MARYAM NAMAZIE: Why I had to face down the bullies trying to silence my supposedly ‘offensive’ stance on Islam

2FEAE44E00000578-3391194-image-a-30_1452297932020Original published in Daily Mail on 9 January 2016

This week marked the first anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.

The atrocity was a brutal attack not just on human life but also on the principle of free speech, one of the pillars of human civilisation. In the aftermath of the killings, people across the world united to express their support for that essential liberty.

Yet today, freedom of speech in British universities is under heavier assault than ever before.

In this case, the weapon of destruction is not the barrel of a gun but the proclaimed desire to maintain student safety by turning university campuses into ‘safe spaces’ where students will be shielded from anything they might find offensive.

Within our society, there should of course be safe spaces – such as women’s refuges – for victims of violence, discrimination and abuse. But it is wrong to hijack this concept as a means of stifling open debate within the higher education system.

By their very nature, universities should be ‘unsafe spaces’ where orthodoxies are challenged and opinions questioned. Why go to university at all if you feel you have to be ‘protected’ from views you dislike? That is a recipe for intellectual paralysis. Indeed, most human progress stems from a willingness to embrace ‘unsafe’ or ‘offensive’ ideas.

Moreover, what is considered ‘offensive’ or ‘hate speech’ is highly subjective. All too often the limits of speech are set by those with the loudest voices or the most political influence, like religious bodies or student unions or the state authorities. Once the limits are set, it’s a slippery slope. Limiting free speech silences and censors dissenting voices which most need to be heard.

That has certainly been my recent experience of British university life. I am an Iranian-born ex-Muslim woman who campaigns against Islamism and is critical of all religions, including Islam.

The central theme of my work is the promotion of equality, secularism and universal rights for all, including ex-Muslims, Muslims and migrants.

Despite my progressive outlook, my opposition to Islamism has led to regular attempts to silence me through so-called ‘safe space’ policies. To the ‘safe space’ brigade, I must be ostracised because of my supposedly ‘offensive’ stance on Islam, even though I am the target of frequent abuse and even death threats.

In one recent example of this trend, the Islamic society at Goldsmiths University in south London tried to get my talk to the students’ Atheist Society cancelled on the grounds that I would violate their ‘safe space’ policy by inciting ‘hatred and bigotry’. When this attempt to gag me failed, the Islamic Society president and its ‘brothers’ sought to create a mood of fear and intimidation at my talk.

It was the same story at Warwick University in October, when the student union tried to bar my talk to the Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists Society (WASH) because I am, apparently ‘highly inflammatory and could incite hatred on campus’. Fortunately, the student union’s decision provoked a wave of protests, and my visit was able to go ahead.

By their very nature, universities should be ‘unsafe spaces’ where orthodoxies are challenged and opinions questioned. Why go to university at all if you feel you have to be ‘protected’ from views you dislike?

But these two cases show very clearly how ‘safe space’ policies are being used to silence critics by promoting the Islamist narrative, which conflates criticism of Islam and Islamism with bigotry against Muslims.

The Goldsmiths Islamic Society’s approach is all the more absurd given that it has invited speakers who defend jihad and the death penalty for apostates.

In the fashionable tale of victimhood cultivated by Islamic Society leaders and their Student Union allies, there is a deeply patronising view of Muslim students as a single, homogeneous body with one regressive mindset. But this is completely false.

During my talk at Goldsmiths, Muslim women and migrants of Muslim background spoke up against the aggressive behaviour of the Islamic Society members.

I have also received letters from other Muslims at the talk who agreed with me, but felt too intimidated to act. So when student unions side with Islamic societies against people like myself, they are not ‘protecting’ Muslims against bigotry, but siding with Islamists.

In their campaign to stifle free speech, the ‘safe space’ ideologues seek to equate ‘offensive’ speech with real harm. But their argument could hardly be more hollow. The expression of ideas, even if offensive and hurtful, is not the same as causing mental or physical injury.

That’s not to say that hate speech doesn’t exist. Groups like Britain First express hatred against migrants, Muslims and apostates every day. But you can’t stop hate speech by stifling free expression. Free expression is vital for any society. And it is not free unless it is free for everyone, including those whose views are deemed distasteful and even hateful, as long as they are not inciting violence.

What we need is not more restrictions on free speech, but the opposite.

For that, we need an end to the bullying ‘safe space’ policies adopted by the National Union of Students.

Goldsmiths Student Union request and more

I have received the following email from the Chief Executive of Goldsmiths Students’ Union today (one of three since yesterday) asking to remove the video of my talk for the Atheists Society on Monday 30 November on Apostasy, Blasphemy and Free Expression in the age of ISIS. You can see my reply refusing to do so below.

I’m disappointed and concerned to see that the video you have posted of you speaking at the event at Goldsmiths hosted by Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society and entitled: Apostasy, blasphemy and free expression in the age of ISIS’ has still not been removed.

A number of students have complained about the video as their consent to be filmed was not asked at the start of the meeting by your camera-operator and this is now viewable on a public website. This is very distressing for these students and we therefore ask that this video is removed from your site as a matter of urgency.

Again, I would appreciate a response asap so I can reassure students that action is being taken. Thank you.

I wrote back:

Thank you for your email.

We won’t be removing the video of my talk at Goldsmiths and the attempts at intimidation carried out by a number of the Islamic Society’s “brothers”. The video has now gone viral and been posted on numerous media outlets and other websites.

I am sorry for any distress caused, particularly as a result of the intimidation tactics of the Islamic Society prior, during and after my talk, and in particular that caused by some of the ISOC “brothers” who attempted to disrupt the event. Nonetheless, this was a public meeting; all those attending saw it being videotaped and made no requests for anonymity. There was implied consent. Moreover, given that some ISOC members have made their own selective clips of the meeting and publicised it on social media, a video of the entire meeting is needed to clarify any misinformation and provide the full facts. This is particularly crucial given that the Goldsmiths Atheist Society is calling for an investigation into the debacle.

I look forward to Goldsmiths investigation and hope that it helps to put an end to its ISOC’s unrestrained attempts at creating fear and intimidation at the expense of free expression and dissent.

If you haven’t also heard, both the Feminist Society and LGBTQ+ Society of Goldsmiths have come out with solidarity messages – for the Islamic Society – and of course not for me. The irony…


Video: Goldsmith University Islamist thugs fail to disrupt speech on blasphemy and apostasy


Maryam Namazie spoke on “apostasy, blasphemy and free expression in the age of ISIS” on 30 November 2015 at Goldsmiths University at the invitation of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH).

Goldsmiths Islamic Society (ISOC) called for the talk’s cancellation saying Maryam’s presence is “a violation to [their] safe space,” and that she will “incite hatred and bigotry, at a very sensitive time for Muslims in the light of a huge rise in Islamophobic attacks.”

When the talk went ahead as planned, ISOC “brothers” attended the meeting in order to disrupt and create a climate of fear and intimidation. PLEASE NOTE THAT THE ISOC “SISTERS” AND OTHER MUSLIMS ATTENDING DID NOT SUPPORT OR DEFEND THEIR THUGGISH BEHAVIOUR.

Despite the many attempts of the ISOC “brothers,” the meeting ended successfully and raised critical issues, including that criticism of Islam and Islamism are not bigotry against Muslims who are often the first victims of Islamism and on the frontlines of resistance. The meeting also helped expose the Islamists for what they are – thugs who cannot tolerate dissent.

Freedom of expression and the right to criticise and leave Islam without fear and intimidation is a basic human right.

For more details on what happened, see this link.

You can also see a clip of a similar speech at Warwick University.

Filmed by Sarah.

#ExMuslimBecause is Inspirational

#ExMuslimBecause is Inspirational
Bread and Roses TV with Maryam Namazie and Fariborz Pooya
Interview with Rayhana Sultan on #ExMuslimBecause
Also on Raqaa will not be Silenced, refugees and freedom, Saudi Arabian government threats to sue if compared with ISIS, the death penalty for poet Ashraf Fayadh for apostasy and imminent stoning sentence for unnamed Sri Lankan migrant woman on 4 December. Also more insane fatwas and an inspiring photo of a Kurdish fighter tearing down ISIS’ poster telling women to wear a burqas when ISIS were kicked out of Sinjar.

حركت روى برگرداندن از اسلام دلگرم كننده است
برنامه نان و گل سرخ با مریم نمازی و فریبرز پویا
مصاحبه با ريحانه سلطان
همچنین در اگر در مقایسه با همچنين در مورد رقه خاموش نمى ماند؛ مجازات اعدام برای شاعر اشرف فیاض و جكم سنگسار براى يك زن مهاجر در عربستان سعودى. همچنین فتواهایی احمقانه و عليه برقه در سنجار
مترجم: محمد باشام
کارگردان: رضا مرادی

Goldsmiths ISOC fails to intimidate and silence dissenters

I spoke on 30 November 2015 at Goldsmiths University at the invitation of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH).

The night before my talk, the ASH president received an email from the president of Goldsmiths Islamic Society (ISOC) saying the following:

As an Islamic society, we feel extremely uncomfortable by the fact that you have invited Maryam Namazie. As you very well probably know, she is renowned for being Islamophobic, and very controversial.

Just a few examples of her Islamophobic statements, she labelled the niqab- a religious symbol for Muslim women, “a flag for far-right Islamism”. Also, she went onto tweet, they are ”body bags” for women. That is just 2 examples of how mindless she is, and presents her lack of understanding and knowledge about Islam. I could go on for a while if you would like further examples.

We feel having her present, will be a violation to our safe space, a policy which Goldsmiths SU adheres to strictly, and my society feels that all she will do is incite hatred and bigotry, at a very sensitive time for Muslims in the light of a huge rise in Islamophobic attacks.

For this reason, we advise you to reconsider your event tomorrow. We will otherwise, take this to the Students Union, and present our case there. I however, out of courtesy, felt it would be better to speak to you first.

On  the day of my talk, the “ISOC Brothers'” Facebook Page [the ISOC Sisters’ have a separate closed page) posted the following, which has since been deleted:



Despite claims of “safe spaces” and concerns about “bigotry”, the Goldsmith ISOC never made any formal complaint to the Student Union, which had already approved my talk, showing that it was an attempt at intimidating ASH organisers.

After my talk began, ISOC “brothers” started coming into the room, repeatedly banging the door, falling on the floor, heckling me, playing on their phones, shouting out, and creating a climate of intimidation in order to try and prevent me from speaking.

I continued speaking as loudly as I could. They repeatedly walked back and forth in front of me. In the midst of my talk, one of the ISOC Islamists switched off my PowerPoint and left. The University security had to intervene and remain in the room as I continued my talk.

Eventually the thug who had switched off my PowerPoint returned and continued his harassments. At this point, I stood my ground, screamed loudly and continued insisting that he be removed even when the security said he should stay because he was a student. When he was finally escorted out of the meeting, discussions on many issues from apostasy, the veil to Islamism and Sharia laws continued, including with some of the ISOC “sisters” who remained behind.

In the Q&A, a women’s rights campaigner who had been kidnapped by Islamists in Libya and held for three days said that the attempts at intimidation reminded her of those dreaded days.

Another CEMB activist said one of the ISOC thugs disrupting the meeting threatened him by pointing a finger to his head.

The behaviour of the ISOC “brothers” was so appalling that a number of Muslim women felt the need to apologise, to which I explained that no apology was needed from those who were not to blame.

Absurdly, this very group which speaks of “safe spaces” has in the past invited Hamza Tzortzis of IERA which says beheading of apostates is painless and Moazem Begg of Cage Prisoners that advocates “defensive jihad.”

The ISOC’s use of rights language are clearly a cover to silence any critic and opponent of Islam and Islamism and to normalise the far-Right Islamist narrative under the guise of Islamophobia and offence.

Despite the many attempts of the ISOC “brothers,” the meeting ended successfully and raised critical issues, including that criticism of Islam and Islamism are not bigotry against Muslims who are often the first victims of Islamism and on the frontlines of resistance. The meeting also helped expose the Islamists for what they are – thugs who cannot tolerate dissent.

Nonetheless, the Islamists at ISOC will need to learn that apostates, and particularly women, have a right to speak and that we will not be intimidated or back down.

Freedom of expression and the right to criticise and leave Islam without fear and intimidation is a basic human right. We have a responsibility to fight for these universal values at British universities and also across the globe.

A video of the talk can be seen here:

Ayatollah BBC and #ExMuslimBecause

6I was interviewed by Anne-Marie Tomchak for thirty minutes for BBC Trending on 26 November. Despite my also having referred 4 ex-Muslims, including those who maintained anonymity whilst Tweeting for #ExMuslimBecause due to fears for their safety, the programme spoke to Mobeen Azhar and Rashid Dar, two men who identified themselves as Muslims, about my segment which was highly edited for BBC World Service on 28 November.

The presenter Tomchak and the two Muslim men framed the entire discussion about apostasy and the basic human right to leave and criticise Islam without fear into one that was “hateful,” “bigoted,” “an attack on Muslims,” “Islamophobic,” “opportunistic,” “quite offensive”…

By doing so, they intentionally blurred the distinction between the criticism of Islam (an idea) and Islamism (a far-Right political movement) with bigotry against Muslims. For far too long, apologists like the BBC have conflated the three in order to silence critics by deeming any criticism of Islam and Islamism as bigotry against people. This despite the fact that Muslims are not a homogeneous community or society.  There are many secularists, freethinkers and even ex-Muslims amongst them (as the trending of #ExMuslimBecause shows). For every Muslim who opposes ex-Muslims, there are others who support the right of ex-Muslims to leave or criticise Islam without fear.

Nonetheless, Tomchak and her “experts” insist that #ExMuslimBecause was “bad timing” due to the Paris attacks. For apologists,  the timing for dissent is never right.

Whilst we mourn our dead in Paris, we must not forget the countless others killed by ISIS and Islamists, including this very month in Lebanon, Nigeria, Mali, Iraq, Egypt, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan… as well as those executed perfectly legally via Sharia laws in Iran, Saudi Arabia… The refugee crisis is in large part due to this unbridled brutality.

In fact, if there ever was a “right” time to challenge Islam and Islamism, it is now.

Yet Tomchak says: “quite a strident tone coming from Maryam Namazie and the way she uses the term Islamists,” whilst Azhar says: “it’s quite uncompromising since there are many shades of grey amongst Islamists; lumping Islamists together is not going to be most helpful”… Luckily, many Muslims do not have the sympathy for Islamism that Azhar and Tomchak show. After all, Islamism kills more Muslims than anyone else.

What is embarrassingly obvious in this BBC report is that along with the misinformation on the “theory” behind apostasy laws which kills apostates  as we speak, any patronising “concern” for Muslims is fundamentally about defending Islam and Islamism at the expense of dissenters.

That’s why their response to #ExMuslimBecause is so hateful; it sees dissent through Islamist eyes.

It is also why the report widely misses the mark for basic standards in objective journalism.

Maybe this example will help Tomchak and the BBC understand what they have got so very wrong (though I am not holding my breath). What they’ve done in their report on #ExMuslimBecause is similar to labelling critics of the Magdelene Laundries or Symphsiotomy as “strident,” “Catholic bashers” or “openly hostile to the Catholic Church.” Such accusations do a gross injustice to those who are merely demanding what Tomchak and the two Muslim men take for granted – the right to believe in what one wants without fear.

I know the BBC and its “Muslim community specialists” would have preferred us to raise #ExMuslimBecause in private over coffee. Regressive laws and fascist movements, however, are not pushed back over private chats but via normalising the taboo and through very public challenges and renunciations.

Every movement – from the demand to end racial apartheid, for gender equality, and LGBT rights – were battles fought in the public square. The right to apostasy and blasphemy is no different.

Remove all the BBC’s bogus accusations and one fact remains: the right to religion comes with a corresponding right to be free from religion. #ExMuslimBecause is part of the effort to bring about that hugely important change.

Join #ExMuslimBecause

If you are an Ex-Muslim or thinking of leaving Islam, join our global solidarity campaign by sending your photo with #ExMuslimBecause telling us your reason for leaving Islam. You can also send us a 1 minute video and Tweets.

Find us at:

If you have safety concern and are unable to show your face and identity, please feel free to hide your face and use a pseudonym. We will additionally ”cartoonize” your photo with Photoshop effect to ensure you remain anonymous.

Not an Ex-Muslim, but want to be part of the solidarity movement? Let us know your view with #ExMuslimBecause

Join the Scream!

War on freethinkers, Bread and Roses TV

Bread and Roses TV with Maryam Namazie and Fariborz Pooya
17 November 2015
Interview with Ajanta Deb Roy, Bangladeshi freethinker who is on an Islamist deathlist on the war on freethinkers
Rouhani’s visit to Italy and France (now cancelled), protests in Iran against the regime’s racism against Turkish speakers, protests in Afghanistan against Rokhshana’s stoning and Afghan government complicity, fatwa on eating your wives if you’re starving and Sheroes’ Hangout.
Translation: Fariborz Pooya
Director: Reza Moradi

جنگ عليه آزادانديشان
برنامه نان و گل سرخ با مریم نمازی و فریبرز پویا
۱۸ نوامبر
مصاحبه با آجانتا دب روی، سكولاريست بنگلادشی
همچنين سفر روحانی به ایتالیا و فرانسه، تظاهرات در ایران علیه نژادپرستی رژیم علیه ترک زبانان ، تظاهرات در افغانستان علیه سنگسار و همدستی دولت افغانستان، صدور فتوایی در مورد خوردن همسران خود و كافه قهرمانان زن
کارگردان: رضا مرادی
مترجم: فريبرز پويا

The answer is a global human resistance to Islamism


FRENCH: Attaques sur Paris : la réponse doit être une résistance humaine globale à l’islamisme

We mourn our dead in Paris today and stand in solidarity with the people of France – no ifs or buts.

And whilst we mourn the dead, let us not forget the many other civilians who whilst going about their daily lives have been slaughtered by Islamism – a global killing machine.

This month alone, the dead comprise 7 Hazara, including a 9 year old girl, beheaded by ISIS and 19 year old Rokhshana, stoned to death by the Taliban in Afghanistan; a mass grave of Yazidi women uncovered after ISIS was routed from Sinjar (see photo on left); roadside bombings in Baghdad and Sadr City, which killed 41 people; twin explosions in Beirut, Lebanon, which killed at least 43 people; a downed Russian airliner killing all 224 on board; at least 4 killed in suicide attack in Sinai, Egypt; a secular publisher killed and 3 others wounded in Bangladesh; at least 32 people, including four children, killed in a suicide attack in Pakistan; 30 people killed and dozens injured in twin suicide bomb attacks in Nigeria’s Borno State…

Countless others have also been killed – not by “jihadis” but legally by Islamic states via Sharia laws: 100 have been executed in Saudi Arabia during a 6 month period with 700 executions in Iran during the same time-frame. The current President Rouhani, who planned to visit France, has overseen the execution of 2000 civilians during two years in office… Many more languish in prison – people like Raif Badawi and Atena Faraghdani – or face male guardianship rules, compulsory veiling,  gender segregation, even bans on laughing out loud or music…

U2 lead singer Bono says the Paris massacres, especially the attack on the music concert, is Islamic State’s first “direct hit against music” but music has been the target of Islamists for decades. In Mali, for example, Islamists have banned music in the north of that country. In Iran, women cannot sing solo in front of men…

The Islamists target music, art, love, and always civilians.

French President Hollande says the Paris attacks are an act of war. True, but this war has been raging for decades. People in many countries across the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia have lost a generation and been fighting this movement at great risk to their lives. This “war” is one of the main reasons for the mass migration.

Despite the devastation, there is hope. Just this week, women came out to oppose Rokhshana’s stoning, tens of thousands came out against the ISIS beheadings in Afghanistan and Kurdish fighters liberated Sinjar from ISIS, lowering ISIS’ flag and raising the Kurdish flag.

Protests in defence of the people of Paris are part and parcel of this global protest movement against Islamism’s inhumanity and brutality. Our success will lie in recognising the global resistance against Islamism and seeing how it is intrinsically linked to our own.

It will also lie in our ability to target Islamists and not just jihadis. We cannot win against ISIS whilst wining and dining heads of Islamic states like Rouhani and the Saudi regime or appeasing, funding or even arming “moderate” and “soft” Islamists, which are part of the problem.

We also won’t be able to win if we place collective blame on migrants or Muslims. Many “Muslims” (or those presumed to be Muslims) are the first victims and on the frontlines of resistance. Also, many migrants are fleeing Islamists or dictators like Asad in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan…

Those who kill indiscriminately in Paris or in Raqqa include the European-born. This is not an “anti-imperialist” movement to be excused and justified nor is this about “identity.” It’s about politics – regressive, fascist politics that needs no justification to kill and slaughter. Where Islamism begins, rights, freedoms, democratic politics and freethought ends.

To push back this movement, we must oppose it all – not just jihadis – and not just in Europe. Keeping the people of Europe safe is intrinsically linked to keeping people the world over safe. In this we have many allies amongst the people of Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Iraq to Algeria who have been standing up to and resisting Islamism for decades.

Today we mourn but we also resolve to continue the fightback on behalf of people everywhere.

Onwards towards a global, human resistance to Islamism.

Women in Afghanistan

Women in Afghanistan: “Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always” – Khaled Hosseini
Bread and Roses TV with Maryam Namazie and Fariborz Pooya
10 November 2015
Interview with Fatima Mohamad Kazim by Farideh Arman on situation of women in Afghanistan
Also on stoning of Rokhshana in Afghanistan, Iranian actress banned for removing hejab on social media, another Bangladeshi secularist killed, funeral of labour activist Koorosh Bakhshandeh, Saudi ban on marriage with certain nationalities of women and female cricket in Pakistan against the Islamists
Translation: Mohammad Basham
Director: Reza Moradi

زنان در افغانستان: “مانند یک سوزن قطب نما٬ انگشت اتهام مرد همیشه یک زن را پیدا می کند. همیشه “- خالد حسینی
برنامه نان و گل سرخ با مریم نمازی و فریبرز پویا
۱۱ نوامبر
مصاحبه با فاطمه محمد کاظم توسط فریده آرمان در مورد وضعیت زنان در افغانستان
همچنين در مورد سنگسار رخشانه در افغانستان، صدف طاهريان و حجاب؛ به قتل رسيدن دیگر از سکولاريستهاى بنگلادش، تشییع جنازه فعال کارگری کورش بخشنده، ممنوعیت عربستان به ازدواج با ملیت خاصی از زنان و کریکت زنان در پاکستان علیه اسلاميون
کارگردان: رضا مرادی
مترجم: محمد باشام

Apostasy, Blasphemy and Free Expression in the Age of ISIS

Below is my speech “Apostasy, Blasphemy and Free Expression in the Age of ISIS,” which I gave at Warwick University on 28 October 2015. I had been initially barred by the Student Union but the talk went ahead after protests. I gave a similar speech a week earlier at Trinity College Dublin, after my talk had been cancelled by a student group earlier this year after I refused last-minute restrictions on my talk.

You can read my talk below and/or watch the video:

I am glad to be speaking at Warwick University after I was initially barred because the Student Union absurdly decided that I was “highly inflammatory” and could “incite hatred” on campus.

The Student Union has since apologised, thanks to pressure from Warwick Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society and many of you.

And so here we are.

Conflating criticism of Islam (a religion) and Islamism (a religious-Rightwing political movement) with bigotry against Muslims (who are people like anyone else) is nothing new. This conflation has led to a disturbing trend towards censorship of much-needed criticism of Islam and Islamism on university campuses.

The days when unconditional free expression was championed by universities as a cornerstone of all rights is long gone.

It’s no longer unconditional free expression that is seen to be intrinsically good and progressive but a defence of censorship and self-censorship.

Of course, as writer Kenan Malik says, no one puts it that way. No one says they are pro-censorship (not even the most heinous regimes).

“‘I believe in free speech but…’ may well be a motto of our times,” says Malik.

“I believe in free speech, but” not if it undermines “security”, is “gratuitously offensive”, “provocative”, “inflammatory”, “Islamophobic”, and “discriminatory” or if it has the potential to “insult” and “hurt” religious sensibilities or “incite” hatred…  All things, by the way, which I have been accused of.

In particular, criticism of Islam and Islamism is seen to be so harmful as to be equated with bigotry against Muslims though of course this is not the case just as criticism of Christianity or Britain First is not bigotry against Christians.

Postmodernists, such as the Guardian’s David Shariatmadari  and the Labour Party’s Seamus Milne consider criticism of Islam “antisocial” and “even dangerous” – something, by the way, I have also often heard from their Ayatollah friends in Iran as well as the Saudi or Pakistani regimes.

In my opinion, criticism of Islam is deemed dangerous not because of some patronising “concern for minorities” but because in the age of ISIS, it subverts and challenges the sacred which has always been a tool for the control of society in the interests of the dominant class under the guise of defending “public sensibilities” and “morality.”

Criticism of Islam challenges religion in political power and opens the space for dissent where none is permissible or acceptable.

Ironically, the critics of religion have never been free to express themselves, yet we are the ones deemed harmful, and inciting hatred when in fact it’s the opposite. It’s the blasphemers and apostates who have faced persecution throughout the ages.

Clerics and the religious-Rightwing have always been free to promote religion – any religion. And religion has always had a privileged position in societies, and even more so where it has influence on the state or is in power – Britain included.

Clearly, freedom of expression without the right to criticise religion is meaningless. Such criticism has been key for social progress. Historically, it has been intrinsically linked with anti-clericalism.

It’s the same today.

Criticism of Islam and the state are analogous in many places like Saudi Arabia,  Islamic State, or Iran where anything from demanding women’s equality or trade union rights to condemning sexual jihad and the ‘Islamic cultural revolution’ (led by people such as Ali Shariatmadari, which banned books and ‘purified’ higher education) can be met with arrest, imprisonment and even the death penalty.

Of course, there is a distinction between Islam as a belief versus Islamism, which is a far-Right political movement.

But Islam is not just a personal belief – if it were we would be not be having this discussion. It plays a political role in the form of laws and policies and as states and extreme-Right political movements.

When the religious-Right are in power , “religion is at the centre of the struggle for change,” according to Iranian Marxist Hamid Taqvaee.  If you want to defend equality between women and men; or put an end to male guardianship rules: you will inevitably come face to face with religion.  You want gay rights; the right to organise 1st May rallies and the right to strike: you will eventually confront religion.

Religion is not just a personal matter between a believer and his or her god but regulations imposed on society with real and brutal punishments and repercussions for those deemed transgressors.

The veil, for example, is far from a personal “choice” and “right.” Socially speaking, on a mass scale, it is enforced through compulsory veiling laws and acid-attacks, imprisonment, fines, as well as pressures which look upon unveiled women as whores, immoral and sources of fitnah in society. Calling an “improperly” veiled woman in Britain – “Hoejabi” – is part of that pressure.

Under such circumstances, criticism of religion is key for the defence of rights and equality.  It’s also a critical necessity in order to dismantle and undermine the sacred and its political role.

And it’s not just about religion’s role “over there.” Islamism is a vast network with global reach.

The Islamic regime in Iran, for example, sentences artist Atena Faraghdani to over 12 years in prison for a cartoon and “illegitimate sexual relations short of adultery” for shaking hands with her lawyer and violating gender segregation rules whilst here in Britain, Universities UK endorses gender segregation (now withdrawn due to our protests) and a student organiser advises me not to shake hands prior to a debate on Sharia law out of “respect” for some Islamist (of course I made a point to shake hands as I have no respect for an idea that sees me as so haram that a man cannot shake my hands – call me what you will).

Islamism as a political movement is a global killing machine that affects people everywhere. Islamists hack atheist bloggers to death in Bangladesh whilst placing UK-based Bangladeshi bloggers on death lists and ‘lovely’ British jihadis kill for ISIS whilst a UK-based organisation CAGE promotes ‘defensive jihad.’

Limiting free expression to that which is acceptable for the Islamists (as it is those in power that determine the limits of expression) restricts the right to speak for those who need it most.  It is telling people like myself that we cannot oppose theocracies and religious laws we have fled from or that people living under the boot of the religious-Right or faced with segregation and “Sharia courts” right here in Britain must not refuse or resist. It’s “our” culture and religion after all. We have no choice but to submit.

Ironically, the post-modernist ‘Leftists’ pushing this line have one set of progressive politics for themselves (they rightly want gay marriage, women’s equality and the right to criticise Archbishops and the pope,  as well as the Christian-Right including Britain First or EDL) and another for us. We are merely allowed to make demands within the confines of Islam and identity politics and only after taking note of the “power imbalance.” As an ex-Muslim migrant woman, I am supposedly a minority within a minority but this “power imbalance” never seems to be part of any calculation.

If we speak, we are labelled “native informants” by so-called progressives.  And the far-Right accuses us of practicing taqiyaa if we oppose their scapegoating of Muslims and immigrants and their placing of collective blame on the “other.” I have also been accused of practicing taqiyya by the likes of Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller – that is whereby “we Muslims” (obviously we’re all the same and no one seems to be able to tell us apart) are allowed to lie to advance the cause of Islam – gaining the trust of naive non-believers in order to draw out their vulnerability and defeat them.

What those conflating Islam, Islamism and Muslims miss – both on the “Left” as well as the far-Right – is that many Muslims are also critics of Islamism and even Islam. In fact, Muslims or those presumed or labelled such – like myself – are often the first victims of Islamism and at the forefront of resistance. After all, not everyone in the “Islamic world” or “Muslim community” or those labelled “Muslim students on campus” are Muslims and even if they are, religion is not the only characteristic that defines them. Moreover, the rise of Islamism has brought with it a corresponding rise in the demand for atheism, secularism, and particularly women’s liberation. Also, ordinary Muslims – like all other believers – pick and choose and mould their beliefs to make them compatible with contemporary life, which is why they often don’t recognise their religion in the Islamists.

Conflating criticism of Islam and Islamism with bigotry against Muslims sees dissent through the eyes of Islamists and not the many who refuse and resist. For those who have bought into the Islamist narrative, there are no social and political movements, class politics, dissenters, women’s rights campaigners, socialists… – just homogenised ‘Muslims’ [read Islamists] who face ‘intimidation’ and ‘discrimination’ if an ex-Muslim woman speaks on an university campus.

This is the problem with multiculturalism and identity politics. The homogenised group identity is the only one that seems to exist. The “authentic Muslim” is always reactionary, fully veiled (throw in a burqa and niqab for good measure), pro Sharia courts and gender segregation, pro death penalty for apostates and gay people, anti-Semitic and of course always anti-free expression.

As Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas says: “What is most upsetting is the implication that oppressed people can only turn out as fascists, never revolutionaries. Is this really what the left in Europe now believes?” She adds: “Can the left accept that citizens are assigned a ‘minority’ identity against their will, on the basis of their name, or their geographical origin, or that of their families? Can the left accept that this communal identity supersedes their civil rights? This was done to the Jews under Nazism. Will the left accept that it be done to Muslims, and those presumed to be Muslims, regardless of their personal religious beliefs? If the left is serious about supporting oppressed minorities, it should realise that those who speak in the name of the community do not necessarily have the legitimacy to do so. By supporting fundamentalists, they simply chose one camp in a political struggle, without acknowledging it.”

“The result of all this,” says Kenan Malik, “is that solidarity has become increasingly defined not in political terms – as collective action in pursuit of certain political ideals – but in terms of ethnicity or culture.”   And since those in power determine the dominant culture, many Student Unions and those on the “Left” side with Islamism at our expense. They don’t see that at its core, this is a fight between theocrats and the religious-Right on the one hand and secularists and those fighting for social justice on the other. It’s a fight taking place within and across communities and borders, including and especially amongst those within what is labelled the Muslim community or world. [Read more…]

Victory for free expression and end-year celebrations

Hello friend

I hope you are well.


Our spokesperson Maryam Namazie finally spoke at Warwick University and Trinity College Dublin this month after her talk was barred by the Student Union at Warwick and cancelled by the student group at TCD due to “concerns.” You can read and watch her speech on “Apostasy, Blasphemy and Free Expression in the Age of ISIS” here.

A huge thank you to all the wonderful people who protested the initial decisions and defended free expression. You can see some of the widespread support, including from the National Secular Society, Ben Goldacre, Brian Cox, Gita Sahgal, Julie Bindel, Kate Smurthwaite, Maajid Nawaz, Marieme Helie Lucas, Pragna Patel, Richard Dawkins and Salman Rushdie here.

There’s a comprehensive 30 minute BBC Radio Scotland interview with Maryam on the Warwick University affair, Islam, Islamism and Muslims as well as free expression and the Left for further background on the issues.

Earlier, Maryam published a right to reply in the Guardian in response to David Shariatmadari’s defence of censorship. You can read her unedited article here.


Tickets are selling fast for One the Law for All and CEMB’s end-year celebrations with Philosopher AC Grayling, Secular Activist Aliyah Saleem, British Iraqi singer Alya Marquardt, Warwick Atheist Society President Benjamin David, Bread and Roses TV Host Fariborz Pooya, Founder of Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco Imad Iddine Habib, Comedian Kate Smurthwaite, Libyan Women’s Rights Campaigner Magdulien Abaida, CEMB Spokesperson Maryam Namazie, CEMB Spokesperson Nahla Mahmoud, Ex-Muslims of Scotland founder Ramin Forghani, Bangladeshi campaigner Rayhana Sultan, Scientist Richard Dawkins and more.

To reserve a place, please email with your name and mobile number and purchase ticket(s): £25 (waged); £18 (unwaged) by “donating” price of ticket via Paypal or by sending a cheque made payable to CEMB to: CEMB, BM Box 1919, London WC1N 3XX. No tickets will be sold at the door so please buy tickets as soon as possible.


Our final meet-up for the year will be on 16 November in central London with Ibrahim Abdallah, Founder of Muslimish NYC. More information here.

Maryam Namazie will also be speaking at Nottingham and Exeter Universities in November. More details can be found here.


CEMB has updated its comprehensive leaflet on “Covering your Internet Tracks,” which has been written by Imran. Please look at it carefully, particularly if you don’t feel safe at home. You can email any further questions and we’ll ask Imran to respond.


Our list of affiliate organisations is growing. Council of Ex-Muslims of Singapore has recently joined us. We wish them and all the others much success.


Hundreds have signed a joint statement calling for the dismantling of parallel legal systems here in Britain. The statement will be handed in at 10 Downing Street on 10 December, Human Rights Day. If you and/or your organisation would like to sign the statement, there’s still time. Just email so your name can be added to the list.


If you are able to, please donate to CEMB. We really rely on support from individuals for much of the work we do; any help will be greatly appreciated. No amount is too small or big for that matter. You can donate via Paypal or send a cheque. Details are here.

Thanks to those of you who have already donated to CEMB; a particular thanks to those who have set up standing orders. It helps to know we have regular support that we can rely on.

We hope you will continue to support us in the coming year and look forward to a secular world where people are free to live and think as they choose – religious or none.

Warm wishes
Maryam Namazie
Nahla Mahmoud
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
BM Box 1919, London WC1N 3XX, UK
tel: +44 (0) 7719166731

Company limited by guarantee and registered in England and Wales under company number 8059509.

Freedom and women’s bodies

This week’s Bread and Roses TV with Maryam Namazie and Fariborz Pooya
On Freedom and women’s bodies, Interview with Hooman Sharifi, Choreographer and Art Director
Also on refugees and open borders, memorial ceremonies marking anniversary of Reyhaneh Jabbari’s execution, attack on Liberty Camp in Iraq, Bring Louis Home Campaign, Raif Badawi wins Sakharov Human Rights Award, Fatwa against Quranic ringtones, and a wedding in Kobane.
Director: Reza Moradi

آزادی و بدن زن، برنامه نان و گل سرخ با مریم نمازی و فریبرز پویا
مصاحبه با هومن شریفی، طراح رقص و مدیر هنری
همچنین در مورد پناهندگان و دنياى بدون مرز، مراسم يادبود ریحانه جباری ، حمله به کمپ لیبرتی در عراق، لوئیس را به مادرش برگردانيد؛ جایزه ساخاروف حقوق بشر به رائف بدوی، فتواى احمقانه ، و عروسی در کوبانی
کارگردان: رضا مرادی

Shoot to Kill Orders, Police Dogs and Fortresses

I received this from a refugee rights activist working in Belgrade who got in touch to say that all groups of Afghan refugees who had come in contact with Iranian border guards were met with serious violence, including being shot at and beaten. Here Yasmin Ali describes some of the heart wrenching stories:

“These people…the Afghans are not real refugees,” said a journalist. The parks near the main bus station in Belgrade are constantly visited by journalists, who want to talk to the refugees gathered there, waiting to move on. I vaguely recalled having previously met the man, who had strolled up to me.
“Excuse me?” my immediate reaction was one of confusion. What did he mean? Why were they not ‘real ’? Were they just an illusion?

“They just want to move to Europe because the Turkish border is open. They have no passports. They come with smugglers. They pay them a lot of money. There is no war in Afghanistan,” he insisted.

Since 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, there has been nothing but war in Afghanistan.

“You are quite mistaken. There is a war in Afghanistan,” I could not say anything more. It was obviously futile to argue with a ‘journalist’ who was oblivious to the situation in Afghanistan.

I remembered the Afghan from Kabul, who was previously employed at the US embassy.

“I had a good salary. But in Afghanistan you don’t know if you are going to be alive the next minute. It is very stressful. I know life and death is ordained by Allah but it is the constant worrying that I find difficult to handle. I have nobody in Afghanistan. My parents are dead and my only sister lives in Sweden. She wants me to join her.”

It is mostly young Afghan boys and men, on average from 15 to 23 years of age, who are forced to flee.

“We have no choice. The Taliban want to recruit us. If we refuse they kill us. If we dare to work for the Afghan government or army the Taliban treat us as traitors and hunt us down and kill us.”

“I used to work as an assistant for a man who drove NATO supply trucks. I was kidnapped by the Taliban and imprisoned with a few other boys for 10 days. They tortured us. We managed to escape.”

“We were refugees in Pakistan. But Pakistani police keeps arresting Afghans and deports them back to Afghanistan.” [Read more…]

Commemorating Reyhaneh Jabbari

rayhaneh“With a hanging rope in front of my eyes, that I am not afraid of, I write to tell the tale that I lived, leaving nothing unspoken.” – Reyhaneh Jabbari

This week, there were ceremonies commemorating the life of Reyhaneh Jabbari, in Iran (see photo on Left) and in other cities. Reyhaneh was executed by the Islamic regime in Iran for killing her rapist in self-defence.

Here is one of her letters translated into English by the International Committee against Execution

I am Reyhaneh Jabbari and am 26 years old. I confess that I am no longer willing to continue this way of life. It feels as if the meaning of life is only breathing and sewing the seams of day to the seams of night. Repetition and expectation has worn out my spirit—like sand paper on my soul. At the moment both my body and my soul are bloodied and wounded. I feel like those soldiers fighting in battle. They use all their energy defeating the enemy. The ways to destroy the enemy occupies their mind so much that they no longer think of those at home. But soon if they do not achieve anything in battle, they become defeated. Stillness of expectation eats a man like termites from within. Most long wars end because the soldiers’ spirits are broken– on both sides. No matter what the leaders of a country say, no matter who they name the winner and the loser, the civilians know how much they suffered. The graveyards of both countries bare witness—chock full of pieces of their youth. Houses without roofs.

I am Reyhaneh, 26, and I am tired of the grueling war I have been fighting with the Sarbandi family, for my freedom—a family that I do not hate. After all the years that have passed after the incident I have realized that although Sarbandi was not a young man, he had not learned many lessons from life. Like the fact that he had no right to lure me to a place and he had no right to force himself on me. He had no rights to me. Why did this have to happen? I thought about this day and night. Why did he attack me and how was it that a man of such stature fell to such low levels? Ours was the opposite sides of fate. I came to a conclusion that he wanted nothing more than pleasure for himself and he wanted it by force and I wanted nothing more than to break away from him— by force. I came to that discovery while speaking to my cellmates one day, yes a conclusion that the courts were not able to deduce. [Read more…]

This month, I’ll be speaking in Dublin, London and Warwick

This month, I’m speaking at Trinity College Dublin (where my initial talk was cancelled when I refused last-minute restrictions). I’ll also be speaking at Warwick University after initially being barred from speaking there. In between, I’ll be discussing religious fundamentalisms at the London Feminist Conference.

20 October 2015
Dublin, Ireland
Maryam Namazie will be speaking to University Philosophical Society at Trinity College, Dublin on Apostasy and the Rise of Islamism on 20 October 2015. Her speaking engagement follows her last speech being cancelled after she refused restrictions on her talk. For more information, click here.

24 October 2015
London, UK
Maryam Namazie joins Pragna Patel, Gita Sahgal, Yasmin Rehman and Houzan Mahmoud in a discussion on religious fundamentalisms at the London Feminist Conference. More details here.

28 October 2015
Warwick University Student Union has apologised and given go ahead for Maryam speak at an event organised by the Atheist Society. Maryam’s statement on initial denial can be found here.

We are Raif: UK campaign for human rights in Saudi Arabia launched

We Are Raif: a campaign for free speech and human rights in Saudi Arabia

Today, we announce the formation of ‘We Are Raif: a campaign for free speech and human rights in Saudi Arabia’. The coalition has been initiated by a number of human rights campaigners and organisations that have been working together for the last nine months to call for the release of the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi and his lawyer Waleed Abulkhair. They include Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Campaign Against Arms Trade, English PEN, Free Raif UK, Gulf Center for Human Rights, Hope Not Hate, Index On Censorship, the Jimmy Wales Foundation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, and One Law for All.

Nine months ago, on 9 January 2015, Raif Badawi was taken from his prison cell to a square in Jeddah and lashed 50 times. These were the first 50 lashes of a sentence of 1,000 lashes – a punishment that was threatened to be repeated every week for the following 19 weeks.

Raif’s ‘crime’? To encourage debate about religion and politics and call for democratisation and change in Saudi Arabia.

That day, much of the world woke up to the horror that is Saudi Arabia today. We have further watched over these nine months as more than 130 executions have taken place in Saudi Arabia.

In March, we saw the Saudi regime begin its sectarian war in Yemen that has led to the deaths of over 5,400 people with evidence of unlawful airstrikes carried out by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, some of which amount to war crimes, including use of cluster bombs. We also see the Saudi regime involved heavily in the Syrian conflict in pursuit of their narrow geopolitical interest. Meanwhile in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia directly supports a regime that maintains power through violence, unfair trials, and torture.

Over the last four months we’ve been supporting a legal action to challenge the British government’s bid to sell prison training services to the Saudi government. This week we celebrate the government cancelling that bid and succumbing to popular pressure.

The aim of the coalition is to give support to those standing up for freedom in Saudi Arabia; to demand an end to executions, beheadings, stonings and their travesty of a justice system; and to demand that our government and businesses in Britain are no longer complicit in the crimes of the regime, by arming it and boosting the prestige of their rulers. We intend to continue our campaign until free speech and democratic rights are won for the people of Saudi Arabia.

Our aims

We campaign:
1. for the release of Raif Badawi and Waleed Abulkhair
2. for the release of all those detained in Saudi Arabia in violation of their right to freedom of expression
3. for Saudi Arabia to end human rights abuses domestically and its complicity with human rights abuses in the region
4. for democratic rights in Saudi Arabia as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations

We support these rights being fought for and protected elsewhere and will work with other campaigns focussing on the achievement of these liberties in other countries when appropriate. We will also work with other campaigns that focus on particular human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia when appropriate.

Our demands
1) We call on the UK government:
a) To pressure the Saudi government to release political prisoners and end human rights abuses and to do so openly;
b) To end the sales of UK arms and military equipment, including military support packages, to Saudi Arabia.
2) We call for an end to any business relations with the Saudi regime that serve to legitimise the Saudi authorities and the repression of freedom of expression in the country
3) We call on businesses that trade with Saudi Arabia to review Corporate Social Responsibility guidelines and to ensure that they are compliant with human rights

In four weeks time we will have the first planning meeting of the coalition and we invite existing campaigns, trade unions and community organisations to get in touch if you would like to be involved.

For further information about the launch of this campaign please contact:

Pete Radcliff – 07519 662605
Melanie Gingell 07572430903
Cat Lucas

Twitter: @weareraifuk

Rights of children with special needs, Iran teachers’ strike, no hijab day, Frankfurt book fair, refugees, and insane fatwas

Bread and Roses TV with Maryam Namazie and Fariborz Pooya, ENGLISH 13 October 2015 FARSI BELOW
Interview with Tahmineh Sadeghi, Human Rights Activist about the rights of children with special needs in Iran. Also, Iranian regime’s boycotting of Frankfurt Book Fair due to Salman Rushdie’s keynote address, Iran teachers’ strike, No Hijab Day, the killing of Afghan refugees by Iranian border guards, fatwa against Zoroastrians and baby carriers for refugees.
Director: Reza Moradi; Translation: Mohammad Basham



حقوق كودكان با نيازهاى ويژه
برنامه نان و گل سرخ با مریم نمازی و فریبرز پویا
۱۴ اكتبر
مصاحبه با تهمینه صادقی؛ فعال
همچنین، تحریم رژیم ایران از نمایشگاه کتاب فرانکفورت به دلیل سخنرانی سلمان رشدی ، اعتصاب معلمان ، روز نه به حجاب ، قتل پناهندگان افغانى توسط ماموران رژيم ایران ، فتوا عليه زرتشتیان و حمل کننده های کودک برای پناهندگان
كارگرادان: رضا مرادى
ترجمه: محمد باشم
قسمت اول:

قسمت دوم:

The Guardian: Through Islamist Eyes

I emailed The Guardian on 2 October to ask for the right to reply to David Shariatmadari’s apologetics for Islamism. My article, Why I Speak against Islamism, was finally published on 13 October at 5pm after much delay and back and forth over “edits.”

On 8 October, the Acting Editor for Comment is Free wrote to say a “very light edit” had been done on my article including “a few tweaks for flow, house style, and to make the piece as accessible as possible for non-expert readers.”

Shockingly, the “light edits” included substantial changes, including the removal of references to Ali Shariatmadari and CAGE prisoners as well as all the relevant links, which would have helped “non-expert readers.”

Moreover, where I mentioned Islamism as a killing machine with an example of Bangladesh, Islamism was changed to “violent jihadis”. After asking that it be kept as is (since even those not deemed violent jihadis by the Guardian are killing people via “Sharia” laws for example), it was changed to “violent Islamists”, which I again challenged. The sentence was then tweaked to what it is now.

Despite my insistence, however, references to Ali Shariatmadari and CAGE were not included (which meant I had to remove the Emwazi reference as it was linked to the CAGE example). I was told: “The line about CAGE and defensive jihad was removed on the advice of our lawyers” and that “the description of the Islamic cultural revolution as “Ali Shariatmadari’s ‘Islamic cultural revolution'” would be confusing to readers.”

Clearly, the problem is not just David Shariatmadari’s but the Guardian’s editorial line in favour of the Islamists.

Below I publish my original piece for all to see.


Through Islamist eyes
Maryam Namazie

Warwick University Student Union’s reversal of its initial decision to bar me from speaking about Islam and Islamism on campus at the invitation of Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists Society has been widely celebrated as a small win for free speech but ruffled the feathers of Islamists and their apologists.

Historically, criticism of religion has been a crucial aspect of free expression and intrinsically linked with anti-clericalism and the dismantling of that which is deemed taboo and sacred by the gatekeepers of power. Such criticism has been key for social progress. It’s also a matter of life and death for many living under Islamist rule like in Saudi Arabia,  Islamic State, or Iran where criticism of religion and the state are analogous. There, anything from demanding women’s equality or trade union rights to condemning sexual jihad and Ali Shariatmadari’s ‘Islamic cultural revolution’ (which banned books and ‘purified’ higher education) can be met with arrest, imprisonment and even the death penalty.

Where Islamists are not in power but have influence, like in Britain, critics face accusations of racism and Islamophobia to deflect legitimate outrage against Islamism – a killing machine and network with global reach: Islamists will hack atheist bloggers to death in Bangladesh whilst placing UK-based Bangladeshi bloggers on death lists and ‘lovely‘ British jihadis will kill for ISIS whilst a UK-based organisation CAGE promotes ‘defensive jihad.’

The labelling of much-needed criticism of Islam and Islamism as ‘antisocial, even dangerous‘ by ‘Left’ apologists sees dissent through the eyes of Islamists and not the many who refuse and resist. How else are we to show real solidarity with those who struggle against the theocracies we have fled from – if not through criticism?  The fight against Islamism and the need for international solidarity does not manage to enter into their calculation.

Even their paternalistic ‘concern’ for British Muslims is incoherent. After all, aren’t many critics of Islamism, Muslims too? In fact, Muslims or those labelled as such are often the first victims of Islamism and at the forefront of resistance. Also, not everyone in the ‘community’ are Muslims and even if they are, religion is not the only characteristic that defines them. Moreover, the rise of Islamism has brought with it a corresponding rise in the demand for atheism, secularism, and women’s liberation.

At its core, this is a global fight between theocrats and the religious-Right on the one hand and secularists and those fighting for social justice on the other. It’s a fight taking place within and across communities and borders. Notwithstanding, this ‘Left’s’ ‘concern’ only encompasses the ‘authentic Muslim’ which to them is the Islamist. It has become their go-to catchphrase to deflect criticism by dishonestly conflating condemnation of Islamists with the demonisation of people so as to justify siding with the religious-Right at the expense of dissenters.  In fact, conflating ordinary Muslims with Islamists does nothing to challenge anti-Muslim bigotry but reinforces it.

In their ‘anti-colonialist’ worldview, which unsurprisingly coincides with that of the ruling classes in the ‘Islamic world’ or ‘Muslim community,’ dissenters are either ‘native informants‘ or contributing to the ‘demonisation of Muslims.’

For those who have bought into the Islamist narrative, there are no social and political movements, class politics, dissenters, women’s rights campaigners, socialists… – just homogenised ‘Muslims’ [read Islamists] who face ‘intimidation’ and ‘discrimination’ if an ex-Muslim woman speaks on an university campus.

This politics of betrayal denies universalism, sees rights, equality and secularism as ‘western,’ justifies the suppression of women, apostates and blasphemers under the guise of respect for other ‘cultures’ – imputing on innumerable people the most reactionary elements of culture and religion, which is that of the religious-Right. In the world according to them, the oppressor is victim, the oppressed ‘incite hatred’, and any criticism is bigotry.

Ironically, these post-modernist ‘Leftists’ have one set of progressive politics for themselves (they rightly want gay marriage, women’s equality and the right to criticise the pope and Christian-Right) and another for us. We are merely allowed to make demands within the confines of Islam and identity politics and only after taking note of the ‘power imbalance.’ [By the way, an ex-Muslim migrant woman like myself is a minority within a minority but that ‘power imbalance’ does not concern them.]

Islamism must be challenged by an enlightenment not a reformation. [Some would argue that ISIS is Islam’s reformation.] For this, the right to criticise religions and the religious-Right (including the Christian-Right, Buddhist-Right, Hindu-Right and Jewish-Right) is crucial as is international solidarity and an unequivocal defence of migrant rights, secularism, equality and citizenship.

Clearly, those in the business of defending Islamism make a mockery of traditional Left values and are incapable of fighting for social justice on multiple fronts – including against the religious-Right, racism and xenophobia, fascism of all stripes, UK Government’s restrictions on civil liberties as well as for free expression, amongst others.

Now is the time to reclaim the Left and the values it represents for us all – irrespective of ‘community,’ beliefs and borders. In the age of ISIS, this is an historical task and necessity.