David Bleines Tribute

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

Ex-Muslim Council 19 September Event

Just a reminder that we will be having a meetup for apostate asylum seekers and refugees followed by evening drinks with philosopher Arif Ahmed tomorrow 19 September from 6:30-8:00pm at The George on the Strand, 213 Strand, London WC2R 1AP. Entry is £3; £1 for unwaged, which can be paid at the door. All are welcome.

My CEMB co-spokesperson Nahla Mahmoud will MC the event.

I will also be paying a brief tribute to our young member and activist Irtaza Hussain who tragically committed suicide on 11 September. You can read some of the tributes to him on our forum here; feel free to add your own if you’d like.

Here’s a clip at around 25 minutes where Irtaza represented the CEMB on the BBC’s Big Questions on whether religion is good for children. He will be missed…

International Imad Day

imadSince 22 year old Imad Iddine Habib founded the Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco (the first public atheist organisation in a country with Islam as the state religion), he has received numerous threats.

Morocco’s High Council of Ulemas (the highest government religious institution headed by the King) 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.

The threats continue to escalate. Recently, Imad’s father has been interrogated by the secret service. He was told to tell Imad to stop his activities and that this would be the “last warning before they react”. Imad’s registered address has also been raided by security forces.

We, the undersigned, are extremely concerned about Imad’s safety and life and call on the Moroccan government to guarantee his security and respect freedom of expression and thought. Rather than prosecute freethinkers, the government should prosecute those who issue fatwas and death threats.

On 15 May we call for an International Imad Day in order to stand with and defend Imad.

He is all of us.

[For 15 May, add your name to the list below; send letters of protest to the Moroccan embassy in your country of residence; Tweet #Imad, #Atheist, #exMuslim; do an act of solidarity, including posting a photo of yourself holding a message like Imad has done (you can also email the photo to exmuslimcouncil@gmail.com); click “like” on the Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco’s Facebook page and more.]

Signatories: (Add your name, description and or organisation, and country in the comments section below. The list will be updated regularly.) [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…]

Statement on adding ex-Muslim to the LSE Atheist, Secularist, and Humanist Society name

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) unequivocally supports the London School of Economics Student Union Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society’s decision to add ‘ex-Muslim’ to its name.

This is a positive move that will give heightened visibility and a sense of belonging to ex-Muslims who are often not seen and not heard.

Even if some (though not all) ex-Muslims at LSE identify as humanists, secularists and atheists, the public presence of ex-Muslims in a student society helps to acknowledge the dissent within a “Muslim community” that is in no way homogeneous  This is all the more important given the family pressures and Islamist threats many face for renouncing Islam. As is well known, apostasy is still an offence punishable by death in a number of countries under Sharia law.

The students’ union’s professed concern that the “contentious” move could create an unsafe environment for apostates is empty posturing and a disingenuous excuse for its decision to reject the name change. Rather, its decision is an effort to revert back to the status quo and prevent heightened attention to this issue. [Read more…]

The courage to think

Over one hundred people joined the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain’s hugely successful 5th anniversary celebration luncheon in London on 23 June 2012.

Guests heard from philosopher AC Grayling, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, comedian Kate Smurthwaite, writer Gita Sahgal, singer/songwriter Shelley Segal, dancer Maryam Freeflower, DV8 Physical Theatre Director Lloyd Newson, and poet Lilith. Magician Neil Edwards also performed whilst CEMB founder Maryam Namazie gave the closing address. Fariborz Pooya was Master of Ceremonies.

In his keynote address, AC Grayling said: ‘…The history of the world and not just the western world but of the world in the last 3-4 centuries has turned on the very crucial fact – the fact that there were people who had the courage to think for themselves…’

Lawrence Krauss said: ‘…We are all ex-Muslims… it’s true in the sense that all of us are fighting ignorance and superstition and a world where policies are made and people are oppressed on the basis of these things…’

Writer Gita Sahgal said: ‘…Council of Ex-Muslims is particularly important because it is dangerous to declare yourself having lost faith even in Britain and in fact in some places it is getting more dangerous. One of the reasons it is getting more dangerous is because …there is virtually no support from any public source for people who have actually left their religion.’

You can see a video of the event below:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Photos of the event can be found here.

The CEMB also received many wonderful messages of support and solidarity to mark its fifth anniversary, including from Richard Dawkins, Taslima Nasrin and Mina Ahadi.

In her closing address, Maryam Namazie said: Whilst CEMB is many things to many people… it is first and foremost a challenge to political Islam. It is meant to shock and provoke. Throughout history that is how barbarity has been pushed back – not by tiptoeing around it, accommodating it, appeasing it, tolerating it but by facing it head on.’ She went on to say: ‘Pragmatism never changed the world but we intend to.’ You can read her full speech here.

The CEMB is grateful to all those who have volunteered their time, and supported or donated to the organisation over these five years.

We look forward to your continued support and another successful five years!

For more information, please contact:
Maryam Namazie
Spokesperson
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
BM Box 2387,  London WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
exmuslimcouncil@gmail.com
www.ex-muslim.org.uk

NOTES:

1. The CEMB is desperately seeking free office and/or meeting space in central London. If you can offer such space, please contact us as soon as possible.

2. We depend on donations and legacies to continue our important work so please donate if you can.

An unnecessary provocation?

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain’s fifth anniversary celebration was absolutely fantastic. Here’s my speech.

Thank you for joining us on the fifth anniversary of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB).

People often ask why ex-Muslim?

Is it not an unnecessary provocation?

Provocation, yes, but unnecessary, no.

Islamists tell us this all the time. Don’t say you are an apostate, don’t invite others to apostasy and there need be no killings.

If anyone believes that – and trust me there are still people who do – then they still don’t know Islamism – this far-Right regressive movement…

They’ll say: don’t provoke. Don’t offend. Don’t criticise the veil, Sharia, Islam… and no one need get hurt.

But Islamists need no excuses.

If you’re a girl going to school in Afghanistan, you will have acid thrown in your face or be poisoned.

If you’re Hamza Kashgari in Saudi Arabia, you may face the death penalty for tweeting about Mohammad.

If you’re Hilath Rasheed in Maldives, you will have your throat cut for questioning Islam.

If you’re Alex Aan in Indonesia, you’ll face several years in prison for saying ‘there is no god’ on Facebook…

And 20 June is the anniversary that marks the slaughter of an entire generation in Iran. Many were killed after one minute ‘trials’ for responding ‘no’ to the question: ‘do you believe in god?’ Families were told to pay for the bullets that killed their loved ones before being given their bodies. Others were buried in mass graves.

Islamists need no excuses.

Of course, in a favourable climate of multiculturalism and cultural relativism – where are all values and beliefs are equal and equally valid – and for western public consumption, Islamists like to blame victims and dissenters for their barbarity.

We are the ‘aggressive atheists’ (compared at times with the Taliban no less) yet we are the ones who are being killed, imprisoned, threatened or forced to flee.

A lot of us can’t even say we are atheists/ex-Muslims, yet we are accused of denying people’s right to religion. Nonsense, we are fighting for a corresponding right to be free from religion. And any way, religion in the state, educational system and the Sharia ‘[in]justice system is not about a personal right to religion but about political power.

And this is a crucial point.

The Council of Ex-Muslims may be many things to many people. It may be a support system, via the Meet-up Group and Forum. It may be a helping hand to secure the right to asylum or find refuge and a safe home. For some it is important for its fight against multiculturalism and a false ‘homogeneous Muslim community’ or in defence of secularism and universal rights…

But first and foremost the CEMB is a challenge to political Islam. It is meant to shock and provoke.

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

Pragmatism never changed the world but we intend to.

Thank you.

Post your messages of support for Council of ex-Muslims here

Messages of support to mark 5th anniversary of the
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Final Updated 28 June 2012

As you know, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) is celebrating its 5th anniversary on 23 June. We’re asking people to attend the fundraiser luncheon if they can, donate, and send messages of support to mark our birthday. Here are some messages we have already received.

Well done for standing up for rational and free thought, a universe and it’s life that exist due to physical and not magical forces. I applaud each and every one of you. Carry on in your wisdom, benevolence, rationality and humanity.
Regards
Martin Gallagher
An ex Christian

To Maryam and the Council of Ex-Muslims
I’d just like to add my thanks and appreciation for what all of you are doing. Here’s to a world freed of imaginary sky-gods!
Theophontes

Good for you and all.
Hyoid, from Neckbone, PA, USA

When ex-Christians think they’re ostracized and persecuted, we should remember the even greater strength and determination it takes to be an ex-Muslim. May you find fortune a gift of the Universe through all of your Lives.
Maxdevlin

Congratulations CEMB, on being a beacon of hope to many, and not least to progressives like my humble self who constantly encounter other “progressives” to whom Islam is above criticism! Happy 5th anniversary!
Taru Dutt

Courageous! Thank you for standing up. Happy anniversary.
Jim

Congratulations on your 5th birthday! I wish you success in your important work.
Alan Clark

Happy anniversary. Thanks for your great work.
I have been following your work in this blog.
It’s fresh, inspiring and make me put questions where I had answers
Paulo Alves Reis, Chateau-d’Oex – Switzerland

In a time when the cancer of fundamentalism is ravaging the Islamic community, and Islamist bullies are determined to drag the whole world back to the seventh century, the CEMB provides much needed support for former and questioning Muslims, as well as those of us affected by religious fundamentalism. Please accept my best wishes for the work you do.
Winterwind

It is very difficult for those in America who choose to reject the Christian religion. They face anger, hate, accusations, insults, loss of friends and family, loss of income (losing a job if employed – losing customers if an employer), and are unable to participate in government.
For Muslims, add to all of the above … the threat of injury or even death.
You people have redefined the word “courage.”
Neo

Congratulations on 5 successful years, and may you be a victim of your success and become unnecessary!
Stay free, stay fair, stay fun!
Allegra Sloman, Vancouver, Canada

Congratulations on the anniversary. Any organisation that celebrates those who have discovered the truth and turned away from their misogynistic, hate-filled and irrational religion should be congratulated. The difference with Islam is that it promises vengeance – murder – in THIS life, as opposed to the non-existent next one.
Your bravery is recognised.
Jon Pierson
Member of Atheist Ireland

Very best wishes to the CEMB on your 5th birthday. In those five years you’ve done great work to help provide new friends and a community to those would could be ostracised for transistions in outlook and thought.
Your campaigning work for rights both here and outside the UK has helped create change, and drawn attention to the fact that thought-crime is still an issue for so many in the world. The freedom to pursue evidence-based reasoning should not be accompanied by fear and loneliness – so here’s to the CEMB’s next five years.
Deborah Hyde, Editor-in-Chief, The Skeptic Magazine

Way to go, dear friends! I hope your enlightened example will inspire many more to break free form religious oppression! Good luck in your activities – and get your message especially among women: every mother who is able to think for herself will help her children think as well, rather than obey ideologies and tyrants!
Respect,
Teodora

My name is Mirko, I’m 22 and I’m from Italy. Your work is incredible, what you did is right and i hope all people of the world follow the message you have sent. I support your campaign and all you do for the women. Continue to fight and don’t give up Maryam.

For always being there, giving the highest form of empathy and sympathy and having thought provoking discussion in its various forms, I thank the forum members and staff. (As well as giving me the chance to be on T.V)
Mchawking

I just registered after reading Maryam Namazie’s FtB blog. She said to come over with any words of support and encouragement to all the ex-Muslim people here.
I do have nothing but appreciation, as well as a sense of awe, for all of you. I grew up in a family that was very wishy-washy about religion, in a secular country with pretty liberal teachers along the way in all my schooling. I didn’t have a culture surrounding me that insisted on belief and certainly not one that threatened violence if I ever voiced apathy or disbelief. I know some of you have come to your rejection of Islam from such dangerous places and I just want to let you know that I am amazed by not only your bravery, but your integrity for not remaining a mental prisoner of (if I may steal from Hitchens) the spiritual North Korea.
I wish all of you well, and certainly offer all the encouragement I can muster for all of you to keep on fighting for humanity, peace, justice and freedom. Every mind that you open up to reality and clarity is one less that will be imprisoned by fear and hatred, all in the cause of an imaginary dictator. Best luck and prosperity to all of you.
Tatanka

I come here for the people, and the atmosphere. There’s a great mix of intelligent discussion, venting of frustrations, shared support, and general silliness. As The Wyre said, there’s a solidarity here that you can’t find anywhere else, and it’s present even if a topic has nothing to do with Islam or religion. This forum is just as much about moving past Islam as it is about Islam.
And it just happens to be truly the best damn forum on the internet.
I’ve bolded the part that really sums up how I feel about this place. In the early months after I left Islam, I had no support outside of the people here. And even still, 4 years later, there’s nobody else that quite understands how Islam still has an effect on my life. I remember everything I learned and all the love and support I received (and still do!) from people here, and how it’s helped me grow and change and make sense of my life. And I hope to offer the same sort of support to others when I can. This community is invaluable.
Luthiel

CEMB has been a safe place for me to learn to stand and move forward after the effects of islam..
it has helped me realize what i need to work on, and has given me a sense of solidarity..
CEMB has become a place to turn to for advice, comfort, debate, and friendship.. it is in essence giving me what anyone would want from a family.. i have seen boys learn to discard their misogynistic ideas, and girls embrace their strength.. i am grateful to the group of people who courageously continue to speak out.. the voice of CEMB must continue to be echoed for the sake of those who have no voice.. CEMB will always be part of me..
Nessrriinn [Read more…]

Why the ‘Ex’ in Ex-Muslims

The wonderful author, activist (and friend) Taslima Nasrin writes the following in her message to the Council of Ex-Muslims to mark its 5th anniversary:

I congratulate British ex-Muslims for their bravery. Even though I do not consider myself an ex-Muslim because I was never really a Muslim or a believer, I feel close to Maryam Namazie and the other members of the ex-Muslim organisation. Atheists who were Christians but became atheists later do not call themselves ex-Christians. Why should atheists who were Muslims or born in Muslim families but became atheists later be called ex-Muslims? We should not be identified separately from other atheists. Fighting Islamists and Islam is not only our responsibility; it is the responsibility of all sane people. We are all here to make the world a better place.

In principle,  I agree with Taslima and I’ve said as much many times.

But it is called ‘ex-Muslim’ in order to provoke and challenge not to separate and segregate.

You don’t need an ex-Christian organisation because former Christians are not killed for leaving Christianity (in the most part in this day and age at least). With Islam, it is a very different matter. Yes your religion or atheism is your business but not when you are killed for it. Then ‘coming out’ is a form of resistance and dissent.

This has nothing to do with creating yet another false and bogus identity. It’s all about taking a stand with others (the organisation is open to all atheists and agnostics) to demand a strict separation of religion from the state and the curtailment of religion’s role in the public space. But with a special focus on Islam because of what Islam and political Islam represent in our world today.

And of course opposing Islamism and defending secularism is not the task of ex-Muslims or even atheists alone. But that is why there are many other campaigns and activities like One Law for All and Equal Rights Now. Each plays its own role, has its own significance and pushes back religion and defends humanity in its own way.

I will leave it at that for now. I hope to explain this further in my talk at the 23 June lunch celebrating the 5th anniversary of the CEMB.

CEMB is an organisation that must be defended

Dear friend

You may have heard that Indonesian atheist Alex Aan has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for saying ‘There is no god’ on Facebook. The Council of Ex-Muslims condemns the sentence and demands that Alex be immediately and unconditionally released. He has done nothing wrong. Help us oppose his prison sentence and call for his release by writing letters of protest to the Indonesian authorities.

Alex is one of many.

Just recently, Maldivian blogger Ismail ‘Hilath’ Rasheed was brutally attacked because of his writings and Iranian-German rapper Shahin Najafi was given a death fatwa for rapping about Islam.

For the past 5 years, the Council of Ex-Muslims has played an important role in defending the right to free expression, including the right to criticise religion, whilst supporting ex-Muslims and challenging Islamism and apostasy laws. We’ve also defended the rights of Muslims and others to equality and citizenship rights via the One Law for All campaign we kick started in 2008.

A report by the Islamic regime of Iran confirms our significance by ‘exposing’ founder Maryam Namazie as being ‘noticeable’ for her ‘widespread activities against Islam and the Islamic Republic and in areas such as the defence of women’s rights and refugee rights’, and for being ‘in charge’ of those ‘who are effectively apostates’.

Clearly, the CEMB is an organisation that must be defended.

You can help support us by celebrating our fifth anniversary. Send messages to mark our fifth birthday to exmuslimcouncil@gmail.com. See other messages, including from Taslima Nasrin, Richard Dawkins and Mina Ahadi, here. Donate to help further our work and/or attend our luncheon at an Italian restaurant in London next Saturday 23 June 2012 from 13.00-16.00 hours. Book a place now and join renowned philosopher AC Grayling, writer Gita Sahgal, comedian Kate Smurthwaite, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, DV8 Physical Theatre Director Lloyd Newson, CEMB founder Maryam Namazie, magician Neil Edwards, singer and songwriter Shelley Segal and others. Once you’ve booked a place, you’ll receive further details.

To donate or purchase tickets, send a cheque made payable to CEMB to BM Box 1919, London WC1N 3XX or pay via Paypal or Worldpay. Donations will help ensure the attendance of CEMB volunteers at the 23 June luncheon and help us continue our important work.

Thanks again for your support.

For more information, please contact: Maryam Namazie Spokesperson Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain BM Box 2387 London WC1N 3XX, UK Tel: +44 (0) 7719166731 exmuslimcouncil@gmail.com www.ex-muslim.org.uk

Good thing prayers don’t work

I get a lot of interesting emails to say the least. I don’t usually answer them or post them but I thought some of you at least could use a good laugh. Here’s one from ‘an enemy of the ex-Muslim Council':

In the name of God the most gracious the most merciful, and peace and blessings be upon His most beloved messenger Mohammed.

Hello,

I came across your page whilst browsing, and thought I would email with the intention of warning you of the day of judgement and advising you to change your name and your mission.

Why must you be a council of ex-muslims and not simply be an atheist council? Why still hang onto the word muslim? This is a very evil and bitter council ‘name’ to adopt. Why must you be so hateful towards Islam, when even ex christians and ex jews and ex catholics etc are respectful enough to avoid such insult? If you no longer wish to be muslim, then leave the faith and leave its name behind. [Read more…]