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Nov 23 2013

Rescind endorsement of sex segregation at UK universities

segregationlogoUPDATE:

* There will be a protest at Universities UK offices in London on 10 December 2013, International Human Rights Day, to oppose sex segregation. You can join Facebook Events Page here.

* Teams of Sex Apartheid Busters are being organised to break segregation wherever it is instituted. To join, email [email protected] 

UniversitiesUKSegregationUniversities UK (UUK) has issued guidance on external speakers saying that the segregation of the sexes at universities is not discriminatory as long as “both men and women are being treated equally, as they are both being segregated in the same way.” The guidance has been supported by the National Union of Students.

UUK add that universities should bear in mind that “concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system” and that if “imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition to the segregated areas contravenes the genuinely-held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event, or those of the speaker, the institution should be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully.”

We, the undersigned, condemn the endorsement of gender apartheid by Universities UK. Any form of segregation, whether by race, sex or otherwise is discriminatory. Separate is never equal and segregation is never applied to those who are considered equal. By justifying segregation, Universities UK sides with Islamist values at the expense of the many Muslims and others who oppose sex apartheid and demand equality between women and men.

The guidance must be immediately rescinded and sex segregation at universities must come to an end.

Join initial list of signatories below by signing the petition here.

Initial List of Signatories:
A C Grayling, Philosopher
Abhishek N. Phadnis, President, London School of Economics Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Anissa Helie, Academic
Charlie Klendjian, Secretary of Lawyers’ Secular Society
Chris Moos, Secretary, London School of Economics Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Deborah Hyde, Editor of Skeptic magazine
Deeyah Khan, Film Director and Music Producer
Dilip Simeon, Chairperson of the Aman Trust
Elham Manea, Author
Faisal Gazi, Writer and Blogger
Fatou Sow, International Coordinator of Women Living Under Muslim Laws
Gita Sahgal, Director, Centre for Secular Space
Harsh Kapoor, South Asia Citizen’s Web
Helen Palmer, Chair of London Humanists
Kate Smurthwaite, Comedian and Activist
Marieme Helie Lucas, Coordinator, Secularism is a Women’s Issue
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson for One Law for All and Fitnah
Mina Ahadi, International Committee against Stoning
Nadia El Fani, Tunisian Filmmaker
Nahla Mahmoud, Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Nina Sankari, Women’s Rights Campaigner
Ophelia Benson, Writer
Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs of the British Humanist Association
Peter Tatchell, Director of Peter Tatchell Foundation
Polly Toynbee, Journalist
Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters
Rahila Gupta, Women’s Rights Campaigner
Richard Dawkins, Scientist
Rohini Hensman, Social Activist
Rory Fenton, President of The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies of the UK and ROI
Rumy Hassan, Academic
Safia Lebdi, Founder, “Les insoumis-es”
Salil Tripathi, Writer
Soad Baba Aissa, President, of Association pour l’ Egalité, la Mixité et la Laicité en Algérie
Terry Sanderson, President of National Secular Society
Yasmin Rehman, Women’s Rights Campaigner

Nov 23 2013

Sex apartheid not discriminatory?

Universities UK, a “representative” body of UK Universities, has issued guidelines on external speakers saying that the segregation of the sexes at universities is not discriminatory as long as both men and women are segregated side by side rather than women being made to sit in the back! The guidance states:

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. Both men and women are being treated equally, as they are both being segregated in the same way.

So racial apartheid would have been non-discriminatory if white and black people had been segregated in the same manner? In fact that is the very argument the apartheid regime of South Africa used when faced with criticism:”separate but equal.”

The Universities UK guidance adds:

“Segregation in the context of the facts outlined above would only be discriminatory on the grounds of sex if it amounts to ‘less favourable treatment’ of either female or male attendees.” … “It should therefore be borne in mind that [...] concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system.” …

“Ultimately, if imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition to the segregated areas contravenes the genuinely-held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event, or those of the speaker, the institution should be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully.”

Clearly, this is not about people’s belief systems.

If it were so, Muslims would be unable to ride buses, the underground, enter their workplaces via entrances used by both men and women, eat in non-segregated restaurants… They wouldn’t even be able to get to the segregated meeting room since men and women would be mingling freely on the streets and halls right up to their entry into the segregated hall kindly organised by Universities UK.

gender_segregation-150x150And what next? Another set of guidelines asking unveiled women to veil so as not to “result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system.” Maybe they can ask that niqabs be handed out to unchaste and unveiled women before entry.

More importantly, what about the women and men, including Muslims, who don’t want to be segregated? What Universities UK conveniently forgets is that segregation of the sexes and the veil are highly contested even amongst Muslims. By justifying segregation, they choose to side with Islamists at the expense of women’s rights and equality.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that segregation is never applied to those who are considered equal but rather to separate the “superior” from the “inferior.” Women are too “beguiling” to sit next to men; they will cause chaos and fitnah and therefore must be segregated and veiled. Universities UK agrees.

The guidance must be rescinded immediately.

I suggest writing and calling and exposing this lot until they do. Here are their details:

Woburn House 20 Tavistock Square London WC1H 9HQ
Tel: +44 (0)20 7419 4111
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.universitiesuk.ac.uk
Twitter: @UniversitiesUK

I would also suggest that NO speaker or audience ever agree to enter a room that is segregated. We should boycott universities that accept this guidance and the speakers that agree to speak in such situations.

How do you think racial apartheid ended? When people refused to accept it and to submit.

And this is how gender apartheid will end too. Not by appeasement and certainly not by institutionalising misogyny against women. It will end when we insist: no more!

Here is the guidance in full: ExternalSpeakersInHigherEducationInstitutions

(Via Chris Moos)

Nov 22 2013

Walking a tightrope: Between the pro-Islamist Left and the far-Right

1236466622-one-law-for-all-campaign-against-sharia-law-in-britain29189_29189Opposing Sharia and Islamism in the west is like walking on a tight rope most of the time – thwarting attacks from the Left, refuting cultural relativism, preventing alliances with the far-Right, explaining the issues ignored by government and the media, mobilising support for secularism and citizenship whilst opposing racism and xenophobia, and making linkages with the many fighting Islamism on the ground in countries across the world. It’s easy to fall off the tight rope and doesn’t surprise me when it happens given all the pressures involved.

Most disconcerting for many are the pressures from the Left; it is particularly hard when your “natural allies” betray basic human principles whilst using the language of rights and tolerance to defend the denial of rights and the intolerable.

Take this past weekend’s panel discussion at the NYU Global Secularisms conference that I was on. One of my co-panellists said she opposed all fundamentalists, including secular ones, when asked about my talk and another accused me of aiding and abetting racism against Muslims and Arabs by my very use of the term Sharia (I’ll have to comment on these later).

Add to this constant demonization, the day to day difficulties of doing such work, including the threats and all the clandestine attempts at intimidation and it is quite easy to see how one can be disillusioned and fall off the tightrope. (Just this week, I was asked to reassure a ‘moderate Muslim gentleman’ – read Islamist – with the content of my talk though he wouldn’t be attending and wanted me disinvited.)

I suppose it’s easier for people like me to stay the course coming from an Iranian Left political tradition with crystal clear clarity and an uncompromising defence of humanity. The Left I belong to has opposed cultural relativism and defended universal values and hasn’t sided with the Iranian regime or Syria’s Asad like Stop the War Coalition and the Socialist Workers Party.

When faced with such betrayal, I can fully understand that, for some, staying on course becomes impossible. What I can’t understand and will never accept, though, is falling off the tightrope or even trying to stay on whilst simultaneously finding solace in and partnership with the far-Right.

The argument in favour of collaboration with the far-Right is that we need as many allies as possible in the fight against Sharia and Islamism, which means that we must be “inclusive” and “tolerant” of those whose views we may find distasteful – all for the “cause.”

Sound familiar?

Is this not what the pro-Islamist Left says in justifying its collaboration with the Islamists?

I for one already work with many groups and individuals whose views I find distasteful; it is possible to do that in specific campaigns like One Law for All. But no movement includes or represents everyone. There are limits. And there are principles that are more important than any “cause.”

Also, creating movements is not merely a numbers game. When Stop the War Coalition brought in Islamists as partners, it ignored Islamic terrorism and discrimination against women. It sided with oppressive regimes, segregated meetings and defended Sharia and the veil. It brought lots of people to the streets initially but at what cost and for how long?

Collaborating with the likes of the English Defence League (EDL) may increase numbers in the short-term, but it’s self-defeating. This isn’t only about numbers. Aims and principles matter too.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. I’m against the war on Iraq as is Al Qaeda but we’re against it for different reasons. I’m against Sharia and so is the EDL and the supposedly reinvented Tommy Robinson but we’re against it for different reasons.

I oppose Sharia in Britain and everywhere because universal rights, secularism, women’s rights and equality mean something to me. The EDL and Tommy Robinson oppose it because they want to defend their “homeland” (which I am reminded is a human right recognised by the UN) from “the changes and dangers brought to it by mass influxes of people from cultures they don’t understand or recognise.” Can you not see the fundamental differences in position? Theirs is a xenophobic position that blames immigrants and minorities for everything wrong with Britain. It’s a racist perspective that sees the teeming masses as the “other” trying to change white, British, Christian culture.

But people’s “culture” is not based on their immigration or citizenship status. Not every white European represents enlightenment values – as the EDL clearly proves. Nor is every immigrant or minority a regressive theocrat. This is not about a clash of civilisations between a regressive “east” and a secularist “west” but a clash between theocrats and the religious-Right on the one hand and secularists and democrats, including Muslims and immigrants on the other.

Where we each stand is based on our politics and choices not on our “identity” or immigration status. I too am one of those teeming immigrant masses after all as are many who are at the forefront of doing much of the dirty work of defending secularism in Britain and elsewhere.

It always annoys me to no end when I hear that the EDL are the only ones speaking out against Sharia. Please, we were speaking out against Sharia when EDL/BNP-types were openly collaborating with neo-Nazis and for white supremacy. Their language may have changed but political movements and organisations are thankfully not merely judged by the duplicitous language they use.

An undue focus on Britain, “homeland” and the west means that one can only see the likes of the EDL, thereby seeking common cause where there is none.

It also means that one cannot see the real allies in this fight, including amongst the “teeming hoards of immigrants” and women and men struggling in Iran, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Algeria, Mali, Bangladesh, Egypt, Turkey and elsewhere. One Law for All and the fight against Sharia and Islamism is a continuation of their struggle and fight – not that of the EDL’s and far-Right.

The far-Right will never have a place in One Law for All. I will make sure of that.

***
As an aside, I must briefly address the fact that Tommy Robinson has left the EDL. I for one have nothing against working towards common goals with those who have left far-Right organisations – EDL or Islamist. One Law for All already works with ex-Islamists and ex-members of the BNP and EDL. However, I am doubtful that Tommy is a changed man. When Ed Hussain or Majid Nawaaz left Hizb ut Tahrir and founded Quilliam Foundation, they criticised the Islamist organisation they left and created a new position and space for themselves and others. Tommy has yet to do that. So far, all I have heard from him is how proud he is of his time with the EDL; he continues to defend the organisation. He has merely criticised certain elements within the EDL but not the organisation itself and its politics. One can’t be ex-EDL and still defend the EDL if one wants to show that they have truly changed. Islamists do this all the time by changing their organisational name and carrying on with business as usual.

Personally I think this is all a publicity stunt for Tommy to reinvent himself into a more palatable persona without any lasting change in his politics. (Notice how the BBC follows him everywhere?) For his politics to be considered different, he would need to take responsibility for the EDL’s far-Right politics during his leadership and must be judged not only by what he says but by what he does. Only time will tell whether he is the same old Tommy; I certainly hope not.

Nov 21 2013

Lib Dems: Wrong Answer, Again!

Nahla Mahmoud MCUNahla Mahmoud, Spokesperson of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, was threatened after speaking out against Sharia law including by Salah al Bandar (or Salah al Bander) who has until recently been a Liberal Democrat Councillor and is currently an esteemed member. Details of his threats can be found here as can information on his dubious background here.

Spencer Hagard, Chair of the Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats, initiated an investigation when the threats were first made public in English and found them “groundless”. Instead, he said the inquiry “increased [his] previously high esteem for” al Bandar.

When he was further pressed, he commissioned an “independent translation” and reached the very same conclusion, which says:

1.  Nahla Mahmoud’s allegations against Dr Al Bander are very serious, in their nature, and in the scale and persistence of their dissemination.
2.  The allegations are based on Dr Al Bander’s posts on ‘SudaneseOnline’.  We have had these independently translated into English.
3. None of the independent translations supports the allegations made in Nahla Mahmoud’s articles of 2 August 2013, 2 September 2013, 4 September 2013, and 28 September 2013. By a combination of of mistranslation, omission of key phrases, and highly selective and partial quotation, she has created serious distortions of the meaning of Dr Al Bander’s posts.

4. Our conclusion is that Dr Al Bander has no case to answer in respect of the allegations by Nahla Mahmoud.

5. We are therefore satisfied that there is nothing in Dr Salah Al Bander’s behaviour which conflicts with his continuing membership of the Liberal Democrat Party.

When asked for a copy of the “independent translation”  by Janet Wright who lives in Cambridgeshire, Hagard refused. Janet wrote to him saying:

You say “You will see that the matter has been thoroughly investigated”. But that is exactly what I cannot see, because you have not shown me the evidence. As an academic, you know that repeating an assertion is not the same as providing evidence.

Would you please be kind enough to send me the independent translation you commissioned, with some information about who did the translation? Then I hope I will be able to see that Mr Al Bander is completely innocent of the charges made against him. Many thanks.

I very much wish to be reassured about the principles upheld by Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats. But the more you tell me you have evidence exonerating Mr Al Bander but you will not show it to me, the more worried I become.

Hagard wrote back: Read the rest of this entry »

Nov 21 2013

Open Letter to Stop the War Coalition on Agnès Mariam de la Croix

Here’s an open letter to Stop the War Coalition that I signed which (yet again) highlights their support of those who defend oppressive regimes like Iran’s and Syria’s. The open letter was published here. You can read it below.

By the way, here’s a good article by James Bloodworth on this issue saying she is “the equivalent of one of Hitler’s brown priests” and that though she has now pulled out, she would have fitted in so very well…

News recently broke that Stop the War Coalition (StWC) invited Mother Superior Agnès Mariam de la Croix to speak at its November 30 International Anti-War Conference. Fellow guests included MPs Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn and journalists Owen Jones and Jeremy Scahill.

Responding to a firestorm of protest, Jones and Scahill vowed to boycott the event if the Syrian-based nun spoke alongside them. Eventually she decided to “withdraw” from the conference and StWC issued a statement without explanation. Nor did it divulge why anyone would object to a Syrian cleric’s participation in an ostensibly pro-peace event.

Here are some reasons why we consider Mother Agnès-Mariam’s inclusion in an anti-war event to be a “red line” for opponents of conflict. Despite contrary claims, she is a partisan to—rather than a neutral observer of—the war in Syria.

syria-12Mother Agnès claimed that the Syrian opposition faked films of Bashar al-Assad’s 21 August 2013 sarin-gas attack on Ghouta in the suburbs of Damascus. In her 50-page dossier on the horrible events of that fateful morning, she wrote that the dead, gassed children documented in those videos “seem mostly sleeping” and “under anaesthesia.”

According to Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, a Jesuit priest exiled by the Assad regime for speaking out against its suppression of peaceful protests and currently a prisoner of al-Qa’ida’s Syrian affiliate, ISIS, Mother Agnes “has been consistent in assuming and spreading the lies of the regime, and promoting it through the power of her religious persona. She knows how to cover up the brutality of the regime”.

Moreover, Syrian Christians for Peace have denounced Mother Agnès for claiming there had never been a single peaceful demonstration in Syria. The also accused her of failing to disburse any of the money she raised in the name of their beleaguered community. They have asked “that she be excommunicated and prevented from speaking in the name of the Order of Carmelites.”

Having a massacre denier and apologist for war criminals like Mother Agnès speak alongside respected journalists such as Jeremy Scahill and Owen Jones is not only an insult to them and their principles. It is also, more insidiously, a means of exploiting their credibility and moral authority to bolster hers, both of which are non-existent.  No journalist should be sharing a platform with Agnès when she stands accused of being complicit in the death of French journalist Gilles Jacquier by his widow and a colleague who accompanied him into Homs during the trip arranged by Mother Agnès in January 2012.

Given that her UK speaking tour is still scheduled to last from the 21st to 30th November we, the undersigned, feel compelled to express our profound and principled objections to those who give a platform to a woman condemned by Syrian pro-peace Christians for greasing the skids of the regime’s war machine.

Signatories: Read the rest of this entry »

Nov 19 2013

Iran: Stop the execution of Zaniar and Loghman Moradi Now

zaniarandloghmanmoradiZaniar and Loghman Moradi are two political prisoners who were arrested in 2009 and sentenced to death for ‘enmity against God’ after being accused of murdering the son of a cleric in Marivan, Iranian Kurdistan.

They have written frequent open letters from prison; in one letter to Ahmed Shaheed, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights in Iran, they recounted the horrific tortures they faced forcing false confessions.

The death sentences against Zaniar and Loghman Moradi and the massive international campaign organised on their behalf has meant that the two youth are now well known internationally. Following the mass execution of 18 political activists on 26 October and the executions of Habibollah Golparipour and Shirkoo Moarefi, the risk of execution of the two has increased.

Two witnesses, a man and woman in Marivan, have now come forward and announced their readiness to testify on the murder of Marivan clergy’s son. Their testimony may hold clues to the murders committed by Hiwa Dab, a commander of the regime who had a hand in a number of murders and who was executed by the regime as a cover up attempt.

The lawyer of the two men has stated that Zaniar and Loghman were originally arrested for political activities against the regime; after 5 months imprisonment, they were charged with the killing of the clergy’s son. Their forced confessions were made under torture.

We, the undersigned, demand the immediate abolition Zaniar and Loghman Moradi’s execution order and call for their release. The Marivan clergy has been repeatedly asked to refuse to collaborate in this sham but he has given a number of justifications for playing along, including his concern about losing his position and pay.

By signing this petition, please call for the revocation of the sentence.

A copy of this petition will be sent to the Parliament of Europe and the UN and international media.
Mina Ahadi, Spokesperson, the International Committee against Executions
Amaneh Ghaderi, Mother of Zaniar Moradi
Eqbal Moradi, Father Zaniar Moradi

Nov 13 2013

Unveiled: Neither Veil nor Submission

fitnah-UNVEILED-nov13_Page_01Fitnah’s November issue of Unveiled (Volume 1, Issue 2) has now been published and can be found here: fitnah-UNVEILED-nov13.

editor: Maryam Namazie
design by: Kiran Opal

Content includes:

The veil is nothing but the flag of the Muslim far-right, An interview with Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas. In this must-read interview, Marieme Helie Lucas says:

“If we do agree that this sudden rise of specific veils worldwide passing off as THE ‘Islamic’ veil is neither cultural nor religious but a political flag that fundamentalists use in order to increase their political visibility at the expense of women, then we must also admit that wearing this form of veil – now – in Europe and North America has a political purpose; the women who wear it, whether they are aware of it or not, are wearing the flag of a far-right political party. Hence I could hardly agree with the formulation: ‘a woman choosing how to dress.’ This veil is definitely not to be equated to wearing high heels versus flat shoes, or miniskirts versus trousers. It is not a fashion; it is a political marker. If one decides one is going to wear a swastika as a brooch, one cannot ignore its political meaning; one cannot pretend one does not care for the fact that it was the ’flag’ of Nazi Germany. One cannot pretend one just likes its shape. It is a political statement.”

Neither Veil nor Submission, Editorial by Maryam Namazie on the niqab ban. In it, she writes:

“The niqab and burqa in particular are the visible signs of Islamism’s war on women and the society at large. It also represents sex apartheid and Sharia law and all that follows. In Madani School, burqa-wearing girls must sit in the back of the classroom. On school trips, they must give way to boys and male teachers who cut in front of them in queues. Music is banned… The call for a ban has nothing to do with a clash of civilisations. It has everything to do with a global struggle between secularists, including many Muslims, on the one hand and theocrats and the religious-Right on the other.”

Newsflash provides updates on women’s rights and issues in a number of countries worldwide.

In the Art Corner, one can find information on an Afghan rap singer and censored packaging in Iran.

Recent highlighted campaigns, include End Stoning Now and End Legalised Paedophilia in Iran

Full issue can be found here: fitnah-UNVEILED-nov13.

Nov 05 2013

My speaking engagements this month

I will be speaking in Brighton tomorrow 6 November at a meeting organised by the Brighton Secular Humanists at 730pm at Sallis Benney Theatre, Brighton University, Grand Parade, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 0JY. More information available here.

After that I will be speaking at NYU during 15-16 November at the Global Secularisms Conference at New York University. For more details, visit here.

Nov 02 2013

The show will go on

passion_for_freedom_03The show will go on.

The 5th Passion for Freedom Festival will take place as planned from 02 November 2013 even though the original venue – out of sheer cowardice – pulled out last minute.

The festival will now be held at:
Embassy Tea Gallery
195-205 Union Street
London SE1 0LN (Closest underground Southwark)

The 2 November private view and movie screenings can be attended by reservation only. To reserve your place on the guest list please email: [email protected].

Shortlisted artists will exhibit works which will be judged by an international Selection Panel including Anda Rottenberg, Sarah Maple, Deeyah and Nick Cohen.

Passion for Freedom is affiliated with One Law for All.

For more information on the festival, click here.

Nov 01 2013

Forbidden Talk: Atheism in Middle East

See an interview with me on Levant TV’s “Forbidden Talk” programme on “Atheism in the Middle East.” Levant TV is a new channel with a focus on the Middle East.

Here’s to the day when speaking about atheism doesn’t end up on the forbidden talk section of a TV channel. With atheism on the rise in the Middle East and North Africa, that moment will be coming… And not a moment too soon.

UPDATE: By the way, I am listening the programme right now, and can’t believe they had to have Saleem Chagtai (Islamic Education and Research Academy) wasting our time with the usual nonsense. I know they are hoping for balance, but how come they only remember balance when it comes to us?

Oct 30 2013

I needed some good news

hamzaHamza Kashgari, the young Saudi journalist whose tweets were deemed insulting to Mohammad, Islam’s prophet, has been released.

He faced the death penalty and was returned from Malaysia where he had fled to escape Saudi [in]justice.

I needed some good news today if only for a few seconds.

Only hours after confirming Kashgari’s release, a court in Jeddah sentenced Abu al-Khair to three months in prison for signing a statement calling for reforms…

(Via Maha Kamal)

Oct 30 2013

URGENT – VENUE PULLED OUT BUT THE SHOW MUST GO ON

passionThe 5th Passion for Freedom Festival will take place from 02 November 2013.

A new venue will be announced shortly. UNIT24 Gallery, the original venue, has pulled out last minute leaving organisers scrambling for a new venue.

Clearly, the main issue at hand is the Gallery’s fear of exhibiting controversial artwork.

Unit24 now joins a long list of “supporters of the arts” which want art that is uncontroversial even though the very purpose of good art is to break taboos and challenge the status quo.

Irrespective of their cowardice, the show will go on.

Per our previous announcement, shortlisted artists will exhibit works which will be judged by an international Selection Panel including Anda Rottenberg, Sarah Maple, Deeyah and Nick Cohen.

Please watch this space for updates and details of the new venue.

Passion for Freedom is affiliated with One Law for All. For more information, click here.

Oct 29 2013

When Tommy met Mo

b03ghfypEarlier this year, Maryam Namazie was approached by the production company making the BBC documentary ‘When Tommy met Mo’, about the interaction between Tommy Robinson and Mo Ansar. They asked if we could put them in touch with any women who had been discriminated against in British sharia courts. We declined to help because framing the issue in this way was severely detrimental to the women in question, who could potentially be portrayed as siding with the leader of the EDL, an organisation responsible for intimidating Muslims and pushing forth a racist agenda of collective guilt.

We discussed this in a letter from the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. (Whilst circumstances changed during the filming leading to a different narrative direction, our warning remains relevant to any and all discussions surrounding Islam and Islamism in modern Britain.)

Sharia courts and the issue of Islam and Islamism are important issues of universal rights, secularism and one law for all and of combating misogyny and religious obscurantism  – issues that should not be framed within the context of two far-Right extremes of Tommy Robinson on the one hand and the faux-progressive, reactionary apologia of Mo Ansar on the other.

As you well know, Tommy Robinson leads a racist movement that engages in collective guilt against all Muslims… Not only does providing him with publicity by making him engage in a high profile programme like this confer a legitimacy on him, it also allows those who wish to stifle all critical scrutiny of certain precepts of Islam to stigmatise them as being in the realm of a far-Right response. This allows reactionaries to effectively usher in a narrative that conflates a secular rational critique of Islam with the bigoted agenda of the likes of Tommy Robinson. It is just one way of asserting a kind of proxy blasphemy code into the debate around religion in modern Britain, and it is something that ex-Muslims have to deal with already. This is deeply disheartening to us.

Moreover, whilst giving publicity to Tommy Robinson, this documentary will also give publicity to the reactionary Mo Ansar who will use the platform provided by you to position himself as a moderate and progressive when he is actually far from that. Mo Ansar has cultivated a media image of being benign, tolerant and “progressive” in his views, and has used the profile of an opponent of the far-Right EDL to project this image. But many secularists, liberal Muslims and ex-Muslims have been concerned at how easy it is for a social reactionary like him to gain this perception amongst parts of the Left and the media… Moreover, Mo Ansar engages with Islamist organisations like Hizb ut-Tahrir and Cordoba Foundation. He also supports the Islamist coalition, Hefazat, that amongst other things seeks to execute vocal atheists in Bangladesh. The many reactionary positions of Mo Ansar has been catalogued here. A man with ties to Islamism who advises a domestic abuse victim to remain with her abuser is in no way merely a “Muslim commentator and interfaith advisor” as you call him.

Relegating important issues such as Islam, Islamism and Sharia courts to two polarising and far-Right figures ignores the complexities and does a disservice to the issues and the many dissenters who oppose both.

Clearly, your “documentary” will empower reactionaries, stifle progressive dissent, and marginalise truly progressive voices at a time when these are the voices that should be heard.

Tommy Robinson has now left the EDL and is working with the group Quilliam. We sincerely hope that he is a changed man and that in the future he will not engage in his former rhetoric or actions, nor will he apologise for or give succour to the kind of marches that were the hallmark of the EDL. We are cautious about his re-invention and must wait for proof of actions and not just words in order to ascertain whether he is indeed a changed man.

A word to the BBC: How much longer will the BBC be fixated with the apologists for Islamism and the far-Right? When will the media subject reactionaries like Ansar to as much critical scrutiny as nationalist reactionaries, and allow the voices of Muslim dissenters, secularists and ex-Muslims to be heard?

Oct 29 2013

Free Sherif Gaber Now

Waleed Al-Husseini of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain just informed me that a young Egyptian atheist who posted on his Facebook page has been arrested for his atheism yesterday after his university informed on him to the police.

This is what Sherif published:

Hi, my name is sherif gaber (Yamirasu) from Egypt. I was taught to be a Muslim; for that my dad sent me to some Sheiks, so I memorised the Quran and more than 1000 (Hadith) until I became very religious but then I started to see the contradictions between the Quran and scientific facts, and day by day for 2 years after searching and reading I knew the truth. Then I became an atheist and hid it for a few months. Then I admit it despite knowing that I might get killed any moment .. My family hasn’t talked to me for more than 4 months and I lost the majority of the people I thought were my friends and for about a year now half the people on my street don’t talk to me .. I’ve got threats every single day on my phone and my Facebook account… Here in Egypt, a lot of young atheists were sent to jail for 10 sometimes 20 years and if they have evidence that you insulted Islam you will be executed! That’s if the Islamic organisations don’t murder you & your family before that! .. Even though I’m not afraid to say I’m an atheist to everyone who asks about my religion… To die for the truth is much much better to live in a lie!

Finally I would say to every atheist .. Be brave, stay strong .. U r holding the truth .. And of course .. Proud to be an atheist .. Proud to be rationalist.

Clearly Sherif has done nothing wrong and must be released immediately. The right to religion, belief and atheism are absolute rights, which cannot be denied.

Also, Egypt better get used to it. Atheists in Egypt as in the rest of the Middle East, Asia and North Africa are on the rise.

Free him now.

Here is a news report which is apparently about him without mentioning his name.

To support Sherif:

Tweet Free Sherif Gaber. #Atheist #Egypt.

Send appeals to: Read the rest of this entry »

Oct 29 2013

No Woman No Drive

I’ve been busy putting together the second issue of Fitnah’s publication Unveiled, which will focus on the burqa and niqab ban.

In the meanwhile though I did want to give a quick heads up to the video “No Woman No Drive” which has gone viral. It’s a spoof by Heesham Fagheeh, a social activist and artist, on the Saudi driving ban.

As I had reported earlier, 26 October was a Day of Defiance against the ban. At least 16 women have been fined for driving on the day and the fight continues.

Defiance indeed!

(Via Afsaneh Vahdat)

Oct 26 2013

Niqab: a human right, a security concern or a symbol of oppression?

Here’s a video of the niqab debate I took part in last week at the LSE. It’s not the best footage but you can see the discussion if you’re interested:

Oct 26 2013

AHS announces dates for 4th annual Non-Prophet Week

From Hari Srinivasan, Press Officer – The AHS (twitter: @__Hari__ )

LONDON, Oct 16 – The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secularist Student Societies (The AHS) has announced the dates for the 4th annual Non-Prophet Week (NPW). Lauded by Lord Harrison in the House of Lords as “an example of atheist and humanist public service”, NPW 2013 will be held from October 28 to November 3 at multiple locations across the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland to continue its grand annual tradition of irreligious fundraising for charity.

The AHS affiliated University of Edinburgh Humanist Society fundraising stall during NPW 2012

A charity event that has become an annual fixture in a non-religious student’s calendar, the NPW focus will be on helping voice the point that you don’t have to believe in a god to be good. By co-ordinating affiliated student societies, and building on successful fundraising campaigns in previous years to donate to Survivors Voice and Children In Need charities, The AHS has earmarked NPW 2013 as a good platform to help raise money for Against Malaria Foundation (AMF). Read the rest of this entry »

Oct 24 2013

Niqab and Women’s Movements

I’ll be doing an interview this morning on the niqab debate for 4thought.tv.

In the evening I’ll be speaking on a panel entitled ‘Women’s Movements Changing Women Changing the World’ at a House of Lord Seminar organised by Women Worldwide Advancing Freedom & Equality (WWAFE). Place: Committee Room 1, 6.00pm to 8.00pm House of Lords. [We will begin promptly, so arrival at 5.30pm will ensure you gain a seat.] Hope to see some of you there.

By the way, Karima Bennoune’s talk was brilliant last night; it was informative, moving and absolutely inspiring. Her work will be hugely important for our fight for equality and secularism. Do get a copy of her book: “Your Fatwa does not apply here” if you haven’t already. I got my signed copy last night.

A few of us went out to dinner after her talk, which was fantastic because I got to meet up with her for the very first time though we have emailed before.

In first photo, it’s Karima Bennoune (second from left), Chetan Bhatt, Gita Sahgal, Pragna Patel, Marieme Helie Lucas, myself and Salil Tripathi.

photo 1

photo 2

Oct 23 2013

A few important things for today

Human Rights in Iran

The UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran Ahmed Shaheed will be giving his report on the human rights situation in Iran today, which will be broadcast live. The Campaign to Free Political Prisoners in Iran asks that we tweet Ahmed Shaheed using the following tweet to echo the voice of political prisoners deprived from medical attention:

Iran regime refuses to provide urgent medical assistance to #Iran #Politicalprisoners. @shaheedsr Silent death! http://tinyurl.com/p2vojal

Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation and Children First Now also ask that you tweet him in condemnation of Iran’s legalised paedophilia:

No to legal paedophilia in #Iran @shaheedsr http://tinyurl.com/iranpaedophilia

Ex-Muslims and Media

A group of ex-Muslims will be meeting the BBC today at 2pm to discuss the plight of ex-Muslims here in Britain. If you can make it at 2pm, text Maryam at 07719166731 so she can tell you where to come. We are also looking for ex-Muslims who have faced threats and also some who live in Ireland for two other media reports. You can email Council of Ex-Muslims at [email protected]

Your fatwa doesn’t apply here

The wonderful Karima Bennoune will be speaking at the LSE tonight at 6pm on her new book: Your Fatwa Doesn’t Apply Here. I’ll be there and so should you if you are in London and can make it. This is a not-to-be-missed event. Hopefully some members of the LSE student union will be there so they can hear first-hand about the many Muslims or those of Muslim heritage who dissent and resist, thereby making it quite clear that Muslims are not a homogeneous group who are unanimously offended by Jesus and Mo. I doubt any of her wisdom can get through but we can hope, can’t we? Either way, they need to learn that Islamist fatwas against free expression don’t apply at the LSE either! Here’s more information.

Oct 22 2013

Ex-Muslims of North America has formed

EXMNAEx-Muslims of North America (EXMNA) Press Release
October 22, 2013

Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA) exists to build a community and provide a sense of solidarity for Ex-Muslims: people who used to identify as Muslim, and who no longer do so. We cater exclusively to the needs of Ex-Muslim atheists, agnostics, skeptics, humanists, and freethinkers.

At present, several communities of Ex-Muslims are being organized in cities across North America and all over the world. EXMNA’s goal is to expand and connect people with each other, so that Ex-Muslims have a place to call their own in every major North American city, and a community they can turn to for networking, support, and solidarity. Many people who leave Islam face the apostasy stigma, and are forced to hide. As Ex-Muslims, we are acutely aware of the need for safety for apostates from Islam. We foster alliances and affiliations with other atheist, skeptic, and humanist groups within and outside North America to fulfill our common goals. We hope to galvanize support from secular and progressive groups, as well as those Muslims who believe in freedom of, and from, religion.

In today’s political climate, Ex-Muslims stand between polarizing discourses of Islam and Muslims, and are often marginalized, dismissed, and silenced by both sides. As people who were raised Muslim or converted to Islam, and then left Islam because we could no longer believe in it, we cater to neither bigots who treat Muslims as a monolith, nor apologists who try to shield Islam from scrutiny. We do not wish to promote hatred of Muslims. We ourselves were Muslim once. Many of our families and friends are Muslim. We understand that Muslims come in all varieties, and we do not partake in erasing diversity among the world’s Muslims.

While we denounce the bigotry of those who promote their racist and xenophobic ideas under the guise of criticizing Muslims, we also denounce the cultural and moral relativism of those who propagate the idea that all criticism of Islam is inherently racist. We work closely with the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB), a UK-based, internationally recognized organization, founded in 2007, that has been instrumental in starting the movement to create a space for apostates. Ex-Muslims often have first-hand and well-researched knowledge about Islam’s various facets. We are uniquely positioned to use our voices and experiences to help bridge the polarized discussion of Islam. In order to further that goal, we have just launched the Ex-Muslim Blogs Project which broadcasts the voices of a diverse array of Ex-Muslim writers.

EXMNA is largely composed of local groups with a great degree of autonomy, united organizationally under the umbrella of the Ex-Muslims of North America. EXMNA’s humble beginnings were in the Ex-Muslim communities that began in Toronto (2011) and Washington DC (2012). Today, we have member groups operating and growing in regions throughout North America, including Texas, California, Georgia, Illinois, Virginia, D.C., Ontario, and Quebec.

Visit our website to learn more about us, to join one of our local groups, or to find out how you can start one in your city.

Website(s): http://www.exmna.org and http://www.exmuslimblogs.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/exmna
Twitter: https://twitter.com/exmuslimsofna
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 1-855-EXMUSLIM (media department)

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