There have been a lot of hurt religious sentiments recently. It’s such a shame.
(via Fame at Last)
Ismail ‘Hilath’ Rasheed, a Maldivian blogger, journalist and free speech advocate, has been brutally attacked near his home on 4 June 2012. His throat was slit through the trachea and he survived only because a vital artery was missed by millimetres. He is recovering. Whilst police are still investigating, it is believed to be the work of Islamists.
Rasheed had previously been attacked and received a number of death threats. On 10 December 2011, his skull was fractured when he attended a rally for religious tolerance, which was attacked by Islamists. On 14 December, he was arrested and held for three weeks after members of the Adhaalath Party accused him of blasphemy. Rasheed reported that he faced mistreatment and degradation whilst in custody. Before his release, his detention was extended twice on the request of investigating officers in order that the Islamic Ministry might provide him with counselling to “bring him back to Islam”.
The Government of the Maldives has made no effort to arrest Rasheed’s attackers despite credible photographic evidence of the attack. Moreover, the Government has blocked his website on the order of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs on the grounds that the site contained anti-Islamic material. Rasheed has said he was being censored for expressing his version of Islam, and called for more freedom of interpretation within the faith. [Read more...]
A Bangladeshi court has issued an arrest warrant for the writer of a 2003 novel “Bhanga Math” (“Broken Temple”). The book has already been banned for insulting Mohammed. The court issued the order in response to a petition from an Islamist accusing the author Salam Azad of hurting religious sentiment.
Islam kills, mutilates, segregates, dehumanises and all it takes for an arrest and prison sentence is ‘hurt religious sentiment’.
Talk about an upside down world.
(Top Link via Anne Marie Waters)
I’m blogging every half an hour from 9am to 3pm GMT in support of the Secular Student Alliance blogothon. The SSA is trying to raise £100,000 by 16 June.
Try to support the SSA if you can. If we’re going to beat the religion industry, we need to support organisations promoting secularism and reason.
Here’s a link to the official SSA Week page, which has lots of information about the SSA as well as an easy-to-find donation widget.
In such discussions, there are always those who are proponents of banning ‘hate’ speech because they say it causes emotional distress and can lead to discrimination.
My response is that much of religion is hate speech. Have they read the Koran or Bible recently?
Whenever I hear a sura of the Koran, I feel distressed. And by the way, every time we hear religious edicts that say apostates should die, or that women are subhuman, can’t that also be considered adding to the discrimination apostates or women face?
We have been tortured, executed and stoned to death with ‘Allah O Akbar’ ringing in our ears:
(The singer says, with Allah O Akbar, we have been totured, executed and stoned to death.)
Nonetheless, you can’t ban religion because it is hate speech.
Of course I know when people defend the banning of hate speech, they don’t mean banning religion – that’s always off-limits; what they usually mean is that they want a ban on the uncompromising criticism of religion.
I say let the religious bigots – and for that matter all bigots – express themselves freely.
And we will too.
Speech – however distressing or hateful – is not the same as physical harm.
And anyway, you can’t stop hate with censorship. You can only stop it by challenging it head on.
I am off to Brighton today to join a panel discussion on ‘Where do you draw the line’ on free expression.
I say no where. Let people talk even if what they say is disgusting. You can’t and mustn’t stop people from reciting the Koran because it’s inhuman just as you can’t and mustn’t stop us from speaking out against it.
Here are the details of the event: 4.30 – 6pm at the Brighton Dome, Pavilion Theatre, a panel discussion staged by Index on Censorship and Free Word as part of this year’s Brighton Festival For more information, click here.
By the way, don’t forget that this has an impact on real lives. Today is an International Day of Action in support of Shahin Najafi, an Iranian rapper and songwriter living in Germany who has received a fatwa of death by the two Iranian Ayatollahs Makarem Shirazi and Safi Golpayegani. Shahin has been accused of offending Islam in his rap, Naghi. A bounty of 100,000 US dollars has been offered as reward for his murder on a website affiliated to the Islamic regime of Iran.
I got back from Kamloops yesterday. Though I was exhausted, I’m really glad I went – fantastic people, speakers and organisers!
Here’s the speech I gave:
* Kuwait’s parliament recently voted in favour of a legal amendment that would make blasphemy a crime punishable by death following the arrest of a man accused of insulting Mohamed on Twitter.
* In Saudi Arabia, Hamza Kashgari, a 23-year-old reporter from Jeddah, faces the death penalty for blasphemy after he Tweeted an imaginary conversation with Mohammad.
* In April, two young Tunisians, Jabeur Mejri and Ghazi Beji, (one in absentia) were sentenced to seven years in prison for posting cartoons of Mohammad.
* Alex Aan, a 30 year old atheist, faces up to 5 years in prison charged with blasphemy for saying there is no god on Facebook.
* Asia Bibi faces execution in Pakistan for blasphemy.
* In Egypt, a court upheld the conviction of comedian, Adel Imam, of ‘offending Islam’. Author Alaa al-Aswany says: the court ruling sets Egypt back to the “darkness of the Middle Ages” and that this is “an unimaginable crime of principle”.
* In Britain, 17 year old Rhys Morgan was forced to remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon or face expulsion from his Sixth Form College and there were demands by various student unions at London universities that Atheist societies remove Jesus and Mo cartoons from their Facebook page.
None of this is new.
Having been involved in the fight against Islamism and the Islamic Republic of Iran for some 25 years now I have faced many such threats, attempts at intimidation and censorship, bans, calls for the cancellation of events
Here’s one such experience from Canada of a bogus accusation of racism: in 2002/2003, the Canadian Council for Refugees banned me from their e-mail listserv of refugee rights activists because my writings, particularly ‘Islam, Political Islam and Women’s Rights in the Middle East‘ were deemed in violation of their anti-racist policy by ‘not maintaining and/or promoting an environment free of discrimination and bias by its wholesale condemnation of Islam and Muslims and not demonstrating an acceptance of the equity of all faiths’.
But for Islamism, a far-right political movement, and its apologists, this is business as usual. Islamism has been wreaking havoc in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere for several decades – with a majority of its victims being ‘Muslims’ or those labelled as such.
Where it has political power, Islamists forgo all niceties reserved for western public opinion about ‘respect’ and ‘not causing offence’ and imprison and murder anyone who speaks their minds and ‘offends’ their norms and sensibilities.
Despite their track record, it is therefore absurd how the fundamental debate on Islam and free expression here in Europe, North America and Australia is framed within a context of offence, racism and Islamophobia. Let me explain. [Read more...]
The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) supports the International Day of Action in support of Shahin Najafi, an Iranian rapper and songwriter living in Germany who has received a fatwa of death by the two Iranian Ayatollahs Makarem Shirazi and Safi Golpayegani. Shahin has been accused of offending Islam in his rap, Naghi. A bounty of 100,000 US dollars has been offered as reward for his murder on a website affiliated to the Islamic regime of Iran.
The CEMB calls on all to join in the various meetings, rallies and actions to be held on 26 May in order to defend Shahin’s right to free expression and his right to be free from threats and intimidation. A criticism of religion is key to the basic right to free expression.
For more information, contact:
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
BM Box 1919
London WC1N 3XX
e-mail: [email protected]
Iranian cartoonist Mahmoud Shokrayeh has been sentenced to 25 lashes for ‘insulting’ a Member of the Islamic Assembly, Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani, by drawing him in a football kit. The cartoon is criticising the interference of politicians in sports.
Another Iranian cartoonist, Mana Neyestani, condemned the sentence as “cruel and uncivilised” and called on others to publish more cartoons of Lotfi Ashtiani in solidarity with Shokrayeh.
Here’s one by Vahid Nikgoo showing Lotfi Ashtiani looking into a mirror with a speech bubble saying: “I’ll take you to court and sentence you to lashes so that you won’t draw me like this anymore!”
If you can draw cartoons, I’m not sure what are you waiting for?
I think this calls for a new Jesus and Mo cartoon…
According to the National Secular Society’s Newsline:
A British TV channel that broadcast a talk saying it is acceptable to murder someone who has shown disrespect to the prophet Muhammad is facing a heavy fine or potential closure by Ofcom. The regulator ruled that DM Digital is the first UK broadcaster to break the broadcasting code for material “likely to encourage or incite the commission of a crime or lead to disorder” or more likely the first one Ofcom has recognised as breaking the broadcasting code.
The media regulator commissioned two English translations of the programme which revealed that the presenter of the show said: “If someone takes a step in the love of the Prophet, then this is not terrorism.” He also made a number of comments citing a “duty” to kill those who insult Mohammed, including: “I hail those who made this law [Pakistan's blasphemy law] which states that one who insults the prophet deserves to be killed – such a person should be eliminated.”
Ofcom said: “We considered that the broadcast of the various statements made by the Islamic scholar … was likely to encourage or incite the commission of a crime.”
Finally, Ofcom is getting it!
Imagine if they had commissioned English translations for a 24 hour period and for all the Islamic channels. Oh the gems they would find…
The Islamic Republic of Iran’s Ayatollah Golpayegani has issued a death fatwa against 31 year old rap artist Shahin Najafi for apostasy. Shahin’s rap entitled Naqi is deemed to be ‘offensive’ to a Shia imam. The Fars press agency (which is a government mouthpiece) has announced the ‘establishment of a campaign to execute Shahin Najafi’ who lives in Germany.
What utter nerve.
The German government and EU should issue a warrant for Golpayegani’s arrest. Rather than promulgating arrest warrants for dissidents and free thinkers like Hamza Kashgari, INTERPOL can then promulgate the arrest of a real criminal.
Is that really too much to ask?
As the late Mansoor Hekmat has said:
…No one took Mr. Khomeini to court for issuing a death fatwa against Salman Rushdie; notwithstanding that inciting to murder is a crime in all countries of the world. And this is only a small corner of a network of murder, mutilation, intimidation, abduction, torture, and child abuse. I think that the Medellin drug cartels (Escobars), the Chinese triads, and Italian (and American) mafia are nothing in comparison to organised religion.
Here’s Shahin’s rap:
Go on Shahin Najafi’s Facebook page and click ‘like’ to support him.
Do you remember the ten cases I highlighted to mark the 14 March International Day of Action to Defend Blasphemers and Apostates? One of them was that of the famous Egyptian comedian, Adel Imam.
Well a court has upheld his conviction for ‘offending Islam’.
There’s much that I can say about this but I’ll let author Alaa al-Aswany do the talking.
He says: the court ruling sets Egypt back to the “darkness of the Middle Ages” and that this is “an unimaginable crime of principle”.
How very true.
Alex Aan‘s trial begins tomorrow, Thursday, with the first prosecution witnesses being called, according to Rafiq Mahmood. Alex is the 30 year old Indonesian civil servant who has been charged with ‘insulting’ Islam in an atheist group in Facebook.
This isn’t just for Alex but for all of us. There have been far too many “blasphemy” cases which have just slipped by. We have to stop it if we have a chance and Indonesia is a very good place to make a stand.
And a stand we must make.
The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and the Atheist Alliance International are collecting money towards Alex’s case. If you want to support his case financially, you can send a donation to the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. Just make sure to earmark it for Alex Aan.
The Asia Human Rights Commission has issued an appeal on behalf of Alex Aan. Read it here. Their appeal gives a lot of information on the case and also gives a list of places you can send your appeal on behalf of Alex. Remember, it’s serious. He faces up to 6 years in prison for making a statement on Facebook.
If you want to support Alex’s case financially, you can send a donation to the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. Just make sure to earmark it for Alex Aan. So far, we have raised over £600, including a donation from the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science UK.
Rafiq Mahmood visited Alex Aan on Thursday. Alex is the 30 year old Indonesian civil servant who has been charged with ‘insulting’ Islam in an atheist group in Facebook. Aan is in the early stages of his trial – the exchange of lawyers submissions. Up until Thursday Alex was being held in the court cells. He has now been transferred to the local prison in Muara Sijunjung on remand.
The photo is of (left to right) Rafiq Mahmoud, Alex Aan, Roni Saputra – Alex’s lawyer from the Legal Aid Foundation – and the defence attorney (in uniform) keeping a careful eye on proceedings.
Here’s an interview Rafiq did on his meeting with Alex:
Interviewer: I saw you in the court sitting behind Alexander Aan. Can you tell me who you are and why you are here?
Rafiq Mahmood: Sure. My name is Rafiq Mahmood. I am an English teacher and I live in Bogor. I guess there are three reasons why I am here. First, as soon as I heard about Alex’s case, and especially after seeing his interview on Al-Jazeera in the police station in Dharmasraya I wanted to meet him. Secondly, although I am not a lawyer most of my professional life before I became an English teacher was closely tied up with the law and I am particularly interested in human rights and individual freedom. Thirdly, the outcome of Alex’s case could affect us all, including me.
Interviewer: Have you had a chance to meet Pak Aan?
RM: Yes. I was allowed to talk with him for about ten minutes after the hearing today.
Interviewer: What were your impressions of him?
RM: More than anything else his extraordinary gentleness.
Interviewer: Can I ask what you talked about?
RM: He said that the most important thing of all is love. The world is one and we are all brothers and sisters. He was deeply troubled by the news from all around the world of people suffering. Not only in Syria, and Iraq and Afghanistan where people are in the middle of conflict but also in the countries of Africa where people were hungry and mothers were watching their children dying. Also in America there were a lot of people suffering now. These are our brothers and sisters, Alex said, it doesn’t matter where they are from, it doesn’t matter about their country. I asked him, “or what they look like or their belief?” No. It doesn’t matter what they look like or what they believe. The only way to solve the problems of this world is through empathy. We can’t do that if we don’t know about each other. We need education and need to talk about ideas and information freely. There can’t be any inside or outside. We are all one. “Bhinneka Tunggal ika?” Yes. Bhinneka Tunggal ika – Unity in diversity. The most important thing is love and unity and empathy.
I told him that many people from around the world were interested in him and his case. Does he want me to tell the world this message from him? He said he didn’t know whether it counted as a message, but yes, he wanted the world to know that is what he believes.
Interviewer: Did he say anything about his case?
RM: He looked down for a while. He said that he didn’t want anyone to be hurt. He said he was sorry if he did anything wrong. He really didn’t want anybody to be upset. I said, “Alex. You haven’t done anything wrong.” He looked up and a sort of light came into his eyes. He held up his right hand, his finger pointing upwards. “I truly believe,” he said, “that I haven’t done anything wrong.”
Interviewer: You mentioned before that you are interested in the legal aspects of the case.
RM: Of course, as I said before I am not a lawyer and he has a fine and dedicated team from LBH Padang who are doing splendid work for him. I don’t want anything I may say to affect the case and I want to emphasise that this is my personal opinion only.
Alex has been indicted on three counts. Exactly the same evidence has been adduced for each count and no explanation has been given in any of the counts as to how the alleged offences match the evidence.
The first count, under Section 28 of the Information and Electronic Transactions Act is clearly aimed at people stirring up hatred or hostility on the grounds of race, religion or membership of particular groups. The only hatred that has been stirred up (and that not by electronic means) has been against Alex himself. No sane and therefore legally competent person would intentionally stir up hatred against himself. A more gentle, loving person than Alex or someone less likely to stir up hatred or hostility among anyone would be difficult to imagine.
The second and third count under Section 156a of the Criminal Code relate to the so-called blasphemy provisions. Anti-blasphemy laws have no part to play in a modern society. All ideas should be open to challenge and analysis. Human society only makes progress through the free exchange of information and ideas. People need protection; ideas – including religious ones – do not.
The second count is that Alex deliberately and publicly said or did something antagonistic to a religion practised in Indonesia. Now the practices and beliefs of every religion in Indonesia are not only opposed but are openly antagonistic to the beliefs of every other belief practised in Indonesia. Their acts of worship and discussion are open to everyone. In that sense they are public. They are certainly deliberate. If the wording of Section 156a item a. were to be applied to the letter then every single religious act of every religious denomination in Indonesia would be liable under it. The effect would be to shut down freedom of worship instead of protect it. You would have a Maoist or Stalinist state. Indonesia would be turned into North Korea. Religion would be outlawed.
Clearly the meaning of “deliberately and publicly” means the same as crying “Fire” in a crowded theatre – in other words making a statement in a place where it was intended and likely to cause the maximum distress and disturbance and not just making a deliberate statement in a forum that was publicly available.
Alex posted in a page called Ateist Minang. Everyone knows what ateist means (or think they do). If you believe in a god then you are very likely to find anything in an atheist site uncomfortable if not downright offensive. If you pick up a bottle marked POISON and drink from it, you cannot sue the manufacturers if, as was predictable and likely, you fell ill afterwards.
The third count is impossible for an individual to do, least of all someone as marginalised as a supposed atheist in religion soaked Indonesia. 156a item b. prohibits anyone from preventing someone believing in the “one almighty god”. No one can make or prevent anyone into believing or not believing anything. The nearest that anyone can get to that is a state which has control over the education system and has the power to outlaw religious services and to close and demolish religious buildings. It is difficult to see how a powerless individual, least of all someone as mild mannered as Alexander Aan, could possibly commit such an offence.
Interviewer: Thank you very much for that. There is just one other thing I want to ask you. You said that the outcome of Pak Aan’s case could affect everyone, including yourself. How is that?
RM: I live in Indonesia. This is my home and I am part of Indonesian society, even if I am not a citizen. The youth of Indonesia love their Blackberries and their Facebook. They love to talk with each other. Having a minority belief, or non-belief, can make you feel very isolated unless you can communicate with someone who shares the way you think. If we cannot share information and ideas freely, including ideas which may upset some people, then we become trapped, frightened and alone. We have lost the right to be ourselves, which was surely what independence and the struggle to achieve it was all about.
It is no secret that I am no longer a Muslim. That is not my fault. I have done nothing wrong. I just couldn’t believe in it any more. I have made many friends through Facebook and through sharing thoughts and ideas. If this case goes against Alex we will no longer have that freedom. We will be forever listening out for the police knocking on the door in the early hours of the morning and wanting to check our computer files. That is not the Indonesia I love. We must all be free to be ourselves. Bhinneka Tunggal Ika!
The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and the Atheist Alliance International are collecting money towards his case. If you want to support Alex’s case financially, you can send a donation to the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. Just make sure to earmark it for Alex Aan. So far, we have raised over £600, including a donation from the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science UK).
If you recall, I had told you about the case of 30 year old atheist Alex Aan, the civil servant who had been beaten and arrested in Indonesia because his postings on Facebook ‘insulted Islam’. In an update on his case, it’s reported that he has been indicted on three counts. The report says that the trial was attended by five witnesses who had seen the pictures and posts on the Facebook group [and obviously still lived to tell the tale].
The Prosecutor has said the posts caused a ‘public disturbance and outcry’ [yes to all FIVE members of the public]. Apparently, the indictment was ‘strengthened by the fact that Yuhandri, an expert witness, said a person was not allowed to write anything that created public disturbance and outcry.’
Whilst this all seems like a really bad joke, let’s not forget that Alex has been in prison since 20 January. You may know that the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and the Atheist Alliance International are collecting money towards his case. We’ve sent him a letter asking him how he wants the money to be spent and what he needs.
A human rights activist will have gone to Padang today to meet Alex and his lawyers at Sijunjung court and give him our letter. He’ll also bring back more details about his case and what more we can do to help.
If you want to support Alex’s case financially, you can send a donation to the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. Just make sure to earmark it for Alex Aan. So far, we have raised around £600, including a donation from the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science UK).
In other news, there have been some reports that 23 year old Hamza Kashgari who faces execution in Saudi Arabia for his Tweets about Mohammad is now out of danger and is to be released imminently or that he is only being held ‘for his own safety’. But these reports are not true.
I just got two messages from a family member and a friend. One message said:
That’s not true, nothing has been confirmed so far, everything still foggy and in a gray area. We hear from him from one time to time informing us that he’s ok and that’s it.
We must keep the pressure on the Saudi goverment so that it doesn’t dare hurt him because the world’s attention has been turned elsewhere or because people think he is now safe. He’s not.
Here’s a petition you can sign; it’s already been signed by the likes of Soad Baba Aissa, Gita Sahgal, Salman Rushdie and Richard Dawkins. Please sign it now if you haven’t already done so.
By the way, here’s a site of his supporters. It has a counter. He has been in prison now for 60 days…
Have you heard about the two young Tunisians, Jabeur Mejri and Ghazi Beji, who have been sentenced to seven years in prison for posting cartoons of Mohammad, Islam’s prophet, on Facebook?
And yet we keep hearing how cartoons are offensive!?! Oh boo hoo.
For those of you who keep worrying about how cartoons offend ‘Muslim’ sensitivities’, remember this. It is Islamist sensibilities that are offended and that you are defending.
And it’s not just at the expense of Rhys Morgan or the students at Queen Mary, LSE or ULU who can still carry on with their lives despite absurd accusations of ‘Islamophobia’ after posting a (shock, horror) Jesus and Mo cartoon.
Also it’s at the expense of innumerable young lives facing imprisonment, torture and even execution for cartoons and Tweets across the Middle East and North Africa. Here are a few of them.
Now that is offensive.
On 19 March 2012 I’ll be on a panel discussion on ‘Freedom of speech, multiculturalism and Islam’ with Inayat Bunglawala, Founder and Chair of Muslims4UK, and DV8′s Artistic Director Lloyd Newson to discuss issues raised in their new production ‘Can We Talk about This?’ at Lyttleton Theatre, National Theatre, London.
Tickets £4 (£3 concessions)
Running time: 6-7pm
For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.
Here’s Hassan Radwan’s video to mark International Day to defend Blasphemers and Apostates.
Hassan who is on the Management Committee of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain gathered statements from Muslims, ex-Muslims and non-Muslims for the video.
Just a reminder that today is the International Day of Action to Defend Blasphemers and Apostates.
As I said before, I will be marking the day by speaking at Queen Mary College on Sharia and Human Rights, which had been cancelled earlier due to Islamist threats.
What will you be doing to mark this day?
Post your actions and support here or on the Facebook page below.
Here is more information on the day and contact details where you can send your protests:
Countless individuals face threats, imprisonment, and execution because of their criticism of religion and religious authorities. Blasphemy and Apostasy laws as well as uncodified rules imposed by both state and non-state actors aim primarily to restrict thought and expression and limit the rights of Muslims, ex-Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Such rules exist in a number of countries including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Jordan, Morocco, Turkey, Yemen, Iraq and elsewhere.
On 14 March 2012, we, the undersigned, are calling for simultaneous events and actions in defence of the critics of religion in order to highlight medieval laws and exert pressure to save the lives of the women and men facing execution, imprisonment or threats.
Whilst there are countless people awaiting punishment under these rules and regulations, we are highlighting ten such cases, namely: [Read more...]
As you know, One Law for All has recently been involved in campaigning to defend freedom of expression, both here and abroad. We will continue to do so. Not only is there a moral imperative to defend free expression, but it is precisely this vital right that is under attack by Islamists all over the world as they attempt to frighten people into silence and prevent any discussion of Islam or sharia.
Sharia Law and Human Rights: Take Two at Queen Mary College
In January, my own speech on ‘Sharia law and human rights’ at Queen Mary was cancelled by the organisers following Islamist threats. This was followed by various motions being passed at other universities cracking down on ‘Islamophobic speech’. We are therefore pleased to report that the cancelled Queen Mary talk has been rescheduled and will take place at the Skeel Lecture Theatre, Francis Bancroft Building, Queen Mary, University of London, E1 4NS. Both Maryam Namazie and I will be speaking from 7pm on Wednesday 14th March. Please note that anyone attending the event who is not a student or staff of QM must register in order to be admitted into the event. [Read more...]