Blasphemy is always good

I’ll be speaking at the Blasphemy, religious hatred, and human rights: Who speaks for the sacred? conference today Saturday at Conway Hall in London.

My talk will focus on how accusations of blasphemy, offensive speech and ‘Islamophobia’ censor and restrict free speech, limit citizen rights, and aid and abet Islamism. With all that’s going on, it’s a good time for blasphemy…

I’ll be bringing leaflets for the 11 February London rally for Free Expression to the event in case anyone wants to come and pick some up for distribution. And yes, it’s got Jesus and Mo on its cover…

Other speakers at the conference are Kenan Malik, Andrew Copson, Austin Dacey and Jacob Mchangama. See what they’ll be speaking about below. [Read more...]

LSE Student Union: Can we have a resolution on Christianity-phobia, Atheism-phobia and Judaism-phobia too?

I ask that the LSE Student Union hold another Emergency meeting to issue a resolution on Judaism-phobia, Christianity-phobia and Atheism-phobia. If criticising Islam is racist and discriminatory, well why not the criticism of Judaism, Christianity, or Atheism? I feel left out and to be honest – slightly offended…

Here’s what the resolution on Christianity-phobia would look like. [This is the SU's original resolution; I have just exchanged the two terms. The comments in brackets are my own].

No to racism – no to Christianityphobia!

Union notes
1. The rise of Christianityphobia in the United Kingdom and world-wide
2. The rise of the extreme right in Europe [including Islamism, which is a far-Right movement]
3. The Christianityphobic offences internationally
4. Recent Christianityphobic incidents at LSE. [The Jesus and Mo cartoon will suffice as evidence] [Read more...]

LSE Student Union supports criticism of religion – just not Islam

One way that people in Iran survive under the Islamic Republic of Iran is by making fun of its leaders and the clergy. Mockery can be a form of resistance too. Such jokes can be considered blasphemous, particularly since the regime’s leaders represent god’s rule on earth. Free expression, including mockery, though, is sometimes all that people have at their disposal to refuse and resist.

But please don’t mention it to the LSE Student Union as they will soon be issuing resolutions against the people of Iran… They will do anything to defend Islam and Islamism, and I do mean anything. They have just issued a resolution on Islamophobia most likely in order to try and silence and censor the LSE Atheist Secularist and Humanist Society for posting a Jesus and Mo cartoon on their Facebook page.

Of course the resolution states very clearly that the LSE Student Union supports free expression and criticism of religion – but only if the religion is not Islam…

(Link via Mike Tobin)

The right to offend is fundamental to free expression

Here’s One Law for All’s statement in support of LSE ASH:

One Law for All calls on the London School of Economics Student Union to respect and uphold the rights of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH), in particular its right to freedom of expression.

Their accusation that the publication of a cartoon featuring Jesus Christ and the Prophet Mohammed amounts to ‘racism and discrimination on campus’ is both absurd and dangerous.

The right to offend is fundamental to the right to free expression. Indeed, offence is a highly subjective concept, thereby rendering every word, drawing, or speech potentially offensive.

The LSE SU should understand the difference between prejudice against a group of people and criticism of a set of beliefs.

The ASH must be allowed to continue their activities unhindered and any action against them dropped. [Read more...]

We give this kuffar the right to speak

Bruce Gordon has written about the attacks on free speech and 11 February Day for Free Expression in the South African Times Live. He ends by saying:

These are direct attacks not only on the freedoms and rights of atheists and skeptics, but on everybody, everywhere. These are attacks on the basic human right to disagree, the right which is fundamental to all the others.

For too long fear has been treated as not simply a valid alternative to argument, but a superior one. For too long authoritarians of every stripe have told us, “Your facts are rendered irrelevant by our fists” and caused chaos, destruction and war through their violence.

As South Africans, of every faith and none, of every alignment and none, we stand against this privately in our everyday lives. We know that our rights begin in the rights of others, because we have seen what happens when that principle is cast aside.

On the 11 of February, One Law for All is arranging a rally to stand up against this. What do you intend to do? Are you prepared to stand up and say “We give this kuffar the right to speak”?

Islamophobia is used to scaremonger people into silence

The Guardian has published a letter calling for an inquiry into the ‘anti-Islam’ press.

Whilst racism must be unequivocally condemned, the signatories – like the Guardian, confuse racism with a criticism of Islam. They are not one and the same no matter how many letters and articles the Guardian publishes.

Islamophobia is nothing but a political term used to scaremonger people into silence. [And yes I'm looking at you Islamophobia Watch.]

Well I am sorry but no can do.

You cannot attribute human qualities to a belief system or Islam and Islamism in order to rule out and deem racist any opposition or criticism.

Just in case they didn’t know, let me repeat. Criticism, mockery, opposition to and even hatred of a belief Is. Not. Racism.

Now if the signatories bothered to think rather than parrot Islamist propaganda, they would see that this is the case.  In their own letter they refer to a poll commissioned by the ‘moderate’ Ahmadiyya Muslim community, in order to ‘inform its plans to counter the tide of prejudice against Islam and highlight strategies to promote better community relations.’

That’s what the term is there for – to protect Islam – from prejudice, not Muslims. Given the havoc Islamism (and its banner, Islam) are wreaking worldwide, a criticism is not just a right but a historical task and duty.

(Link via Anne Marie Waters)

It’s London School of Economic’s turn

Now it is the London School of Economics Student Union;s turn having instructed the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH) to remove cartoons featuring Jesus and Mohammed from their Facebook page. LSESU ASH is not complying with the instruction and has appealed to LSESU to withdraw it.

Good on them.

LSESU ASH President Chris Moos, who will be speaking at the 11 February rally for free expression, made the following statement on behalf of the Society’s committee:

‘There are no reasonable grounds for the LSESU’s instruction because we are in no way violating their policies or byelaws. The cartoons on our Facebook page criticise religion in a satirical way and we totally reject any claim that their publications could constitute any sort of harassment or intimidation of Muslims or Christians. [Read more...]

Free Expression Day of Action is our chance to take a stand

The One Law for All 11 February rally for Free Expression is being held in London from 14:00-16:00 hours at the Old Palace Yard opposite the House of Lords. [Here is leaflet for download and distribution.]

Confirmed Speakers at London Rally: Hasan Afzal (Stand for Peace), Jenny Bartle (National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies), Roy Brown (International Humanist and Ethical Union), Nick Cohen (Writer), Sue Cox (Survivors Voice Europe), Christopher Crowley-Jenns (Kings College London), Alex Gabriel (Blogger), A C Grayling (Philosopher), Faisal Gazi (Spittoon.org), Jennifer Hardy (Queen Mary Atheism Humanism and Secularism Society), Kenan Malik (Writer), Chris Moos (London School of Economics Atheist, Secularist, and Humanist Society), Rhys Morgan (Student activist), Maryam Namazie (One Law for All and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain), Yasmin Rehman (Campaigner), Pragna Patel (Southall Black Sisters), Gita Sahgal, (Centre for Secular Space), Terry Sanderson/Keith Porteous Wood (National Secular Society), Kate Smurthwaite (Comedian), Bahram Soroush (Labour Rights Activist), Rupert Sutton (Student Rights), Jac Thomas (Kings College London Atheist, Secularist & Humanist Society), Marco Tranchino (Central London Humanist Group), Anne Marie Waters (One Law for All) and Susan Zhuang (University College London Atheist, Secularist & Humanist Society). There will be a message from Richard Dawkins and the Jesus and Mo cartoonist.

The call for action follows an increased number of attacks on free expression in the UK, including a 17 year old Rhys Morgan being forced to remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon or face expulsion from his Sixth Form College and demands by the UCL Union that the Atheist society remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon from its Facebook page. It also follows threats of violence, police being called, and the cancellation of a meeting at Queen Mary College where One Law for All spokesperson Anne Marie Waters was to deliver a speech on Sharia.

The Day of Action has already been endorsed by nearly 100 groups and individuals including Jessica Ahlquist, Centre for Secular Spaces, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, Richard Dawkins, Equal Rights Now, Jesus and Mo Creator, Taslima Nasrin, National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies, National Secular Society, Salman Rushdie, Southall Black Sisters, and Peter Tatchell. To see the list and add your own, click here.

Moreover, One Law for All and the National Secular Society are following up on the incident at which a One Law for All meeting was cancelled at Queen Mary after death threats. Tower Hamlets police said this morning that investigations in to the incident are on-going. They are working with university security and examining CCTV in attempts to identify the offender. They have also offered a police presence when the speech is rescheduled. We reported that the person making the threats had been seen again at the Francis Bancroft building on Wednesday 17. Furthermore, Dominic Bell, Vice President of the Student Union at University of London, said that his union is ‘committed to freedom of speech’ and would aim to improve the quality of security at their events. He said the union is ‘working on improving our monitoring and assessment of risk and [he] will be meeting the Director of Student and Campus Services and the Head of Security more frequently to go through this’.

In addition to the London, there will be actions and acts of solidarity in other cities, including Australia, France, Gambia, Germany and Poland. To see the list or to add your own action or event, click here.

Clearly, the time has come to take a firm and uncompromising stand for free expression and against all forms of threats and censorship.

The right to criticise religion is a fundamental right that is crucial to many, including Muslims.

11 February is our chance to take that stand.

You need to be there.

Enough is enough.

For more information, and details of the Day of Action, visit One Law for All.
BM Box 2387
London WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
onelawforall@gmail.com

Join London Rally’s Facebook page here and Tweet #11FebFEDay.

The rally is sponsored by The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason UK.

Below is media coverage of the rally and attacks on free expression:

A Day to Stand up for Free Expression, South African Times Live, 24 January 2012 [external link]

How freedom goes, The Spectator, 22 January 2012 [external link]

Strong religious belief is no excuse for intimidation, The Independent, 22 January 2012 [external link]

11 February: A Day to Defend Free Expression, New Zealand’s Scoop, 20 January 2012 [external link]

Islamist stops university talk with threats of violence, National Secular Society Newsline, 17 January 2012 [external link]

Inaccurate, dogmatically secularist scaremongering!?

Ah yes, the old ‘inaccurate, dogmatically secularist scaremongering [which] plays directly into the hands of the far right and will be used to bolster a racist narrative about the Islamic threat to the West’ response to Joan Smith’s article on the Islamist threat to free expression.

I know, I know. Saying that people have a right to speak is somehow scaremongering but issuing death threats and bogus accusations of racism aren’t. Hmm, I suppose when you are so prone to defending religion, logic does need to take a back seat.

The article says:

So, to summarise, we have one individual who disrupted a meeting, a polite request by an Ahmadiyyah student group that an illustration which offended Muslims should be withdrawn, and a dubious report of a threat to Salman Rushdie which Rushdie himself says in baseless. And this supposedly amounts to a pattern of Muslim intimidation of critics of Islam.

Interesting how Islamists have a way of trivialising things – and forgetting a tiny little thing like their track record.

The website reporting this journalistic gem is linked to the Islamic regime in Iran so I suppose enough said.

When offending sensibilities is more important than death threats

A complaint has been lodged against four authors who read out excerpts from Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses in protest to his being prevented from attending Jaipur Literature Festival due to death threats.

One of the authors, Hari Kunzru, says:

‘We wanted to demystify the book. It is, after all, just a book. Not a bomb. Not a knife or a gun. Just a book.’

Yes just a book but clearly Islamist ‘sensibilities’ are more important than death threats and murder.

In support of the authors and Rushdie, I publish the following from the Satanic Verses here. [Read more...]

How freedom goes

The recent attacks on free expression have been mentioned in the press, by well-known secularists, namely Joan Smith: ‘Strong religious belief is no excuse for intimidation‘ and Nick Cohen: How Freedom Goes. Both have endorsed the 11 February One Law for All day of action in defence of free expression.

They may be ‘lone voices’, as Nick Cohen says, but – trust me – not for long.

In defence of Alex Aan

I just got the following email:

We are a group of international people, Indonesian as well as other nationalities, including ex-indonesian journalists as well as legal assistants, supporting Alex Aan in regard to his recent arrest and charges under Indonesian law for blasphemy due to his posts on the wall of his Facebook group of which he is one of the admin. Alex Aan exercised his right to free speech in a democratic country, Indonesia, by openly questioning the existence of god and criticizing Islam.

We are please asking for your help in spreading the word about our Facebook group.

We are very concerned about Alex Aan and his family’s safety and hope that international pressure and outrage at this violation of his basic human rights will result in him being freed as soon as possible. Thank you for your help in support of Alex Aan.

Well what are you waiting for? Support Alex now. And the right to blasphemy.

Freedom of expression is not just for Islamists

Adam Walker, Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association spokesman, says: ‘The principle is more important than who is being attacked – this time it is Muslims and Christians but in the future it could be atheists themselves’.

But not causing offence is not a principle the last time I looked.

If it were, they would be the first to be censored because every other word that comes out of them, the Koran, the Hadith, Islamic jurisprudence as well as the Bible and Torah… is offensive.

I know the UCL Union, Queen Mary College security, the BBC, and apologists for Islamism are all more concerned with causing offence than they are with free expression.

But dear readers, it is freedom of expression that is the principle and that is something that we will need to teach the ‘moderate’ Ahmadiyyas and the Islamists.

First lesson: Freedom of expression is not just for Islamists and the religious.

We are behind you

The UCL Atheist president has resigned. To those who have resigned and the ones who will take their places: Don’t worry. Don’t be afraid. We are behind you and we aim to win…

As an aside, the UCL Union said in a statement: ‘The atheist society has agreed they will take more consideration when drawing up publicity for future events.’ I suggest that the UCL Union take more consideration when censoring free expression and appeasing Islamists. They are not going to get away with it anymore.

UPDATE AND CORRECTION

The president of Queen Mary atheist group has not resigned. She just sent me the following email:

I have not resigned. I want to see the society through this turbulent time at least untill the police investigation has been resolved.

I will then review the situation and decide how to proceed with the society.

I am happy to answer any other questions that you may have, and look forward to rescheduling the talk.

Jennifer

 

 

HOLD THIS DATE – 11 February 2012: A Day to Defend Free Expression

One Law for All is calling for a rally in defence of free expression and the right to criticise religion on 11 February 2012 in central London from 2-4pm.

We are also calling for simultaneous events and acts in defence of free expression on 11 February in countries world-wide.

The call follows an increased number of attacks on free expression in the UK, including a 17 year old being forced to remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon or face expulsion from his Sixth Form College and demands by the UCL Union that the Atheist society remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon from its Facebook page. It also follows threats of violence, police being called, and the cancellation of a meeting at Queen Mary College where One Law for All spokesperson Anne Marie Waters was to deliver a speech on Sharia. Saying ‘Who gave these kuffar the right to speak?’, an Islamist website called for the disruption of the meeting. Two days later at the same college, though, the Islamic Society held a meeting on traditional Islam with a speaker who has called for the death of apostates, those who mock Islam, and secularist Muslims. [Read more...]

Guess whose meeting wasn’t cancelled?

Queen Mary Islamic Society held a meeting today on ‘Traditional Islam’ with Abu Zabair as its speaker. It was advertised on ummahforum.com where the following call to disrupt [read threaten with violence] the 16 January meeting at which Anne Marie Waters was speaking on behalf of One Law for All on Sharia Law and Human Rights was also posted:

Brothers, the Queen Mary Athiest Society, sister of the shaytaani UCL Athiest Society (which published pictures of Rasoolullah(saw)) are holding an event today at Queen Mary University of London at 7:00 pm on ‘ Is Shariah in violation of human rights’.. We need your presence. Who gave these kuffar the right to speak? Let me ask you – if a bunch of kuffar got together and were given the right to touch your mother up and analyse her, then would you stand by and let it happen? Then what about your deen?!! Remember, these guys hate religion and are not looking to have an unbiased debate. Please be here by 7 pm. to let them know what we think. Back in my day no-one in UNi would dare even look the wrong way at a muslim, because we used to represent our deen and didnt take kindly to it being insulted. It is only when the pacifists ecame numerous that the kuffar dared to raise their heads. @ david sizer lecture theatre- francis bancroft building.

Anyway I digress.

Abu Zubair has said the following as transcribed by Spittoon.org here:

Anybody who mocks Allah or his messenger or anyone or any aspect of religion which is known from the deen [religion], by necessity is a kaffir and a murtad [apostate] and is subject to execution because the prophet said “execute the one who changes his religion”. [Read more...]

It’s not just about you or Jesus and Mo

Recently, there have been a number of high profile attacks on free expression by Islamists often supported by educational institutions and others.

What I find most absurd about it all is how the fundamental debate on Islam and free expression has become framed within a context of offence, racism and discrimination.

What has happened here in the west is that the Islamic movement’s inhuman, barbaric and medieval sensibilities and values are portrayed and excused as the offended sensibilities and values of all ‘Muslims’.

Islamist threats, violence and terrorism are tactics and pillars of the political Islamic movement, and have nothing to do with ‘Muslim sensibilities’. Whilst we are all offended at least some of the time (and very often by Islam itself), most of us – religious or not – Muslim or not – never resort to death threats and violence. If they were really people’s own sensibilities and beliefs, Islamic states and movements wouldn’t need to resort to such indiscriminate violence and to Sharia law. [Read more...]

Teacher arrested in Bangladesh for having Taslima Nasreen’s novel

Please send messages of solidarity with the teacher to sultanakamal9@gmail.com.

Press Release

We, the undersigned strongly protest the arrest of Mr. Yunus Ali, the Head Teacher of KC Technical and Business Management College of Pirojpur, on 4 January, 2012. Mr. Ali was arrested for having allegedly kept a copy of writer Taslima Nasreen’s novel “Lajja” (“Shame”) in the college library. This arrest is a clear breach of the right to freedom of speech and shows the presence of a broad range of communal and generally reactionary forces in our society.

We believe that the banning of books clearly violates the right to freedom of thought and expression, which constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic and pluralistic society during the information age of the 21st century and is enshrined in the Constitution of Bangladesh. Dissenting ideas and opinions should be faced through a healthy debate, not censorship and arrest. A state’s weakness, intolerance and imprudence are revealed when a literary work is banned in this manner. [Read more...]

17 year old forced to remove Jesus and Mo image to evade expulsion

Ophelia Benson and Jen McCreight alerted me to the case of 17 year old UK Student Rhys Morgan who was called into a meeting with his head of year at his sixth form college about the Jesus and Mo image and told that they were considering expelling him if he didn’t take the cartoon down. He reports being harassed at school and being ostracised for posting the cartoon.

I just emailed him to see what we could do to support him. He wrote back saying:

‘Unfortunately, given the extreme situation, I’ve removed the image in question.

‘They thanked me for being “co-operative”, even though the reason I did it was purely selfish – not being expelled.

‘They didn’t actually state whether I was going to be, but based on their wording, it’s obvious that is what they were threatening.’

I know a lot of people are appalled by this and other recent events to stifle free expression by Islamists and their apologists or appeasers.

I say, let’s take to the streets to show we mean business.

Anyone available for a rally on 11 February in the afternoon?

A press release will soon follow.