Apostasy, Blasphemy and Free Expression in the Age of ISIS

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

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

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

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

And so here we are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s the same today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trinity College Dublin: Behind the Arras

UPDATE: I will be speaking at Trinity College Dublin on 20 October 2015, thanks to invitation of Phil Soc.

And so the whitewash begins with an “article” (or should we say editorial) by University Times on the cancellation of my talk at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) on “Apostasy and the Rise of Islamism”, which was meant to be given today at an event organised by the Society for International Affairs (SoFIA). Though the SoFIA chair asserts that I withdrew from the event, it is in fact the Society, which cancelled the event after my request that it go ahead as initially planned without any of the last-minute restrictions imposed, namely that all attendants of the event must be 1) Trinity students and 2) members of the society hosting the talk and that a moderator be added for “balance”.

The “article” is full of irrelevances and misinformation in order to muddy the waters so that the main issue at hand is forgotten as is usual in such cases. The main issue is that my right to speak was restricted by TCD whilst Islamist speakers like Kamal El Mekki who advocate the death penalty for apostates face no such restrictions. But more on this later.

Let me first briefly address the main points of misinformation raised in the article:

1. The article asserts that “miscommunication” around the event being public was all “hinged” on one “individual student’s involvement” who “never asked [SoFIA] [its] terms”.

It now seems that the student liaison facilitating my talk is the reason for this entire scandal! Acting on his own accord, and without coordinating with SoFIA, he alone is responsible for my misguided impression that the event was to be public. I am assured that SoFIA only holds members-only events! Even if there was a public Facebook page it was because of this “individual student”. The Society I am told cannot be held responsible for the “assumption as to conditions which it itself did not offer”.

This, however, is untrue. The screenshot below shows Aoife McLoughlin-Ngo, the SoFIA Chair, stating: “there are 2 events pages – the page I’m linking is open to people outside of SoFIA members page”. So much for the event “hinging” on an “individual student”! The fall guy scenario that was put into motion after the scandal became public knowledge is a bogus one. This now explains why the Facebook page for the event was so quickly deleted.


The second point of misinformation is that Trinity College Dublin “had no involvement” in discussions with me about my scheduled appearance. This is a half-truth. Yes, they were not involved in discussions with ME but they were heavily involved in discussions around my talk before and after the scandal was made public. Noel McCann, the TCD Facilities Officer, told the student liaison that he was meeting with the “highest management of Trinity” to discuss whether the event will be “allowed” to go ahead as planned. Even now, the delay in the publication of SoFIA’s statement on the cancellation of my talk is because it had to be approved by the Central Societies Committee and Communications Office.

The third point of misinformation is that the issues raised by the Facilities Officer were around matters of “student security”.  I think it is clear that the last-minute requirement that an academic (Dr Andrew Pierce of the Irish School of Ecumenics in Trinity) “chair” my event has very little to do with security.

Rather, it had to do with the concern that I would cause “offence”.

The student liaising my visit was told by Noel McCann that my talk would show the college is “one-sided” and would be “antagonising” to “Muslim students”. He asked how “could she come and say whatever she wants without a moderator” and “with half the world knowing about it”. He also threatened to cancel it and said that he was meeting with “highest management of Trinity” to discuss whether the event would be “allowed” to go ahead. But according to the college:”these discussions [are] considered to be private and in response to the student’s own concerns”!

The crux of the matter, therefore, is “private” and the non-issues and misinformation have become the main points of discussion for the Society and TCD.

This is nothing new. Islamism, a far-Right political movement, is often seen to be one and the same with the falsely homogenised “Muslim community”, thereby implying that hate preachers like Mekki (promulgating the death penalty for apostates and stoning for adulterers) are “authentic” Muslims and those of us defending the rights of ex-Muslims and Muslims to question, criticise and leave Islam are the “antagonisers”. This can be very clearly seen in the article in question. The student liaising with me who is an ex-Muslim who does not want to be known for fear of his safety is portrayed as the extremist and trouble-maker as am I.

This is one of the main reasons that universities have become breeding and recruiting grounds for jihadis who have free reign whilst opponents like myself struggle to gain access and be heard. Universities like TCD have bought into the Islamist narrative that this movement represents “Muslims” and therefore it is antagonistic to “Muslim students” if one should challenge it. But what about all the “Muslim” dissenters? Conflating Muslim with Islamist does a disservice to them, denies any opposition exists and implies that the “authentic” Muslim is a fascist.

TCD should stop hiding behind its students, come clean and facilitate my talk there without restrictions and as soon as possible.

I insist on speaking at TCD.

I refuse to be silenced.

Trinity College Dublin: I was not born yesterday

I wrote a blog post earlier about my refusal to abide by conditions imposed by Trinity College Dublin for my speech on Apostasy and the Rise of Islamism which I am to give this Monday.

Aoife, the chair of the society which had invited me is contesting my version of things so I find it necessary (also for transparency’s sake) to post all correspondence below. There is not much since Aoife only contacted me today (well technically last night as it is 2am now) after things came to a head. Another student organiser has been in touch with me the whole time and been arranging my visit. If there is any miscommunication, it seems to have been promulgated by Aoife to “manage” the situation in the same way that they were hoping to manage me.

Even if it was Aoife who suggested a moderator, it has come about as a result of “pressure”. Also security concerns of my antagonising the “Muslim students” and being “one-sided” which were raised with student organiser have nothing to do with student security no matter how many times Aoife says it does.

Aoife is trying to manage a bad situation by blaming it on miscommunication but you know what folks, I was not born yesterday.

This reminds me of my speaking tour in 2011 Australia where I went to give my speech at the University of Western Sydney on “Sharia law & human rights”. When I got there, it had become a panel due to “pressure” and the audience were forced to listen to another view before I was even allowed to speak…

Anyway, here are the emails. The name of the student organiser has been left out at his/her request.

From: Maryam Namazie [mailto:maryamnamazie@gmail.com]
Sent: 21 March 2015 01:38
To: ‘Society for International Affairs’
Subject: RE: Speaking Engagement at Trinity College Dublin (Monday, 23rd March)

Hi Aoife

I think you are missing the point here. Of course el Mekki is given free access. In my experience there is never any question raised about Islamists as they are seen to be one and the same with “Muslims” which is untrue. It is usually raised with regards my speaking engagements, and this is not a new experience for me.

The security mentioned concerns over one-sidedness and “antagonising Muslim students” with the person who I have been in touch with all along regarding this event. Clearly such concerns are not matters of student security but the usual matter of avoiding “offence” – and it is usually us ex-Muslims that are seen to be antagonistic and not the Islamist speakers who promote our murder.
Your email tonight was the first I had received from you – someone else was organising this for me – so I am more prone to believe that it is your impression that is mistaken and not the other way around.


From: Society for International Affairs
Sent: 21 March 2015 01:02
To: Maryam Namazie
Subject: Re: Speaking Engagement at Trinity College Dublin (Monday, 23rd March)

Hi Maryam,

The situation is slightly difficult for me to comprehend as I feel we aren’t talking about the same event anymore. I think this has gone completely awry. I don’t know where you got the impression that Security were imposing restrictions on you. If that was communicated to you, I apologise as that would never happen in Trinity, and I would fight to uphold any individual’s right to express themselves freely. I also am upset that you have been given the impression that Trinity authorities are backward, on the contrary: it was never a matter of potentially causing offence, I believe that Kamal el-Mekki’s presence proves that Trinity authorities do not interfere with college society’s activities. College Security have never once asked me about the content of your speech, just who will be attending the event (Trinity students as per society rules and insurance reasons) and numbers for fire and safety reasons. They did not realise it was being facilitated by SOFIA and therefore were nervous about an individual hosting the event. But I personally cleared that and assured them that I had it under control.

I am disappointed that you are not going to be with us on Monday, and I wish you had waited until I had gotten in contact. I was attending a wake service then went for dinner and all I had was my dying mobile phone which I told [the organiser contact] I would be in contact with you tonight.

Sorry this has gone so dramatic.


On 21 March 2015 at 00:19, Maryam Namazie wrote:
Hello Aoife

Thanks for your email. The issues raised by security were clearly not about student safety but about the fear of my causing offence. Raising concerns of one-sidedness and implying my defence of the right to apostasy would be antagonising are political positions not security matters. Regardless of who added a condition of my having a chair to “moderate” me, I find that to be unacceptable. It astounding that an Islamist who defends death for apostates can speak at your college without any such issues being raised, whilst I who am one of their targets, must be “moderated” and have limitations placed on my audience. My conditions are very clear. I have mentioned them here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/maryamnamazie/2015/03/20/tcd/. I will not be coming if there are any restrictions.
I look forward to hearing back from you.
Thank you.
All the best

From: Society for International Affairs
Sent: 20 March 2015 22:41
To: maryamnamazie@googlemail.com
Subject: Speaking Engagement at Trinity College Dublin (Monday, 23rd March)

Dear Maryam,

As Chair of the Society for International Affairs (SOFIA) I am delighted to welcome to Trinity College Dublin, on Monday. I apologise for not getting in touch earlier this evening but I was away from my laptop and our first point of contact deserves more than a hasty/shoddy email sent off my phone. [The organiser contact] has done a good job so far in putting things in motion.

Just so we are on the same page, could you inform me of your expectations of your visit to Trinity, and I’ll outline the same. You may have heard earlier today Trinity Security were concerned about the safety of the university students. Due to miscommunication, I was not aware until midday today that [the organiser contact] had not passed on basic SOFIA practice of being reserved for our members to you. As such, I was more than alarmed when Trinity Security contacted me and I was put in an awkward situation where it looked as though I was in breach of Trinity’s commitment to student safety by advertising our event externally. I was not informed that you would be advertising it on your website either.

Not wanting the event to be jeopardised, I suggested that you could be joined by another, an academic Dr Andrew Pierce of the Irish School of Ecumenics in Trinity who is eager to meet you. I have asked him if he would do me the honour of chairing/introducing you. Dr Pierce’s status as member of staff also will be advantageous for SOFIA if a group of individuals log a complaint against our event on Monday as he will be in the position to speak on our behalf when the complaint is reviewed by the College Deans. I can personally vouch for Dr. Pierce’s character as a friendly party. (https://www.tcd.ie/ise/staff/a-pierce.php)

SOFIA is a young society but we pride ourselves on previously hosting speakers with varied views, but that’s what adds to the richness of our members learning.

Before I forget, are there any special requests? Sometimes our guests wish us to respect Chatham House rules and other times there have been strict measures imposed such as extensive background security checks for SOFIA members who wish to attend and metal detector scanning of attendees and their belongings.

SOFIA’s aim is to be a platform for discussion, but in a safe environment where individuals are free to express themselves without fear of being threatened after the discussion. We implement certain measures to ensure that all our guests, are afforded a courteous audience.

Looking forward to meeting you on Monday.

Best wishes,
Aoife Noelle Ngo

Society for International Affairs

I will not accept Trinity College Dublin conditions on my talk

I am to speak at Trinity College Dublin on Monday 23 March 2015 on “Apostasy and the Rise of Islamism”.

I’ve just been informed, however, that college security (why security?) has claimed that the event would show the college is “one-sided” and would be “antagonising” to “Muslim students”; they threatened to cancel my talk. After further consultation with college management, they have decided to “allow” the event to go ahead with the following conditions:

* All attendants of the event must be 1) Trinity students and 2) members of the society hosting the talk.

* For “balance”, they require that a moderator host the event; Prof. Andrew Pierce of the Irish School of Ecumenics has kindly agreed to do so.

I, however, will not be submitting to any conditions, particularly since such conditions are not usually placed on other speakers.

I intend to speak on Monday as initially planned without any restrictions and conditions and ask that TCD give me immediate assurances that I will be able to do so.

It is crucial that I be able to speak against Islamist fascism and honour our dissenters deemed apostates, blasphemers, heretics… whether ex-Muslims, Muslims or non-Muslims.

I particularly insist on being able to do so in light of the fact that only last month – 25 February – Kamal El Mekki who advocates the death penalty for apostasy was given space to speak at an event hosted by the “Muslim” Student Association. No conditions were placed on his talk and security did not threaten to cancel the event nor inform the Association that the speakers’ position on death for  apostates would “antagonise” ex-Muslim and Muslim students who do not support apostasy laws.

Interestingly, when the college’s Central Societies Committee was informed of El Mekki’s view on apostasy, they could not “see why there can even be a discussion about cancelling the event” and that his video was simply “explanatory and not advocatory”!

The video they were alerted to shows El Mekki advising his audience on how best to explain the death penalty for apostates. He tells them to start with the simplest example so that the need for the death penalty can be easily understood. In the video, he says:

The question is ‘Why is the apostate killed in Islam?’…if someone leaves their allegiance to their country they should be killed, so if they leave their allegiance to Allah nothing happens?

…in Islam, of course, you know, it’s a very different system. It’s not like somewhere you heard someone leaves Islam and you just go get him and stuff like that. First of all it’s done by the authorities, there are procedures and steps involved. First of all they talk to him, yeah, about, yanni, the scholars refute any doubt that he has on the issue, they spend days with him refuting and arguing with him, trying to convince him. Then they might even, yaani, threaten him with the sword and tell him ‘You need to repent from this because if you don’t you repent you will be killed.’ And if he insists on being killed that means really, really believing in that. And then, after the procedures take their toll, and then at the end, by the authority of the ruling body, it’s done.

This is beyond outrageous given the social and political reality where apostasy from Islam is punishable by death in 11 countries and especially at a time when it has come to light that British Islamists are executing apostates for ISIS after having been “radicalised” in British universities. Also it does a disservice to the many Muslims who oppose Islamism and apostasy laws by conflating “Muslim” students with Islamism or the religious-Right.

Trinity College Dublin, I am awaiting your response.


For those who want more information on this “beautiful young man”, see here – oh sorry that was Jihadi John who was beautiful according to Cage.

One does get confused when they all (the Islamists) say the same thing…

Press Release: Much needed 7 February Conference on Sharia Law, Apostasy and Secularism


Secularists will be gathering on 7 February 2015 in London for a day conference on Sharia Law, Apostasy and Secularism. The event follows an historic conference in October 2014 on the Religious-Right, Secularism and Civil Rights.

Speakers at tomorrow’s sold-out conference will discuss freedom of expression, apostasy and blasphemy laws, Islamism and the religious-Right, as well as Sharia in the law, educational system and public policy. They will also highlight the successful campaigns against the Law Society and Universities UK and pay tribute to Charlie Hebdo and the many Muslims, ex-Muslims and others who have been killed or persecuted for their dissent.

Conference speaker, Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters says: “This is a much needed conference because it allows us the space to mourn the deaths of the journalists at Charlie Hebdo and thousands around the world who have died at the hands of religious terrorists. Above all, it allows us to show solidarity to those who continue to bravely challenge deadly religious far-right movements whose end game is to shut down secular democratic spaces and to terrorise us into silence. The time has come to renew our thinking of what it means to be human and to reject the politics of hatred whether emanating from the racist far-right or the religious far-right. The time has come to speak up while we still have the space.”

Conference organiser, Maryam Namazie, says: “Despite all evidence that Muslims are not a homogeneous group and that resistance against Islamism is very much part and parcel of daily life everywhere, the Islamist narrative is still the order of the day. No matter how many ‘Muslims’ side with Charlie from Iran to Egypt to Turkey, it is the terrorists/fascists who are deemed to be the ‘authentic’ Muslims. The ‘culture of offence’ heeds Islamist demands for submission at the expense of dissenters – whether it be Charlie in Paris, Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia or Roya Nobakht in Iran. As Rosa Luxemburg has said though, ‘Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters’.”

Another speaker Gita Sahgal, Director of Centre for Secular Space, says: “In 1989, we stood for Rushdie and our right to doubt and dissent. Today we stand with Charlie Hebdo and for comic liberty. In this important conference we will look at how the war against apostates and artists is central to the justification for ‘defensive jihad’ and genocide. Long before the emergence of Daesh and Boko Haram, the massacre of minorities, the rape of women and the killing of intellectuals defined Muslim fundamentalist movements. The Conference represents those who stand against them.” [Read more…]

Bread and Roses: On Apostasy

See this week’s Bread and Roses TV programme in English on the issue of apostasy and the execution sentence of Mariam Yahya Ibrahim in Sudan. In this week’s programme, I speak with Nahla Mahmoud, Spokesperson of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain.

The Persian programme will be broadcast via New Channel TV tomorrow and will be available then.

Next week’s programme is on Stealthy Freedoms and women unveiling in Iran. What does this movement represent to you? Send us any questions and comments or even 30 second videos to broadcast on our programme to the below:

Bread and Roses
نان و گل سرخ
BM Box 1919, London WC1N 3XX, UK
Email: nanogolesorkh@gmail.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/NanoGoleSorkh
Twitter: @NanoGoleSorkh
Youtube: youtube.com/breadandrosesTV
Telephone: +44 20 3287 6128

By the way, we have managed to raise £2000 of the £15,000 we need for a video mixer, computer, microphones and lighting for the programme. There’s only 20 days left so please help if you can. See our fundraising campaign on Indiegogo. Right now, we have to manually edit footage from 4 separate cameras on a computer that keeps shutting down. It takes too long to produce each programme, which makes it impractical over the long-term. A video mixer and computer will make things easier!

Thanks for any support for our free-thinking, taboo-breaking work.. We’ll owe you one.

Urgent Action: Mariam Yahya Ibrahim must be freed immediately

mariamThe Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain is outraged to learn of Mariam Yahya Ibrahim’s death sentence in Sudan for apostasy. The heavily pregnant Mariam has also been charged with adultery and imprisoned with her toddler.  She and her husband are Christian but the judge insists she is Muslim.

Mariam is not the first to be charged with apostasy. The case of Mahmoud Mohamed Taha, the Sudanese theologian who was hanged in 1985, remains vivid in the minds of all Sudanese. More recent cases include the 129 people charged with apostasy in South Kartoum/Hay Mayo and forced to repent in order to escape the death penalty.

Adultery cases are also not new. The cases of Intisar Shareef, Sadia Idris Fadul and Amouna Abdallah are amongst those reported.

Mariam Yahya’s case represent a great number of similar cases where individuals cannot choose or express their beliefs nor have many inalienable rights because of Sharia law.

CEMB condemns Sharia law and in particular articles 126 and 146 of the Sudanese criminal code which punishes apostasy and adultery. Apostasy and adultery are not crimes; executing human beings, including for their beliefs or their consensual sexual relations should be.

CEMB demands the immediate release of Mariam Yahya Ibrahim. The right to belief, religion and atheism are basic rights and must be respected.

We ask all groups and individuals to put pressure on the Sudanese government and help save Mariam’s life.

You can also sign a petition here to defend Mariam.

They kill atheists and we are deemed terrorists!

BlmEbgHCEAA4lmmHere is my opening statement on the International Atheism panel with Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar and Cristina Rad at AACon2014:

Punishing apostates is a long-standing and fundamental feature of all major religions.

Islam is no different except that Islamism – an extreme Right movement with Islam as its banner – is this era’s inquisition and totalitarianism.

To the degree it has power, that is the degree it controls every single aspect of people lives and society via its Sharia laws – from what people wear, who they have sex with, to what they are allowed to think.

Islamists will kill, threaten or intimidate anyone who interprets things differently, dissents, thinks freely or transgresses their norms by living 21st century lives.

One of the characteristics of an Islamic inquisition is the policing of thought. Even for Muslims, a ‘personal’ religion is impossible under an inquisition. You can’t pick and choose as you’d like. You don’t want to wear the veil; acid in your face should teach you a lesson. You want to go to school; maybe they can gun you down on your way there. You want to be an atheist? Being a murtad is the most heinous of crimes. Saudi Arabia just issued a law equating atheism with terrorism.

The bitter irony! They kill us and we are the terrorists.

Apostasy is a prosecutable offence in 30 countries under the influence of Sharia and punishable by death in 11.
Of course there are religious justifications for the execution of apostates in the Koran and Hadith – sayings and actions of Mohammad, Islam’s prophet.

From a religious standpoint, preventing apostasy is crucial to the preservation of Islam as Islamic “scholar” Qaradawi says. I use the term scholar lightly. As Dawkins says, you do need to read more than one book to be considered a scholar. But apostasy laws and the execution of apostates are the ultimate means of political rather than religious control.

It’s used to silence anyone who questions Islamic rule. Most recently, Roya Nobakht in Iran has been charged with apostasy for saying the regime is “too Islamic” and in Bangladesh, two high school students have been arrested for apostasy for questioning the Jamaat Islami.

Challenging apostasy laws therefore is first and foremost a political challenge. Hence the establishment of the Council of Ex-Muslims, an atheist organisation, found now in the UK, Germany, Scandinavian countries, Austria, France, North America and also in Morocco – the first public atheist organisation in a country with Islam as the state religion.

Don’t forget Christianity also used to execute its apostates. It’s not that the tenets, dogma, and principles of Christianity have changed since the days of the inquisition but rather its social and political influence and its relation to the state. A religion that has been reined in by an enlightenment is very different from one that is spearheading an inquisition.

Challenging it means having the courage to think for oneself, as philosopher AC Grayling says of the Council of Ex-Muslims, breaking the taboo that comes with renouncing Islam, and paving the way for others to do so.

It’s mainly though an important aspect of the fightback against Islamism.

Some will ask why we cannot just call ourselves atheists and not ex-Muslims but atheist alone cannot describe the risks and challenges we face.

Others will say our Council is an unnecessary provocation.

It’s a provocation, yes, but unnecessary, no.

Islamists tell us all the time: don’t provoke. Don’t offend. Don’t criticise … and no one need get hurt.

If anyone believes that – and trust me there are still people who do – then they still don’t know this movement.

Islamists need no excuses. Murder and mayhem is part and parcel of their movement.

Throughout history barbarity has always been pushed back – not by tiptoeing around it, accommodating it, appeasing it, tolerating it but by facing it head on.

They say we are not allowed to leave Islam.To them I say: We are not waiting for your permission.

(Photo Evan McHugh)

New Report: Political and Legal Status of Apostates in Islam

Apostasy_Report_Web_Page_001The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and Atheist Alliance International have just published a new report on the Political and Legal Status of Apostates in Islam with the support of The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science UK.

The report examines sources for laws that prohibit apostasy from Islam, reviews legislation and government policies in various countries that persecute apostates and blasphemers, and highlights the cases of some of the many persecuted individuals, with a focus on atheists, secularists and freethinkers.

You can read the report here: Apostasy_Report_Web.

Apostasy and Islam: Support Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain

Dear friend

For the past six years, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) has been a “beacon of hope” for many.

As the first organisation of its kind, the CEMB has been established to break the taboo that comes with leaving Islam; highlight the problems ex-Muslims face; provide a network for support; raise awareness; and campaign for freedom of belief and expression, atheism and secularism and against apostasy and Sharia laws. According to Elle Quebec magazine, the launch of the ex-Muslim movement was ‘a real revolution.’

Our activities include assisting ex-Muslims (several thousand over the past 6 years) with their apostate asylum cases, finding safe houses and refuges for those fearful for their lives, as well as assisting against child abduction, honour crimes, forced marriages and more from countries including Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Maldives, Pakistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, and UAE.

We have produced several educational materials, such as the ‘Guidelines for Ex-Muslims and Frontline Practitioners’ and ‘Apostasy and Asylum in the United Kingdom.’ The CEMB is currently working on an anthology on and by ex-Muslims and a report on the status of apostates internationally.

Our active web forum with over 3,000 members is particularly important in supporting ex-Muslims. It represents a safe space where ex-Muslims can come together to discuss their problems and help each other. The forum includes sections on health and wellbeing and gender and sexuality, a parents’ corner, a resource centre and more. It is known for exposing Islamists and Islamic laws, and publishes articles and videos debunking Islamic myths and claims, including “science in the Quran”.

CEMB is part of an international network of ex-Muslim organisations, including Muslimish in the USA, a Council in Morocco – the first in a country with Islam as its state religion, new groups in France and New Zealand, amongst others.

Help us to continue our important work: volunteer your skills; ‘Like’ our Facebook page; follow our Twitter account @CEMB_forum; join our events; and subscribe to our YouTube channel. Please donate if you can. No amount is too small and every bit helps.

As you well know, the issue of apostasy without a focus on Islam is irrelevant in this era as it is only Islam that kills its apostates due to Islamism’s access and influence. The CEMB is an important challenge to this regressive movement.

Support us today.

Thank you.

Maryam Namazie
Nahla Mahmoud


1. Launch of Council of Ex-Muslims of France

Join us for the launch of the Council of Ex-Muslims of France on Saturday 6 July 2013, 14.00-17.00 hours, Paris, France. Speakers include Palestinian blogger Waleed Al-Husseini, Tunisian Filmmaker Nadia El-Fani, Secularism is a Women’s Issue Coordinator Marieme Helie Lucas, and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain’s Maryam Namazie.

PLEASE NOTE: You must register for the event at cafem1310@live.fr. If you are not registered, you will not be permitted entry. Space is limited.

2. Anthology of and by Ex-Muslims

Be part of the very first anthology of and by ex-Muslims. Share your story with the world. Help others like you. Tell the world you exist! 31 July 2013 is the deadline for submissions. Find out more here.

3. Report on 6th anniversary lunch of CEMB

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) held a successful 6th anniversary celebration luncheon in London on 15 June 2013. Guests heard from writer Kenan Malik, Centre for Secular Space Director Gita Sahgal, comedian Kate Smurthwaite, and CEMB co-Spokesperson Maryam Namazie. Magician Neil Edwards also performed. CEMB co-Spokesperson Nahla Mahmoud was Master of Ceremonies. Special guests present included Richard Dawkins. See videos of the event here.

4. For more information, contact:

Maryam Namazie
Nahla Mahmoud
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
BM Box 1919, London WC1N 3XX, UK
tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
email: exmuslimcouncil@gmail.com
web: http://ex-muslim.org.uk/

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

Leaving Islam is not a crime

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Press Release

CEM-moroccoMorocco’s High Council of Ulemas (the highest government religious institution headed by the King) has issued a fatwa decreeing the death penalty for Moroccans who leave Islam. Currently, under Morocco’s penal code, those who impede or prevent worship face imprisonment and fines.

An attack on apostates is clearly a response to the establishment of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco – the first public atheist organisation in a country with Islam as the state religion.

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain reminds the government of Morocco that the right to religion has a corresponding right to be free from religion.

Leaving Islam is not a crime; issuing death fatwas against people, however, is.

We call on the Moroccan government to cancel the fatwa, guarantee the security of apostates and freethinkers and prosecute those who threaten citizens with death.

We call on the public to defend the Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco and the right to atheism and renouncing Islam.

You can support the Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco here.

We can’t leave Islam? Watch us!

apostasyJANDMOI was at Birmingham University yesterday speaking on apostasy and freedom of conscience for the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society’s Reason Week. We had an excellent discussion. Of course, there had been complaints about my speaking there (yes it is very controversial to defend the rights of apostates not to die!). The Society was even asked to record my speech in case of further complaints. Here’s my speech, just in case they need it in writing too:

Punishing apostates is a long-standing and fundamental feature of all major religions. Repudiating religion is deemed to be the worst of crimes.

And in Islam it’s no different except that Islamism is this era’s inquisition and totalitarianism.

To the degree it has power, that is the degree it controls every single aspect of people lives and society via its Sharia laws – from what people wear, who they have sex with, what music they listen to – even what they are allowed to think.

One of the characteristics of an inquisition is the policing of thought. Freethinking and freedom of conscience are banned. Even for Muslims, a ‘personal’ religion is impossible under an inquisition. You can’t pick and choose as you’d like. You don’t want to wear the veil; acid in your face should teach you a lesson. You want to go to school; maybe we can gun you down on your way there. You want to be an atheist. Off with your head…

Islamists will kill, threaten or intimidate anyone who interprets things differently, dissents, thinks freely or transgresses their norms by living 21st century lives. Of course people resist day in and day out but that is a testament to the human spirit despite Islamism and Sharia.

If you look at the purpose of the Sharia ‘justice’ system, it is there to teach the masses the damnable nature of dissent and free thought. Where it has power, like in Iran, there are 130 offences punishable by death – from heresy, blasphemy, enmity against god, adultery, and homosexuality. But apostasy is the highest and most heinous crime.

Around 19 countries consider apostasy from Islam illegal and a prosecutable offence. Depending on the influence of Islamism and Sharia law, in places like Malaysia, Morocco, Jordan and Oman punishments vary from fines, imprisonment, flogging and exclusion from civil or family rights. In ten countries apostasy is punishable by the death penalty.

And whilst there are religious justifications for the execution of apostates, apostasy laws today under the Islamic inquisition are the ultimate means of political rather than religious control.

Of course, from a religious standpoint, apostasy is the unravelling of the entire system from within by those considered to be “members” of the imagined Muslim community (often out of very little choice of their own). Question one law, one hadith, one sura in the Koran, and you begin to unravel it all. To question and dissent denies the Islamic inquisitor the opportunity to feign representation. And it prevents the submission that they demand. If you are allowed to leave, you undermine it all.

Historically apostasy laws have always been used as a form of control. It’s no different today. Islamists use it as a means of political control. After all they represent god’s rule on earth and any opposition to their rule, is a direct affront to God himself. [Read more…]

We need your urgent support in 2013

Dear friend

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very happy New Year!

In the past year, in which we celebrated our 5th anniversary, we continued to challenge religious identity politics and Islamism, defend free expression of Muslims and Ex-Muslims alike, oppose blasphemy and apostasy laws, raise awareness, support thousands of ex-Muslims here and abroad, as well as create a new “home” for the many left without a social network after renouncing Islam via our web-forum, social gatherings and events.

In the coming year, we plan to do much more with your help.

As a matter of urgency we ask that you start the year by intervening on behalf of a number of urgent cases, including that of Zanyar and Loghman Moradi who face imminent execution in Iran for “enmity against god” and “corruption on earth”; Raif Badawi, Turki Al-Hamad and Hamza Kashgari who face blasphemy and apostasy charges in Saudi Arabia; and Alex Aan who remains in prison in Indonesia for “tarnishing Islam”.

In 2013, we will step up our support of ex-Muslims, free expression and secularism, encourage the establishment of more ex-Muslim groups and meet-ups such as the one recently established in the North, publish a report on the status of apostates internationally, organise a poster campaign, and raise awareness. [Read more…]