation of Sharia that is discriminatory on the grounds of gender, religion and ethnicity and thus gave rise to the possibility of direct discrimination by solicitors. This came after the Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority had already withdrawn its endorsement of the Law Society’s Practice Note on July 10, following the threat of legal action from Southall Black Sisters.

In addition, the campaigners also found that the Law Society had used the works of an extremist cleric, who has advocated flogging and stoning for “fornicators”, for their Practice Note. The campaign received extensive press coverage and political support, including from Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, who warned that the Law Society’s Practice Note risks undermining the rule of law.

Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters, said:

“SBS welcomes the Law Society’s decision to withdraw the discriminatory guidance. We also acknowledge that it has publicly apologised for having produced the ill-advised guidance in the first place. Let this episode serve as a warning to other public bodies that may be contemplating instituting ‘Sharia compliant’ measures that flout equality and human rights law and values, which must be regarded as universal and non-negotiable. We now look forward to working with the Law Society to address the devastating impact of the legal aid cuts which also prevent many abused and marginalised women from minority backgrounds from accessing justice.”

Maryam Namazie, founder of One Law for All, commented:

“The Law Society has finally succumbed to our pressure and withdrawn its guidance a week before women’s rights groups were to meet with them to step up our pressure against the discriminatory nature of their Sharia-compliant guidance. This is another huge victory for equality, one law for all and civil rights and yet another loss for the religious far-right. We congratulate all those who took part in this campaign. One law for all is not an empty slogan but must mean something particularly when it comes to the law.”

Gita Sahgal, Director of the Centre for Secular Space, said:

“We are delighted that the Law Society has finally seen sense and made clear that they do not wish to condone discrimination, have withdrawn the note entirely and will not seek to replace it. Their apology is very welcome. This is a victory against the institutionalisation of religious law. Secular values protect the rule of law far better than the regulators do. There are many battles ahead to protect human rights and access to justice. We have a common interest in these struggles.”

Chris Moos, one of the organisers of the campaign, concluded:

“The Law Society has done the only sensible thing – withdraw the guidance for good and apologise for promoting the use of discriminatory practices in the first place. Hopefully, those who have defended the practice note will now realise that the only way public bodies and representative organisations can be sure to meet their equality duties is by adhering to the principle of secular neutrality in matters of belief.”

For more information, contact:

Pragna Patel
Southall Black Sisters
pragna@southallblacksisters.co.uk
020 8571 9595
@SBSisters

Maryam Namazie
One Law for All
maryamnamazie@gmail.com
077 1916 6731
@MaryamNamazie

Gita Sahgal
Centre for Secular Space
gita@centreforsecularspace.org
079 7271 5090
@GitaSahgal

Chris Moos
LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
c.m.moos@lse.ac.uk
074 2872 0599
@ChrisMoos_

 

You can defend your precious regime, I will defend revolution

It was recently brought to my attention that Kaveh Mousavi has written on my “misrepresentations” about Iranian politics. I don’t know who he is and haven’t followed his writings but this one post is sufficient for me to place him on the political spectrum of Iranian politics. All else is smoke and mirrors.

The crux of the matter is that Kaveh supports the “reformist” wing of the Islamic regime of Iran vis-a-vis the “Conservative” faction and therefore sees my opposition to his beloved faction and regime as “misrepresentation” and “lying”. He says there are differences between Rouhani and Ahmadinejad as if that is enough to protect the regime’s leadership from scrutiny.

Clearly, there are differences – that’s not the point. If there weren’t, there wouldn’t be infighting between the two factions now would there? But the differences are a matter of degree. Despite the differences, both factions fundamentally want the regime’s survival . Their strategies differ but the differences in strategy are on how to manage the survival of a theocractic regime that is faced with immense opposition from various sectors of Iranian society. It’s not about reforms (which in the real world means improvements in people’s lives via changes in law or public policy not mere rhetoric).

This should not be so difficult to understand even for Kaveh. There are differences between ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic regime of Iran… but fundamentally they want an Islamic state; their rule means the very same thing for people living under their boot. If there are any differences between the lives of people in Kobane, Raqqa, Tehran or Riyadh, it is not because of any “moderate” Islamists but because of people’s protests and their ongoing refusal to submit. You don’t have to have ever lived in Iran to know the role of “moderate” Islamists in normalising and strengthening Islamism; it’s evident even in the West.

Kaveh defends the “reformists” by crediting them for any breathing space in Iran. Rather, the “reformists” are the result of people’s protests. It is the dissent that has created the infighting and that has forced breathing spaces not the other way around.

Don’t forget, “reformists” like Rouhani or Khatami have been permitted to run in the so-called elections only with the approval of the “Conservative” leader Khamenei and the Council of Guardians. Only men who have shown complete loyalty to the Islamic system have any chance of entering and remaining in positions of power. The track records of these “reformists” speaks for themselves. Mousavi was Prime Minister during the notorious 1980s, a period in which Iran Tribunal has found the regime guilty of crimes against humanity. Khatami was Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance responsible for censorship during that time and the current president Rouhani has been a member of the regime’s Assembly of Experts, its Expediency Council and the Supreme National Security Council. “Reformists” indeed!

So of course I oppose both factions of the regime. I oppose its entirety, no matter how it is dressed and presented. For me, and for many others, whether they live in Iran or not, a theocracy is the end of any form of democratic politics. Call it “elections” if you want. Call it “reformist” or “moderate” if you want.

To defend the ruling elite (any segment of it) of a dictatorship where the law and public policy and the state and all its machinery still kills people for blasphemy and enmity against god and considers women half the worth of men is indefensible.

Such a regime has to end – it can’t be reformed just as you can’t reform a state based on racial apartheid or fascism. It has to end not by US-led militarism or economic sanctions that harm the public but by revolution as the only way in which people can fully intervene to be rid of dictatorships and theocracies. Of course the outcome is never guaranteed like any struggle or fight for change but I will always put my faith in social movements and people’s will to change things for the better than criminals feigning to be “reformist” in order to control and maintain Islamic rule as Kaveh does.

Yes I don’t live in Iran. I don’t think this is breaking news. I would most probably not be alive today if I did and there are enough threats from the regime, Iranian press mentions and death lists on which I am purported to be on to explain why. I, like many others, have been forced to leave our homes and live in exile because of a regime that cannot tolerate dissent. But whether I live in Iran or not is irrelevant. I don’t need to have lived in Iran or be Iranian or spent the past several decades in Iranian politics and worked with countless refugees who have fled or been persecuted by this regime to understand Iranian politics. Just as I don’t have to be South African to oppose racial apartheid or Palestinian to oppose the Israeli state’s occupation. Just as one does not have to be gay to defend gay rights or a woman to defend women’s rights.

Politics is about our values and where we stand irrespective of our identities, gender, where we live and where we were born…

Kaveh’s politics are clear as are mine.

His role is to defend the regime by defending a faction of it and to persuade people to be satisfied with a theocracy. Mine is to defend progressive social movements and people’s opposition to an Islamic state which is incompatible with the 21st century. His role is to support the “reformist” strategy calling on people to stay in their homes, not protest, scorn the opposition and only use the permissible mechanisms provided to them by a dictatorship; mine is to defend revolution, refusal and resistance.

Kaveh says that by opposing the “reformists”, I show that I do not care about the Iranian people. I am not sure how his defence of a section of a regime that murders at will shows any real concern for human life.

There are many other absurdities in his piece, which I have neither the time nor interest to respond to. I would only suggest that Kaveh step up and defend his precious regime without hiding his support behind attacks against me. He can call himself “atheist” and “liberal” all he wants. There are many examples of such “atheists” and “liberals” who have sided with the Islamists at the expense of those who refuse and resist and he is just one more of them. It’s nothing to be proud of.

Onwards to establishing an International Front for Secularism

Secular conference created a sense of imminent and momentous change – and women will be the driving force
- Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society

The two-day International Conference on the Religious Right, Secularism and Civil Rights held in London during 11-12 October 2014 was a rousing success, promoting a much-needed global secular alternative in the ISIS era and conquering fear with hope.

Conference videos and photos are now available online.

250 secularists, including believers, free-thinkers, agnostics and atheists from the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and the Diaspora assembled at the unprecedented and historic gathering to discuss resistance against the repression and violence of various manifestations of the religious-Right.

They highlighted the voices of the many persecuted and exiled and the strength of the demand for secularism despite grave risks.

The delegates made an unequivocal stand with the brave women and men of Kobane, adopted a Manifesto for Secularism and set the stage for the development of a broad international front for secularism to challenge the religious-Right.

The conference, which was convened by Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas and Iranian-born Campaigner Maryam Namazie, called on people everywhere to sign the Manifesto for Secularism and join in this historical task.

The conference was not an end but a beginning of great things to come.

Join in one of the most important fights of our century. Please donate today.

Secularism. Today. Now.

NOTES:

1. See extensive press coverage of the conference.

2. Speakers at the conference were philosopher AC Grayling; Aliyah Saleem who spent 6 years in an Islamic school in Britain; Tunisian University of Manouba Professor Amel Grami; social and political analyst and commentator Bahram Soroush; French writer Caroline Fourest; secular student activist Chris Moos; Senior Researcher at the International Center for Ethnic Studies in Sri Lanka Chulani Kodikara; Indian labour historian Dilip Simeon; Yemeni writer and activist Elham Manea; Co-Founder of Muslim Women Research and Action Front from Sri Lanka Faizun Zackariya; founder of the Iranian Secular Society Fariborz Pooya; Senegalese International Director of Women Living Under Muslim Laws Fatou Sow; Director of Centre for Secular Space Gita Sahgal; Leader of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran Hamid Taqvaee; One Secular School System in Ontario Campaigner Homa Arjomand; Director of the Afghanistan Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium Horia Mosadiq; FEMEN leader Inna Shevchenko; co-founder of Justice for Women Julie Bindel; author Karima Bennoune; writer Kenan Malik; Pakistani-born human rights activist Kiran Opal; Iranian writer-journalist and documentary filmmaker Lila Ghobady; Ex-Muslim Maha Kamal; Libyan president of Hakki Magdulien Abaida; Tunisian filmmaker Nadia El Fani; Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain Spokesperson Nahla Mahmoud; Vice President of the Atheist Coalition in Poland Nina Sankari; Founder member of Women Against Fundamentalism Nira Davis-Yuval; Pakistani nuclear physicist and social activist Pervez Hoodbhoy; Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell; Southall Black Sisters Director Pragna Patel; founder of the Ex-Muslims of Scotland Ramin Forghani; author Rumy Hassan; Turkish MP Safak Pavey; journalist Salil Tripathi; Iranian/German writer Siba Shakib; Founder of Association pour la mixité, l’égalité et la laïcité Soad Baba Aïssa; co-founder of Survivors Voice Europe Sue Cox; Executive Director of Ain o Salish Kendra in Bangladesh Sultana Kamal; Director of Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford Taj Hargey; Bangladeshi-born writer Taslima Nasrin; President of the National Secular Society Terry Sanderson and women’s rights campaigner Yasmin Rehman. Acclaimed pianist and composer Anne Lovett; comedians Daphna Baram, AKA MissD, Kate Smurthwaite and Sameena Zehra as well as LCP dance company and singer/songwriter Shelley Segal provided entertainment.

3. Indonesian band SIMPONI was announced as the winner of One Law for All’s Sounds of Freedom award with their entry “Sister in Danger”, a tribute to Indonesian victims of sexual violence.

4. The conference was endorsed by Atheist Alliance International; Atheist Union of Greece; Bread and Roses TV; Children First Now; Center for Inquiry; Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain; Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran; Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation; International Committee against Stoning; International Committee against Execution; International Federation of Iranian Refugees; Iran Solidarity; National Secular Society; One Law for All; Pink Triangle Trust; Secularism is a Women’s Issue; Southall Black Sisters; The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science UK; and Women Living Under Muslim Laws amongst others.

5. Special thanks to The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science UK, the National Secular Society and donors who supported the Indiegogo fundraising campaign to bring secularists from the South to the conference, including @GodlessRobin, Andy Croy, Karima Bennoune, Kim Revill, Leif Cid, Muriel Seltman, Olivier Zimmermann, Penny Jaques, Rustom Cardinal, Sue Cox and Thomas Oliver.

6. For more information, contact:
Maryam Namazie
maryamnamazie@gmail.com
www.secularconference.com

More video clips of Secular Conference 2014

A lot more video clips have been uploaded of the 11-12 October International Conference on the Religious-Right, Secularism and Civil Rights. You can see the latest here below:

Iranian-born Campaigner Maryam Namazie’s Opening Address: Secularism is our response to the Religious-Right

Algerian Sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas: “Attacks on Secularism”

Tribute by Karima Bennoune to those Fallen Fighting the Religious-Right

Human Rights Campaigner Peter Tatchell’s Opening
Secularism Panel

Secularism against Fanaticism by Author Caroline Fourest
Secularism Panel

[Read more…]

Arab Spring – Revisiting the Revolution in Iran!

mostafaThe below is Mostafa Saber‘s speech delivered at The World Peace Forum Society Teach In, Vancouver, on October 25, 2014 on the Arab Spring – Revisiting the Revolution in Iran. Saber is in the Central Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran. Enjoy.

I intend to give you my assessment of the Arab Spring and its relationship with the Iranian revolutions of 1979 and 2009. I will be making three points.

The first point is that it was no accident that Ayatollah Khomeini and Margaret Thatcher came to power almost at the same time, respectively 1979 and 1980. They were, in a way, two sides of the same coin!

Everyone knows that Thatcher smashed the labor movement. That is what she was famous for and proud of.  But, it might be new to some of you to hear that Khomeini slaughtered a whole generation of labor activists, communists, women’s right activists and dissidents, and we still don’t know where many of their graves are.

In recent history, nothing has been more misrepresented than the 1979 revolution in Iran. At its heart, it was a working class revolution that was ultimately defeated by the Islamic movement, which was backed by Western powers who had lost hope in the Shah of Iran.   Meanwhile, this Islamic movement was portrayed as the revolution itself when it was a counter-revolution, and a very brutal and reactionary one.  It was labeled as a “spiritual” revolution! It was not just a falsification of concept; more importantly, it was the beginning of a practical problem not only for the workers, women and all people in countries like Iran, but for the whole world. I’m referring to the rise of political Islam, the latest product of which is ISIS. If Margret Thatcher and the crushing of the miners’ strike in the UK was the beginning of the new conservatism, so was Khomeini’s movement, and his bloody victory over the actual revolution in Iran, the beginning of political Islam.

To make my first point short: Thatcher and Khomeini were both products and agents of a shift in world history. This shift sought to end the stagnation period that had followed the Golden Age of capitalism (1945 to 1973) and to begin the New Liberal globalization era, which started in the 1980s. Capitalism after World War 2 expanded rapidly and had reached the point of over saturated accumulation of capital, especially in old industrial countries. Now it needed new blood, namely cheap labor! How did capitalism resolve this? It did so, among other things, by smashing labor movements, ending the welfare state, attacking the left and all progressive movements everywhere, moving capital and production to less saturated markets or by globalizing the production of surplus value. What was the political structure of this new globalization? Well, it was the so called “conservative revolution.”  My point is that Thatcher in the west and Khomeini in the Middle East were the pioneers of this reactionary “revolution” that has devastated our planet for the last 3 to 4 decades. [Read more…]

United against ISIS and for Kobane

Here’s my speech at the 1 November Global day of Action for Kobane:

I was disgusted to see Social Workers’ Party and Stop the War Coalition speaking at the protest when they have been the stalwart defenders of the “ISIS” of Iran and other countries.

If you don’t know about their collaboration with the Islamists, see our report here.

Theirs is a politics of siding with the oppressors at the expense of progressive social movements and class politics and most importantly real live human beings.

As I mentioned in my speech, you can be opposed to both US-led militarism and Islamism – something they are clueless about because they have an affinity with the Islamists. How dare they show up and give lip service against ISIS when they have fully supported so many ISIS’ across the world?

BTW, Fariborz Pooya’s speech at the 1 November Global day of Action for Kobane can be seen below too:


`
(Thanks to Patty Debonitas for the video clips.)

1 November: Global Day of Action against ISIS, and for Kobane and humanity

On 1st November, people around the world will be out on the streets to protest against brutality by ISIS and at the same time express solidarity with the people of Kobane and humanity.

Londoners will be out in Trafalgar Square between 2-5pm. The purpose of the event in London will be to let the world know, and more importantly let Kobane know, that we are with them!

Join the rallies across the globe if you can – in any way you can. If you can’t get to a rally, show your solidarity in other ways.

Today and everyday, we are all Kobane.

Join Global Day Event on Facebook.

Some videos from Secular 2014 conference

Here are some of the videos from the 11-12 October Conference on the Religious-Right, Secularism and Civil Rights in London. Reza Moradi is busy editing them. MORE VIDEOS TO FOLLOW:

Iranian-born Campaigner Maryam Namazie’s Opening Address: Secularism is our response to the Religious-Right

Algerian Sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas: “Attacks on Secularism”

Tribute by Karima Bennoune to those Fallen Fighting the Religious-Right

Human Rights Campaigner Peter Tatchell’s Opening
Secularism Panel

Secularism against Fanaticism by Author Caroline Fourest
Secularism Panel

Hamid Taqvaee on the Rise and Fall of Secularism
Secularism Panel

Lawyer and Human Rights Activist Sultana Begum on Fate of Secularism in Bangladesh
Secularism Panel

Turkish MP Safak Pavey on Turkish Experience
Secularism Panel

Centre for Secular Space Director Gita Sahgal on Who’s afraid of Secularism
Secularism Panel

Closing Video with Maryam Namazie calling for the adoption of the Manifesto for Secularism

More videos to follow.