Cross Post from Maryam Namazie & Sadia Hameed
We wanted to give you an update on the crucial work of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain this past year, thank you for your support and ask for you to continue to help us, including by donating to our crucial work. Every bit helps and no amount is too small. If you are thinking of donating during the holiday period, CEMB is a great secular/non-religious option doing important work without religious conditions, dogma or proselytizing.
Since it is nearing the end of 2018, we would like to tell you some of the highlights of the year that couldn’t have been possible without the support of our donors:
In January, Maryam spoke at the third anniversary event marking the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris and on the importance of mocking religion on French TV.
In February, Sadia went to Australia to speak at the first ever event of ex-Muslims speaking out publicly. She took part in a number of speeches and panel discussions in Sydney and Melbourne and also took part in media interviews. Here is one on Australian TV where she debates a Muslim woman apologist.
On World Hijab Day in February and in the women’s march in London in March, CEMB defended the movement in Iran against compulsory veiling.
In April, Maryam spoke at the 10th anniversary celebration of FEMEN in Paris. They are the topless activists that have worked closely with CEMB in support of apostasy, blasphemy and women’s rights.
On 18 May, CEMB has an “eat-in” in front of several embassies of countries that persecute people for eating during Ramadan. At the Saudi embassy, armed metropolitan police told us we were “offending” staff in the Saudi embassy, to which we exclaimed that their persecution offends us and is a lot more serious than hurt sentiments!
In the same month, Maryam spoke at a seminar at European Parliament on Fundamentalism & Neo-Liberalism in Europe: Their Collusion and Impact on Women’s Rights and Ethnic Minorities Rights. You can see a summary of her speech here.
Maryam also spoke at the Muslimish conference in NYC about ex-Muslims being a “community in protest” (as opposed to community in the regressive sense of identity politics). Here is Maryam’s speech at the conference and the Q&A that followed. Also see a shortened article in sister-hood explaining ex-Muslims as a community in protest.
With the rise of atheism in countries under Islamic rule, we are seeing many more cases of those being persecuted for blasphemy and apostasy. Here is a recent article we have published on the demand for atheism which calls for normalising #AtheismNotACrime. We developed a successful series of publicity materials for it, including for #BlasphemyNotACrime, #ApostasyNotACrime.
On 14 June, CEMB organised a panel discussion on LGBT rights and blasphemy in order to address the accusations of Islamophobia against CEMB at Pride last year. It was co-sponsored by Pride in London, which was important given that Pride was considering barring our presence in 2018. A video of the discussion, including with CEMB Spokespersons Sadia Hameed and Jimmy Bangash and chaired by Gita Sahgal, can be seen here.
In July, CEMB joined Pride in London for the second year (organised by Daniel Fitzgerald). It was a great success for us given that we were not sure if we would be allowed to march officially until a few months before the event. We received tremendous amounts of support. This year we had a much larger group joining us, including a Bangladeshi LGBT group, Boys Love World. A filmmaker Carl Russ-Mohl joined our march and produced a short film on CEMB and Spokespersons Jimmy Bangash. You can see the film here. Spokesperson Imad Iddine Habib explains why “Allah is Gay,” a placard he made first in 2017, which has now been picked up by ex-Muslims from Germany to Canada.
With the International Coalition of Ex-Muslims formed after our 2017 conference (the largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history), we read a poem written by Jimmy Bangash in defence of LGBT rights in countries under Islamic rule.
In July, Maryam worked with MEP Teresa Barbat Gimenez to suggest amendments to the European Parliament’s Committees of Foreign Affairs and Human Rights report regarding Freedom of religion and belief.
In August, CEMB organised a Vegetarian Heathen Eid. Bakra Eid is about slaughtering animals in the most brutal manner. Many CEMB members miss Eid and the time with family but don’t want to take part in a religious event or have anything to do with animal sacrifice so CEMB celebrated Eid the heathen way.
In September for International Blasphemy Day, CEMB members tore verses of the Quran that were anti-apostate and anti-women in a public protest action.
The International Ex-Muslim Coalition also did a video accusing “Ayatollah Facebook” of silencing blasphemers by constantly shutting down pages of ex-Muslims and freethinkers. Here is Maryam’s message.
CEMB sponsored Bullet Hole, a powerful production about FGM, at Park Theatre, for black history month. It is a story of hope, love and human rights played by an all-female cast.
In October, Spokespersons Sadia Hameed and Maryam Namazie conducted a training for 11 Malaysian government officials who are involved in the Islamic religious affairs department, including those implementing Sharia in the law, education and government. We showed them the film, Islam’s Non Believers, and had an extended discussion on apostasy and the right to atheism. They argued that atheists go against “their culture” and that the law must be respected. We argued that unjust laws must be challenged and culture is not homogenous. We stressed the importance of secularism and universal values. Discussions were sometimes heated but it was the first time they had met with ex-Muslims and it helped some of them to understand the awful treatment Malaysian atheists face and humanise ex-Muslims. We also linked it to the treatment of women, religious minorities and LGBT, amongst others.
In early November, at the Freedom from Religion Foundation Convention in San Francisco, Maryam awarded Ensaf Haidar, Raif Badawi’s wife (the Saudi freethinker sentenced to ten years in prison and 1000 lashes for “insulting Islam”) with the Henry Zumach Freedom From Religious Fundamentalism Award that she won last year.
On 25 November, CEMB sponsored an international Conference on Sharia, Segregation and Secularism, marking the 10th anniversary of our sister campaign One Law for All. The conference was a landmark event. (Organising Committee: Maryam Namazie, Sadia Hameed and Sina Ahadi Pour; MCs: Fariborz Pooya and Nahla Mahmoud).
Some of our events and actions have been covered by media. You can see media coverage here.
In April and October, we held "Coming Out" parties where ex-Muslims received their apostasy certificates. The parties are one way of seeing people's coming out as a cause for celebration rather than vilification and a source of shame.
We also started monthly support groups in addition to monthly meet-ups to allow ex-Muslims to share issues and empower each other. So far, the group has discussed issues like shunning, identity, post-apostasy trauma, family, drug and alcohol abuse, community, why we left Islam and relationships.
Our monthly meet-ups continue to go strong. It is a place where ex-Muslims and their friends can come to listen to a speaker, socialise, have a drink and let off some steam. The events bring speakers dealing with a range of issues including on the ex-Muslim experience through art and evenings with lawyer Ana González on apostasy and asylum, with Hassan Radwan on Islamic reform and Imad Iddine Habib on challenging racism and the far-Right.
In 2018, we also organised swimming lessons, picnics and movie nights and took ex-Muslims to Thorpe Park. You can see all our events and speaking engagements here.
In addition to all our public work, we continue to support around 300 ex-Muslims a month. Our publication, Political and Legal Status of Apostates from Islam, revised and updated last year has become an important document supporting apostasy cases across the globe. One such example is that it has become part of the documentation of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.
We have done a huge amount of work for the right to apostasy and blasphemy (see also a timeline of our highlights from 2007-2018) but much more needs to be done. Particularly at a time when fascism, including religious fundamentalisms, is on the rise, we must keep going and defending universal rights for all, freedom of conscience, including for non-believers and secularism.
Go to: www.ex-muslim.org.uk