Anne-Marie Is No Bridge Over Troubled Waters For Secularism

Anne Marie Waters, founder of Sharia Watch UK, will soon be hosting a Mohammed cartoon exhibition which has invited the chairman of Liberty GB Paul Weston, who wants to ban all muslims from public office in Britain, and Geert Wilders the Dutch politician who is against any immigration from all muslim countries and has made remarks that the koran should be banned if we are concerned about fascism.The question Waters poses is whether secular activists should share a platform with anti-secularists or the far right, even if the goal is to challenge islamic extremism.

The beginnings of that argument were to be found when Waters resigned from One Law for All:

20 November 2013

Dear Supporter,

Thank you, as always, for your support of One Law for All. It is an incredibly important organisation which is doing amazing work. It is therefore with some sadness that I have decided to leave the organisation in Maryam’s capable hands.

I have had four wonderful years with One Law for All, and have learned a great deal. The fight against sharia and Islamism is one of the most important and urgent causes we face in the 21st Century. We should oppose this in solidarity and friendship with others, and unapologetically defend the civil and political rights of all people against tyranny. One Law for All is a very important part of this fight.

I will be moving on to new pastures and focusing my efforts on completing my book, promoting secularism and freedom with the National Secular Society, and working with other people and groups to speak out for democracy, liberty, and the right to freedom of speech and association.

I wish everyone at One Law for All the very best and I look forward to seeing Maryam and the brilliant volunteers at events of common cause down the line.

Thank you once again for supporting this incredible cause.

Kind regards,
Anne Marie Waters

What later emerged, was that this split was part of wanting to work with far right groups:

UPDATE: 7 May 2014

One Law for All opposes new Sharia Watch campaign

As you all know, Co-Spokesperson Anne Marie Waters resigned in November 2013. What you don’t know is that her resignation followed more recent political disagreements on some key issues, including One Law for All’s refusal to collaborate with the members of racist and far-Right groups and our insistence on the need to distinguish between Muslims/immigrants and Islamists. “Walking a Tightrope: Between a Pro-Islamist Left and the far-Right” was written in response to the disagreements in question.

Given the context of Anne Marie’s resignation, her initiation of “Sharia Watch” and her leaving the Labour Party and joining UKIP as a candidate should be seen as an attempt at organising a “respectable” rightwing response to the issue of Sharia law and the furtherance of a politics that is diametrically at odds with One Law for All’s. As I mentioned in “Walking a Tightrope”, whilst frustration and a sense of betrayal at the Pro-Islamist Left is understandable, finding solace in and partnership with the racist Right and far-Right is not.

Opposing Sharia and Islamism in the west is like walking on a tight rope most of the time – thwarting attacks from the Left, refuting cultural relativism, preventing alliances with the far-Right, explaining the issues ignored by government and the media, mobilising support for secularism and citizenship whilst opposing racism and xenophobia, and making linkages with the many fighting Islamism on the ground in countries across the world. It’s easy to fall off the tight rope and doesn’t surprise me when it happens given all the pressures involved.

Most disconcerting for many are the pressures from the Left; it is particularly hard when your “natural allies” betray basic human principles whilst using the language of rights and tolerance to defend the denial of rights and the intolerable.

The argument in favour of collaboration with the far-Right is that we need as many allies as possible in the fight against Sharia and Islamism, which means that we must be “inclusive” and “tolerant” of those whose views we may find distasteful – all for the “cause.”

Sound familiar?

Is this not what the pro-Islamist Left says in justifying its collaboration with the Islamists?

I for one already work with many groups and individuals whose views I find distasteful; it is possible to do that in specific campaigns like One Law for All. But no movement includes or represents everyone. There are limits. And there are principles that are more important than any “cause.”

Blogger Alex Gabriel raised concern about Waters being both a UKIP candidate and being on the board of directors of the National Secular Society. He remarked how secularists had used the European Convention on Human Rights for secular issues – the convention being something UKIP wanted to scrap. UKIP policy also wanted to get rid of Ofsted, making the Trojan Horse plot and “religious malpractice” possibly more widespread in education. UKIP vigorously opposed the disestablishing the Church of England, and insisted the monarch should be defender of the faith.

UKIP’s politics, in letter and in spirit, are anti-secular by nature; there are many arguments against a vote for them, but supporting them means siding with a party that consistently opposes disestablishment, appeals to the religious right, allies with them against minorities and women, imperils science and education and welcomes fundamentalists. Their mission is in zero-sum conflict with those of groups like the NSS, in whose place I’d be concerned to have their members on my council of management. [Alex Gabriel]

The day after his post was published, Waters resigned from the board of directors, having apparently planned already to do so.

Anne Marie Waters has recently written JE NE SUIS PAS SECULAR: HOW BRITAIN’S NATIONAL SECULAR SOCIETY IS NOW JUST ANOTHER PRO-IMMIGRATION, LEFT-WING PRESSURE GROUP responding to these criticisms and the upcoming event she will be hosting. The National Secular Society and Maryam Namazie of One Law For All are in her sights.

Last October I attended what Waters refers to as the ‘so-called “secularism” conference organised by the communist Maryam Namazie.’ Speakers from around the world spoke about anti-secular issues impacting their countries, how religious extremism from Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism impacted on society and in particular women. About two thirds of the hundred odd speakers were women. Birth control, academic freedom, artistic self expression, feminism, nationalism, free speech and fundamentalism were spoken about by the very people on the political front line. Waters remark “Not a single freedom or democracy campaigner was included.” is complete bullshit when you consider people who had been kidnapped and threatened by extremists were talking to us at the conference, let alone activists.

[You can read my take on the Secular Conference in London 2014 here]

As I wrote just before attending:

The heady mix of right wing nationalism and religious fundamentalism is political militant extremism. ISIS is attempting by force to build a caliphate. As I have mentioned, these are not mindless thugs. These are clerical fascists with a utopian zealot murderous ideology. They mean every single word. Their propaganda is sincere. More deadly for it.

Trying to draw Muslims to their cause, and to make us in turn hate Muslims. To see them as other. Less human, and therefore less worthy of equal human rights. Our reaction must be to focus on extremism while maintaining the very values we wish to uphold.

Clearly, Waters does feel let down. Her invitation to speak at the conference was she said removed when she joined UKIP. She now has the National Secular Society distancing itself from her Mohammed exhibition later this year. She writes:

The dividing line in all this can be summed up with one word: immigration.

Leftist “secularists” will allow you to talk about Islamism (or even Islam if they’re feeling particularly generous), but as soon as you mention immigration, or the impact Islamic immigration is having on Western nations (most significantly, secularism in Western nations) you are to be permanently shunned. The left wants to keep its naïve borderless utopian fantasy alive at all costs, and it will sink to any depths to do so.

When the rest of the world is cowering in fear of bloodthirsty jihadis, one small group of people in the UK is taking a brave stand against religio-political oppression, and the most important secular group in the country has decided to turn its back.

The NSS has decided, without actually asking, that the left-wing lies about the exhibition must be true. That we are motivated by a desire to stand up for those languishing in prison in Islamic states is of no significance to the NSS, which is too frightened to risk the wrath of left-wing liars, even if it means betraying secularism itself.

No mention that Charlie Hebdo, who drew Mohammed and paid for it with their lives, won Secularist of The Year at this year’s event hosted by the National Secular Society. Waters does not mention why secularists wonder at those she has invited. As I pointed out about Weston and Wilders:

Extreme Reactions To Extremism

Meet Paul Weston of Liberty GB. He is so concerned with Islam that his political party campaigns for Muslims to be legally banned from holding public office. Andrew Neil asks why Weston made a video introducing himself as a racist:

Geert Wilders is the Dutch politician that wants to ban the Koran, having stated: “The Koran is a fascist book which incites violence. That is why this book, just like [Adolf Hitler’s] Mein Kampf, must be banned.” Recently, he wanted to find a common platform with far right European parties.

Secularism needs defending not just against religious extremists but also from nationalist extremists. For when it comes to banning publications or religious tests for public office, they can be seen as two sides of the same coin. They are the enemies of liberty, and free speech exists so that we can know this for ourselves.

On twitter this morning Waters was asked about sharing a platform with Paul Weston. As you can see, a religious test for muslims who would be legally prohibited from public office is not a red line for her. She will work with racists.

Thus have you seen in this post the journey from secularist to apologist for what the far right stand for. Her attempts to lecture on what secularism is are laughable rather than laudable.

I hope that Anne Marie Waters enjoys her event, and the attempts to have it banned do not occur. Any threat of violence or disturbance, as there was with the secular conference last year, needs to be condemned without hesitation. The event should go ahead.

If you create a solidarity platform for those that use racism as a political tool, and have public policies which are actively hostile to secular principles, do not be surprised that secularists, let alone the National Secular Society, stay away. For religious extremism and nationalistic extremism must be condemned as threats to the very liberty and freedom of thought that secularists will defend.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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7 responses to “Anne-Marie Is No Bridge Over Troubled Waters For Secularism

  1. “When the rest of the world is cowering in fear of bloodthirsty jihadis, one small group of people in the UK is taking a brave stand against religio-political oppression, and the most important secular group in the country has decided to turn its back.” Where have we heard this narrative before? It does seem awfully familiar.

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  6. bored


    Question: do you think that you are fooling anyone, anywhere, who doesn’t want to fool himself?

    And what’s all this about “Islamic extremism”? Time was when atheists and secularists understood that religion was the problem, period, that “extremists” are just those who take their beliefs seriously. But ‘secularists’ seem to dodge that reality when it comes to Islam out of blank terror.

    Please skip your protests – far worse is routinely said and promoted about all other religions. You can find even the most repellent stuff about easily. But on Islam…

    It’s not about “sensitivity”. It’s not about politeness or manners or any nonsense like that. It’s fear. So your secularism boils down to this: You want a secular state and will defend secularism as long as that can be done with no real risk. The instant someone picks up a gun, aidios secularism.

    • Might want to read my Charlie Hebdo pieces and ones on Islam and extremism before assuming these things. The event should have gone ahead, I questioned wisdom of Paul Weston being invited to speak given his anti-free speech views.

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