Why remove One Law for All’s name?

On the cancellation of our talk, New Humanist magazine wrote: Yesterday evening, a talk on “Sharia Law and Human Rights” organised by the Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society at Queen Mary, University London, had to be cancelled after threats of violence. The talk was due to be given by Anne Marie Waters of the One Law For All campaign, which campaigns against the use of Sharia in the UK.

Correction: The British Humanist Association posted a press release on the cancellation as well (it did so first) without any reference to Anne Marie and One Law for All.

An oversight maybe?

More likely it is part of the ongoing effort to ignore the real links between campaigning against Sharia law and attacks on free expression as well as their priority of working with religions rather than keeping religion out of the public sphere.

Mentioned or not, though, we mean business and we will get rid of Sharia law.

You can expect threats if you discuss Sharia

My One Law for All Co-Spokesperson Anne Marie Waters was to speak at a meeting on Sharia Law and Human Rights at the University of London last night.

It was cancelled by the Queen Mary Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society organisers after police had to be called in due to Islamist threats. One Islamist filmed everyone at the meeting and announced he would hunt down those who said anything negative about Islam’s prophet. Outside the hall, he threatened to kill anyone who defamed the prophet. Reference was made to the Jesus and Mo cartoon saga at UCL.

The University’s security guard – a real gem –arrived first only to blame the speaker and organisers rather than those issuing death threats. He said: ‘If you will have these discussions, what do you expect?’ Err, to speak without being threatened with death maybe?

I ask that organisers re-arrange another meeting on the same topic and invite us back again. This time we urge them to be more prepared so that the meeting can go ahead as planned. This is an important battleground for atheist, secularist and humanists groups and must be taken seriously. We can’t – and won’t – allow the Islamists to have the final word on this.

Again, this is not about lacking cultural sensitivity or discrimination as the pathetic UCL Union thinks. It is not about racism and ‘Islamophobia’. It is not our fault for raising the issues. We are not to blame for ‘provoking’ the Islamists; they need no such provocation…

It’s about being able to criticise and speak out against that which is taboo and the barbarism of our century. Free expression is all we have at our disposal to do so.

Stand up for it and refuse to budge or there will nothing left when they are through with you.

When will we finish with the damn mosques

An engineer in charge of a project to create gardens around a mosque in Abu Dhabi lost his temper during a meeting because the project was progressing slowly. He was reported to the police by his colleagues as saying: ‘When will we finish with the damn mosques?’. The poor man was sentenced to one month in prison and is appealing the decision.

For readers who like Sharia, this will be yet another example of its glory – at least his head wasn’t chopped off.

And for those who insist that mentioning mosques on their own is discriminatory against one religious group, let me add, ‘when will we finish with the damn mosques, churches and synagogues’ if only to protect their tender sensibilities…

(Via Deeyah)

When blasphemy is a matter of life and death

Blasphemy is the order of the day on freethoughtblogs. In the Islamic regime of Iran, however, it is a matter of life and death. The regime’s supreme Sharia court has upheld the death sentence of 40 year old Ahmad Reza Hashempour who was arrested in 2007 for ‘membership in anti-religion and blasphemous websites.’ He’s been tortured, forced to confess on TV and become known as one of the ‘Heretics 3’. Vahid Asghari, aged 25, has also been condemned to death for maintaining a website against religion and Islam as has Saeid Malekpour, an Iranian-Canadian citizen.

Of course in a theocracy, anything you say against god’s rule on earth is deemed blasphemous. And whilst no such death sentence hangs over us here in Britain or the west, it will do us well to remember why it is important to be able to mock Islam and religion and why it is a necessity to do so.

(Via Mina Ahadi)

Jesus and Mo an act of discrimination? Who knew?

The UCLU Atheist, Secularist & Humanist Society (ASH) President has just published a statement on their Facebook page on the Jesus and Mo image censorship attempt by the UCL Union saying: ‘We can now tell you that the University College London Union has recognized that mistakes were made and that the initial correspondence with our society was flawed. The Union is to review its stance on such matters and has said that this will not happen again. They can no longer call on us to withdraw the image. We welcome these developments, which set an important precedent for other universities.’

Good news indeed.

However, ‘the Union has considered the possibility that posting the image might have constituted an act of bullying, prejudice, harassment or discrimination.’

Really? How so? [Read more…]

Don’t barter away our free expression

The UCL Atheist, Humanist and Secular Society (ASH) has published a report on the December event where Anne Marie Waters and I debated members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association on Sharia law. The debate can be seen here as can my blog entries on it here and here.

The report highlights an affliction that many humanist groups in particular, including student groups, have when it comes to dealing with Islamic groups.

The UCL ASH report’s unfortunate conclusion is a case in point. It says that apparently ‘the two sides of the motion maintained different concepts of ‘Sharia Law’, i.e. as it is practiced versus as it is truly described – which concept is the most relevant today is a question to brought forward’.

I wonder if they would reach the same conclusion had proponents of canon law been adamant that the inquisition had nothing to do with the tenets of Christianity…

This affliction arises partly because of the gullibility of these groups. They believe Islamists at face value despite all evidence to the contrary and are keen to label anyone they can as a ‘moderate’. In that specific December debate on Sharia for example, when I spoke of the Hadith on stoning, the Ahmadiyya speaker said none existed in order to prove that his Islam was not the Islam being practiced in countries where stoning to death takes place. Immediately, this was seen as proof of there being ‘different concepts’ of Sharia law. But the speaker was lying and admitted as much. To those saying he should not have lied, the speaker Ayaaz Mahmood later commented: ‘Had Maryam asked me, “Has the Holy Prophet (sa) ever ordered that a man be stoned to death?” To this, I would have had to answer yes, and then hope and pray that the moderator would give me a minute or two (which isn’t really enough) to explain the whole background of those specific Ahadith… But of course, at the time, the opportunity did not afford itself to give this entire explanation. So I gave her the direct answer to her question, which was a big, “NO”. Only to silence her. Because I didn’t want to get into this whole issue during the debate…’

Ayaaz Mahmood did the same with the verse in the Koran on wife beating (he said it was not a beating as no marks could be left!) and on Aisha’s age (she was 18 according to him but still playing with dolls) and so on… Rather than seeing through this, the group sees the discrepancies as ‘different concepts’ of Islam.

The affliction also arises partly due to the hegemony of a ‘pragmatic’ approach in the Humanist movement that is keen on promoting inter-faith work and coalitions irrespective of their consequences and actually seems to prefer it especially since it opens a space for humanism on par with religions.

Which brings me back to the current censorship attempt on the UCL ASH for using a Jesus and Mo image on their Facebook page. The UCL ASH and the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies (AHS) insist that this has nothing to do with the Ahmadiyya Association. I am not so sure, particularly since this fiasco quickly follows a heated debate on Sharia law. And whilst the ASH has been insistent that the Ahmadiyya Association finds the publication of the image within its legal rights, the Ahmadiyya Association treasurer has also said that the Union might be within its legal rights to ask for the removal of the image… See the doublespeak? [Read more…]

The right to offend – even more crudely and savagely than Jesus and Mo

The University College London Union has insisted that the UCLU Atheist, Secularist & Humanist Society (ASH) remove a Mohammad-related image from a web-comic from its Facebook event on the grounds that it may cause offence to Muslim students and as a result of ‘complaints’.

The group is fighting back and has set up a petition, which must be unequivocally supported. Finally a pulse in the atheist, secular, humanist student movement (but I will get to that in another blog entry)!

The Treasurer of UCLU Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association (the same group Anne Marie and I debated on Sharia law at the UCL in December) says that whilst the Society ‘are within their legal rights to keep their cartoon up and indeed, as they have done so, to put up more cartoons, regardless as to other people’s religious sentiments,’ they should remove it because it causes offense.

Of course in usual doublespeak, he adds that it may be that ‘the UCL Union is within their rights to request the UCLU ASH to remove the cartoon. The UCLU ASH is a branch of the Union and as such must abide by a particular code of conduct set out by the Union. It should be remembered that an act must be judged by its intention. It is obvious that the purpose of these cartoons is not to initiate discussion or reasonable criticism of Christianity or Islam but to insult and poke fun at. If the Union therefore judges this action as being deliberately hurtful and asks the UCLU ASH to remove the cartoon, it may be that UCLU ASH does not have reasonable grounds to resist. The Union must look to the sentiments of the whole of its student population and, being a branch of the Union, the UCLU ASH must abide by that decision.’

There has been huge support for the UCLU ASH Society. However, those supporting it because Jesus and Mo is ‘anything but savage and crass’ or because it is not ‘in any way driven by a wish to offend – they are quite witty, not crude or aggressive – and the ASHS might quite reasonably have assumed that those likely to be offended wouldn’t be hanging out on their Facebook page in any case’ miss the point. [Read more…]

MEPs condemn the assassination of Islam critic, Rafiq Tagi

In early December, Mina Ahadi, Nick Cohen, Richard Dawkins, Taslima Nasrin, Salman Rushdie, Joan Smith and I wrote a letter to the European parliament calling on them to condemn and investigate the assassination of Islam critic Rafiq Tagi. Mina Ahadi delivered our letter during her meeting with the office of the European Parliament President.

Mina has just informed me that Members of the European Parliament have this week condemned Rafiq Tagi’s assassination and expressed concern over the safety of his colleague, Samir Sadagatoglu, the editor of Sanat newspaper. They have also called on the Azerbaijani government to ensure a thorough investigation into his murder and for the prosecution of the perpetrators.

If you recall, in 2006 Ayatollah Lankarani issued a death fatwa against him. Ayatollah Lankarani’s son (whose father has since died) saluted Tagi’s murder; the Islamic regime of Iran’s paper gleefully wrote ‘Azerbaijan’s Salman Rushdie is dead.’ [Read more…]

A photo of Mohammad will have to do! (In support of Charlie Hebdo)

I’m reposting this from yesterday’s blog entry at my old site due to its importance:

In 2006, Charlie Hebdo, the French left-wing journal, published a Manifesto against Totalitarianism that I and several others including Taslima Nasreen, Salman Rushdie and Ibn Warraq signed in support of freedom of expression during the Danish Mohammad caricature fiasco. I published the cartoons on my blog at the time too.

Today, the weekly was firebombed for publishing a special edition on the Arab Spring and calling itself Charia (Sharia) Hebdo for the occasion. Mohammad was featured as the ‘guest editor.’ [Read more…]