Secular Conference 2014 rallies in support of Kobane and against religious-Right

Press Release
15 October 2014

PosterA3The two-day International Conference on the Religious Right, Secularism and Civil Rights held in London during 11-12 October 2014 was a rousing success.

A broad coalition of secularists, including believers, free-thinkers, agnostics and atheists assembled from the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and the Diaspora at the unprecedented and historic gathering to discuss resistance against the repression and violence of ISIS and other manifestations of the religious-Right, including in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Israel, Libya, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Turkey, Tunisia and Yemen. They also discussed the urgent need to defend secularism, universal values and citizenship rights.

The 250 delegates made an unequivocal stand with the brave women and men of Kobane saying: “Their struggle is ours. Their fight is a fight for us all. We are all, today, Kobane.”

The conference, which was convened by Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas and Iranian-born Campaigner Maryam Namazie, adopted a Manifesto for Secularism which criticised neo-conservatism, neo-liberalism, communalism and cultural relativism and affirmed the complete separation of religion from the state and public policy, freedom of religion and atheism and freedom to criticise religions as well as equality between women and men and citizenship rights for all. It also called for the abolition of religious laws in the family, civil and criminal codes and an end to discrimination against and persecution of LGBT, religious minorities, women, freethinkers, ex-Muslims, and others.

The conference highlighted the voices of the many persecuted and exiled, the long standing resistance against the religious-Right and the depth and strength of the demand for secularism all over the world despite grave risks. It also set the stage for the development of a broad international front for secularism to challenge the religious-Right, racism and all forms of bigotry.

The Conference called on people everywhere to join the International Front for Secularism and strengthen a human alternative to the religious-Right.

Speakers at the conference included philosopher AC Grayling; Aliyah Saleem who spent 6 years in an Islamic school in Britain; Tunisian University of Manouba Professor Amel Grami; social and political analyst and commentator Bahram Soroush; French writer Caroline Fourest; secular student activist Chris Moos; Senior Researcher at the International Center for Ethnic Studies in Sri Lanka Chulani Kodikara; Indian labour historian Dilip Simeon; Yemeni writer and activist Elham Manea; Co-Founder of Muslim Women Research and Action Front from Sri Lanka Faizun Zackariya; founder of the Iranian Secular Society Fariborz Pooya; Senegalese International Director of Women Living Under Muslim Laws Fatou Sow; Director of Centre for Secular Space Gita Sahgal; Leader of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran Hamid Taqvaee; One Secular School System in Ontario Campaigner Homa Arjomand; Director of the Afghanistan Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium Horia Mosadiq; FEMEN leader Inna Shevchenko; co-founder of Justice for Women Julie Bindel; author Karima Bennoune; writer Kenan Malik; Pakistani-born human rights activist Kiran Opal; Iranian writer-journalist and documentary filmmaker Lila Ghobady; Ex-Muslim Maha Kamal; Libyan president of Hakki Magdulien Abaida; Tunisian filmmaker Nadia El Fani; Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain Spokesperson Nahla Mahmoud; Vice President of the Atheist Coalition in Poland Nina Sankari; Founder member of Women Against Fundamentalism Nira Davis-Yuval; Pakistani nuclear physicist and social activist Pervez Hoodbhoy; Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell; Southall Black Sisters Director Pragna Patel; founder of the Ex-Muslims of Scotland Ramin Forghani; author Rumy Hassan; Turkish MP Safak Pavey; journalist Salil Tripathi; Iranian/German writer Siba Shakib; Founder of Association pour la mixité, l’égalité et la laïcité Soad Baba Aïssa; co-founder of Survivors Voice Europe Sue Cox; Executive Director of Ain o Salish Kendra in Bangladesh Sultana Kamal; Director of Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford Taj Hargey; Bangladeshi-born writer Taslima Nasrin; President of the National Secular Society Terry Sanderson and women’s rights campaigner Yasmin Rehman.

Acclaimed pianist and composer Anne Lovett; comedians Daphna Baram (AKA MissD), Kate Smurthwaite and Sameena Zehra as well as LCP dance company and singer/songwriter Shelley Segal provided entertainment.

The Indonesian band SIMPONI was announced winner of One Law for All’s Sounds of Freedom award with their entry “Sister in Danger”, a tribute to Indonesian victims of sexual violence.

The Conference was endorsed by Atheist Alliance International; Bread and Roses TV; Children First Now; Center for Inquiry; Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain; Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran; Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation; International Committee against Stoning; International Committee against Execution; International Federation of Iranian Refugees; Iran Solidarity; National Secular Society; One Law for All; Pink Triangle Trust; Secularism is a Women’s Issue; The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science UK; and Women Living Under Muslim Laws amongst others.

END

Notes

1. Videos of the Conference will be posted on the Bread and Roses TV Youtube Channel shortly.

2. Photos of the Conference will be made available soon.

3. Press coverage on the conference includes:

Secular conference created a sense of imminent and momentous change – and women will be the driving force, Terry Sanderson, NSS Blog, 15 October 2014

We are all Kobane: Rallying Cry of Resistants against Fundamentalism, Caroline Fourest, Huffington Post, 14 October 2014

Nous sommes tous Kobané: le cri de résistants à l’intégrisme, Caroline Fourest, Huffington Post, 14 October 2014

Guess what?: SIMPONI wins int’l competition, Jakarta Post, 14 October 2014

Secularism at risk in Sub-Saharan secular states: the challenges for Senegal and Mali, Fatou Sow, Open Democracy, 10 October 2014

Secular conference to discuss rise of religious-Right, The Guardian, 9 October 2014

Conquering Fear with Hope, Gita Sahgal, Open Democracy, 9 October 2014

L’urgenza della laicità, Riforma, 9 October 2014

Event on Rise of Religious Extremism to be Hosted in London, Prensa Latina, 9 October 2014

Promoting the global secular alternative in the ISIS era, Karima Bennoune’s interview with Marieme Helie Lucas and Maryam Namazie. Open Democracy, 4 October 2014

4. For more information, contact Maryam Namazie at maryamnamazie@gmail.com.

We are all Kobane

Resolution in support of the people of Kobane
Adopted at 11-12 October Secular Conference 2014

We, the participants of the International Conference on the Religious-Right, Secularism and Civil Rights unequivocally stand with the brave women and men of Kobane.

Their struggle is ours.

Their fight is a fight for us all.

We are all, today, Kobane.

Why ISIS today?

See the latest Bread and Roses programme. This is a not-to-be-missed interview on the rise of ISIS and the need for secularism.

Why ISIS, today?
07 October 2014
Interview with Hamid Taqvaee, Secretary of the
Central Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran

چرا داعش امروز؟
۸ اکتبر ۲۰۱۴
مصاحبه با حميد تقوايى. ليدر حزب کمونيست کارگرى ايران

Promoting global secular alternative in the ISIS era

While many of us watch in horror as ISIS advances, and fundamentalist ideas spread across religious traditions around the world, Maryam Namazie and Marieme Hélie-Lucas – secular feminists from Iran and Algeria – told Karima Bennoune why they are convening the International Secular Conference in London next weekend.

Karima Bennoune: Can you explain your own journey to secularism?

Marieme Hélie-Lucas: I have been a secularist throughout my life, someone who believes a democratic state should not take orders from religions. My mother was a mystic, but also a secularist, and was strongly aware of the anti-women stance in all religions. Her feminist teaching on religions always remained within me, especially when I was confronted with the rise of Muslim fundamentalism in Algeria.

Maryam Namazie:  I became a secularist after Islamists expropriated and suppressed the 1979 Iranian revolution and established an Islamic state. I knew instinctively that there was something very wrong with religion in power, as do many people living under the boot of Islamism or the religious right – even if they do not call themselves secularists. My father was raised a strict Muslim (by my grandfather who was an Islamic scholar) but he never made me feel different because I was a girl. I never had to be veiled or felt unequal, until an Islamic state came into being.

Bennoune: Why did you decide to organize the International Conference on the Religious Right, Secularism and Civil Rights now?

Namazie: Our era is marked by the rise of the religious right, and in particular Islamism, with its unspeakable brutality. There has been many a slaughtered generation from Iran to Algeria. For every shocking and tragic beheading of a journalist and aid worker by ISIS that makes headlines, there are countless unreported others beheaded, crucified, flogged, segregated and “disappeared” via the veil…

In the fight against these movements, secularism is key, including for many believers. No one better understands the need for the separation of religion and state than those who have lived under the religious right. Secularism  may not be the only challenge, but it is certainly a minimum precondition for freedom in any given society.

You can read the rest of the interview here.

Fitnah Unveiled: June/July on ISIS, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and more

A Publication of Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation
June/July 2014
Volume 2, Issues 6 and 7
Editor: Maryam Namazie
Design: Kiran Opal

DOWNLOAD PDF OF ISSUE HERE.

IN THIS ISSUE

* Thfitnah-UNVEILED9-10-junejuly14-A4_Page_01e unfolding of a human tragedy, On the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Interview with Nira Yuval-Davis

* ISIS is no-one’s representative, Interview with Houzan Mahmoud

* Newsflash June/July 2014

* Campaign: Reyhaneh Jabbari’s stay of execution. We must keep the pressure on.””

* Editorial: Murder can never justified, On the Israeli offensive on Gaza, Maryam Namazie

* Conference Update: Join Historic International Conference on the Religious-Right, Secularism and Civil Rights
www.secularconference.com

The unfolding of a human tragedy
On the Israeli-Palestinian issue
Interview with Nira Yuval-Davis

Maryam Namazie: I wanted to ask you about the Israeli-Palestinian issue; it’s a human tragedy unfolding before our eyes.

Nira Yuval-Davis: It is a human tragedy and it’s more than that. It’s important to emphasise that this is not something that has started now or even in 1967 or 1948. This is something that has been going on in different ways (and not to the terrible way that it is now though it has always been in many ways horrible) since the beginning of the settler-colonial project of the Zionist movement. The Zionist movement sought to solve the so-called ‘Jewish problem’ – the terrible persecution and pogroms of Jews and anti-Semitism in Europe that culminated in the extermination and genocide of Jews under the Nazis. They sought national liberation but because of the dispersal of the Jewish population did it in a manner that was popular during that time – of settler-colonialism. In such projects, the indigenous people, in this case the Palestinians, were completely invisible, or when they were visible, there were all kinds of assumptions that either they will disappear (and settlers were always happy to ‘help’ the indigenous people to ‘disappear’ by various acts of genocide), assimilate or like, in the utopian Altneuland (Old New Land) of Hertzl, they would willingly become second-rate citizens. What’s happening now in Gaza is of course the latest manifestation and the whole evolution and various dislocations that this country has had during more than 100 years, and with all its national, regional and global implications.

Maryam Namazie: When you look at this situation, you find people mainly either siding with the Israeli state or siding with Hamas and the Islamists, whereas in fact there are so many people who are opposed to both and who want real peace.

Nira Yuval-Davis: We should not forget that Israeli security originally helped to bring about the birth of Hamas in the same way that the Taliban was helped and supported by the CIA. This is because they thought that the British imperial policy of ‘divide-and-rule’ would be the best weapon to weaken the PLO and divide the Palestinian resistance. Unfortunately, they succeeded too well but, of course, in their kind of racist superiority they didn’t think that Hamas and the Palestinians in general are not just puppets; they have their own agency and would use the support that had been given to them to promote their own project, which was Muslim Fundamentalism. And unfortunately now, this is a rising political project of belonging and we see for the first time in the history of the Middle East a series of territories controlled by Muslim Fundamentalists – ISIS in Syria, what is happening in Iraq and Libya, the ongoing fight in Egypt… So we shouldn’t see the rule of Hamas in Gaza in isolation. And this is one of the reasons that once the PLO was willing to have a unity government with Hamas, Israel became so scared by this. In a way, what is happening now is a direct result of the Israeli government being absolutely determined not to facilitate this unity government and in this sense they achieved this immediate goal, At least for now, but at what cost? The other goal was to end Palestinian resistance, especially in Gaza, which has faced a complete blockade especially now that the military Junta in Egypt is cooperating so closely with Israel. Gaza has no outlets on the Egyptian side, Israeli side or via the sea. In a way they have almost nothing to lose, except, of course those they are very willing to sacrifice – women and children and the people. But, on the other hand, people will not resist them because there is no alternative unless Israel and the world, by exerting pressure on Israel, will allow the space for alternatives to emerge. Otherwise, they are not going to exist. [Read more...]

Maryam Namazie tears ISIS flag

At the World Humanist Congress this weekend, I urged Humanists to stop self-flagellating and called on them to focus on the fascists of our era – the Islamists – rather than looking inwards to the so-called “aggressive atheists”. It’s during a question and answer period with Richard Dawkins where I also mention his contribution to those coming out as ex-Muslims.

I then rip the ISIS flag.

You can watch it here.

ISIS (and Islamism) is our dark ages and we must fight it to the end.

Most amusing is the woman who thinks I am calling Muslims fascists. Pretty sad that there are so many people that can still not distinguish between a Muslim and a fascist. Islamists are the fascists not Muslims. Try focusing on the fascists for a change and stop being so racist as to think that all Muslims are far-Right Islamists!

I invite her and the others at the Congress – like Alom Shaha – who think that criticising Islam and Islamism are bigotry to come to our October conference and learn the differences by people – Muslim and none – who are on the frontlines…

You can still buy tickets for the Secular Conference and some of you need to buy it more than others!

Islam in the state is the end of everything worthy of a 21 century life

Flag_of_the_Islamic_State_in_Iraq_and_the_Levant.svgThe below is my opening remarks at the World Humanist Congress today 9 August 2014.

In this day and age, there is most certainly something about Islam.

Not because it is any worse than other religions.

As I have said many times before, all religions are equal and equally bad.

No religion looks favourably upon women, gay and lesbians, freethinkers, dissenters, other religions or atheists, and blasphemers, heretic and apostates… Punishing freethinkers is a long-standing and fundamental feature of all major religions. But there is something about Islam primarily because it is the banner of Islamism, a far-Right political movement, spearheading what I call an Islamic inquisition.

Islamists want the far-Right restructuring of societies – concretely this means a Caliphate or Islamic state, the implementation of Sharia law, the imposition of the burka and compulsory veiling, gender segregation, defending Hududd punishments like death by stoning, and the execution of apostates to name a few.

You don’t have to look far to see what Islamism is. The Islamic regime of Iran. The Saudi government. Hamas. Boko Haram. Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb Ut Tahrir and the Taliban.

And of course the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS) which has made tremendous advances over the past few days and months and which continues to shock and outrage humanity with its sheer terror and brutality.

ISIS is Islamism without its palatable wrappings often fed to people in Europe and the West where its manifestations like Sharia courts in Britain and the Law Society’s guidance on Sharia wills (which institutionalises Islamist values) – are portrayed as people’s “right to religion” even by some humanist groups.

Whilst there are differences in degree amongst Islamists as there are in any phenomenon, fundamentally they are all striving for the same things. Including groups like IERA in the UK which has charitable status and debates well known scientists and atheists whilst defending the Caliphate, death to apostates (they say beheading is painless) and segregating British universities.

Some keep telling us of such “moderate” or “soft” Islamists. There are none.

Fascism is fascism no matter how it is wrapped and dressed.

There is also, given the context, no moderate Islam. Even if there are a million interpretations, today, Islam is what ISIS tells you it is. It is what Khamenei in Iran says it is. It is what the Taliban says it is by sheer and brute force. In many places, you must either submit to their Islam or die.

When religion is in the state or has influence it is no longer a question of personal belief but of political power.

Of course when I talk about Islam I am not speaking of Islam as a personal belief or Muslims who are believers like my father and mother or some of yours.

People practice Islam and religion in innumerable personal ways; they pick and choose what aspects fit their lives and more often than not, people’s humanity shines through whatever their religion or belief.

Being Muslim doesn’t mean one is an Islamist anymore than being Turkish means you support Erdokan, or being Nigerian means you are with Boko Haram or being British means you are a supporter of the British National Party or Christian Right.

No group, community, society is homogeneous. As Kenan Malik says “secularism and fundamentalism are not ideas stitched into people’s DNA. They are, like all values, absorbed, accepted, rejected”.

In fact, Muslims or those perceived to be Muslims are the first victims and at the forefront of resistance against Islamism.

Karima Bennoune highlights nearly 300 such people and groups of Muslim heritage as she calls them who refuse and resist in her book called “your fatwa does not apply here”.

Also, over the past decades, many have “voted” against Islamism with their feet by fleeing Islamic states and movements in unprecedented numbers.

Right now, thousands of Yazidis considered devil worshipers by ISIS languish in the mountains of Sinjar with children dying of thirst and nowhere to go surrounded by ISIS.

Islam today isn’t a private matter, especially not during an inquisition.

Islam is not just the ‘opium’ of the masses as Marx has said but their genocidaire.

Of course, it is good to be balanced and speak of all religions as being equally problematic. Even after the enlightenment has removed much of Christianity’s power and influence, Christianity is still not a benign force; it creates misery where it can.

But you cannot look at ISIS right here and now and its beheadings and crucifixions and sexual jihad and speak of similar attitudes during Victorian England or Europe’s dark ages.

ISIS represents our dark ages today in the 21st century.

It is good to be balanced – particularly when you have a far-Right using the issue of Sharia law and Islamism to attack immigrants and Muslims and absurdly demanding a ban on the Koran as if the Bible was banned to stop the Spanish inquisition. A far-Right that feigns “crocodile tears” for those killed by Islamists yet cheers the massacre of innocent civilians in Gaza by the Israeli state.

It is important to be balanced but one must also be fair and just.

If we cannot see that there is something about Islam and Islamism, then we cannot respond as we must.

And if we don’t, who will?

Defending freethought and expression is crucial in this fight. Defending blasphemy and apostasy cases are important. Removing blasphemy laws from the legal system is key.

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain deals with hundreds of such cases every year. But it is not enough to defend free expression and thought within a limited human rights or legal context.

We must see blasphemy and apostasy laws and a defence of free expression within the larger context of religion in general and Islam in particular vis-a-vis the question of political power.

Islam in the state or with political power is the end of freethought and the end of free expression.

It is the end of democratic politics.

It is the end of women’s rights and gay rights and the rights of minorities. It is the end of everything worthy of a 21 century life.

It is a return to the dark ages.

A Humanist congress today can only begin and end united for Sinjar and united against ISIS.

It must stand unequivocally against Islamism, Sharia law and the Caliphate. This is not about “people’s right to religion”. It is about stopping Islamism’s right to kill and slaughter and oppress.

A humanist congress must stand for equality (of people – not religions and beliefs), for universal rights, and for secularism and the separation of religion from the state – not just for Europe but the world.

This is not a clash of civilisations. It’s a clash between the theocrats and fascists versus the rest of us – Muslim, Atheist and none.

As the late Marxist Mansoor Hekmat said:

“In Islam … the individual has no rights or dignity. In Islam, the woman is a slave. In Islam, the child is on par with animals. In Islam, freethinking is a sin deserving of punishment. Music is corrupt. Sex without permission and religious certification, is the greatest of sins. This is the religion of death. In reality, all religions are such but most religions have been restrained by freethinking and freedom-loving humanity over hundreds of years. This one was never restrained or controlled.”

Restraining it – controlling it – in this day and age – that is our task.

The lives of thousands of people in Iraqi Kurdistan are in danger

189356_newsdetailStatement by the Worker-communist Party of Iran

Following the atrocities of the barbaric Islamic terrorist group ISIS in Iraq, thousands of people have fled to the mountains from fear of this group, and are in danger of dying.

In the past five days, areas to the east of Mosul, including the town of Shangal, have been captured by ISIS. Hundreds of people in these areas, including 17 girl students, have reportedly been executed for belonging to the Yazidi religion. Over 200,000 have been displaced, of which around 50,000 have taken refuge on the mountains near Shangal.

These people are now under the siege of ISIS forces.

Since June this year, after several years of fighting the Islamic Maliki government, ISIS has succeeded in capturing a number of areas in five central provinces of Iraq. In the past two months, it has murdered thousands of people, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced from fear of these Islamic savages.

According to the latest reports, many people on the mountaintops have already perished from lack of water and food. The rest, if they receive no help, are also in danger of certain death. This is genocide. Those trying to come down from the mountains to save themselves are being executed by ISIS. ISIS has blocked all the escape routes, which means that tens of thousands of people, stranded in 45-degree Celsius heat and without water or food, have little chance of survival. The world states and international bodies have done nothing so far. If no help arrives immediately, these people will certainly perish.

We cannot and must not wait for the next few days, which will undoubtedly bring human catastrophes of far greater proportions. We must act immediately. We must put the world states and international bodies under pressure to bring food and water to these people immediately.

The civilised people of the world must come out in support of the people of these war-ravaged areas. The people in Iran, and in particular in Iranian Kurdistan, must come out in support of the people of Iraq and Syria, who have been terrorised by ISIS and other Islamic and reactionary forces and by murderous states.

The Worker-communist Party of Iran supports the struggle of the people of Iraq and Syria for liberation from the hands of ISIS and all the reactionaries and criminal states in these countries.

Worker-communist Party of Iran
7 August 2014