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?

I want to shout my atheism from every rooftop

I was interviewed and photographed yesterday by Christopher Johnson for his book A Better Life on the joy and meaning of life for 100 atheists. I had a tough start to the day: I basically left the house without my skirt on (don’t ask) and locked myself out. Of course anyone who has a 7 year old who needs to be told 50 times to leave for school will understand how this is remotely possible… I’m surprised I made any sense…

I want to shout out I have left Islam from every rooftop!

La lucha continua

Atheist blogger, 35 year old Ahmed Rajib known by his online identity Thaba Baba, had his head hacked apart with a machete one day after attending anti-Islamist protests in Bangladesh.

This is the usual Islamist response to any opposition: assassination, decapitation and sheer barbarity.

But nothing – not even the brutal murder of yet one more of our beloved – can intimidate the ever increasing rage.

The biggest protests Bangladesh has seen in decades against the country’s largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, and well-known war-criminal, Abdul Quader Mollah, and the female factor, are yet another example of how the new age of revolutions can bring an end to Islamist politics.

The death penalty even for the most vile amongst us is never the solution though.

After decades of Islamist politics of death, we must move to one that defends human life and rights.

La lucha continua… We will carry on the work of Ahmed Rajib…

Atheism+

I am slightly embarrassed to say that I only found out about Jen McCreight’s Atheism Plus yesterday when someone Tweeted to ask me for my position on it. And so I had to do a search to find out more. [I must confess that I am a terrible blogger in the sense that I don’t usually follow many of the important debates taking place and don’t respond in as timely a manner as I should.]

There is of course much to say about this new wave of atheism but  suffice it to say  that I support Atheism+ unequivocally.

I personally don’t see it as a backlash against New Atheism or divisive in any way. In my opinion it is first and foremost a recognition of the fact that for many atheists – like myself – our atheism is intrinsically linked to issues of social justice.

The very vocal opposition to this very good idea is merely a confirmation of its importance, and when the dust settles, I do strongly believe that atheism and the various social justice movements will be the stronger for it.

Not that kind of atheist

It seems the wonderful PZ Myers considers me a ‘Humanist’ Atheist. In his blog entitled ‘what kind of atheist are you?’ he says my type of atheist has the following strengths and weaknesses:

Strengths: This is the heart of an atheist movement that will endure and grow. Ignore it and we can expect atheism to fade away.

Weaknesses: Pragmatically fickle. If the atheist movement does not address human concerns, they’ll leave and follow institutions that do. Why be an atheist if an inclusive, progressive church were to do a better job? Why be an atheist if we neglect the concerns of women or minorities, or belittle civil rights?

As an aside, the very thought of being labelled a humanist and pragmatist gives me the shivers. I despise pragmatism, and though I have no problems per se with being called a humanist, I feel increasingly uncomfortable with the label given the fact that pragmatism – and not principle – is such a large part of mainstream Humanism. As I’ve said in my recent speech at the fifth anniversary of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, pragmatism doesn’t change the world – it maintains the status quo. And we so desperately need to change it.

There is an assumption in the Humanist Atheist label that people like me are in the atheist movement for support and if we don’t get it we will go elsewhere. Even a church (gasp, shudder)!?

The reality is that we don’t have the support we deserve but we’re still here.

This is because we ex-Muslims have a stake in the atheist movement just as much as anyone else. We’re not outsiders.

I am an atheist not because the atheist movement cares about rights (it doesn’t) or has been overly supportive (which it hasn’t) but because I despise religion and Islam.

I have become an atheist – not because it’s pragmatic – but as a result of my battles against the Islamic Republic of Iran and Islamism. The Islamic regime of Iran recently wrote a piece on me called ‘Get to know this anti-religion woman’.

If I had to say what type of atheist I am, I’d say a militant atheist.

Strengths:  We need militancy in the face of religious barbarity. Can we please stop tiptoeing around, appeasing, and tolerating religion?

Weaknesses: None. There are enough people compromising on all our behalves, thank you very much.

UPDATE: PZ has made an important correction!

(Link via Chris Roche)

Islam hasn’t been tarnished; humanity has

30 year old atheist Alex Aan has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison and fined today, Thursday, for posting ‘there is no god’ on Facebook and being critical of Islam. He was found guilty of “deliberately spreading information inciting religious hatred and animosity” under the Electronic Information and Transactions law.

Aan had been indicted with two other charges — persuading others to embrace atheism and blasphemy — and prosecutors had sought a three-and-a-half-year jail term for him but the court dropped these two.

According to the judge, “What he did has caused anxiety to the community and tarnished Islam.”

FYI, Islam’s not a person; Alex Aan is.

What the Indonesian court and government have done is to tarnish humanity itself.

This is not the end of the story – just the beginning.

Alex has to be freed. He has done nothing wrong except express his views.

Write to the Indonesian authorities today and tell them to review the case and free him now. You can find contact details here.

 

(News via Rafiq Mahmood)

Christopher Hitchens has died

Christpher Hitchens, a leading voice of secularism, atheism and rationality died yesterday.

He’ll be sorely missed.

Below is a letter sent to him from the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain some while back and his response:

Dear Christopher Hitchens,

We at the Council of Ex-Muslims wish to convey to you the sincere thanks and good wishes of our members and friends for the enormous strength and support we have gained from your talks and from your writing. [Read more…]

Atheist or rapist?

A study published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology revealed that religious believers distrust atheists more than any other religious groups, gays and feminists (and you know how much they hate them). The only other group they distrust as much are rapists!!?

Atheists on the other hand were indifferent to people’s religious beliefs and did not have the same antagonism towards believers. Rather than saying anything about atheists, the study says loads about the religious and their bigotry. But then that’s nothing new…

(Via Ian Simpson on Facebook)