The day the music died

Did you hear about Pragash Band, an all girls rock band from Kashmir, which has had to stop singing after receiving a string of death and rape threats as well as a fatwa against them by the Grand Mufti for being “un-Islamic”, “immoral” and “for spreading obscenity”…

 

Just in case you haven’t quite understood the severity of the matter, the teenagers have had the gall to sing in public.

The Mufti has also called on women to veil and said that the reason sexual assaults are on the rise is because women are performing in public!?

Anyone who has ever lived under such Islamic rule knows it well. You’re not allowed to listen to music, sing in public, dance…

The day medieval Muftis and Islamists decide is the day the music dies.

Regardless, a large number of people, including the Chief minister, have come out in support of the girls.

As must we.

This is about politics not religion

Below is my speech at the 22 September National Secular Society conference in London:

Sometimes I really don’t know what more to say.

What else can be said about Sharia law that– at least in your gut – you don’t already know?

It is based on the Koran, the Hadith and Islamic jurisprudence. Its criminal code includes stoning to death for adultery and execution for apostasy and homosexuality. In Iran, for example, there are over 130 offences punishable by death.

Its civil code – which is imposed by Sharia courts in Britain – is discriminatory and unfair particularly against women. Basically it is a code of death and despair.

Not breaking news, is it? After all it is religious law. And that’s what – in my opinion – religion does best. A court based on the Bible and Torah would be similarly discriminatory and barbaric.

Yet the numbers of people who continue to defend Sharia courts in Britain as people’s ‘right to religion’ is staggering.

And of course – any excuse – will do. The best I have heard recently has to be ‘I have a Muslim friend who says Sharia is not as you say it is’. End of. Their skepticism seems to apply to everything but Islam. [Read more…]

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.

The other film: The Innocence of Muslims

Another film that has hit the headlines – ‘The innocence of Muslims’ – merits comment particularly since it has sparked protests that have resulted in the death of several US officials in Libya.

Have you seen the film? It is absolutely ludicrous.

It’s low budget (though they say they spent $5 million on it), poorly edited, badly acted – I mean just really, really bad. It’s almost impossible to get through the trailer let alone the movie itself.

It’s even worse (if that’s an option) than Geert Wilders’ film, Fitna, which we did a remake on.

Clearly the incompetence of the far-Right is even more astounding than its racism…

Here’s the trailer if you haven’t seen it:

What I find most ironic out of all of this is how the producers of the film and their supporters – like the crackpot pastor Terry Jones of Stand Up America! – don’t see how they are one and the same with the Islamists.

Like the Islamists, everyone is guilty. No one is innocent, which explains the very pathetic title of their film.

By the way, did you hear that the pastor is holding a trial for Mohammad who will face execution if found guilty? Does he not realise Mohammad isn’t even a real live person? And I also love the whole Christian love (we’re better than Islam) bit that ends with a public execution.

Like I said, two sides of the same coin.

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…]

We never will

I have just posted a statement by the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain in support of Tom Holland’s documentary “Islam: The Untold Story”.

Channel 4 has just cancelled a repeat screening due to threats.

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, 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 – like Afghan actors facing death threats or  the 16 year old girl waiting to be flogged in the Maldives?

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.

***

View the documentary here.

 

 

We must be able to scrutinise Islam

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain would like to make public our 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.

The CEMB urges Channel 4 to reconsider its decision and urges the public to view the documentary and write to Channel 4 calling for a repeat screening.

Simple!

In response to my post explaining the ex in ex-Muslim, Mr. A Kundi‏ or @adnzafar says on Twitter:

@MaryamNamazie then don’t say #exmuslims. then there will be no killings. Simple!

Simple for who?

The defenders of Islamism are always on the ready to blame Islam’s victims for its crimes.

All you need to do to stop their killing machine is to stop speaking, stop criticising Sharia or the veil, stop holding hands, stop opposing sex apartheid, stop thinking and breathing…

A Kundi has things the other way around.

Stop Islamism and Islam’s role in the public space, push its back to the wall, send it back to the Middle Ages, then there will be no killings.

Simple!

 

Follow me on Twitter.

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…]

Who is allah?

Who is allah?

Your poor unsuspecting children can find out for the bargain price of $1.82.

This book is designed to help parents and teachers in their efforts to encourage young children to ask questions and to assist them in exploring answers together. It makes the sharing of a basic knowledge of Islam simple, clear and enjoyable. This lays the foundation on which greater understanding can be built and learning enriched as young students grow older. And, whatever our age, reviewing the basic in this way can be very beneficial, in that it re-kindles our awareness and glad acceptance of the beautiful message and wondrous knowledge of Islam: we are then the better able share our renewed enthusiasm with others. May you benefit greatly from reading this book.

Whilst the book pays lip service to children asking questions and exploring, which is very useful for the pro-religious education lobby, it has the requisite veiling of girls (which is child abuse in my opinion, the sexualisation of girls at a young age and a physical and constant reminder of sex apartheid), and the very ‘objective’ views on Islam, the world and creation. It also manages to oh so subtly remind the reader that its aims are to ‘rekindle our awareness’ and ‘glad acceptance of the beautiful message’. So much for objectivity.

The only thing missing is the ‘or else’ but don’t worry, the child will learn that soon enough.

Once your child’s done with this book, there are plenty more to choose from – like ‘I Love Islam – Level 1′ and the ‘A to Z of Akhlaq’ or moral behaviour. Here’s one your child will need to know and very soon:

Enjoy.

All you need for an arrest is hurt religious sentiment

A Bangladeshi court has issued an arrest warrant for the writer of a 2003 novel “Bhanga Math” (“Broken Temple”). The book has already been banned for insulting Mohammed. The court issued the order in response to a petition from an Islamist accusing the author Salam Azad of hurting religious sentiment.

And did you hear about the 26 year old Kuwaiti who has been given a ten year (yes 10 year) prison sentence for insulting Mohammad on Twitter?

There’s also the atheist Turkish pianist who faces imprisonment for insulting Islamic values.

Islam kills, mutilates, segregates, dehumanises and all it takes for an arrest and prison sentence is ‘hurt religious sentiment’.

Talk about an upside down world.

(Top Link via Anne Marie Waters)

I’m blogging every half an hour from 9am to 3pm GMT in support of the Secular Student Alliance blogothon. The SSA is trying to raise £100,000 by 16 June.

Try to support the SSA if you can. If we’re going to beat the religion industry, we need to support organisations promoting secularism and reason.

Here’s a link to the official SSA Week page, which has lots of information about the SSA as well as an easy-to-find donation widget.

The veil is yet another restriction on women

I’ve been meaning to comment on a recent article in the Guardian (surprise, surprise) about how wonderfully liberating the hijab is and am glad I was reminded of it today.

The author, Nadiya Takolia, says:

…in a society where a woman’s value seems focused on her sexual charms, some wear it explicitly as a feminist statement asserting an alternative mode of female empowerment. Politics, not religion, is the motivator here. I am one of these women…

…In a world as diverse and changing as our own, the hijab means a multitude of things to the many women who choose to wear it. I speak as a woman who just happens to come from the Islamic faith, and for me the hijab is political, feminist and empowering. This dimension is increasingly important for many women who choose to wear it; it’s a shame it is understood by so few.

It’s ironic how hijabis often portray their wearing of the hijab as a form of liberation from the sexualisation of women in society when it is just one other form of sexualisation and control. In fact, it sexualises girls from a young age and demands that they be covered and segregated so as not to cause fitna or chaos in society.

In the real world, this isn’t called liberating or empowering. It’s called something else and it’s far from a choice for a majority. It’s no more a ‘choice’ than other forms of control and sexualisation, such as female genital mutilation or the chastity belt and foot binding.

Rahila Gupta has recently written a piece in Open Democracy on this very issue. It’s called The hijab or the bikini: The shaping of young girls’ sexuality.

In it she says:

By calling for a ban on lingerie and beauty pageants for young girls, the French report shifts responsibility from parents to the corporate sector which, to some extent, disguises the fact that the state is challenging parental hegemony. Additionally, it shifts the public debate and opens up a space to call for the banning of hijabs worn by young girls which also draws attention to girls’ sexuality, conversely by covering them up. Both sets of girls are robbed of the freedom and innocence (i.e. not being constructed as objects of desire) of childhood. Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson for Council for Ex-Muslims is forthright in her condemnation of the imposition of hijabs on young girls, ‘child veiling must be banned full stop. This is a children’s rights issue. While adults may ‘choose’ veiling or a religion, children by their very nature cannot make such choices; what they do is really what their parents tell them to do…. They [parents] can’t deny their children medical assistance or beat and neglect them or marry them off at 9 because it’s part of their beliefs or religion.’  This is an important perspective in the debate on veiling which is often missing in the West out of ‘respect’ for other cultures and religions.

As an aside, whilst Rahila  supports a ban on child veiling, she opposes my demand for a ban on the burka. I have commented on this by saying:

It is not enough to say that a burka ban is ‘counter-productive and seen as an onslaught on Muslims’. This can be said about any position regarding Islam and Islamism. One can say the same about those opposing child veiling and sharia law and its discrimination against Muslim women and so on. Firstly, it disregards the reality that Islamism and its rule target Muslims first and foremost. Also I believe women’s rights campaigners cannot evade their responsibilities. Yes there is racism that we must confront but as Rahila has herself said many times, we cannot ignore the enemy within because we live in a racist society. The burka has real negative implications for women and their rights and lives. As we do on all other issues, we can bring an opposition that is different from Sarkozy’s position or that of the racist ruling elite just as we bring a different perspective against Sharia law from the racist far-Right that targets Muslims and immigrants.

(Guardian link via Asad Abbas)

Freedom of Expression, Multiculturalism and Political Islam

I got back from Kamloops yesterday. Though I was exhausted, I’m really glad I went – fantastic people, speakers and organisers!

Here’s the speech I gave:

* Kuwait’s parliament recently voted in favour of a legal amendment that would make blasphemy a crime punishable by death following the arrest of a man accused of insulting Mohamed on Twitter.

* In Saudi Arabia, Hamza Kashgari, a 23-year-old reporter from Jeddah, faces the death penalty for blasphemy after he Tweeted an imaginary conversation with Mohammad.

* In April, two young Tunisians, Jabeur Mejri and Ghazi Beji, (one in absentia) were sentenced to seven years in prison for posting cartoons of Mohammad.

* Alex Aan, a 30 year old atheist, faces up to 5 years in prison charged with blasphemy for saying there is no god on Facebook.

* Asia Bibi faces execution in Pakistan for blasphemy.

* In Egypt, a court upheld the conviction of comedian, Adel Imam, of ‘offending Islam’. Author Alaa al-Aswany says: the court ruling sets Egypt back to the “darkness of the Middle Ages” and that this is “an unimaginable crime of principle”.

* In Britain, 17 year old Rhys Morgan was forced to remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon or face expulsion from his Sixth Form College and there were demands by various student unions at London universities that Atheist societies remove Jesus and Mo cartoons from their Facebook page.

None of this is new.

Having been involved in the fight against Islamism and the Islamic Republic of Iran for some 25 years now I have faced many such threats, attempts at intimidation and censorship, bans, calls for the cancellation of events

Here’s one such experience from Canada of a bogus accusation of racism: in 2002/2003, the Canadian Council for Refugees banned me from their e-mail listserv of refugee rights activists because my writings, particularly ‘Islam, Political Islam and Women’s Rights in the Middle East‘ were deemed in violation of their anti-racist policy by ‘not maintaining and/or promoting an environment free of discrimination and bias by its wholesale condemnation of Islam and Muslims and not demonstrating an acceptance of the equity of all faiths’.

But for Islamism, a far-right political movement, and its apologists, this is business as usual. Islamism has been wreaking havoc in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere for several decades – with a majority of its victims being ‘Muslims’ or those labelled as such.

Where it has political power, Islamists forgo all niceties reserved for western public opinion about ‘respect’ and ‘not causing offence’ and imprison and murder anyone who speaks their minds and ‘offends’ their norms and sensibilities.

Despite their track record, it is therefore absurd how the fundamental debate on Islam and free expression here in Europe, North America and Australia is framed within a context of offence, racism and Islamophobia. Let me explain. [Read more…]

We must defend free expression to fight Islamism and sharia

As you know, One Law for All has recently been involved in campaigning to defend freedom of expression, both here and abroad. We will continue to do so. Not only is there a moral imperative to defend free expression, but it is precisely this vital right that is under attack by Islamists all over the world as they attempt to frighten people into silence and prevent any discussion of Islam or sharia.

Sharia Law and Human Rights: Take Two at Queen Mary College

In January, my own speech on ‘Sharia law and human rights’ at Queen Mary was cancelled by the organisers following Islamist threats. This was followed by various motions being passed at other universities cracking down on ‘Islamophobic speech’. We are therefore pleased to report that the cancelled Queen Mary talk has been rescheduled and will take place at the Skeel Lecture Theatre, Francis Bancroft Building, Queen Mary, University of London, E1 4NS. Both Maryam Namazie and I will be speaking from 7pm on Wednesday 14th March. Please note that anyone attending the event who is not a student or staff of QM must register in order to be admitted into the event. [Read more…]

Books on atheism and Islam

I just received a request for a list of books on atheism and also atheism and Islam. Can anyone help with putting together a list, which I can send on? Thanks for any help on this. Here’s the email:

Hello.

I am interested in getting a thorough education about atheistic and agnostic thought. My interest is an academic one, as I am studying religion at the post-secondary level, and would like to widen my horizons as much as possible.

As I have no real place to begin, I would be thankful if you could send me a thorough list of primary and standard books, which shed light on the short history of atheistic thought, atheistic arguments in support of and other reasons for disbelief, arguments against different faiths, and anything else you deem would be useful in my inquiry.

My background is in Islamic theology, so if you have anything specifically relating to atheism and Islam, I would be thankful if you included that as well. I am also open to arguments against other faith-based ideologies as well.

I hope we can remain in touch. Thank you for your time.

Hoping that we return to the right path

Here is one more of the many emails we get at the Council of Ex-Muslims for you to enjoy.

It’s heartwarming, really,  to see all the concern. Here Khalid Najib asks why we don’t all ‘return to the right path’.

Err, Khalid, please don’t bother holding your breath. And thanks for asking but no thanks.

Here’s Khalid’s letter in case any of you ex-Muslim atheists out there want his unsolicited ‘advice’. Please feel free to give him a piece of your mind in the comments section.

Salam Alaiykum, I am writing to this organization as a concerned Muslim. What are you guys doing? Why do you want people out of Islam? Is there anything you didnt understand about the great religion of Islam? You people are former Muslims. I am astonished. Ofcourse it is your personal choice, but please dont give a bad name about Islam. As most of you know, Islam is the best religion. It makes the most sense. Please dont make a bad name about the great teachings of Muhammad (PBUH). Why dont you guys all return to the right path? Allah will bless you in this life and the Afterlife. It isnt too late to return. Thanks For Reading My Message Khalid Najib PS: I respect your freedom, but please consider my message.

People’s beliefs are only respectable to themselves

The below is an interview with the late Marxist Mansoor Hekmat on the ‘Fight against Religion’. And a fight it is…

This like everything else of his is a must read:

Azar Majedi: In a recent interview with Porsesh magazine you said, “secularism is a set of minimum conditions”, and that [you] “do not want just secularism, but a conscious fight against religion on the part of society.” What are the characteristics of such a fight?

Mansoor Hekmat: In talking about religion, and particularly Islam in this period [in history], we should bear in mind that we are talking about a phenomenon that can be shown to be the source of suffering, oppression, indignity and humiliation for people. So, we are confronted by a problem, by a disaster, which has to be mitigated in very much the same way that one deals with drug addiction, for example. Drug addiction is not considered a private matter alone, and there are efforts to eradicate it. [In other words,] even if people are allowed to use drugs, you will still not consider that enough of a reason for them to do so, and believe something must be done to urge them to grow out of that habit. It is the same with religion. Religion is a phenomenon involving the freedom of the individual to believe in anything, and yet believing in a set of intellectual, political, and civil beliefs called religion, [in general,] and Islam, [in particular,] has played havoc with people’s lives and, as a result, you fight against it in the same way you would fight against any other disaster. Relinquishing it to the “private affair of the individual” is not, in my view, sufficient in and of itself. What I mean is society must do something so that Islam is eradicated. Simply put, we must do something so that the people themselves eradicate it willingly and voluntarily, may not be influenced by it, held captive to it, and oppressed, made wretched, and drowned in superstition. What is the solution? Education – a free state that educates its citizens on political, social, civil, historical, biological, physical, and natural facts [of life]; civil laws that protect the people against the encroachments of religious firms, against the religion industry. In my opinion, religion is to be looked on as something like the tobacco industry. Everyone is free to smoke, yet you legislate against tobacco companies so that they are not able to take advantage of people’s addiction, not cause too much damage to their health, and not have a free hand in drawing children and youngsters into addiction, etc. In the same way, there must be similar laws with regards to religion. There must be laws so that the religion industry, quite a business in its own right, cannot ruin people’s lives. It is possible to do something during a generation’s time so that a free society would be built which will have eradicated religion just like malaria or drug addiction. [Read more…]

Inaccurate, dogmatically secularist scaremongering!?

Ah yes, the old ‘inaccurate, dogmatically secularist scaremongering [which] plays directly into the hands of the far right and will be used to bolster a racist narrative about the Islamic threat to the West’ response to Joan Smith’s article on the Islamist threat to free expression.

I know, I know. Saying that people have a right to speak is somehow scaremongering but issuing death threats and bogus accusations of racism aren’t. Hmm, I suppose when you are so prone to defending religion, logic does need to take a back seat.

The article says:

So, to summarise, we have one individual who disrupted a meeting, a polite request by an Ahmadiyyah student group that an illustration which offended Muslims should be withdrawn, and a dubious report of a threat to Salman Rushdie which Rushdie himself says in baseless. And this supposedly amounts to a pattern of Muslim intimidation of critics of Islam.

Interesting how Islamists have a way of trivialising things – and forgetting a tiny little thing like their track record.

The website reporting this journalistic gem is linked to the Islamic regime in Iran so I suppose enough said.

It’s not Islamic

An Iranian mullah who has been insulted says:

…This must be understood in this country. They must in practice pull out their tongues. What reason is there I am walking and they must insult me, a clergyman; why insult the sacred? In an Islamic society at that.

Whilst this brings us back to the importance of free expression particularly for those living under and resisting Islamism, it also raises another issue, which is that Iran isn’t an Islamic society.

As Mansoor Hekmat has said:

…The image of an Islamic society prevalent in the West is one of pious believers of Islam who abide by its rules, pray and fast, and whose opinions are formed by religious texts or sources. In fact, it imagines that a citizen of a society like Iran is a follower of Mr Khomeini, is really offended if someone ventures onto the streets unveiled, does not like Western music, does not drink alcohol nor eat pork, etc. [Read more…]