Posts Tagged ‘CEMB’
Ansar has stated the Council of Ex Muslims Britain (CEMB) had taken out of context a tweet he made regarding slavery. I asked if he would take a tweet pic of the twitter conversation to put it in context. He declined saying it was searchable.
Which indeed it is here.
His tweet was:
MoAnsar Mohammed Ansar
@holland_tom If slaves are treated justly, with full rights, and no oppression whatsoever… why would anyone object, Tom? July 15, 2012 10 retweets #
The link he quotes on slavery and Islam can be found here. In a nutshell though denied their freedom (though they could work towards it) slaves were not to be starved, killed or even introduced by their master as being their slave to others. This is placed in contrast to the colonial conquest and slave trade.
However, the article neglects that slaves under Islam were still the property of the owner, despite these rights as to their treatment and status. Eventual possible freedom in turn fuelled demand for new slaves, and a slave trade in buying and selling. Yet religious laws in Judaism and Christianity can be argued to have similar ideas regarding rights for slaves while still regarding people as property. However benign the master, he owns a person – which is an anathema to human rights.
The ownership of a person is oppression.
This is the reason why people have been critical of Ansar’s tweet. The suggestion that there is no objection to slavery if certain rights and treatment are given misses that what at the outset makes slavery degrading and inhumane is the ownership of one person on another. That objection now alone to such a concept would make the Koran wrong in our eyes.
What Ansar suggests in his tweet, and in the article he quoted in the ensuing conversation, is that slavery was unobjectionable because of how under Islam they were treated then. He mentions further in the conversation:
MoAnsar Mohammed Ansar
@VijayPandya1 @holland_tom And Islam, quite rightly the concept of ‘slave’ as we know it in the West is anathema.
Owning a person is an anathema – even with the Koran allowing slave ownership.
I did invite Ansar to share the twitter conversation link and above photo in a Retweet. His failure to do so has meant writing this blog to share what he said and the source he quoted in context.
The article does wag the finger at colonialism subjugating other countries as being the same as slavery. Yet Islam spread by means of homogenising conquered countries from a successful military campaign. In short, war as part of the human story is one that plays throughout history. Flattering no one when the inhumanity of conquest is examined.
Modern slavery has been estimated to be somewhere between 20 million to 300 million people. To put that in context that is more than ancient times (though proportionally smaller to population compared to then). The suggestion is the little monetary value placed on these modern slaves makes their condition even more grave. BBC
Poverty in Islamic Countries and Economics
The article ends:
To those who say, now there is no slavery, we say look into the faces of the earth’s poor peasants, striving to grow (in an increasingly barren soil) commodities which are not food for themselves but luxuries for the rich, and only if they have grown enough of these, have they some hope of buying something to eat-but there are still millions of others too poor to be poor peasants, who live upon mountains of urban rubbish, earn from it, eat from it. If you study the expressions of such people, locked in endless, fruitless toil, you will understand that slavery is not an evil that Western civilisation has eradicated, rather one which Western civilization has ably disguised and distanced from itself.
Such poverty is indeed shameful. However, that is not slavery in the sense of being the property of someone else. It is though a part of not treating people with fundamental human rights. Slavery has not disappeared just because it is outlawed. The owning of people is still a serious problem – one that needs to be tackled and not confused with abject poverty as slaves of western capitalism.
Yet where do such abject poor people live?
Against these global benchmarks, 400 million of the 1 billion people estimated to be in absolute poverty lived in 31 of the 56 OIC [Organisation for Islamic Cooperation] member states, i.e. 40% of the world’s poor live in the Muslim countries. In relative terms out of 975 million people living in these countries 400 million or 40 percent are below the absolute poverty line. In other words, the incidence of poverty in this 56 OIC member countries in twice the average for the developing world. The Makkah Declaration was therefore quite timely in calling for action to meet critical challenge facing Ummah. [Source]
The stat above is one that should cause consternation and shame in the Muslim world.
Looking at advice given to the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation the economic policy advocating to end poverty is a sensible proactive strategy:
… there are some fundamental economic principles and practices that do have a positive correlation with economic growth. These include macroeconomic stability, trade openness, market competition, investment in human development and infrastructure, quality of institutions and good governance.
The OIC/ IDB Poverty Reduction Strategy is built around four dimensions which go beyond income alone. These dimensions are:
a) Opportunities – lack of access to the labour market, employment opportunity, mobility problems and time binders.
b) Capabilities – lack of access to public services such as health and education.
c) Security – vulnerability to economic risks and to civil and domestic violence.
d) Empowerment – being without voice and without power at the household, community and national levels. [Source]
Hopefully such things will be put into practise. Thankfully no mention of slavery as a means to ending poverty. Or trying to lay the blame outside of the governments who should be looking after their citizens.
Note to email subscribers: somehow WordPress app deleted this blog which led me to have to republish. Hence you receiving twice.
UPDATE 15/3/2013 video Lawrence Krauss on Incest from debate
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
I caught a later train than I had intended (household routine disrupted by mortal illness of insanely loved dog — whoever says you can’t love a dog as much as a person doesn’t know what love is) so I unfortunately missed the welcoming session at the conference. I walked in on the first plenary discussion group. Chaired by Caspar Melville, Editor of New Humanist, the members were Ehsan Jami (Dutch politician of Iranian origin), Hanne Stinson (British Humanist Association), A C Grayling (needs no introduction), Fariborz Pooya (one of the organizers, impressive) and Mina Ahadi (Iranian Ex-Muslim leader from Germany, who spoke in German with an interpreter). The topic was Apostasy laws. and the Freedom to Renounce and Criticise Religion. There was little disagreement among the panel. In the Q & A, the chairman established a pattern for the day, which worked rather well. He took questions in bunches of about five, then allowed the panel to answer any one question, with no obligation to answer more than one. As you might expect, A C Grayling was especially impressive, but none of the panellists could be described as lightweight,
At the end of the session, I was assigned a bodyguard, but it didn’t seem necessary while I went out to lunch with Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association. We had an interesting discussion, and he updated me on our plans for the BHA to distribute, at RDF’s expense, DVDs of Growing Up in the Universe to British schools. Things are looking good on that front.
After lunch we began with a lovely stand-up comedy routine from the comedian Nick Doody, telling good jokes at the expense of religion. One that I remember: Religion is like a very big dog, comforting to the owner but terrifying to everybody else. Then another panel discussion, this time on Sharia Law. The chairman, Andrew Copson, adopted the same policy as before, and again it worked well. Again, one member of the panel, Mahin Alipour [Edit: I wrongly said this was Houzan Mahmoud before, sorry], spoke through an interpreter, which held things up a bit. Other members of the panel were Roy Brown (rightly respected elder statesman of the British Humanist movement, now living in Switzerland), Maryam Namazie (Iranian born leader of the British Ex-Muslim movement), Johann Hari (brilliant Independent journalist), and Ibn Warraq (author of Why I am Not a Muslim and one of the great heroes of today’s secularist movement). This panel showed flashes of real oratory, especially from Johann Hari (for example, on the question of respect: “I respect you as a person too much to respect your ludicrous beliefs”) and from Maryam Namazie, who urged us to put together a lawsuit, in the civil courts, against the Sharia courts who presume to set themselves up in Muslim communities. Theoretically these Sharia courts are supposed to be voluntary: everybody has the option of going to proper British courts, but Sharia courts are available as a voluntary alternative. Speaker after speaker pointed out that this apparent voluntariness is a wicked sham. Women are ordered by their husbands or fathers to go to Sharia courts, not British courts. Many of them don’t even realise there is an alternative. Those who do are accused of being “unislamic” if they opt for real British courts.
The session on Sharia Law provoked some constructive suggestions from the floor, and ended with Maryam in a rousing reiteration of her call for a lawsuit, in the British courts, against the Sharia courts. It sounds as though this might really happen. I want to look into the possibility that RDFRS might make a contribution to the legal costs, although that might be ruled out by our own statutes with the Charity Commissioners.
The next item was a remake of the film Fitna — remade by Reza Moradi, who was also acting as the projectionist and technical expert for the conference. I wasn’t too clear which bits of the film we saw were the original, and which bits the remake, but it was impressive anyway.
After the tea break was my own talk, about the infamous Harun Yahya. It was pretty much based on my article on this website, called something like Slippery Eels, Venomous Snakes and Harun Yahya, with Keynote slides of the pictures of fossils and modern animals that they are — mistakenly — alleged to resemble. I am going to supply Reza with the Keynote slides, so he can drop them into the film he is making of the conference. I spoke for only 15 minutes, in order to leave time for 15 minutes of questions. The question session went well, I think.
The final event of the day was another panel discussion, this time on educational issues, chaired by Keith Porteous Wood, of the National Secular Society, that extremely useful and resourceful body. I was part of this panel, and was joined by Terry Sanderson (Keith’s partner at the NSS, and its current President), Joan Smith (wonderfully trenchant Independent columnist) and two eloquent leaders of the Iranian resistance against the Islamists in that country, Hamid Taqvaee and Bahram Soroush. One of these, I think Bahram, defended Islamophobia. The word is used to stifle opposition to islamism, to which it is a legitimate and understandable response. Everybody in the room, it seems, was deeply disturbed by faith schools, and especially the move to institute new Islamic schools.
This last session typified the whole conference in its conspicuous lack of ‘herding cats syndrome’. It was as though the menace of Islam is so sinister that the normal differences that divide atheists were put aside. A pair of formal resolutions was put to the vote, and carried nem con:
“The conference calls for the immediate release of all those imprisoned for ‘apostasy’, abolition of the death penalty, and cancellation of laws that punish the right and freedom to renounce or criticise Islam.”
“The conference calls on the British government to bring an end to the use of Sharia law in Britain, which is discriminatory towards women and children in particular, and guarantee unconditional equal citizenship rights for all.”
In addition to these two formal resolutions, Keith Porteous Wood called for a vote opposing faith schools. This too was carried nem con
The meeting ended in goodwill, and with a general feeling of solidarity with those Ex-Muslims brave enough to stand up and announce their apostasy.
At the drinks afterwards, I was approached by a young woman, probably about 20, whom I shall not name. She told me she is on the run from her Muslim family who, she believes, want to ‘honour’ kill her because of her apostasy. She is living in an institution that caters to such women, and is feeling rather lost and lonely because she no longer has the support structure of family and friends. She has had to give up her university place because the university is the first place her father would come looking for her, and she is hoping to find a place in another university.
I suggested that, if she feels threatened, she should go to the police. I should have known better. She had tried that. The law does not allow the police to take any action until the would-be victim has actually been physically molested — by which time it is likely to be too late. At a loss to know how to help her, I introduced her to a woman who, I felt, might be well placed to help her (again, I shall not name her, in case it helps the girl’s father to track her down). I left them together, the girl close to tears (the kindness of strangers often moves me to tears too). Before saying goodbye, I gave her my email address, and encouraged her to write in to this website, assuring her that she would find many friendly people of goodwill here, so I hope she does. If she does, please treat her extra specially well. She is vulnerable, and extremely courageous to have defied her odious father over the matter of religion. She told me how he had the habit of beating his children if they failed to memorise the Koran accurately.
I think Reza plans to release his film of the whole conference, and I’ll talk to Josh about getting a link to it on our site. Meanwhile, if you know any Ex-Muslims, or Muslims on the brink of the brave step of apostasy, please offer them support and friendship and encouragement to renounce and denounce that vile and despicable religion.
At a gathering of courageous ex-Muslims, the value of rational thought and personal choice were triumphantly reaffirmed
I enjoyed a rare privilege last Friday, October 10 (which was world day against the death penalty), attending a gathering of brave and principled people to whom the death penalty might be applied in a number of countries around the world because of their beliefs or lack of them. This was the conference organised the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain to discuss apostasy – the “crime” of which all members of the Council are guilty – and associated questions about the place of religion and free thought in civil society.
The members of the Council of Ex-Muslims are people who, having thought things through for themselves, have put aside the religion they were made to accept as children – a common enough feature of the adult attainment of reason among many – but in this case the religion is Islam, which regards apostasy as punishable by death.
I wonder how many reading these words have sat in a gathering of people not a few of whom have received death threats because they think for themselves, and who have chosen a path not only personally dangerous but full of difficulty in relation to their families and communities – and who have done so because of reflectively chosen principle. It is a striking experience. In our relatively peaceful and tolerant western dispensations, disagreements of principle are rarely matters of murder; which is why some people find themselves incapable of grasping what last Friday’s gathering signified.
The symbolic import of the conference was great; the substance of the discussions was absorbing and important. It was about the nature of apostasy, the freedom to choose whether or not to have a religion, and to criticise religion whether or not one subscribes to it; the question whether there should be one and the same law for all or whether Britain’s Muslim minority should be allowed to apply sharia law to itself; and the question of faith schools, religious education and creationist doctrine. The themes all related to the place of the individual in civil society, and whether religious doctrine should be allowed to impose itself on those unwilling to be governed by it or – as with children – powerless to resist it.
The conference was opened by the head of the Iranian Secular Society, Fariborz Pooya, and addressed by the extraordinary and courageous Maryam Namazie, spokesperson of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, who subjected Islamism – political Islam – to scrutiny, arguing that it serves as an agency of Islamic states with serious implications for the lives, rights and freedoms of individuals, many of whom have left their countries of origin precisely to escape the repressive political and social climates there – countries with “moral police” and the death penalty for, among others, gay people, lovers who engage in extra-marital sex and people who reject religious orthodoxy.
A source of frustration for many is that they are lumped into “the Muslim community” whose self-elected spokespeople are more representative of the Islamic states that many in their “Muslim community” have fled: which is why the Council of Ex-Muslims makes a point of calling itself this, to reinforce the point that not everyone who was born into a Muslim community has to be permanently forced into homogenised membership of it. Another reason is to encourage the many closet “apostates” in that community that there is life and succour outside it.
Among those who spoke were Ibn Warraq, Joan Smith, Richard Dawkins, and the founder of Germany’s Council of Ex-Muslims, Mina Ahadi, a woman as extraordinary and admirable as Maryam Namizie. It is a speaking fact that the lead in these eminently important and courageous movements is taken by women: from Lysistrata to the Northern Ireland women’s peace movement, despite all the obstacles and prejudices that women have historically faced, they give a lead and an example which puts their opponents to shame.
The conference was supported by the National Secular Society and the British Humanist Association, so that the dozens of ex-Muslims present had the support of over 200 others who believe in the right of individuals to think for themselves and who treat people as human individuals, not merely as bearers of overriding identity labels stuck to their foreheads by tradition and religion. A friend who is a crown court judge once told me that he is always pleased when a member of a jury affirms rather than swears the oath on the Bible, because it indicates independence and maturity of mind. Indeed: that was what was on display last Friday at Conway Hall.
One of those speaking at the conference, my friend Ibn Warraq, recently edited a book on apostasy in Islam, which combines a scholarly overview of doctrines on apostasy in the various schools of Islamic law, with a collection of powerful personal testimonies by those who came to leave Islam either for another faith or none. It was interesting to compare the accounts there given with those in Louise Anthony’s book Philosophers Without Gods, which collects similar accounts by ex-Christians and ex-Jews. The personal cost in family and community terms of rejecting the doctrines of any of these religions is very similar; only in Islam does the danger of being murdered for doing so remain.
But, horribly, it is a genuine danger. That is why some of the speeches made during this conference, and some of the remarks from the floor, were filled with a passion and concern that were as real as they were moving. Not least among the matters that surfaced several times in different contexts was the question of the position of women in Islam. To take just one issue: in sharia law a woman is worth half a man, and thus among many other things receives half the inheritance that a man does. Like other provisions of sharia law, this is a stark example of contrast with the laws of England and Wales and with Scottish law, in both of which principles of justice do not countenance systematic discrimination on the basis of sex. By the oppressive requirements of conformity with community practices, many women in Muslim communities in Britain are obliged to observe the practices that the community prefers, across the whole range from whom they marry to what they wear.
The establishment of sharia law courts would accordingly mean their often being obliged to suffer the injustice of deep discrimination. As with genital mutilation as practiced in some communities, and honour killings in others, that cannot be tolerated: relativism – which alas underwrites the views of some, like Rowan Williams, on this subject – has no place here.
Nothing of what was discussed at this important and moving conference was anything but real: real lives subjected to death threats, discrimination, coercion and stigmatisation – and all because the people involved think for themselves, a right that the rest of us take for granted and, when it is threatened, jealously guard. It was a gentle and informal affair, with the relaxed flavour of a works outing: but there can have been no one there who did not at some point reflect that it was a juicy opportunity for some maniac to get rid of a whole raft of apostates and atheists in one big bang.
The great thing is that the conference would have been a victory for what it represented if that had happened. As it was, it was anyway a victory and a much happier one: a victory for its brave sponsors and their brave cause. A report of the conference can be found here, and video footage here.
The conference itself was good to attend. It is a mark of our secular attitudes that the thought of killing someone for renouncing their religion would be appalling to most of us – a denial of human rights and the freedom and autonomy of people to think things for themselves.
The videos themselves can be found here, the previous blog includes Richard Dawkins at the conference. Below the comedy moment from Nick Doody. Talking about his act:
Reviewers have described my material on Islam as both “easy” and “brave”, apparently depending on whether they were offended or not. In reality, it’s neither. Easy would be writing jokes from a knee-jerk position, pandering to the racists.
Brave would be doing my act in Tehran.
You can see my laughing my head off at the pint of Stella in a crisis at 14:08 (black shirt and glasses).
Dawkins was talking at the Council of Ex Muslims of Britain’s first International Conference, October 10 2008. Harun Yahya as well as writing the book Atlas of Creation is behind the richarddawkins.net being baned in Turkey – a move which the National Secular Society is trying to have included in the EU report on Turkey’s suitability to join.
The newly formed Conservative Humanist Association means that now all three main political parties have a humanist society for members to be part of. Though that did not go down completely well with everyone; John Gummer MP, former Agriculture Minister, on seeing them at the party conference denounced them saying the Conservative Party was God’s party. Still, I did not like the man when he fed his infant child beef in front of the press when we had our first BSE scare, and this does nothing to mend his image. The irony is that on Gummer’s website he talks about representing people in his constituency irrespective of party. It seems when it comes to his own party, God is a dividing line.
Richard Dawkins spoke at the launch event (YouTube video) in Birmingham during the party conference. Secular values cross party lines, so while I may not trust that the Conservatives on social justice and free markets benefiting all and not the few, this is something that can only help in making the case for Britain to be more secular when it comes to faith schools, Sharia Law or Bishops in the House of Lords.
Mind you I am in good company – Richard Dawkins has not voted Tory in his life.
At the Council of Ex Muslims of Britain (CEMB) I met up with two people (far right of photo) involved with the Conservative Humanist Association, and we went to a nearby pub to talk about the association. They also referred to the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group – which hopefully will grow; a number of atheist MPs (especially Conservative) tend to keep a low profile. However, a number of prospective parliamentary candidates from the Conservatives are humanist – so if the polls are anything to go by their number on the benches of the Commons will increase.
Human Rights Approach
At the first conference of the CEMB, there was two things underlying the talks: that human rights require that people are protected, rather than groups or religions. The other was that political Islam is different from many other religions because it rejects the distinction between private and public aspects of modern life – and rejects the secular notion that your faith should do no harm to others. Ideas are protected by blood, whether by the death of Apostates, or threats to the life of those that speak out against Islam.
Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive — the risk to be alive and express what we really are. – Don Miguel Ruiz
In Conway Hall, where the conference took place, above the stage by the celling emblazoned on the wall is To thine Own Self Be True. In a pluralistic society that should not be difficult – where more then one idea can be accepted. A.C Grayling made the point that tolerance should not be easy, while you should not move to the point that you tolerate the intolerant. Sharia Law does not treat women and men equally before the court, and many women do not speak English – to claim that the whole process is voluntary when British law has rights for women from dividing estates to custody of children is absurd when there is in reality no access to the law of the land in Muslim communities for women.
Ahadi made the point though that how the left and the right of politics deal with this issue is wrong. The right that it is a threat to the British way of life, while on the left that different cultures need to be accommodated. In practise the question is do we want a European ideal or a human rights ideal? The dutch politician Ehsan Jami seemed to be of the former notion, requiring an end to dual citizenship with an Islamic country. As Ahadi mentioned, the debate had changed since 9/11 from foreigners as they were called to being called Muslim – even though she had renounced Islam and many refugees were escaping political Islam.
Apostasy by its nature rejects free expression – the penalty being death in some countries, though whether the Koran itself advocates such punishment is disputed. In that sense one would hope that one day those that view the afterlife as being the judgement would prevail. However Sharia Law is gaining acceptance in Muslim countries, and even in Britain is established supposedly on a voluntary basis for civil matters but legal sanction given to the outcome of cases. Sharai Law was likened to a Trojan Horse that political Islam uses to take on the apparatus of the state.
in that use of free expression we have to make the distinction that we are against Islamophobia. This is a struggle of ideology on the nature of the relationship between the state and citizens. It may be argued that the only logical consequence is that you have to allow all forms of speech to allow criticism and guard freedom, with Pooya arguing that it should unlimited, unconditional. A.C. Grayling made the point that you had to be very specific about the limitations – which namely should be on what you cannot choose as a person. For example: gender, age, race but religious belief is free game because you consciously choose that.
One video that was shown was Fitna Remade which outlines the case rather well (without the Islamophoba immigration bashing of the original documentary).
Islamic Penal Code
President Ahmadinejad has been supporting efforts to have the death penalty for Apostasy judicially sanctioned once again. Iran needs to know that the world is watching – the Islamic Penal Code would allow men to be executed for abandoning Islam, with women serving life imprisonment. The Iranian Parliament voted 196 in favour with 7 against. This goes against the existing constitution in Iran.
On one subject, however, sharia law is unequivocal: men who change their religion from Islam must be punished with death. So when the judge heard the case of Rashid’s father, he could refer to sharia and reach a straightforward decision: the death penalty. There was no procedure for appeal.
Nevertheless, in the 18 years since Hossein Soodmand’s execution, there have been no judicially sanctioned killings of apostates in Iran, although there have been many reports of disappearances and even murders. “As the number of converts from Islam grows,” notes Ms Papadouris, “apostasy has again become a serious concern for the Iranian government.” In addition to 10,000 Christian converts living in Iran, there are several hundred thousand Baha’is who are deemed apostates.
There is another factor: President Ahmadinejad. “The President didn’t initiate the law mandating the death penalty for apostates,” says Papadouris, “but he has been lobbying for it. It is an effective form of playing populist politics. The Iranian economy is doing very badly, and the country is in a mess: Ahmadinejad may be calculating that he can gain support, and deflect attention from Iran’s problems, by persecuting apostates.”
The new law is not yet in force in Iran: it requires another vote in parliament, and then the signature of the Ayatollah. But that could happen within a matter of weeks. “Or,” says Papadouris, “it could conceivably be allowed to drop, were there a powerful enough international outcry”.
Time may be running out for Rashin’s brother. She believes that the new law will be applied in an arbitrary fashion, with individuals selected for death being chosen to frighten others into submission. That is why she fears for her brother. “We just don’t know what will happen to him. We only know that if they want to kill him, they will.” [Daily Telegraph]
The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain presents its first international conference titled:
Political Islam, Sharia Law, And Civil Society
On Friday 10 October 2008 International day against the Death Penalty.
There are still ticekts available for the conference (have just purchased one for myself) which are just £10 and among the speakers are Richard Dawkins, A.C. Grayling, Hanne Stinson and Keith Porteous Wood.
More on the event can be found here.
If you are going give a shout.