Tag Archives: islamism

Maryam Namazie Blocked From Speaking By Warwick Student Union


From Harry’s Place:

If you haven’t yet caught up with this story an excellent summary of Warwick Student Union’s disgraceful decision can be read on Student Rights. Briefly, Namazie had been invited to speak by Warwick’s Atheists Secularists and Humanists society [WASH] on 28 October, but her invitation has now been blocked by the SU on the grounds that ‘she is highly inflammatory, and could incite hatred on campus’.

Although Warwick University is not a serial offender when it comes to extremist speakers, the SU’s position is clearly inconsistent. As Student Rights points out, Ken O’Keefe was given permission to speak earlier this year

(Read more of Sarah’s post here)

Nick Cohen has retweeted an article on Maryam he did some years back. As he says, liberals should be supporting her:

… Maryam Namazie’s obscurity remains baffling. She ought to be a liberal poster girl. Her life has been that of a feminist militant who fights the oppression of women wherever she finds it. She was born in Tehran, but had to flee with her family when the Iranian revolution brought the mullahs to power. After graduating in America, she went to work with the poor in the Sudan. When the Islamists seized control, she established an underground human rights network. Her cover was blown and she had to run once again. She’s been a full-time campaigner for the rights of the Iranian diaspora, helping refugees across the world and banging on to anyone who will listen about the vileness of its treatment of women.

There is a petition to sign, started by the WASH President Benjamin David. As he mentions, quoting George Benard Shaw:

Lest we forget: “censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently, the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship” (George Bernard Shaw)

It is absurd. Maryam has campaigned against theocracy and Islamism not least because it kills and oppresses so many Muslims; not just ex muslims or others. It is not a crime, nor an offence, to be an atheist. It seems being an outspoken one may insult others; yet that same quality makes a speaker appropriate for what WASH stands for. Question and challenge her if you disagree with her. 

Critics of theocracy are imprisoned and flogged.  A state executioner will behead, or an indoctrinated extremist will machete on the public street. This does not happen in the UK, where free speech and religious freedom walk hand in hand.

The Warwick Student Union are in danger of joining hands with the oppressors of free thinkers and religious minorities in other countries by suppressing an event one of their society has organised. 

It is not too late for them to support feminism, secularism and freedom – however laid bare and outspoken it might be. 

Update: latest response by WASH on what they comment is a misleading statement by the Student Union claiming only reviewing if Maryam can speak. 

They include screen shots from their correspondence with the Student Union, that a decision had been made to ban her.  

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under atheism, British Society, secular, Secularism

Charlie Hebdo Gun Attack – Freedom Is The Lifeblood of Humanity Not Oil To The Flame


Three gunmen in Paris, killing journalists at the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, cannot be allowed to dictate a response on their terms. Neither violence nor censorship – nor fear to challenge extremists – can be be how we react.

Shouting “we have avenged the Prophet Mohammed” gunmen made their point. Rather than living to show Islam is a religion of peace they marked out the staff of Charlie Hebdo for violence. By death they wanted the ultimate last word against cartoonists, editors and writers.

The response cannot be along the lines of the Roman Catholic La Croix to earlier cartoons by Charlie Hebdo: “editorial responsibility requires an assessment of the consequences of what one publishes … fuelling the flames to show one’s noble resistance to extremism leads to offending simple believers.”

The insult to the religious as simple, while that extremism must be cowed down to as you surrender your opinion with the pen to the man with the gun. Charlie Hebdo understood better “if you say to religions they are untouchable, we are screwed” as one editor put it to Le Monde.

It is no mistake in that Le Monde article the magazine mentioned the hope that one day Islam may be talked about like Catholicism. As a religion that can be criticised, mocked, ridiculed. As well as worshipped and followed.

We must show solidarity with those murdered today. We must not be intimidated that our opinions and humour are never to be expressed for fear of a violent backlash.

This is not an open opportunity to hold Muslims as accountable for the crimes of the gunmen. Free speech works both ways. Anyone has the right to express in words how offended they are. How much The Prophet and their religion means to them. We in turn can point out that not having blasphemy laws protects all citizens in expressing their opinion, including Muslims too.

Those that promote violence to make their point need to be held to account. We cannot allow restrictions of free speech, nor rely on making press offices fortresses, as a substitute for tackling the preachers of hate against pluralism and free thought.

Without those values of toleration being promoted, but violence being considered an appropriate reaction, we will never escape the shadow of the gunman.

If publications reprint the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, it is not putting oil to the flame. The fundamentalists do that for themselves. Rather, we are showing that freely expressing our words and opinions are the lifeblood of humanity. They surge through us, they are a part of who we are.

To deny them is to make us dead without a shot being fired.

Background to Charlie Hebdo and Blasphemy can be read here.

At the time of writing this was the latest news (from BBC at 15:06 today).

Gunmen have shot dead 12 people at the Paris office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in an apparent militant Islamist attack.

Four of the magazine’s well-known cartoonists, including its editor-in-chief, were reported among those killed, as well as two police officers.

A major police operation is under way to find three gunmen who fled by car.

President Francois Hollande said there was no doubt it had been a terrorist attack “of exceptional barbarity”.

The masked attackers opened fire with assault rifles in the office and exchanged shots with police in the street outside before escaping by car. They later abandoned the car in Rue de Meaux, northern Paris.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under politics, Religion, secular, World

Islamism and Anti-Muslim Hate – We Must Tackle Both

For secularists to stand up for secular principles, Islamism and also anti-Muslim hate must be tackled. Religious identity is used by both to undermine the concept of individual human rights, justice, and liberty for all.

Beware the binary approach that says you should only ever be critical, or focused, on one side. That you are a traitor for not being solely focused on the enemy, that you must be without concern for collateral damage. In this “for me or against me”, nuance becomes obfuscation and cowardice. You are on one side or the other in this battle for civilization, where the means will justify the ends to save it.

Bethany Blankley articulates the Christian far right view of this in her piece: As Christianity exits Europe, ‘Criminal Muslims’ fill void with rabid violence in The Washington Times

She states empty pulpits impact fertility rates and good works. Nothing apparently to do with the resin soaking through your pants. Feeling the gospel just makes you want to breed for Jesus:

Heterosexual marriage and procreation cannot be forced. But both are the natural heartfelt response to hearing the Gospel. And if there is no one preaching, teaching, or encouraging the development of family and community life, both will cease to exist.

No place for gays in the community with this theology – they are the unnatural. However, having given us this anti-gay point her attention becomes focused on “The rise of secularism, multiculturalism, and failed immigration policies created the perfect storm for crime in epic proportions to plague Europe.” She explains this a bit more in a tweet.

She claims (with no sources cited) Muslim immigration and secularism have combined to create a Muslim crime wave in Europe. The deportation of Muslims is advocated, with Dutch politician de Graaf quoted as saying “The Dutch government must commit itself to repatriation of Muslims back to Muslim countries so we will not be plagued with honor killings, cousin marriages, anti-Semitism, homophobia, animal abuse, rampant crime, rape.” This is not just about immigration, it is the criminalising of an entire people based on religious identity.

In her own words, she claims 80% Muslims as religiously inspired on welfare (really only think 20% are in employment?), that all Muslims are Islamists (notice how she interchanges in the next quote) who will kill more than the fifty million people the Nazis were responsible for:

What the EU fails to acknowledge and each country is realizing is that Muslim immigrants have no intention of integrating. Eighty percent are on welfare, following Islamic teaching to take money from the non-Muslim “Kuffar.” Both Sharia4Belgium and Sharia4Holland advocate complete extinction of Jews.

Both countries have the largest population of Muslims at 6 percent, (behind France’s 7.5 percent), with over 25 percent living in major metropolitan areas. These percentages are no small matter, represent imminent threat to European civilization.

Three generations prior, in 1936, nearly 6 million Germans were members of the Nazi Party, representing 7 percent of Germany’s population. Those 7 percent caused over 50 million deaths in less than 10 years.

The 6 and 7.5 percent of Islamists in Europe will cause even more death unless they are stopped. Unless others like de Graaf speak truth, name and fight evil, which is Islam, these countries will implode. Swedish ministers Bjorkborg and Vikstrom both identified what their people need.

The question remains, will leaders rise up and heed minister Charles Finney, who warned: “If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall, the pulpit is responsible for it.”

Believing such a raving narrative, it is no wonder 17,000 people may protest at Muslim immigration in Germany – organised by the “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident” (Pegida).

Most PEGIDA followers insisted they had no connection to Nazis, calling themselves “patriots” concerned by the “watering down” of Germany’s Christian-rooted culture and traditions. They often accuse mainstream political parties of betraying them, and the media of lying.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), called Monday for citizens to launch a “rebellion of the decent” against the anti-foreigner movement, telling a weekly magazine “that’s the kind of public reaction we need now.” [DW]

Chancellor Merkel had a message for those demonstrating “I say to all those who go to such demonstrations: do not follow those who have called the rallies because all too often they have prejudice, coldness, even hatred in their hearts”

Xenophobia and racism find cover by saying they are attacking Islam, not a race. Yet when you read the thinking and claims behind it, it is white christian supremacist nonsense directed at all Muslims. Advocating unjust mass action against all Muslims as self defense.

Those that claim to be secularists should see how dangerous and craven the narrative is. It is not one to copy or emulate.


Islamists want Islam to pervade throughout society, via the state, the courts, the mosque and the household. There is no freedom to form your own opinion about God, or to be free from religion. Your conscience could be your death sentence. Sharia is the legal enforcement of religious interpretation – that God rather than legislators makes the laws. The segregation of women, their marital status, how they dress, and rights are reduced. While the benefits of childbearing to reduce fasting, and menstruating to avoid daily prayers, are talked up as an advantage over men. Apostates, atheists, LGBT and those of other faiths face legal discrimination. Free speech is curtailed from the arts to literature, let alone freethought.

Secularism rejects that theology is a basis for how a community or state should be run, because it denies a citizen their freedom of religion. It denies equality of citizens when religious identity promotes differential treatment by the state and law. Nor should a religious view allow the rights of any other citizen to be diminished.

Any theocrat must therefore be opposed. As Marc Schneier mentions  “Islamist extremism is a genuine threat to world peace. But those who lump all Muslims together, and dismiss as meaningless the courageous stand of the moderate majority against extremism, aren’t helping to win that battle.”

We cannot ignore religion, and what people claim to be true about it. As Shadi Hamid and Will McCants observe:

While religion isn’t always the best way to understand the motivations of ISIS and its followers, it is, at the very least, relevant. We may not think the followers of the Islamic State are motivated by true Islam (whatever that might be). But it matters that they are motivated by what they think is true Islam.

The Islamic State has something to do with Islam. It’s only a question of what that something is.

That is why criticism of religion is essential. To point out that it is not just atheists quoting koranic verses about unbelievers being killed. There are Muslims claiming to be inspired by these verses as they kill. Naturally, the other Muslims they kill are claimed by them to be unbelievers too, so they can kill them with a clear conscience. How many Ahmadi have to be killed, while people still claim they are not Muslims?

The claim to truth is one that extremists use to justify violence against those that disagree with it. When ISIS destroy shrines they do so believing they are emulating the prophet when he destroyed idols in Mecca. When they crucify and behead they cite the koran which mentions them as punishments. Context, interpretation, the bigger picture, are used to say these things are not permissible now. Yet it exists in the verse, and ISIS are carrying it out.

Religion has something to do with it. Literalism, the infallibility and timelessness of a text have to be questioned. We can point at the book written in the Seventh Century as the problem. We can also look at the people who in the 21st century are interpreting it, their motives and reasons for enacting the way they do.

Yet the difference between criticism of religion and anti-muslim hate should be clear enough:

Moderate Muslims

Where are the moderate Muslims standing up against fundamentalists and Islamists? A good place to start is Karima Bennoune’s “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism.” As Nancy Graham Holm says in her book review:

Her stories have impact. They’ll force you to re-evaluate the opinions of fashionable western cultural relativists, who sometimes justify veiling and FGM as authentic and unassailable cultural practices. She wants us to see women’s rights as human rights, and cultural relativists as misguided individuals simply purveying another kind of racism.

Bennoune’s stories will awaken you to the clash within civilizations, not just between them. Most of all, her stories will make you re-evaluate whom you consider to be Muslim moderates, followed by the question: So what? Bennoune cuts Muslim moderates no slack, if they cannot recognize the human rights of women. She warns us about cooperating with so-called Muslim moderates just because they are not jihadists.

Karima Bennoune mentioned at the Secular Conference last October in London that within a religious paradigm people are challenging theocrats and fundamentalists on the front line. Atheists here must not play into the hands of the far right, which strengthens Islamists in turn. Targeting the funding of extremism from abroad is a key factor in beating the import of fundamentalism.

Just be warned, when you do challenge extremists and the bigoted hate of muslims, you will get hateful comments. They are nothing compared to what is at stake, in the battle against religious extremists and the far right.

Silence is not an option. Islamism and anti-Muslim hate both need to be tackled. They feed off each other. In their death grip on each other as they spiral downwards to the depths of dehumanising, the liberal and secular values that have given Europe it’s freedom will fall with them unless we stand against both of them.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under Religion, secular, World

Sam Harris We Need A Serious Narrative To Counter Islamism


Sam Harris has written a blog post in the aftermath of prior to his appearance on Bill Maher’s show. On the show, Ben Affleck showed concern that all Muslims were being judged by one variant of extreme Islam as true in the whole world.

For Sam, as he stresses in his post, the true believers are ISIS. If you as a Muslim, who does not believe like ISIS in punishment for apostasy, blasphemy, or polytheism you are one of “many of whom do not take their religion very seriously.”

Rather an odd way for Harris to encourage such unserious Muslims:

Understanding and criticizing the doctrine of Islam—and finding some way to inspire Muslims to reform it—is one of the most important challenges the civilized world now faces.

While Sam calls his article Sleepwalking Into Armageddon I want to scream at Harris to wake up to reality. Calling people not serious Muslims is part of the religious fire which is helping the implosion throughout the Middle East and South Asia. Just ask an Ahmadi or a Shia.

Theocratic States are the problem. Whether Iran sentencing to death Mohsen Amir Aslani for stating Jonah being swallowed by a big fish was metaphor. Or Rafi Badawi sentenced to imprisonment and regular lashings hosting a liberal secular site in Saudi Arabia. About thirty countries deny basic human rights thanks to their blasphemy and apostate laws.

Such emotional human narrative was never used by Sam Harris or Bill Maher. It is the principle and concept, rather than using the names and examples of those dying by oppressive theocratic regimes. It comes across as an academic discourse that dehumanises people; it does not help us win over the emotional (but less informed) argument that Ben Affleck gave.

Sam Harris tries to use biblical scripture, and the teachings of Jesus, for why the West is secular.

Despite all the obvious barbarism in the Old Testament, and the dangerous eschatology of the New, it is relatively easy for Jews and Christians to divorce religion from politics and secular ethics. A single line in Matthew—“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”—largely accounts for why the West isn’t still hostage to theocracy.

Just one slight problem. That is not a literal interpretation of the Gospel. To quote from Reza Aslan’s “Zealot”:

The truth is that Jesus’s answer is as clear a statement as one can find in the gospels on where exactly he fell in the debate between the priests and the zealots—not over the issue of the tribute, but over the far more significant question of God’s sovereignty over the land. Jesus’s words speak for themselves: “Give back (apodidomi) to Caesar the property that belongs to Caesar . . .” The verb apodidomi, often translated as “render unto,” is actually a compound word: apo is a preposition that in this case means “back again”; didomi is a verb meaning “to give.” Apodidomi is used specifically when paying someone back property to which he is entitled; the word implies that the person receiving payment is the rightful owner of the thing being paid. In other words, according to Jesus, Caesar is entitled to be “given back” the denarius coin, not because he deserves tribute, but because it is his coin: his name and picture are stamped on it. God has nothing to do with it. By extension, God is entitled to be “given back” the land the Romans have seized for themselves because it is God’s land: “The Land is mine,” says the Lord (Leviticus 25:23). Caesar has nothing to do with it. So then, give back to Caesar what is his, and give back to God what belongs to God. That is the zealot argument in its simplest, most concise form. And it seems to be enough for the authorities in Jerusalem to immediately label Jesus as lestes. A bandit. A zealot. [Location Kindle 1520]

Does Sam Harris want Christians to take seriously that the land of Israel belongs to the Jews? Because that is the literal interpretation – real estate divinely given. Let no Caesar take away. We know the bloodshed such an idea of the Holy Land has led to.

Instead Sam has modified the text to suit a liberal secular agenda. That it is scripturally incorrect does not matter. His idea of what the scripture means is a perfect fit for the moderate Harris.

Woe betide any Muslims that attempt to do likewise with their Koran or Hadith. Sam already knows your scripture in a way he does not even know the bible. He has passed a fatwa that you are not a serious muslim. While twisting how Christianity is to fit a secular paradigm. Do as I say not as I do. It is a contradictory and frankly confused counter message.

So much for the counter narrative and the Christian secular narrative. On Bill Maher’s show again Maajid Nawaz (author of “Radical” and whom Sam Harris singles out as someone we should support) talks here about the ideological narrative of islamism – and how relatively new it is. Note how he gives the human emotional narrative I mentioned.

We need to make the case for universal human rights, and how a theocratic state prevents that. We need the concept of pluralism, that a religion is more varied than any claim to orthodoxy about one true version. Whether by a mullah or an atheist, the history of ideas and culture has shown different rivers flowing through time. Despite claims there is one true source, and one course to follow.

Tom Holland introduced me to the concept of various rivers flowing into the Koran, rather than my suggestion it was a plagiarised work. In the concluding part of his critical review of Karen Armstrong’s “Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence” in today’s Sunday Times he states:

Islam, by militarising Christian notions such as martyrdom and spiritual struggle, then helped the Arabs forge the largest empire the world had ever seen.

From that point, the struggle for competitive advantage between Christian and Muslim powers would repeatedly witness the drafting of theologians as well as soldiers. Had Armstrong only set about tracing the evolution of such dynamics, she would have succeeded in endowing her book with the focus it so signally lacks.

We need to get serious about the human, the theological, ideological narrative of the evolution of islamism. Harris needs to get that sharp focus as does Armstrong. Until he does, his challenge will be dismissed by the very Muslims he is trying to inspire.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under atheism, Dawkins, Religion, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, secular, World

Anjem Choudary Arrested


Reports are that nine men have been arrested in connection with a terrorist investigation, and Anjem Choudary is among their believed number.

At moments like this I could hug every single person that has been actively pointing out the danger that extreme Islamists like Choudary pose. This has been a long time coming. Too many while we waited have been radicalised to violence and hatred. How many have died, because of the insidious network that he spun, like a spider’s web, taking in the gullible?

Anti-fascist campaigners Hope Not Hate alleged in a report ‘Gateway To Terror’, that Choudary and al-Muhajiroun lead a network of hardline Islamist organisations across Europe from Belgium and the Netherlands, to France, Denmark and Italy to Germany, Norway and Finland, the largest extreme Islamist network in Europe.

Choudary’s network of influencers has sent hundreds of British Muslim citizens to fight in war zones, including at least 50 to Syria, and several hundred to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the report claims. [Source Huffington Post]

As Hope Not Hate said at the time of their “Gateway to Terror” report:

There will some people who will not be happy with our new report and consider it a departure from what we ‘do’ (historically we are better-known for opposing fascism and racism). There will be others who believe that by shining the light on Choudary and his gang we are inflaming hostility to Muslims.

They will be wrong.

Al-Mujahiroun is a hate group, pure and simple, and as such deserves our attention. Constantly feted by media yet treated as ‘clowns’ by many, it is by ignoring their threat that we let down the vast majority of Muslims who want nothing to do with Choudary.

The truth is the actions of this tiny minority of extremists leads to the stigmatisation of the entire Muslim community and the shameful idea of collective responsibility. The primary victim of al-Muhajiroun’s extremism is actually the wider Muslim community.

Free speech is a wonderful thing, and it means nothing if we cannot embrace the human rights of even those we condemn and abhor. Yet hatred must never be given a free ride because of claims we must have tolerance. That the intolerable must come out on top no matter the cost to a free society, is the death bell of civilisation.

Extremism must be challenged. At last a first step has been taken to destroy a publicly known network that facilitates a murderous and poisonous ideology.

The first step is always the hardest. It must not be the last.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under British Politics, British Society, Religion, secular, World