Like Mukto-muna, we are united in our grief and remain undefeated

SIGN BELOW STATEMENT HERE.

We are outraged by the senseless and brutal hacking to death of well known scientist, atheist and writer Avijit Roy and the serious attack on his wife and blogger, Rafida Ahmed Bonya, by Islamists in Bangladesh.

Avijit had received numerous threats over the years for publishing articles critical of Islam, and promoting secular views, science and social issues on the Bengali-language blog, Mukto-mona (Free Mind), which he founded. He had travelled to Bangladesh from the US to attend a book fair where his book “The Virus of Faith” was being launched. It was whilst he was returning from the fair, that he was brutally killed.

This is not the first time atheists and secularists have been attacked in Bangladesh. In addition to the well known threats received by writer Taslima Nasrin, 29 year old blogger Asif Mohiuddin was stabbed and Ahmed Rajib killed in 2013. In 2004, Humayun Azad, a secular writer and professor at Dhaka University, was also attacked and later died.

Whilst Islamists have continued to threaten prominent bloggers and called for the “execution of 84 atheist bloggers for insulting religion”, the Bangladeshi government has done little to defend the lives and security of freethinkers. In 2013, the government even arrested bloggers and shut websites down instead of arresting the Islamists involved.

We stand united in our grief for Avijit Roy with Mukto-muna but remain undefeated. We unequivocally condemn the attack on Avijit and his wife and also the many threats against atheist, secularist and freethinking bloggers and call on the Bangladeshi government to prosecute the Islamists involved, guarantee the safety of dissenters and respect free expression. Freedom of expression, including to criticise Islam and Islamism as well as to blaspheme, is a basic right.

We are all Avijit.

Initial Signatories [Read more…]

On Paris and Copenhagen: Islam and the “culture of offence”: missing the point

I6HTgAfter the terrorist attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, dissent and criticism of religion is a life and death necessity. It has been–and remains–key for human progress. See the full article here.

Dissent and criticism of religion has always been a crucial aspect of free expression. Historically, it has been intrinsically linked with anti-clericalism and the dismantling of that which is deemed taboo, sacred and untouchable by the gatekeepers of power.

Such criticism has been key for human progress and is still needed. In the age of ISIS, this criticism is a life and death necessity for those living under Islamism’s boot.

So yes, I am Charlie – no ifs and buts.

Those who condemn the massacre in Paris but blame Charlie for “offending Muslim sensibilities” (implying that they somehow got what they deserved) have bought into the Islamist narrative that “Muslims” are more offended by cartoons than mass murder.

This is validated by multiculturalism as a social policy and cultural relativism, which sees Muslim “communities” and “societies” as homogeneous and one and the same with the religious-Right.

So even though there is a rich historical and artistic tradition of depicting Mohammad, Islam’s prophet, over many centuries, it’s deemed offensive today.

And despite many Muslims or those labelled as such have sided with Charlie, it is the terrorists/fascists who are deemed to be the “authentic” Muslims.

The homogenised “culture of offence” discounts the many believing secularists, feminists, freethinkers, and atheists and socialists amongst those deemed “Muslim”.

It ignores the widespread dissent and resistance, which can also be seen in response to Charlie.

An Algerian copy editor Mustapha Ourad was gunned down in Charlie’s hallway.

Many “Muslims” joined rallies and held up “Je Suis Charlie” signs or pens.

A French Muslim cafe owner was threatened for putting up a “Je Suis Charlie” sign in his East London cafe.

Lassana Bathily, the Malian-born Muslim employee hid customers at the Paris kosher supermarket saving lives.

Even in Iran – a theocracy where blasphemy, heresy, apostasy, enmity against god, and another 130 offences are punishable by death – Nasrin Sotoudeh, a human rights lawyer showed her solidarity whilst journalists trying to rally in support of Charlie were attacked and prevented from protesting by security agents wielding clubs and chains.

An Iranian newspaper was shut down for publishing a photo showing solidarity with Charlie. In Turkey, two columnists from a daily are facing an investigation for ‘religious defamation’ after featuring the Charlie cover.

Cartoonists across the Arab world – from Egypt to Lebanon to Qatar and Jordan took a stand with Charlie and against the terrorists.

And still we are told that Charlie offended “Muslims” and must be held to account! [Read more…]

Living in outrageous times: Charlie Hebdo and the culture of offence

ucl-ashI’ll be speaking at the below event tonight:

Living in outrageous times: Charlie Hebdo and the culture of offence
UCLU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society hosts this highly topical panel discussion with three excellent speakers.
29 January 2015
Chadwick G08, UCL
18:00 hours

In light of the recent events in Paris, we ask: do you have the right not to be offended? And if so, at what cost?

For more information, go to Facebook Page.

Je Suis Charlie Hebdo

Je Suis Charlie Hebdo
Bread and Roses TV with Maryam Namazie and Fariborz Pooya
14 January 2015
The massacre of 12 at French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo by Islamists has been strongly condemned by people everywhere. Some, however, see it as a consequence of Charlie’s provocative cartoons on Islam and Mohammed. In fact, Charlie criticised all religions and all those in positions of power. Why should Islam have special privileges? And do secularists and unbelievers not deserve the same freedom of expression as believers. In the name of “respect” of religions, Islamists and the religious-Right have been given centre stage at the expense of free expression, which without the right to criticise religion is meaningless. In the era of ISIS, this criticism is needed more than ever. #IAmCharlie #JeSuisCharlie
Shocking News of the Week: Raif Badawi flogged 50 of 1000 lashes after Friday prayers in Saudi Arabia
Insane Fatwa of the week: Turkey’s top religious body has issued a fatwa urging Muslims who have tattoos to repent or have them surgically removed.

Bread and Roses: Nothing is Sacred. On free expression

.برنامه نان و گل سرخ مجله ای سیاسی – اجتماعی در کانال جديد. روز پخش ۱۸ ژوئن ۲۰۱۴

اين هفته در مورد آزادى ابراز عقيده و تمسخر مذهب. هيچ چيز مقدس نيست
با فريبرز پويا٬ بهرام سروش و مريم نمازى. مصاحبه با کمدين کيت سمورتويت. کارگردان: رضا مرادى مشاور برنامه: پونه راوى

Bread and Roses, 17 June 2014, On Nothing is Sacred. With Maryam Namazie, Fariborz Pooya and Bahram Soroush.
Interview with Comedian Kate Smurthwaite. Director: Reza Moradi. Programme Consultant: Poone Ravi.

And so it should

Chris Moos and Abishek Phandis write:

We are delighted to learn that LSE has issued an unconditional apology for the appalling actions of its staff, which led to us being intimidated and harassed in a manner that does not behove a university. We welcome the LSE’s admission that its staff gravely misjudged the situation, and their acknowledgement that we were well within our rights to wear ‘Jesus & Mo’ t-shirts on campus and that this neither amounted to harassment nor contravened the law or LSE policies. Even though it caused us great distress to be publicly harassed and humiliated by LSE and LSE Students’ Union (LSESU) staff, LSE’s response vindicates our decision to stand up for our rights. Given that the LSESU officials were the ones who started the chain of harassment, it is of particular importance to us that the LSE has pledged to retrain LSESU officials and further work with the LSESU to improve their handling of such straightforward situations and events in the future, particularly where issues of freedom of expression are concerned.

Here’s LSE’s statement of apology.

And so it should.

Here’s a photo of me wearing their Jesus and Mo t-shirt to a debate on banning the burqa at LSE after the scandal taken for Vice:

DSC_0026a (1)

Oppose Channel 4 and BBC’s censorship when it comes to Islam

cwtat2Dear Friend,

You may remember Lloyd Newson’s verbatim hit play ‘Can We Talk About This?’ which enjoyed a successful run at London’s National Theatre and Sydney Opera House amongst others. The play focused on the reluctance of media and political figures to openly discuss the dangers of Islamism and Sharia law.

Featuring speeches and interviews with leading figures from across the political and cultural spectrum, including One Law for All’s Maryam Namazie and Anne Marie Waters, the play explored issues of freedom of speech, censorship and violence, as well as the impact of significant events such as the ‘Rushdie Affair’, the murder of Dutch film-maker Theo Van Gogh, and the Mohammed cartoons.

‘Can We Talk About This?’ received rave reviews around the world and won several high profile awards, including ‘Best Dance or Ballet’ (Helpmann Awards, Australia 2012) and dance ‘Production of the Year’ (Germany, 2011/12).

Channel 4 decided not to commission the play due to the ‘current climate’ even though Lloyd Newson’s last film, the Cost of Living, was commissioned for Channel 4 and won 17 international awards, including a Prix Italia and the coveted Rose D’or. Similarly the BBC, which had commissioned previous films from Newson, declined to film the play though they broadcast ‘Jerry Springer – The Opera’ (which featured Jesus Christ in a nappy). So much for the supposed ‘bravery’ of Channel 4 and the ‘impartiality’ of the BBC when it comes to Islam! [Read more…]

Murder of humans and animals

For some reason the final posts for the day did not go live on time. Here they are now…

The guest post for the Day of Agreement marking the International Day against the Death Penalty is from Nobel Prize Winner and Professor of Chemistry, Harry Kroto:

Murder is the most heinous crime one can commit but within this evil there are degrees.  Murder by an individual is evil and the shooting of a small brave girl demanding her right to knowledge yesterday by cowardly men egged on by religious orders in Pakistan fills all decent people with deep revulsion and sorrow for the human race.

However the ultimate evil is murder by the state.  The state draws an arbitrary line based on some dogma or other and that line moves in the 8th Century in Persia it was anyone who remained Zoroastrian, during the Dark Ages the Inquisition was arbitrary in decision-making in Germany in 1940’s it was Jews,  Gypsies  and Homosexuals.  Murder by the State for whatever reason is the most heinous crime of all and must end.

Here is a second guest post from writer Tarek Fatah:

Here is my blasphemy :-)

In two weeks time the Islamic world will erupt into a frenzy of bloodletting which in just one day will cost the lives of millions of goats, cows and camels. They will be slaughtered from Somalia to Surinam; Indonesia to Indiana as a way of Muslims re-enacting the pagan ritual of animal sacrfice to the gods, except Muslims will do it to commemorate the sacrifice patriarch Abraham was willing to offer to God when he put the blade to the neck of his son Ismail.

Kids as young as 5 years of age will be taken to witness this gory spectacle with blood gushing and heads decapitated. The entire day after Hajj this bloody exercise will unfold in the name of religiosity and piety with no Muslim daring to raise their voice and demand a stop to this ritual that has been discard by most of humanity, but has stuck to Islamdom and where little boys get desensitized to the sigh of throat slitting, blood letting and animals writhing in pain, unable to scream for their own rights as creatures of the divine who were here long before us.

Let me be the first to say, end this bloodshed. If you do feel the necessity to sacrifice something precious to God, why don;t you smash your iPhone or your Rolex wristwatch instead of a voiceless animal.

And if it is life that you need to offer to God, then why not your own? Go ahead make my day.

****

I’m blogging every hour on the hour (from 9am-6pm) for the Day of Agreement marking the International Day against the Death Penalty:

The first blog entry was dedicated to 14 year old Malala Yousafzai who was shot by the Taliban for demanding that girls go to school. This day is for her and the many like her who refuse and resist despite charges of offence, apostasy and blasphemy.

The second blog entry was entitled It is possible not to cause offence.

The third was a guest post from Marieme Helie Lucas entitled Honour the dissenters.

The fourth was on Salman Rushdie and the need for blasphemy.

The fifth blog post is Calling all blasphemers to submit their own acts of blasphemy to the comments section.

The sixth blog post shows why open mike nights just don’t work under Sharia law.

The seventh post is a guest blog from Sue Cox entitled Enough!

The eighth post is Nothing can appease the Islamists.

There is a need for blasphemy

In the recent BBC documentary on The Fatwa: Salman Rushdie’s Story, writer Hanif Kureishi says:

Rushdie speaks in the book for Muslims. This is an extremely important book. He speaks for their doubts. He speaks the bits of them that they actually think and feel sometimes – do I really believe in all this stuff – but can’t say. He, at considerable personal cost, has spoken a truth that millions of other people want to speak and for which he is being punished. If writers are devils it is because they speak in the face of the religious-Right.

In his new memoir, Joseph Anton, Salman Rushdie argues that there is a need for blasphemy:

The writers of the French enlightenment had deliberately used blasphemy as a weapon, refusing to accept the power of the Church to set limiting points on thought.

Blasphemy against Islam is our weapon too. It is our refusal to submit, it is our anti-clericalism and the anti- the Islamic inquisition of our era…

***

This is the fourth blog post for the Day of Agreement marking the International Day against the Death Penalty.

The first blog entry was dedicated to 14 year old Malala Yousafzai who was shot by the Taliban for demanding that girls go to school. This day is for her and the many like her who refuse and resist despite charges of offence, apostasy and blasphemy.

The second blog entry was entitled It is possible not to cause offence.

The third was a guest post from Marieme Helie Lucas entitled Honour the dissenters.

No-one is safe, not even 14 year olds

Yesterday, the Taliban critically wounded Malala Yousafzai, the lovely and brave 14 year old Pakistani girl, on her way home from school.

Ihsanullah Ihsan, chief spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, said they targeted Yousafzai because she generated ‘negative propaganda’ and was the ‘symbol of the infidels and obscenity’. If she survived, Ihsan said, the Taliban would try to kill her again.

Sounds familiar?

After all, she dared to  defend the right of girls to an education, particularly offensive to the Taliban which had banned them from attending school, amongst many other things.

When religion is in power, any challenge to it – even something as simple as a girl wanting to go to school – can be deemed offensive, obscene and blasphemous.

And this is exactly why no-one – not even a 14 year old – is safe.

In light of this stark reality, calls for blasphemy laws and censorship is nothing short of a defence of the Taliban herds and their vile Sharia rules because it denies people their thoughts, their words, their expressions, and their resistance and dissent.

All at the expense of sweet Malala and the innumerable like her – challenging Islamism day in and day out by demanding to live  21st century lives.

Today is for her and them.

***

This is my first blog entry for the Day of Agreement marking the International Day against the Death Penalty. I will be blogging every hour, on the hour, and will have some guest posts too.

Day of Agreement

Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and One Law for All are calling on everyone to join the Day of Agreement.

It’s quite easy to do.

On 10 October, upload the day’s logo as your avatar on social media, Tweet #dayofagreement or try it with your colleagues, family and friends.

You can also join our five minute flash-mob at 6pm in central London. (Email for more details).

Just remember, you can’t disagree with anyone – your colleagues, spouse, lover(s), mates, neighbours, children, bosses, or even politicians…

You are not allowed to dissent, ‘offend’ or question.

And before anyone gets too excited, they have to remember that they must also agree with everything you say. It’s only fair…

Seems impossible?

But that is what is expected of those of us who question, criticise or choose to leave Islam, including many Muslims and ex-Muslims…

Try it.

And while it all seems a bit of fun – on October 10 International Day against the Death Penalty – don’t forget that there are many living under Sharia law who are daily facing threats, imprisonment and execution for merely expressing themselves.

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

One Law for All
BM Box 2387
London WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
onelawforall@gmail.com
www.onelawforall.org.uk

Bravo Charlie Hebdo

In a climate where Islamist murder, violence and intimidation is cowering many into silence and submission,  Charlie Hebdo’s insistence on poking fun at Islam on par with all religions and its refusal to back down despite calls for censorship is one that will be remembered when Islamism is in the dustbins of history.

French professor Marlière writes in the Guardian that the magazine’s aim to reassert its leftwing secular tradition in this climate is more anti-Islamic than anti-clerical.  But anti-Islamism is this era’s anti-clericalism.

He adds that the cartoons are ‘unhelpful’ in a ‘climate of religious and racial prejudice’ but like the Guardian and many a liberal and post-modernist leftist, he misses the point. What is ‘unhelpful’ is Islamism’s murder and mayhem.

Criticising Islam and Islamism is not about prejudice – that is Islamism’s narrative – which has been bought hook, line and sinker by those calling for censorship. In fact, in this day and age, criticism is a historical necessity and legitimate challenge to our era’s inquisition.

Also, what the professor and the Guardian seem to forget is that those most at threat of the Islamist herds are not satirical French publications or even US and French embassies worldwide but the many countless human beings living under Islamism and Sharia law  – a lot of them Muslims – who daily face threats, imprisonment and death for their dissent from and criticism – like Saudi Hamza Kashgari, Indonesian Alex Aan, Egyptian Alber Saber and Pakistani Asia Bibi.

When will the professor and the Guardian side with them?

As the most wonderful Salman Rushdie says: we “need to be braver”.

Yes, clearly we do if we are going to stop this barbarism once and for all…

As an aside, of course Charlie Hebdo’s cartoon is different from the despicable and racist Christian Right film, the Innocence of Muslims. But free expression is not just for those we agree with. And let’s not forget a bad film is just a bad film. The real problem that needs to be addressed head on is Islamism and censorship is the wrong response.

Urgent Action: Islam: The Untold Story must not be cancelled

Dear friend

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain would like to make public its support for Tom Holland’s Channel 4 documentary ‘Islam: The Untold Story’. We are indignant to learn that due to threats made on Holland, Channel 4 has cancelled a repeat screening of the historical inquiry into the origins of Islam similar to the kind of inquiry that has been applied to other religions and histories in Britain for many years.

The threats and concerted attempt to stigmatise the documentary and its producers by attacking its credibility and even legitimacy as a field of inquiry is nothing less than an attempt to impose a blasphemy taboo by stealth and coercion against programming that scrutinises Islam.

Caving in to the coercive pressure of Islamists will have catastrophic effects on free inquiry and expression where it pertains to Islam. It would not only further silence academic, historical and theological scrutiny of Islam but would also have the chilling effect of exerting added pressure on Muslims and ex-Muslims who wish to dissent from and question Islam.

CEMB spokesperson Maryam Namazie says:

“Here’s my question to Channel 4: what about the threats on our lives for being apostates, ex-Muslims, atheists, freethinkers, secularists, 21st century human beings?

“What part of our thoughts, lives, and bodies do you recommend we cancel to appease the Islamists?

“If only there was such an ‘easy’ ‘solution’ for those who are languishing under Islam’s rules.

“You may accept censorship and cowardly silence in the face of Islamist threats and intimidation but we cannot afford to do so. And we never will.”

The CEMB urges you to view the documentary (also available on Youtube and on liveleak) and write to Channel 4 and Ofcom (contact information below) calling for a repeat screening.

We look forward to your support. [Read more…]

Defending Rasheed

Ismail ‘Hilath’ Rasheed, a Maldivian blogger, journalist and free speech advocate, has been brutally attacked near his home on 4 June 2012. His throat was slit through the trachea and he survived only because a vital artery was missed by millimetres. He is recovering. Whilst police are still investigating, it is believed to be the work of Islamists.

Rasheed had previously been attacked and received a number of death threats. On 10 December 2011, his skull was fractured when he attended a rally for religious tolerance, which was attacked by Islamists. On 14 December, he was arrested and held for three weeks after members of the Adhaalath Party accused him of blasphemy. Rasheed reported that he faced mistreatment and degradation whilst in custody. Before his release, his detention was extended twice on the request of investigating officers in order that the Islamic Ministry might provide him with counselling to “bring him back to Islam”.

The Government of the Maldives has made no effort to arrest Rasheed’s attackers despite credible photographic evidence of the attack. Moreover, the Government has blocked his website on the order of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs on the grounds that the site contained anti-Islamic material. Rasheed has said he was being censored for expressing his version of Islam, and called for more freedom of interpretation within the faith. [Read more…]

Where do you draw the line?

On 26 May 2012 from 4.30 – 6pm at the Brighton Dome, Pavilion Theatre, I will be joining a panel discussion staged by Index on Censorship and Free Word as part of this year’s Brighton Festival called ‘Where do you draw the line?’

Open dialogue is the key to a healthy, cohesive society, but some fear the disruptive, dangerous potential of truly free speech. Inspired by themes of DV8’s show Can We Talk About This? the event presents an interactive conversation about how, when and why we censor ourselves. Chaired by Kenan Malik, author of From Fatwa to Jihad and regular guest on The Moral Maze, the discussion moves between panellists and the audience using electronic polling terminals, with poll results screened live.

To buy tickets and for more information, click here.

Richard Dawkins

Here’s Dawkins speech at the 11 February free expression rally. Best lines: A scholar usually needs to have read more than one book, people need to ‘stop being so damn respectful’ and that without freedom of speech, society would be a ‘scientific, technological, moral dark age’.

By the way, here’s Richard Dawkins’ comment on the 11 February free expression rally and also the culturally relativist position of the police in dealing with honour-based violence and crimes. He met some people at the rally who had not be helped by the police since it is ‘part of their culture':

Don’t barter away our free expression

The UCL Atheist, Humanist and Secular Society (ASH) has published a report on the December event where Anne Marie Waters and I debated members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association on Sharia law. The debate can be seen here as can my blog entries on it here and here.

The report highlights an affliction that many humanist groups in particular, including student groups, have when it comes to dealing with Islamic groups.

The UCL ASH report’s unfortunate conclusion is a case in point. It says that apparently ‘the two sides of the motion maintained different concepts of ‘Sharia Law’, i.e. as it is practiced versus as it is truly described – which concept is the most relevant today is a question to brought forward’.

I wonder if they would reach the same conclusion had proponents of canon law been adamant that the inquisition had nothing to do with the tenets of Christianity…

This affliction arises partly because of the gullibility of these groups. They believe Islamists at face value despite all evidence to the contrary and are keen to label anyone they can as a ‘moderate’. In that specific December debate on Sharia for example, when I spoke of the Hadith on stoning, the Ahmadiyya speaker said none existed in order to prove that his Islam was not the Islam being practiced in countries where stoning to death takes place. Immediately, this was seen as proof of there being ‘different concepts’ of Sharia law. But the speaker was lying and admitted as much. To those saying he should not have lied, the speaker Ayaaz Mahmood later commented: ‘Had Maryam asked me, “Has the Holy Prophet (sa) ever ordered that a man be stoned to death?” To this, I would have had to answer yes, and then hope and pray that the moderator would give me a minute or two (which isn’t really enough) to explain the whole background of those specific Ahadith… But of course, at the time, the opportunity did not afford itself to give this entire explanation. So I gave her the direct answer to her question, which was a big, “NO”. Only to silence her. Because I didn’t want to get into this whole issue during the debate…’

Ayaaz Mahmood did the same with the verse in the Koran on wife beating (he said it was not a beating as no marks could be left!) and on Aisha’s age (she was 18 according to him but still playing with dolls) and so on… Rather than seeing through this, the group sees the discrepancies as ‘different concepts’ of Islam.

The affliction also arises partly due to the hegemony of a ‘pragmatic’ approach in the Humanist movement that is keen on promoting inter-faith work and coalitions irrespective of their consequences and actually seems to prefer it especially since it opens a space for humanism on par with religions.

Which brings me back to the current censorship attempt on the UCL ASH for using a Jesus and Mo image on their Facebook page. The UCL ASH and the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies (AHS) insist that this has nothing to do with the Ahmadiyya Association. I am not so sure, particularly since this fiasco quickly follows a heated debate on Sharia law. And whilst the ASH has been insistent that the Ahmadiyya Association finds the publication of the image within its legal rights, the Ahmadiyya Association treasurer has also said that the Union might be within its legal rights to ask for the removal of the image… See the doublespeak? [Read more…]