Dublin declaration on secularism empowering women 2013

I was one of the speakers for the Dublin conference on ‘Empowering Women Through Secularism’ this year. It was a great conference, and a great declaration was made. All we want is to make our world a better place.

1. Secular Values in Society

The secular values that will empower women are science-based reason, equality and empathy in alliance with the principles of feminism.
Priorities in democratic states: secular values will protect and advance already-established freedoms. Cultural and religious beliefs must not be used to deny or limit these freedoms.
Priorities in nondemocratic states: where secular values are not recognized or protected by laws, such laws should be established and applied, and address the issues that deny women full participation in society and government.

2. Separation of Religion and State

Priorities in democratic states: the Constitution should make explicit mention of the separation of religion and state. The state should not fund religions or beliefs. Also, social services, health care services or education accorded to citizens should respect the law; and all state practices should be neutral.
Priorities in nondemocratic states: certain things are fundamental in order to take first steps towards separation of religion and state. Access to education and information should be free and unrestricted. The international community should be vigilant on the application of human rights and take appropriate action where necessary.

3. Human Rights

Human rights are universal, and should be applied equally in democratic and nondemocratic states. Women’s rights are human rights, not separate rights for women.
Priorities in democratic states: women should have equal sexual, reproductive and economic rights in practice as well as in legislation.
Priorities in nondemocratic states: the right to autonomy, self-determination as an individual, and fully equal treatment at all levels of society for men and women. This takes precedence over religious or idealogical dogma.

4. Reproductive Rights

Priorities in democratic states: the state should recognize and respect the right to universal and absolute bodily ownership. Reproductive healthcare services should be free, accessible, non-judgmental and objective. Comprehensive evidence-based sex education should be universally available.
Priorities in nondemocratic states: human rights conventions should be honored in their entirety, and directives should not be vetoed on religious grounds or otherwise. International assistance should be given to grassroots campaigns involved in the provision and promotion of comprehensive reproductive health services and education.

5. Politics and Campaigning

Priorities in democratic states: it is essential to define the concept of morality as not being exclusive to religion, and to clearly promote secular feminist values as being beneficial to all citizens. These values should be communicated to citizens in a concise accessible manner using whatever means are available in order to promote the growth of a wider secular community in the future.
Priorities in nondemocratic states: we should amplify the voices of secular feminists fighting back against oppressive regimes throughout the world, and we should promote strategies and tools to overcome technological arrears in nondemocratic countries.

Onam, a secular festival was celebrated today.

Onam is a traditional harvest festival. It is also a secular festival, celebrated mainly in Kerala, India. Malayalees all over the world celebrated Onam today.

They sing a secular song during Onam festival.
‘Maveli nadu vaneedum kalam,
manusharellarum onnupole
amodhathode vasikkum kalam
apathangarkkumottillathanum
kallavum illa chathiyumilla
ellolamilla polivachanam
kallapparayum cherunazhiyum
kallatharangal mattonnumilla
adhikal vyadhikalonnumilla
balamaranangal kelppanilla’

‘When Maveli ruled the land,
All the people were equal.
And people were joyful and merry;
They were all free from harm.
There was neither anxiety nor sickness,
Deaths of children were unheard of,
There were no lies,
There was neither theft nor deceit,
And no one was false in speech either.
Measures and weights were right;
No one cheated or wronged his neighbor.
When Maveli ruled the land,
All the people formed one casteless races.’

A few days ago, I was invited to celebrate pookalam, the flower decoration for Onam. Those pookalams made of different flowers of different colours look so beautiful! Only Malayalees could make those. I spent wonderful time with secular Malayalees. I didn’t dance but had Sadya, the Onam food.

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I wish people of different ages, genders, races, colours, casts, cultures, ethnicities, languages, traditions, religions, sexual orientations and whatever would live together peacefully in India. Onam is a symbol of unity. Unity is so much needed in India, the most diverse country in the world. The world badly needs unity. We humans still hate and kill our fellow humans in the name of almost everything. We need to be better, don’t we?

Happy Onam everyone.

A secular baul!

You know about baul, the troubadours of Bengal. Don’t you?

You may know about Lalon too. Lalon was probably the most secular baul in the baul community.

When Hindus and Muslims were hating each other over the differences of their religious beliefs, Lalon sang songs questioning their beliefs!

Lalon was an illiterate poor man living in a Bengal village. He did not go to schools. But he was a self taught secular philosopher. The man from the 18th century probably could not imagine that his country one day would be divided on the basis of religion, and in the 21st century people would continue hating each other for having a different faith or a different cast.

Good that he does not see the atrocities that we see everyday. Hatred and bloodshed in the name of religion everyday.

Islam celebrates insanity

We live in a world where we get punished for being liberal. Raef Badawi, the Saudi rights activist is now sentenced to 7 years in prison and 600 lashes for setting up a liberal network and for ‘insulting Islam’. The Liberal Network is now banned. Anything ‘liberal’ or progressive or secular or scientific is anti-Islam. Isn’t it?

Saudi Arabia is part of our world. I don’t know how many people and how many states would sincerely condemn Saudi authority for its insanity? It is very alarming that Muslim countries are increasing influenced by Saudi Arabia. Non Arabic Muslims are often forced to follow Saudi culture. Free thinkers are getting executed, prisoned, exiled by almost all Islamic states. Violating freedom of expression has now become a synonym of Islamic culture.

For the sake of humanity, please stop the authorities from becoming completely insane. Islam may celebrate insanity, but most inhabitants of today’s earth do not.

In the meantime..

June 15, 2013.
I have received an award. The Royal Academy of Science, Arts and Literature of Belgium awarded me the Academy Award for my struggle for women’s rights and secularism. image

After receiving the award I spoke at the Royal Academy about women’s rights and the importance of secularization of state, society and education system.

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Got standing ovation.

June 4, 2013.
Bilateral meeting with European Parliament Vice President Isabelle Durant. And with the members of DROI, FEMM and DEVE committees and the Delegation for Relations with South Asia at the European Parliament. Meeting with Human Rights Actions Unit on the Sakharov Prize Network. Planning to make the world a better place.

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Le Soir published an interview on the right to blaspheme.

Le Soir


More discussion on atheism and secularism.

More here.

June 3, 2013.

I was welcomed, introduced and honored by Senators Marie Arena and Jean-François Istasse at the Belgium Senate. Members of UN WOMEN were present. I gave a speech on women’s education and independence, I also encouraged people in the Muslim countries to fight for a true democracy and a secular state – a state which affirms a strict separation between religion and state, and maintains a uniform civil code, a set of secular laws that are not based on religion, but instead, on equality, and an education system that is secular, scientific, and enlightened.

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Spoke as a guest speaker at the plenary session of the European Parliament.

What I tried to say was that the Islamists have gained unbelievable strength in Bangladesh over the years. They have been showing off their strength by harassing, abusing, stabbing and murdering anyone who protest against their atrocities. Atheists have the right to criticize religion, but no one has the right to kill them, just like no one has the right to kill religious people for being religious! EP must condemn the attacks and threats against atheists, secularists and freethinking bloggers and call on the Bangladeshi government to guarantee their safety, respect free expression and prosecute Islamists who threaten, attack and harm critics. Freedom of expression, including to criticize Islam and Islamism as well as to blaspheme, is a basic right. The barbaric and brutal anti-blasphemy law must be abolished.

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Attended the debate on the role of media to change the society at the Millennium Film Festival in Belgium. I said, media is busy to entertain people rather than to enlighten people.
millenium fest

Secular Uprising in Bangladesh

Why I support Shahbag!

Having keenly observed the Tahrir Square revolution and the eventual victory of Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists in Egypt, I no longer get easily impressed by crowd-sourced movements. A multitude of activists, connected primarily via Facebook, as well as progressive bloggers had gathered on Bangladesh streets demanding death penalty for a war criminal called Abdul Kader Mollah. As a campaigner against the death penalty, I could not support these protesters in this particular demand of theirs.

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Most people protesting at Shahbag and demanding the death penalty for Mollah were born after the 1971 war following which East Pakistan gained independence from Pakistan, forming the nation of Bangladesh. However — thanks to secular writers and artists, who strove to keep aflame the emotions and perceptions associated with the ‘71 war, through books, plays, films and performances — these protesters are by no means ignorant about the genocide carried out during the war by the Pakistan Army, along with local religious militias affiliated with the Islamist outfit, Jamaat-e-Islami. After Islamization started in earnest in Bangladesh during the mid ’80s, many of these protesters have also witnessed how Islamists murdered progressive people, violated people’s human rights, oppressed women, and tortured non-Muslims in the name of Islam. After decades of maintaining silence, their patience has worn thin; they have finally started to rise in rebellion against the status quo. As more people joined the crowd, they have started demanding death penalty for all tried and convicted war criminals.
A Bangladesh tribunal recently sentenced Abdul Kader Mollah, a Jamaat-e-Islami leader, to life imprisonment for his war crimes, but the Shahbag crowd could not be happy with this verdict. Based on previous experience, they are apprehensive that Mollah would be released if the political party-in-opposition, a known ally of Jamaat-e-Islami, were to win the next election.

It is important to remember that in present Bangladesh, not all Islamists are war criminals; however, all war criminals are Islamists – who, at one time, did not want the separation from Pakistan, a country based on Islam. The Shahbag movement gained interest for me when some protesters started demanding a ban on Jamaat-e-Islami, as well as on all the religious schools, banks, clinics and other amenities that were created with money collected from Middle Eastern Islamists, whose express desire was to turn the erstwhile-secular Bangladesh into a country of Islamists.

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Those who are familiar with my writings know that I am not in favor of banning and censorship, in general. Yet, I supported banning Jamaat-e-Islami, because in Bangladesh this political party is nothing more than a terrorist organization, led by known war criminals who raped, maimed and killed people by the thousands in 1971. On top of that, in the last 40 years, they have been committing an even more serious crime by systematically destroying the country via Islamization. And yet, perhaps driven by the necessities of realpolitik, they have been pardoned, favored, accorded respect, honored, and empowered by the worthless politicians and military since the Bangladesh gained its Freedom. Some of these war criminal Islamists, who were stoutly against the independence of this nation, were made into Members of the Parliament, ministers, and once even a President of the independent Bangladesh.

The inequities of Jamaat-e-Islami did not end with Mollah’s life imprisonment sentence. Delawar Hossain Sayedee, one of the most notorious criminals belonging to Jamaat-e-Islami, was handed a death sentence by the tribunal, after almost a month of non-stop protests at Shahbag. After the verdict was issued, Sayedee’s Islamist followers vandalized cities, burned down Hindu and Buddhist temples, killed innocent people, along with policemen. There is no doubt that in today’s Bangladesh, the Islamists are much more powerful and ferocious than ever.

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The Islamists have gained unbelievable strength in Bangladesh over the years. They have been showing off their strength by harassing, abusing, stabbing and murdering anyone who rose in dissent against their atrocities, including progressive bloggers. They stabbed Asif Mohiuddin, an atheist blogger, a month ago; in the recent past, they brutally killed Rajib Haider, another atheist blogger and one of the organizers of the Shahbag movement.

Islamists have also taken to the tactic of calling all the bloggers and protesters at Shahbag ‘atheists’. This has discomfited and scared the folks at Shahbag; most of them are Muslims, and they had cast their lot with the Shahbag crowd with no bigger-and-better agenda than merely to ask for the hanging of war criminals, perhaps because they sought closure via revenge. Now that the Islamists have called them atheists (that dirty, dirty word!), many of them are now falling over themselves trying to prove they are pious Muslims. Therefore, instead of saying, “They are atheists and have the right to criticize religion, but no one has the right to kill them, just like no one has the right to kill religious people for being religious!”, the so-called liberal and secular people at Shahbag are bleating placatory statements, such as “Jamaat-e-Islami goons are trying to prove that bloggers are atheists, but they are not atheists; they are good people.” As if atheists are not good people!

People attend mass demonstration at Shahbagh intersection, in Dhaka

It is very alarming that the word ‘atheist’ is being considered as a filthy, obscene word in Bangladesh, and the liberal people refrain from doing anything in support of the freedom of expression of atheists. They must know that Islam should not be exempt from the critical scrutiny that applies to other religions as well; in their mind, they must understand that Islam has to go through an enlightenment process similar to what other world religions have already gone through, by questioning the inhuman, unequal, unscientific and irrational aspects of religion. If the Shahbag movement can’t make people understand this simple but necessary idea, then real change would never occur, even if all the war criminals are hanged. I know that even the atheists at Shahbag would say, the time for this idea has not arrived yet. However, I earnestly hope that people would soon evolve, and be enlightened enough to realize that there is no real difference between the Islam of the 7th century and the Islam Jamaat-e-Islami practices to this day.

Sadly, the very nature of Bangladesh has changed greatly. Ordinary people have been alarmingly indoctrinated into the ways of Islamists. Many more women are veiled, and more men go to mosques to pray, than ever before. I lost the hopes I had for Bangladesh many years ago, but some of those were rekindled by the Shahbag movement. I truly hope that the Shahbag movement will turn into a positive political movement for a true democracy and a secular state – a state which affirms a strict separation between religion and state, and maintains a uniform civil code, a set of secular laws that are not based on religion, but instead, on equality, and an education system that is secular, scientific, and enlightened.

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A war is needed in Bangladesh, a war between two diametrically opposite ideas — secularism and fundamentalism; between rational, logical thinking and irrational blind faith; between those who strive to move forward and those who strain to push themselves backward; a war between modernism and barbarism, humanism and Islamism; between innovation and tradition, future and past; between those who value freedom and those who do not.

Let us encourage people of Bangladesh to transmute their nation into a secular country without poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, superstitions — free of religionism, fanaticism, fascism, barbarism; a country without crimes and corruption!

All sane and secular people should support the Shahbag movement, because it is a rare and immensely difficult movement in an Islamized country. I am not sure whether they will eventually manage to have Jamaat-e-Islami proscribed, particularly because the Bangladesh government is likely to be afraid of losing the considerable financial support that come from the Islamic countries. Western support may not be forthcoming, because not many Western secular countries are interested in Bangladesh, often seen as a nation stuck in a quagmire of over-population, poverty, illiteracy, and ignorance. Once a thriving community of vivacious, affectionate, creative people, this unfortunate country is now drowning in Islamism and may soon be submerged in the Indian ocean.

I also hope that if the Shahbag movement, in its present form, fails to achieve its goals now, the brave and enlightened people associated with it will not be permanently disillusioned or disheartened, and will renew/repeat their efforts until their dreams come true. A trend must be set. People need to get angry. I am painfully aware of the evil powers which once attempted to eliminate me, and with whom the pro-Islamist government ultimately colluded to throw me out of Bangladesh, my own country, 20 years ago, never to allow me in again. Therefore, I know how much I would love to see hundreds of thousands of angry, passionate young people with a vision rise against that insanity, and usher in real change, a new era.

Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamists Vs Everyone else. Time for a ‘real revolution’.


“Jihad is our path. And death for the sake of Allah is our most lofty aspiration.” -Morsi

“The Koran was and will continue to be our constitution.” -Morsi

“I take an oath before Allah and before you all that regardless of the actual text [of the constitution]… Allah willing, the text will truly reflect [Sharia], as will be agreed upon by the Egyptian people, by the Islamic scholars, and by legal and constitutional experts.” -Morsi

“Egyptian law will be the sharia, then the sharia, and finally, the sharia.”-Morsi
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