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Mar 02 2014

I am left cursing

Here’s a video of a young man being executed in Iran. He wants to say goodbye to his mother who can be heard screaming in the crowd. He struggles with the regime’s executioners, kicks one of them to cheers in the crowd but is then subdued and hung…

You can then hear the regime’s mercenaries cheering and sending salawat: “Allah, bless Mohammad and the people of Muhammad”. I am left cursing Allah and his Mohammad.

I wouldn’t want anyone to watch an execution scene but in some senses it is important for us all to bear witness. Both to human resistance even at the gallows and the brutality of a regime that has killed too many for too long.

Of course and as usual, there will be those who will list the young man’s crimes. Whatever they were, there is no crime greater than what this regime has done and is doing… Shame on all those who defend it. And long live those who resist. Our day will come.

(Via Mina Ahadi)

Feb 28 2014

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani attempted suicide

sakinehAccording to Mina Ahadi and the International Committee against Stoning, Iran stoning case Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani attempted suicide in Tabriz prison and was transferred to hospital on 23 February.

After several days she was transferred back to the prison’s clinic and remains in terrible physical and psychological state.

The Islamic regime of Iran must release Sakineh now.

Ask Rouhani: Why don’t you release Sakineh now!

Feb 28 2014

David Bleines Tribute

David Bleines died yesterday. Our most sincere condolences to his family and loved ones.

David was a fine, kind and brave man. A secularist with a lively mind. He had once been a member of a cult and understood how hard it could be to break away from harmful beliefs and strike out without organisational support.

After  David was given a terminal prognosis he was able to gain a lot of satisfaction, as well as a distraction from his personal circumstances, by mulling over ideas for assisting the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB). Everyone who loved him has been told about his wish to support the CEMB.

We are grateful for his kind support and shall cherish his memory.

For those wishing to contribute to the David B/David Bleines Tribute Fund, please earmark your donation. You can do so via email ([email protected]) or by adding a note when you send a cheque or make a Paypal donation.

Thank you.

Feb 24 2014

Survey on Gender Segregation at Universities

Dear friend

One Law for All, in conjunction with Southall Black Sisters and Fitnah, is conducting a survey as part of a research project investigating the nature and impact of segregation, specifically gender segregation, at universities in the United Kingdom.

If you have experienced gender segregation at a university, please take a few moments to respond to the questionnaire online by 31 March 2014. This research project is conducted in full compliance with the Ethics Guidelines of the Social Research Association. Your data will be treated as confidential and your participation will remain anonymous.

For more information about this research or to provide more in depth information, please contact: [email protected]

Thank you for your participation.

Warmest wishes
Maryam Namazie
Spokesperson

NOTES:

1. Please don’t forget to book early for the international Conference on the Religious-Right, Secularism and Civil Rights in London during 11-12 October 2014 so you can get the Early Bird Special Rates. The conference has a fantastic line-up of well known secularists from across the world. It is a not-to-be-missed event. We do hope to see you there!

2. I am hoping to start a new TV programme broadcast in Iran and the Middle East via Satellite called Bread and Roses. If you want to support the taboo-breaking, freethinking programme which will deal with a lot of the issues raised by One Law for All, please donate here. No amount is too little and every bit will help get equipment to tape the much-needed programmes.

Feb 15 2014

Will you support a free-thinking, taboo-breaking TV magazine?

I and a group of activists want to start Bread and Roses – a weekly taboo-breaking, freethinking political-social TV magazine in Persian and English broadcast in Iran and the Middle East as well as globally via satellite TV and social media.

The programme will address crucial issues such as Sharia courts, sex segregation, Islamism, religion and Islam, the right to atheism and apostasy, nudity as a form of resistance, freedom of expression, secularism, child marriages as well as social and cultural issues namely how to deal with bullying, the status of women in society, the role of artists and underground musicians and whether one can live moral lives without religion.

Today, via Indiegogo, we are kick-starting a 3 week fundraising campaign to raise money for the initial equipment we need including cameras, a computer, lighting, paint, a rug, lamps, tables and chairs. Here’s our appeal in English:

Please support us if you can.

With your donations you will get a shout-out and thank you on our programme, will be able to decide issues for discussion, receive signed posters or a beautifully designed T-shirt, and even meet the hosts for a lunch on us! Most importantly you will get the satisfaction of knowing that you have helped bring crucial discussions to audiences in Iran, the Middle East and globally.

As you all know, we have been active for many years on issues deemed taboo or controversial. We have consistently defended universal values, equality and civil rights despite the insistence on a racism of lower expectations and standards and a cultural relativism that insists that the “other” has less rights and freedoms depending on the “community” they are deemed to belong to. Things are changing, however, and we hope that Bread and Roses can help further articulate, strengthen and encourage universal values.

Please don’t worry if you can’t support us financially. We know how difficult times are for many people but even if you can’t donate, help get the word out and bring attention to our programme. You can use the Indiegogo share tools!

Please also like or follow our programme:
www.facebook.com/NanoGoleSorkh
@NanoGoleSorkh
Nanogolesorkh
+44 20 3287 6128

Thanks for any and all your support.

By the way, here are some photos of our first get together to discuss our programme:

163156

 

 

Feb 14 2014

Do something useful on valentine’s day

valentin Why not do something useful on valentine’s Day (besides eating chocolate) and support political prisoners in Iran.

Campaign to Free Political Prisoners in Iran is organising protests today asking us all to remember that lack of medical attention in Iranian prisons has put the lives of hundreds of political prisoners in danger. The Islamic régime in Iran is refusing to provide necessary medical attention to them, killing them silently. Conditions for these prisoners are horrific but unfortunately most people are not aware of the situation in Iran’s notorious prisons.

On this Valentine’s Day, please show your support for the campaign called “Don’t let their Heartbeat stop!”

Sign the petition here.

Tweet: Support #PoliticalPrisoners #Iran #Valentine Day Don’t Let #Heartbeats Stop. SIGN: http://chn.ge/1dGEof9 @eu_eeas @HassanRouhani

Find out more about rallies today and the campaign here.

Feb 13 2014

It takes courage to go against the grain

fabrica-fgm_0x440By now you must have heard about the campaign by a 17 year old girl Fahma Mohamed with the Guardian to end FGM. The petition, which has received nearly 200,000 signatures, has succeeded in getting Fahma a meeting with the Education Secretary to raise a very simple yet effective solution to this horrendous problem in Britain.

FGM has already been banned since 1985 without even one prosecution (though this is all about to change) meaning that around 20,000 British girls are at risk of being mutilated every year without anyone being held to account. It’s particularly dangerous during holidays when families take their girls back to be cut or have them mutilated right here – a period known as “cutting season”. Fahma is suggesting that schools teach about FGM before the holidays. Simple and effective.

This campaign will help bring an end to FGM in Britain because it heralds a real change in attitudes. Not of the public at large per se because it has been a while now that FGM has been considered child abuse by large numbers of people (thanks to the tireless efforts of many campaigners over many many long years). But it’s a palpable change in the attitude of “Guardian-types” – the ones who defend culture and religion despite all human cost.

The fact that the Guardian is leading this campaign says it all. It’s the beginning of the end for FGM in Britain.

It’s certainly cause for celebration.

A little more than 6 months ago, the NSPCC’s helpline for FGM victims was deemed “racist curtain-twitching”. A little more than a year ago, when asked about the lack of prosecutions in Britain, Commander Simon Foy, the child abuse specialist at Scotland Yard, said “I am not necessarily sure that the availability of a stronger sense of prosecution will change it for the better” and that “Inspection almost at times is considered to be a form of abuse in itself. We should not encourage behaviour if that behaviour is in itself child abuse”…  This culturally relativist attitude – that the Guardian excels in - has stopped Britain from addressing FGM for so long because it has deemed it racist to demand an end to inhuman cultural or religious traditions and practices. It’s this “tolerant” attitude (that is in reality tolerance of the intolerable for the “other”) that has resulted in a teacher saying “that’s nice” when her student tells her she was cut during the holidays and caused the likes of “feminist voice” Germaine Greer to say banning FGM is “an attack on cultural identity” and that ”One man’s beautification is another man’s mutilation”…

Yes, the tide has definitely turned from the days when I was scolded by “women’s rights campaigners” in the 1980s for calling it mutilation; “call it circumcision and respect culture and religion!”, they said.

What is important to remember, and which will soon be forgotten, is that it doesn’t take much courage to oppose inhumanity when the tide has turned; it takes courage to oppose it when everyone else is defending it. This is what someone like teacher Lisa Zimmermann did; I do wonder if Fahma would be standing where she is if it were not for her. Instead of saying “that’s nice”, Lisa Zimmermann was horrified when she found out some of her students had been cut; she co-founded the “Female Defence League”, which started off with 4 girls writing anonymous poetry. They were accused of making pornography when the girls made a film against FGM. Now the group has over 100 members and the rest so to say is history.

There are obvious lessons here well known to any campaigner who wants to see positive change. Swimming against the mainstream is difficult and may at times seem impossible, but it does eventaully have an impact.  The tide will eventually turn as it will on segregation of the sexes, on Sharia courts in Britain and on the burqa. Just wait and see.

Feb 12 2014

The Square makes your heart sing

Unfortunately the magnificent film Al Midan (The Square) on the Egyptian revolution by female director Jehane Noujaim is no longer available on Youtube but the trailer below is enough to make your heart sing.

Go and see it when it comes to your city. You must.

The revolution is coming back, no matter what…

(Via Abbas Gooya)

Feb 12 2014

HOLD THESE DATES: EVENTS NOT TO BE MISSED

ConferenceIcon1mediumUPCOMING EVENTS
HOLD THESE DATES

Fundraiser for Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain: Marlene Dietrich – an affectionate tribute
Date: Thursday 27 February 2014
Time: 19:30-21:45
Venue: Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
Join Terry Sanderson as he explores the extraordinary life and career of one of the 20th century’s great entertainers. Using generous extracts from her films, he’ll examine her fantastic Hollywood career, and then accessing rare archive material, will look at her heroic war time efforts against the Nazis. The show culminates with a complete showing on the big screen of her famous one-woman show with which she toured the world. Accompanied by Burt Bacharach and his orchestra, this is Dietrich at her peak. The event is a fundraiser for the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and coincides with LGBT history month. Tickets can be purchased here.

Second Kafir Comedy Night Hosted by Maha
Date: Monday 10 March 2014
Time: 19:00-21:00
Venue: The George, 213 Strand, London WC2R 1AP (nearest Tube: Temple)
Open mic comedy for interested kuffar starts at 8pm. Look, we know it’s not easy defending yourself constantly against a religious mob. So take a break from the forums and let out the frustration with a laugh. If you’ve got some steam to let off, this is your night to do it. RSVP at [email protected] But don’t laugh too much, Hell awaits us all later.*
Entry: £3; £1 unwaged.

* “Let them laugh a little: much will they weep: a recompense for the (evil) that they do” (Surah At-Taubah 9:82).

Evening drinks with Lawyer Ana Gonzalez on Apostasy and Asylum
Date: Monday 28 April 2014
Time: 18:30-20:00
Venue: The George, 213 Strand, London (nearest Tube: Temple)
Ana Gonzalez, a lawyer of a well-respected law firm which has represented a number of apostate asylum claimants and CEMB members will speak about the right to asylum and apostasy.
Entry: £3; £1 unwaged.

2014 Conference: Religious-Right, Secularism and Civil Rights
Date: Saturday-Sunday 11-12 October 2014
Venue: The Tower Hotel, St Katharine’s Way, London E1W 1LD

Don’t miss 2014’s historic conference. Register now to get the special early bird rates. Purchase your tickets today!

Join notable secularists for a two-day international conference on the Religious-Right, Secularism and Civil Rights during 11-12 October 2014 at the Tower Hotel in London.

Speakers/Acts include British Philosopher A C Grayling; Tunisian Academic Amel Grami; Activist Amina Sboui; Activist Bahram Soroush; Writer and Journalist Caroline Fourest; Charlie Klendjian, Chair of Lawyers Secular Society; LSE Director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights Chetan Bhatt; Student Activist Chris Moos; Yemeni Activist and Academic Elham Manea; Iranian Secular Society Founder Fariborz Pooya; Women Living Under Muslim Laws International Director Fatou Sow; Centre for Secular Space Director Gita Sahgal; Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq Spokesperson Houzan Mahmoud; Afghan Rights Activist Horia Mosadiq; Imad Habib Iddine, Founder of Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco; FEMEN spokesperson Inna Schevchenko; Writer Julie Bindel; Blogger Kacem El Ghazzali; Writer Karima Bennoune; Comedian Kate Smurthwaite; Writer Kenan Malik; Co-Founder of Ex-Muslims of North America Kiran Opal; LCP Dance Theatre; Filmmaker Lila Ghobady; Lino Veljak, Croatian Activist; Lawyer Maha Kamal; Algerian Secularism is a Woman’s Issue Founder Marieme Helie Lucas; Campaigner Maryam Namazie; head of International Committee against Execution and Stoning Mina Ahadi; Tunisian Filmmaker Nadia El-Fani; Spokesperson for Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain Nahla Mahmoud; Secularist Nina Sankari; Campaigner Peter Tatchell; Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters; Franco-Syrian Politician Randa Kassis; Academic Rumy Hassan; Singer/Songwriter Shelley Segal; Author Siba Shakib; Women in Black Coordinator Stasa Zajovic; Survivors Voice Europe co-Founder Sue Cox; Taj Hargey, chair of Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford; Founder of Muslim Canadian Congress Tarek Fatah; Bangladeshi Writer Taslima Nasrin; National Secular Society President Terry Sanderson; Palestinian blogger and Council of ex-Muslims of France founder Waleed Husseini and more… To see speakers’ bios, click here.

The Conference will be based on interactive participation, dialogue, and regional and thematic forums. Regional forums will include Europe and North America; South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Thematic discussions will cover the Arab uprisings and revolutions; ‘Sharia’ and religious laws; religion and women’s right; hijab and gender segregation; freedom of expression, apostasy, blasphemy and free thought; ‘Islamophobia’ and racism; minorities versus citizenship rights; the far-Right; honour crimes; faith schools and religious education; reproductive rights; as well as defining secular values.

On the night of 11 October 2014, participants can enjoy a delicious three-course meal in the company of our renowned speakers and a full evening entertainment package.

An International Secular Manifesto and the establishment of a united front of secularists to meet future challenges will be the final outcome of the Conference. All Conference contributions will be published in a book.

The conference is endorsed by Atheist Alliance International; Children First Now; Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain; Equal Rights Now; Fitnah; International Committee against Stoning; International Committee against Execution; International Federation of Iranian Refugees; Iran Solidarity; One Law for All; Secularism is a Women’s Issue; The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science UK; and Women Living Under Muslim Laws amongst others.

For organisations or vendors wishing to books stalls, for more information or to purchase tickets, please contact Conference Organiser:
Maryam Namazie
[email protected]

To see a full list of events and speaking engagements, go here.

To see recent media coverage, visit here.

Feb 11 2014

Not an Islamic revolution

The Islamic regime of Iran celebrates the “Islamic revolution” today. But Islamism has only brought untold misery and brutality to the people of Iran (and the world).

Islamism is not a cause for celebration; it only came to power on the back of a suppressed revolution and the slaughter of a generation.

Whilst history is written by the victors, a people’s revolution against the Shah’s dictatorship and for freedom and equality will have that black mark of “Islamic” on it. But not forever.

And despite the truth, there will be those who will do anything to defend and prolong the regime’s rule.

Watch the “celebrations” in Britain. House of Lords Peer Nazir Ahmed and MP Jeremy Corbyn are filmed grotesquely defending the regime.

Whilst the Press TV “reporter” rightly speaks of the impact of Iran’s Islamism across the world (by encouraging reaction and mediaevalism), she forgets that the Iranian revolution and the demand for freedom and equality has also had an impact. The revolution has also left its mark.

Business of course that is yet unfinished. But business that will bring Islamism to its knees in Iran.

As the late Marxist Mansoor Hekmat wrote commemorating the Iranian revolution:

“If history is the story of change, then real history is the history of the undefeated – the history of the movement and people who still want and are struggling for change, the history of those who are not willing to bury their ideals and hopes of a human society, the history of people and movements that are not at liberty of choosing their principles and aims and have no choice but to strive for improvements.”

This change is yet to come in Iran not via Rouhani or any other “reformist”, not via an Islamic regime, not via Islam, not via military attacks or economic sanctions but by a people’s revolution.

The storm is yet to come. And where will the likes of Jeremy Corbyn hide then?

(Via Fariborz Pooya)

Feb 10 2014

Happy

Young people in Tunisia are posting videos of themselves dancing to Pharrell’s Happy song as a form of defiance.

Islamists have said the dancing is just ”debauchery and moral decay” but the videos have received tens of thousands of hits and loads of support. Their coming to power heralds the death of music and dance so dancing is a really good way of challenging their regression.

In March of last year, Tunisian high school students did a protest version of the Harlem Shake pitting them against the Islamists.

You know the well known saying: If I can’t dance I won’t join your revolution…

It should now say: “I’ll dance to defend my revolution…”

Here are some of the videos:

(Via Marieme Helie Lucas)

Feb 04 2014

Hassan Rouhani’s charm offensive is just plain offensive

rancartoonEditorial from latest issue of Fitnah’s Unveiled

Rouhani’s “charm offensive” (including the “historic nuclear deal” and the promise of opening Iran up for business) is the other side of the coin of the regime’s intensification of repression. If you smile rather than scowl and utter sweet nothings and empty promises, the global powers that be are happy to ignore what happens to people in Iran. I suppose it is what they mostly do themselves every few years come election time. Protestations of “human rights abuses” are only useful when the regime doesn’t play nice.

But it’s not a “charm offensive” by any means; it’s just plain offensive.

During the “election”, Rouhani “promised” that “all Iranian people should feel there is justice”. They are certainly feeling it – his version of it at least – with 40 executions in the first two weeks of January and over 300 executions since he took office. Iran remains one of the main execution capitals of the world despite all claims of “moderation”. When Rouhani said “We must do something for all these prisoners to be released”, he must have meant in body bags.

Also, Rouhani’s “promise” to uphold the rights of the people as enumerated in the country’s constitution is yet another example of an empty exercise in PR. The constitution is one of the obstacles to upholding rights and actually violates them as does a theocracy.  Article 20 of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s constitution, for example, says men and women “enjoy equal protection of the law…in conformity with Islamic criteria” and Article 21 states that “the government must ensure the rights of women in all respects, in conformity with Islamic criteria”. As a result, it is perfectly legal that women cannot run for presidency, enter sports stadiums and certain fields of work or study, are segregated and have limited rights to divorce and child custody.

In less than 6 months of his presidency, his pledge to uphold the rights of women and bring legislation to the Islamic Assembly that addressed discrimination has only translated into more discrimination and misogyny, including the legalisation of paedophilia and child rape by making it legal for step-fathers to marry their adopted daughters as well as plans for a “Comprehensive Population and Family Excellence Plan”. The proposed legislation includes new limits on contraceptive use and added restrictions on women from accessing employment and educational opportunities. More efforts in lieu of keeping women in their place – barefoot and pregnant.

Of course the list is endless. Rouhani and his friends Tweet their sweet nothings and have Facebook pages whilst people in Iran are banned from using social media and can actually face arrest and harassment for it. Khamenei just issued a fatwa making it illegal to chat with unrelated members of the opposite sex.

And Iran remains the second largest jailer of journalists (forget political dissidents and opponents) though Rouhani “promised” that “justice means that anyone who wants to speak in a society should be able to come out, speak their mind, criticize and critique without hesitation and stammering”.

Add the regime’s draconian austerity measures and even the welcome end to economic sanctions will not be enough to give relief to the struggling people of Iran.

Absurdly, those celebrating Rouhani’s “charm” claim he is not to blame for the repression as he has no power – the supreme leader Khamenei does. Aside from the fact that Khamenei approved his candidacy, if Rouhani has no power, why so much jubilation? And if he does, then why not hold him accountable?

Of course any relief as a result of a reduction of economic sanctions, which adversely hurt the public, and a move away from threats of war is good but it’s not good enough.

The people of Iran deserve more. Much  more.

In the unforgettable words of Bob Dylan:

…Yes, how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, how many times must a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see?…
How many times must a man look up
Before he can really see the sky?
Yes, how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

 

Feb 04 2014

On World Hijab Day

ghosthijabdayWorld Hijab Day
Editorial from latest issue of Fitnah’s Unveiled

1 February is World Hijab Day. What next? Maybe a World Mutilation Day to show support for women and girls who have been mutilated and World Child Marriages Day when we can marry off our under-aged daughters to show support and solidarity with religious and cultural practices that are making life a living hell for women and girls. How about a World Suttee Day when women can jump (or more likely be pushed) on the burning pyres of their dead husbands, or a World Foot-binding Day?

I keep being told that these are not one and the same but they are. The veil – whether you choose to wear it or not; whether you think it is folksy or not – is a tool like many others to control, restrict and suppress women and girls.

On World Hijab Day, please do take some time out to think not of the very few women who promote the veil as a right and choice (and who mainly live in the west or are Islamism’s defenders) but the innumerable who refuse and resist veiling at great risk to themselves.

On World Hijab Day, let’s remember them, stand with them, and say loudly and clearly that nothing can justify women’s oppression.

Feb 04 2014

February 2014 Unveiled: anti-immigration confusion, World Hijab Day and on Hassan Rouhani

fitnah-UNVEILED-Feb14Unveiled: A Publication of Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation 
February 2014; Volume 2, Issue 2
Editor: Maryam Namazie; Design: Kiran Opal

Pdf version of publication available here.

In this issue:
Interview with Kenan Malik: Secularism, Islamism and the Anti-Immigration Confusion
January 2014 Newsflash
Campaign: End Ban on Female Fans in Iran; Stadiums for All
Editorials: Hassan Rouhani’s charm offensive is just plain offensive and World Hijab Day

Secularism, Islamism and the Anti-Immigration Confusion
Interview with Kenan Malik

Maryam Namazie: Restrictions demanded by Islamists are viewed as the demand of Muslims and immigrants who are seen to be a homogeneous group with no differences of opinion. Immigrants and Muslims are often blamed for all of Britain and Europe’s woes but particularly for the rise of Sharia courts, the burqa or 7/7. Your views?

Kenan Malik: When I was working on my book From Fatwa to Jihad, I interviewed Naser Khader, a Danish MP and one of the best known Muslims in the country. He recalled a conversation he had had at the time of the Danish cartoon controversy with Toger Seidenfaden, editor of the left-wing newspaper Politiken. ‘He said to me that the cartoons insulted all Muslims’, Khader remembers. ‘I said I was not insulted. And he said, “But you’re not a real Muslim”.’

That sums up the liberal attitude towards Muslims. You are only a ‘proper’ Muslim if you want to ban Danish cartoons, or are offended by The Satanic Verses or think that Monica Ali’s Brick Lane is demeaning to your community. Similarly, you are only a proper Sikh if you are offended by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s play Behzti. Someone like Naser Khader, on the other hand, or like Salman Rushdie or Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, or Monica Ali, are seen as too liberal, too ‘Westernized’, too progressive, to be truly of their community.

The consequence has been that the most reactionary figures get to be seen as the authentic voices of those communities. And in presenting Muslim communities in this fashion, liberals do the racists’ job for them. The protests against the cartoons, as Khader put it, ‘were not about Mohammed. They were about who should represent Muslims’. And what was ‘really offensive’ to him was that ‘journalists and politicians see the fundamentalists as the real Muslims’.

It’s one of the ironies of the liberal multicultural view. Liberals argue for multicultural policies on the grounds that we live in a diverse nation. But they seem also to believe that such diversity somehow magically stops at the edges of minority communities. They wash over differences and conflicts in those communities, seeing them instead as fixed, homogenous groups with a single set of views, primarily driven by faith. And they rely on so-called community leaders to be suitable judges of what is and is not acceptable or necessary for that community. As a result, progressive voices often get silenced as ‘inauthentic’ or as not really being of that community.

Maryam Namazie: Free expression is a demand of those without power vis-a-vis the powers that be. It seems more often than not, it is those with power and influence making such demands at the expense of those who need it most. I’m thinking of Islamists using rights language to deny rights and expression. Free speech and expression have often been censored under the guise of respecting the sensibilities of Islamists (couched in terms of Muslim or minority sensibilities). Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 22 2014

When will LibDems side with us?

2014-01-22It’s not surprising that the Liberal Democrats have again sided with Islamist values at the expense of Muslims, ex-Muslims and others.

Not surprising but frustrating nonetheless.

In the latest saga, they have decided to admonish their candidate Maajid Nawaz who has received death threats for merely stating the obvious: he – like many Muslims – is not offended by Jesus and Mo cartoons. Muslims are not a homogeneous bunch after all but are treated as such by the LibDem Party.  To them, Muslim values are considered one and the same with Islamist values: medieval, intolerant, and forever offended… Which is of course why they are more concerned with a cartoon causing “unnecessary offence” then death threats made against Nawaz by one of their own members, Mo Shafiq, who has effectively incited violence against Nawaz through his deliberate use of the term ‘Gustakh-e-Rasool’, which means ‘enemy of the prophet’. It’s the same lack of concern they have shown when another of their members Salah Al Bandar threatened Nahla Mahmoud with death by calling her a “Kafira” and “Murtada” who has offended Islam and brought “fitnah”.

After all, in the world according to the LibDems, death threats is what “Muslims” do. But saying a cartoon isn’t offensive to Muslims – as Nawaz did – well that just shows a lack of sensitivity…

In a statement, they write: “The Liberal Democrats are a party of respect, tolerance and individual liberty. We fundamentally believe in freedom of expression and as such defend Maajid’s right to express his views. But as a party we urge all candidates to be sensitive to cultural and religious feelings and to conduct debate without causing gratuitous or unnecessary offence.”

What the LibDems and many others keep forgetting is that respect, tolerance and even liberty is for people not beliefs, not cultures and not religions. We do not need to respect or tolerate beliefs but we must do so when it comes to people.

Plus why does the person who threatens and feels offence represent cultural and religious feelings but not the likes of Nawaz?

Algerian sociologist said it best in her recent interview with Fitnah’s Unveiled:

There are two underlying questions here: the first one is about the limits to respect for ‘The Other’s’ culture/religion…; the second is about who speaks for culture; who speaks for religion?

On respect, the real question is: should everything be respected? Is Female Genital Mutilation to be respected because old men think that is their culture – and even if some women also think it is their culture? Should forced marriage or child marriage be respected? Should public flogging for adultery be respected? Should stoning to death be respected? Or for that matter should the death penalty be respected at all?

There is a relativist culture of non commitment and neutrality that has been expanding – certainly in the West, under the influence of liberalism, of human rights organisations and of political correctness and the fear of appearing racist. Accordingly, everything is equal; everything has to be respected on par – the right of the capitalist and the right of the worker, the right of the one who holds the gun and the right of the one who runs for his life away from the gun… It is high time to admit that there are conflicting rights, antagonistic rights.

It seems to me that progressive people have forgotten the virtues of being partisan. I want to stand for the right of the worker, not that of the capitalist, for the right of the man who runs for his life, not for the right of the man who holds the gun, and for the right of women to live their lives without interference from extreme-Right religious people.

There can be a principled response regarding respect for ‘The Other’ and its limits, but this first question can also lead to another: who decides that THIS is The Culture of a group?

We could immediately produce, of course, hundreds and thousands and even millions of people, in each specific country, who would vouch that ‘this’ (be it stoning, FGM, child marriage, etc…) is by no means their culture/their religion, not the culture they feel they belong to, or the religion they believe in. 

Do we believe that those presently standing in their own countries or in the diaspora against FGM, public flogging, death penalty for atheists, etc… have less legitimacy in representing their people, their culture, their religion than those who stand for it?

Are we really saying that women fighting against sex segregation today in their own countries are alien to their culture? That they are illegitimate representatives of their cultures?

This stems from a definition of culture as fixed in the past, a-historical, not as a moving, living, permanently changing, social organisation. But then WHEN is a culture arrested in history, in which year? In the years of slavery, in the years when women did not vote, in the years when women did not have access to contraception, or could not open their own bank accounts? In which of these historical steps is a culture ‘arrested’ to be seen as authentic?

To me, the women who fight against FGM or stoning for sex outside marriage or for gender equality, etc are the representatives of today’s culture in their country.

It seems to me that cultural relativists are furiously and deeply racist since they exclusively promote as true and legitimate the worst possible opinions of extreme-Right Muslims. If anyone, white, European, would utter similar opinions about their white European co-citizens, these same cultural relativists would shrink in horror and refuse to shake their hand. One can only conclude that cultural relativists think that a Muslim must be a horrible reactionary, otherwise s/he is not a true Muslim. Isn’t that racist?

For me and many like me, Nawaz represents a majority of Muslims and ex-Muslims and just plain 21st century humans. When will the LibDems side with them, with us, and stop aiding and abetting the Islamists and their apologists?

Sign a petition to support Nawaz, Tweet #TeamNawaz and contact Liberal Democratic party members, counsellors and MPs though I can only say good luck with getting through to them. We are still waiting for justice for Nahla and an acknowledgement that death threats against people are more serious than offended sensibilities over a cartoon…

(Via Chris Moos)

Jan 22 2014

Support ex-Muslim atheist Nasir Irshad! He must be granted asylum in the UK

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) is pleased that an Afghan atheist recently gained asylum and protection in Britain for his atheism. Whilst this is being hailed as the first case of its kind, the CEMB has worked on countless asylum cases over the past several years with a rising number securing asylum based on their atheism and due to a well-founded fear of persecution for apostasy and leaving Islam.

In light of the abysmal situation for ex-Muslims in many countries under Sharia law, as highlighted in our recent report “Political and Legal Status of Apostates in Islam”, asylum and protection for apostates and ex-Muslim atheists is a basic right.

Whilst the numbers of those being granted protection are increasing, there are still large numbers of ex-Muslims facing refusals and deportation to countries where they face death at worst and a loss of liberty and rights at best.

One such case is that of Muhammad Nasir Irshad who is currently detained at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre awaiting deportation to Pakistan where he faces a real risk of persecution because of his atheism. His appeal has been refused; he had no legal counsel during his appeal given that legal aid was also refused him and he has been fast-tracked for deportation. The Home Office has refused his claim asserting that ex-Muslim atheists are not in danger in Pakistan.

Nasir Irshad has approached the CEMB to assist with his case. We call on the Home Office to immediately cancel any attempts to deport Nasir and to grant him the protection he deserves and which is his right. Needless to say, the Home Office will be held accountable for Nasir’s life and liberty.

For more information, contact:
Tanjir Sugar or Maryam Namazie
Council of Ex- Muslims of Britain
BM Box 1919, London WC1N 3XX, UK
tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
email: [email protected]
web: http://ex-muslim.org.uk/

Jan 16 2014

End Ban on Female Fans in Iran; Stadiums for All

Stadiums4all_pic1

Today, over 130 distinguished signatories are calling for “Stadiums for All” and an end to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s 34-year ban on female fans in the run-up to the June 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Signatories to the open letter include Alda Facio, Founder and First Director of the Women’s Caucus for Gender Justice at the International Criminal Court; Amel Grami, Professor at the Tunisian University of Manouba; Amina Sboui, Tunisian Activist; Åsa Dahlström Heuser, President of the Secular Humanist League of Brazil; Fatou Sow, International Director of Women Living Under Muslim Laws; Fereydoon Farahi, Singer and Musician; Harold Walter Kroto, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry; Hassan Zerehi, Journalist and Editor-in-Chief of Shahrvand Newspaper; Jean-Claude Pecker, Astronomer and Former Director of the Nice Observatory; Lawrence Krauss, Theoretical Physicist and Cosmologist; Marieme Helie Lucas, Founder of Secularism is a Women’s Issue; Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson of One Law for All and Fitnah; Mina Ahadi, Spokesperson of the International Committee against Stoning and Execution; Nazanin Afshin-Jam, Human Rights Activist; Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan; Richard Dawkins, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science; Shadi Sadr, Human Rights Lawyer; Shahyar Ghanbari, Iranian Lyricist, Songwriter and Singer of Persian Pop Music; Siba Shakib, Author and Steven Weinberg, Theoretical Physicist and Nobel Laureate in Physic.

The ban on women in stadiums is yet another example of gender segregation and discrimination against women. For many years now, women in Iran have opposed the ban, including by issuing petitions, organising meetings and protests at stadiums and even risking arrest by dressing as men in order to circumvent the prohibition. This open letter aims to gather further support for women and men in Iran opposing gender segregation and for stadiums for all.

The full list of signatories to the open letter can be found below.

To support Stadiums for All, please sign the petition here and Tweet: #IRWomenStadium.

The ban on female fans in Iran must end. And it must end now. Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 16 2014

UK’s smacking law like Sharia

ban-smackingYou can smack a child in the UK if it’s for “reasonable chastisement and does not leave a serious mark”. It reminds me of the Sharia law that allows men to beat their disobedient wives as long as they leave no marks (or at least according to the “Islamic feminist” interpretation).

The Children’s Commissioner for England, Maggie Atkinson, had finally brought some sense into the Government’s debate by saying that parents should be banned from smacking their children.

Of course they should. Children are not the properties of their parents. They are human beings that deserve protection, even more so than adults, because they are so vulnerable.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling says he isn’t opposed to smacking as “sometimes it sends a message”. I’d like to smack Grayling in order to send my message but hold on, I’m not allowed to smack an adult and even a pet – but a vulnerable child – it’s permissible under the law.

And it shouldn’t be.

 

Jan 14 2014

To UN: UK Public institutions continue to fail to uphold an environment free of discrimination

CAMPAIGNS-protests-against-universities-uk-guidelines-on-gender-segregation_347312114 January 2014

Ms. Farida Shaheed
Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

Dear Ms. Shaheed,

We write to draw your attention to the increasing incidence of gender segregation on public university campuses in the United Kingdom, and to seek your intervention in this matter.

Gender segregation reinforces negative views about women, undermines their right to participate in public life on equal terms with men and disproportionately impedes women from ethnic and religious minorities, whose rights to education and gender equality are already imperilled.

The practice first came to light after two men were forcibly removed from the ‘Women’s’ section and several students were refused entrance to the ‘female only’ section at a public debate at University College London (UCL) on 9 March 2013 between the Islamist Hamza Tzortzis and the American cosmologist Lawrence Krauss, organised by Tzortzis’s Islamic Education and Research Academy. Seating at the event was divided such that men were seated at the front of the lecture theatre and women at the back. The two men were readmitted only after Lawrence Krauss threatened to pull out of the debate (video) if segregation was enforced. Following an internal investigation, UCL banned the organisers from conducting events on their campus in future and reaffirmed its Policy on Gender Segregation.

We are compelled to seek your intercession in this matter after Universities UK (UUK), the representative body of British universities, issued, on 22 November 2013, Guidance for universities on ‘External speakers in higher education institutions’. The Guidance featured a hypothetical case study (of a visiting speaker who insisted that the audience be segregated by gender) which concluded that “assuming the side-by-side segregated seating arrangement is adopted, there does not appear to be any discrimination on gender grounds merely by imposing segregated seating”. The case study triggered a protest by students and women’s rights campaigners outside the London offices of UUK on 10 December 2013, and, following sustained criticism, was withdrawn on 13 December, pending further legal advice. (The original guidance is attached: ExternalSpeakersInHigherEducationInstitutions.)

UUK has claimed that the case study was merely ‘hypothetical’. However, besides UCL, there have been several cases of students complaining about gender segregation, for example at Leicester University and Queen Mary University London. A poll by the Times Higher Education revealed that out of 46 universities that responded, 29 do not have prohibitions against gender segregation in place. The Federation of Islamic Students Societies, for example, has issued guidelines on how to run a successful Islamic student society. These prescribe to “maintain segregation between brothers and sisters, keeping interaction between them at a minimum”.

Universities UK claims that it has still not abandoned the case study, which is merely pending “review”. Instead, a number of public statements made by their Chief Executive, Nicola Dandridge, and by the organisation itself, give us reason to fear that the case study may quietly be reintroduced to the report, with purely cosmetic alterations that do not neutralise the danger it poses to gender equality and women’s rights.

We hope you will appreciate that it is difficult enough resisting gender-segregation in public spaces even with equality and human rights legislation demonstrably in our favour, and that a recurrence of this Guidance will irretrievably damage the cause of gender equality and women’s rights in Britain by emboldening the apologists of this practice.

Should you wish to investigate these incidents, we would like to forewarn you of a common misconception that has been encouraged by apologists for this practice, namely that it is “voluntary”. It is not, inasmuch as it is beyond dispute that attendees at these events are expected to sit in specific zones, on pain of eviction. The prefix “voluntary” merely implies that such events will sometimes have three sections – men’s, women’s and mixed. We hope you will agree that this token concession does little to address our principal objection to this practice, which is that it amounts to the appropriation of a public space in the name of religion or culture, in a manner that undermines the dignity of both men and women and creates a hostile, degrading and humiliating environment for women. We also hope you will concur that, for many women, particularly those from ethnic minorities, the ‘choice’ of mixed/segregated seating is often made under considerable duress.

Finally, we would also like to draw your attention to a legal note submitted to UUK by Radha Bhatt, an undergraduate student of the University of Cambridge, which provides a succinct illustration of the manifest illegality of gender segregation under Britain’s Equality Act 2010 and the European Convention on Human Rights, and reminds UUK of its Public Sector Equality Duty towards the imperatives of eliminating discrimination, advancing equality of opportunity and fostering good relations between those who share protected characteristics.

We are concerned that beyond the cases we have brought to your attention, there is a persistent issue of discrimination through gender segregation at public universities in the UK and also elsewhere. Recently, for example, a professor at York University in Canada faced reprimand for upholding gender equality in his classroom. Gender segregation is often done in the name of respecting cultural and religious rights with culture, religion and ethnicity often presented as inextricably intertwined and seen to supersede women’s rights and equality in the hierarchy of rights.

Even though the UK is a signatory to CEDAW and despite the fact that the issue has been brought to the attention of university administrators and policy makers, public institutions in the United Kingdom continue to fail to uphold an environment free of discrimination.

We thank you for your consideration, and look forward to your intercession on this pressing human rights issue.

Yours Sincerely,
Radha Bhatt, undergraduate student of the University of Cambridge
Marieme Helie Lucas, Founder of Secularism is a Women’s Issue
Nahla Mahmoud, Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Chris Moos, Secretary of LSE SU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson of One Law for All and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation
Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters
Abishek Phandis, President of LSE SU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Fatou Sow, International Director of Women Living Under Muslim Laws

For further enquiries please contact:

Maryam Namazie
One Law for All and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation
[email protected]
077 1916 6731
@maryamNamazie

Pragna Patel
Southall Black Sisters
[email protected]
02085719595
@SBSisters

Chris Moos
LSE SU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
[email protected]
074 2872 0599
@LSESUASH

Jan 10 2014

In support of professor Grayson and gender equality at York University

York University is standing by its sexist decision to allow a student to be excused from a group project because the presence of women interfered with his “firm religious beliefs” even after his professor refused the request. To defend professor Grayson and gender equality, please sign the petition here.

Here’s a letter we have signed in support of Professor Grayson.

Dear Professor Grayson

We are writing to you in full support of your decision to uphold gender equality in your class at York University.

Whilst religious belief is absolute, manifestation of belief is not and can be limited to uphold gender equality. Any form of segregation, whether by race, sex or otherwise is discriminatory.

In the UK, the representative body of Universities in the UK met with widespread opposition when it issued guidance endorsing gender segregation; it was forced to withdraw their guidance after the prime minister intervened. A legal notice issued this week on behalf of a female student reiterates that “gender segregation reinforces negative views specifically about women, undermines their right to participate in public life on equal terms with men and disproportionately impedes women from ethnic and religious minorities, whose rights to education and gender equality are already imperilled.”

A petition has been initiated in your support and reminds York University of its duty to eliminate discrimination and advance gender equality. We would like to see a clear, principled, and earnest retraction from York University’s administration, including from Mr. Martin Singer, Dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, and Noël A. J. Badiou, Director at York University’s Centre for Human Rights, of this transgression of women’s equality. This irresponsible move by York’s administration sets a dangerous precedent for women’s rights in Canadian universities. We hope that York’s administration starts to understand the implications of capitulating to bigotry and sexism under the guise of religious exceptionalism. As one of the biggest educational institutions in Canada, York must send the message to Canadians and to the world that racism, homophobia, and sexism, are always unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

We all stand in solidarity with you and all those who support rights and equality for all people.

Signed

Ariane Brunet, Programme Director, Centre for Secular Space
Chris Moos, Secretary of LSE SU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Esam Shoukry, Spokesperson of Defence of Secularism and Civil Rights in Iraq
Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, Founder of Global Secular Humanist Movement
Farzana Hassan, Writer and Women’s Rights Activist
Gita Sahgal, Director of Centre for Secular Space
Harsh Kapoor, South Asia Citizens Web
Kiran Opal, Human Rights Activist, Ex-Muslims of North America
Lalia Ducos, Women’s Initiative for Citizenship and Universal Rights
Lawrence Krauss, Theoretical Physicist and Cosmologist
Marieme Helie Lucas, Secularism is a Women’s Issue
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson of Fitnah and One Law for All
Mina Ahadi, Coordinator of International Committee Against Execution and Stoning
Muhammad Syed, Ex-Muslims of North America
Nas Ishmael, Ex-Muslims of North America
Peter Tatchell, Director of Peter Tatchell Foundation
Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters
Raheel Raza, President of Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow
Richard Dawkins, Scientist
Sadaf Ali, Ex-Muslims of North America
Sarah Haider, Ex-Muslims of North America
Siamak Amjadi, Coordinator of Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation
Soraya Chemaly, Writer
Tarek Fatah, Founder of Muslim Canadian Congress
Zari Asli, Founder of Friends of Women in the Middle East Society

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