Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘Secularism

Atheists face prison in Egypt as Non-Belief may be made illegal.

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Charged in 2012 with “defamation of Islam and Christianity, insulting the divine and satirizing religious rituals and sanctities and the prophets under articles 98, 160 and 161 of the Egyptian Penal Code”

There are many countries where Atheism is a crime.

Atheists, and those accused of defection from the official religion, may be subject to discrimination and persecution in many Islamic countries. According to the International Humanist and Ethical Union, compared to other nations, “unbelievers… in Islamic countries face the most severe – sometimes brutal – treatment” Wikipedia.

Last year the Independent reported,

In thirteen countries, you can be sentenced to death for not having a faith

1.    Afghanistan

2.    Iran

3.    Malaysia

4.    Maldives

5.    Mauritania

6.    Nigeria

7.    Pakistan

8.    Qatar

9.    Saudi Arabia

10.    Somalia

11.    Sudan

12.    United Arab Emirates

13.    Yemen.

These regimes have laws that put people to death for ” blasphemy or apostasy”.

In Egypt, a state where the Sharia is one of the ‘sources’ of legislation, there has long been intolerance and the criminalisation of non-belief.

In January 2015 this happened:

A student has been sentenced to three years in prison for announcing on Facebook that he was an atheist and thereby “insulting Islam”. Karim Ashraf Mohamed al-Banna, aged 21, was arrested in November 2014 with a group of other people at a cafe in Cairo.

Police then closed down the so-called “atheists cafe” in what is being viewed as a coordinated government crackdown on atheists. A local administrator told a news website that the coffee shop was “known as a place for satan worship, rituals and dances”.

Egyptian police shutdown ‘atheist cafe’ accused of harbouring ‘Satan worship’

#EgyptTurmoil

The café, on Falaky Street in the downtown neighbourhood of Abdeen, was “destroyed” after local residents reported customers as spreading “wrong thoughts regarding religions”, Arabic-language daily Sada al-Baladreported.

“We have destroyed the café of the devil worshippers in Falaki Street for being illegal and for having a number of atheists spreading their thoughts,” local police chief Gamal Mohi told the daily.

However, when speaking to independent outlet Mada Masr, Mohi denied the café had been demolished and said it was actually shutdown in November “following noise complaints from local residents”.

“There was no demolition involved, only confiscation of the coffee shop’s property,” he said. “This was all done in accordance with the law and legal procedures.”

The café owner was the only person arrested in the raid, according to Mohi, who said he was being held “as his coffee shop was unauthorised, unlicensed, and also because drugs were found inside”.

“There was no sign reading ‘atheists’ café’ outside, as nobody would put up such a public announcement. However, it was popularly known as a place for Satan worship, rituals and dances. There were also Satanic drawings at the entrance,” the police chief said.

No publicly available evidence has been produced to verify the police chief’s allegations of Satan worship at the café and he did not explain why atheists – who reject the existence of both God and Satan – would be engaging in such practices.

Egyptian rights activists denounced the café closure as being “the wrong and criminal action”, providing the business was operating legally.

“No one has the right to arrest someone for his thoughts,” Ali Atef, from the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, told The Cairo Post. “And to be fair and honest, usually these incidents happen for arresting atheists, and later they explain that the café papers were illegal, which is usually wrong.”

In August 2017 there was this,

Egyptian TV presenter El-Beheiry was sentenced to five years in prison after being found guilty of blasphemy—a charge filed against him by Al-Azhar, Egypt’s highest Sunni authority. El-Beheiry’s show had tackled controversial issues on Islam such as punishments for apostasy, early marriage, and different interpretations of the Hadith—the sayings and teachings of Mohamed.

According to article 98 of the Egyptian Penal Code, those found guilty of insulting the monotheistic religions (Islam, Christianity, Judaism) could face a fine or up to five years in prison. But the blasphemy law works mostly in favour of Muslims because they are the ones who bring this charge against people the most.

As can be seen, ‘insulting’ religion is punishable by law, but atheism is not as such, yet, a crime.

But now the Egyptian authorities are considering extending this persecution to make atheism itself a crime.

Lawmakers in Egypt are seriously considering passing a law that would make atheism illegal.

Blasphemy is already illegal in Egypt, and people are frequently arrested for insulting or defaming religion under the country’s strict laws. The newly proposed rule would make it illegal for people not to believe in God, even if they don’t talk about it.

“The phenomenon [of atheism] is being promoted in society as freedom of belief, when this is totally wrong,” Amro Hamroush, head of Egypt’s Parliament’s committee on religion, said when he introduced the bill in late December.

“[Atheism] must be criminalized and categorized as contempt of religion because atheists have no doctrine and try to insult the Abrahamic religions,” he wrote in the local daily paper Al-Shorouq.

As France Info points out in a new broadcast, you are obliged to declare your beliefs to the authorities., which will then appear on your identity card.

Already Christians and non-Muslims are second-class citizens.

Now, if the legislation is passed, you will not be a citizen at all, and a resident of a prison cell.

Égypte : les athées seront-ils bientôt mis en prison ?

Background:

Egypt’s war on atheism

There have been waves of panic about atheism in the predominantly conservative Islamic country for some years, largely driven from the top-down by government officials, religious leaders, and some media. The ‘crackdown’ on atheism has included a campaign to ‘inoculate’ or ‘educate’ young people away from atheism. Some highly questionable regional polling data in 2014 determined that there were precisely 866 atheists in the country. The figure was used as a justification for the ‘war on atheists’, though ironically the figure (which would represent just 0.001% of the population) is undoubtedly a huge underestimate and was dismissed by atheists locally as “highly unrealistic”.

The former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, in September 2014, put the level of atheism at 12.5 percent of young people (which is more realistic but the origin of the figure is unclear). Figures from the Family Court state that 6,500 women filed for a divorce in 2015 due to their husbands’ atheism. (Under the Personal Status Law, Muslim women can apply for divorce if their husbands denounce religion.)

The Sisi government has been pushing a line that has been described as “militantly mainstream“, targeting some conservatives and extremist interpretations of Islam as well as atheists and liberals.

Police have raided internet cafes that were alleged to be meeting places for atheists, and while atheism has become a hot topic in the country’s media, those invited to advocate atheism in televised debates have faced death threats and harassment.

Last month, a 29-year-old computer science graduate Ibrahim Khalil was detained on the accusation of ‘contempt of religion’. He was accused of running a Facebook page called ‘Atheism’ on which he allegedly published “distortions of the Quran” and advocated atheism.

Another student, 21-year-old Karim Ashraf Mohamed al-Banna, was sentenced to three years in November 2014 for announcing on Facebook that he was an atheist.

The media, religious leaders and politicians sometimes link atheism to homosexuality, which is similarly reviled, and promote the idea that atheism and homosexuality are mutually reinforcing “psychological imbalances”.

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Written by Andrew Coates

March 1, 2018 at 5:25 pm

As Protests continue, half of Iranians say No to Compulsory Veils.

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The “Girls of Revolution Street”.

Iranian authorities have arrested 29 people as part of a crack down on protests against the compulsory hijab.

The movement, which has been named “the Girls of Revolution Street”, started after a woman took off her headscarf in central Tehran. (BBC).

Woman Arrested For Removing Hijab in Tehran Refuses to Repent Despite Facing 10 Years in Prison.

Centre for Human Rights in Iran. February the 6th.

Narges Hosseini, who was arrested for protesting against Iran’s compulsory hijab, refused to appear in court to face charges punishable by up to 10 years, including “encouraging immorality or prostitution.”

“Ms. Hosseini did not even appear in court to express remorse for her action. She said she objects to the forced hijab and considers it her legal right to express her protest,” Hosseini’s lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on February 5, 2018.

Hosseini, 32, has been in detention since January 29, 2018. She was unable to pay the $135,000 USD bail set by the judge presiding over her case.

She was arrested on January 29, 2018, for posting a photo on social media of herself standing on a bench holding her white headscarf like a flag on Tehran’s Revolution’s Street.

All women in Iran are required to cover their hair and bodies in public.

Vida Movahed was the first woman to be arrested after she did the same thing in late December 2017 in Tehran. The act of removing your headscarf in public and waving it like a flag has become a symbol for the “Girls of Revolution Streetmovement, which advocates choice over compulsion for women’s clothing.

“Ms. Hosseini is being held in difficult circumstances in Gharchak Prison [south of Tehran] but she is not prepared to say she is sorry,” Sotoudeh, a prominent human rights lawyer, told CHRI. “She believes she’s innocent.”

Hosseini is facing the charges of, “openly committing a harām [sinful] act” and “violating public prudency” under Article 638 and “encouraging immorality or prostitution” under Article 639.

Compulsory Veils? Half of Iranians Say ‘No’ to Pillar of Revolution.

New York Times.

The office of Iran’s president on Sunday charged into the middle of one of the most contentious debates over the character of the Islamic Republic, suddenly releasing a three-year-old report showing that nearly half of Iranians wanted an end to the requirement that women cover their heads in public.

The report’s release comes as dozens of women in recent weeks have protested in public against being forced to wear the veil, a symbol of Iran’s revolution as much as it is deemed a religious requirement.

The decision to release the report — which found that 49.8 percent of Iranians, both women and men, consider the Islamic veil a private matter and think the government should have no say in it — appears to pit President Hassan Rouhani directly against Iran’s hard-line judiciary, which on Friday said that 29 people had been detained in connection with the protests. They have called the demonstrations “childish,” insist that the large majority of Iranians support Islamic veiling and have called for harsher measures against those protesting the veil.

At least as striking as the report’s findings was the timing of its release. The study is from 2014, and publishing it now suggests that the president saw this as a moment to challenge the hard-liners, who hold ultimate power, about such a symbolically potent issue.

Observers said the release of the report, by one of Mr. Rouhani’s closest advisers, was probably a politically calculated decision by the president, an Islamic cleric, to bolster support for social reforms and to signal to the authorities to temper their response to the veil protests.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 7, 2018 at 1:22 pm

Pakistan, Government Caves in to Islamist ‘Blasphemy’ Protests.

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Caving in to Faizabad protesters’ demand, Law Minister Zahid Hamid is ready to resign

According to sources, the law minister, who is ready to resign, is concerned about his safety. His ancestral home in Pasrur also came under attack from protesters on Saturday.  He discussed his safety concerns at length with the chief minister in the meeting that lasted about an hour.

Hamid reportedly said he was ready to resign but wanted the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leadership to play an active role in clearing his name from the controversy.

The minister also released a video message on Youtube to assure the people that he believed in the finality of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).  He read out the oath from the existing law and said, “I believe in finality of Prophethood. I am not a follower of any claimant of prophethood, nor do I believe that any such claimant of prophethood is a Muslim. Neither do I belong to any Qadiani Group or Lahori group, nor do I call myself as Ahmadi.” He said the Constitution of Pakistan declared Qadianis, Ahmadi Group and Lahori Group as non-Muslims. “I love Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) from the core of my heart and am a true lover of the last Prophet (PBUH). I and my family are prepared to lay down our lives for the honour and sanctity of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).”

The message is yet another attempt from Hamid to clear his name from the controversy that may jeopardise not only his political career but also his life. Some reports suggest that two ministers, including Hamid, may tender resignation if the stand-off persists.

This is from the Ahmadis on the threats they face:

Pakistan’s Anti-Ahmadi Laws

30 years ago the Government of Pakistan enacted a series of anti-Ahmadi laws (Ordinance XX) that made it a criminal offence for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslims.

The law states that Ahmadi Muslims cannot:

  • Call themselves Muslims
  • Refer to their faith as Islam
  • Call their place of worship a ‘Mosque’;
  • Make the call for prayers (Adhan)
  • Say the Islamic greeting ‘Assalamo alaikum’ (Peace be on you)
  • Preach or propagate their faith

Any of the above will be punishable by three years imprisonment and a fine.

If the offence is regarded as blasphemy then an Ahmadi could be sentenced to death.

This makes the Ahmadi Muslim community unique in Pakistan as being the only religious community in Pakistan to be targeted by the state simply on grounds of faith.

The Financial Times states,

“The government stands defeated, the protesters have won,” said one senior government official. “Now we must consider the consequences for the future of Pakistan.” The weekend’s events are the latest sign that Pakistan’s powerful army, which has run the country for almost half of its 70 years as an independent state, is once more gaining the upper hand over the civilian government.

They add,

On Sunday, Gen Bajwa met Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and according to officials, made it clear that the army would not use force to restore order. Instead, Mr Abbasi agreed to concede to one of the protesters’ main demands by removing Zahid Hamid, law minister, as well as withdrawing a two-day ban on Pakistani news channels.

By Monday morning, the leaders of the protest had signed a formal agreement to stand down, in which they particularly thanked Gen Bajwa, “whose special efforts helped to put the agreement together and averted a major disaster for the nation”.  Another signatory is Major General Faiz Hameed, the head of the counter-intelligence division at the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), further underlining the military’s role in brokering the agreement.

 

More: Pakistan Today,  Tehreek-e-Labaik using Facebook to incite hatred; social media ‘inaccessible’ in Pakistan

Written by Andrew Coates

November 27, 2017 at 1:12 pm

Anti-racism, secularism, and the fight against anti-semitism today.

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Freedom, Democracy and Secularism.

In the 1990s a section of the anti-racist left in Britain developed a critique of multiculturalism. Groups involved included the Southall Black Sisters and secularist leftists both in the UK. The main reason for this critical stand was the view that ‘community relations’ had become managed by the state.

While praiseworthy efforts were made to tackle inequalities, , and we welcomed legislation to outlaw discrimination,  the approach had some fundamental laws. We argued that multiculturalism far from being opposed to racialism, was the institutionalisation of ‘difference’ through that is funding and promoting ‘community leaders’.  In fact it could be seen as the twin of racist efforts to exclude minority groups by making these distinctions the basis for policies.

Arun Kundnani  for the Institute for Race Relations put it in 2002 (THE DEATH OF MULTICULTURALISM) summarised this view.

While multiculturalist policies institutionalised black culture, it was the practice of ethnicised funding that segmented and divided black communities.

The state’s strategy, it seemed, was to re-form black communities to fit them into the British class system, as a parallel society with their own internal class leadership, which could be relied on to maintain control. A new class of ‘ethnic representatives’ entered the town halls from the mid-1980s onwards, who would be the surrogate voice for their own ethnically defined fiefdoms. They entered into a pact with the authorities; they were to cover up and gloss over black community resistance in return for free rein in preserving their own patriarchy.

It was a colonial arrangement, which prevented community leaders from making radical criticisms, for fear that funding for their pet projects would be jeopardised. Different ethnic groups were pressed into competing for grants for their areas. The result was that black communities became fragmented, horizontally by ethnicity, vertically by class.

This, by Alana Lentin, outlines the position in 2004,

Multiculturalism or anti-racism?

The “top–down” nature of multiculturalist policy–making is illustrated by modern British experience where – as Paul Gilroy’s 1992 essay “The End of Anti–Racism” points out – local governments in the early 1980s instigated it in reaction to the nationalism of Conservative central government. However, the policy’s cultural focus destroyed the autonomous, highly politicised anti–racism of the local “race committees” established in the 1970s in reaction to the far right and institutional racism.

Moreover, the multicultural model is vulnerable to the charge that it uncritically endorses the image of enclosed, internally homogeneous cultural groups, each taking its place in a “mosaic” of equal but different communities – and so ignores both group heterogeneity and the fact that members of minorities often identify with a hybridity of cultural references , including that of the dominant society.

More importantly, multiculturalism’s exclusive focus on culture can present an apolitical picture of “minority” experience and agency that evades the daily realities of institutionalised racism. This emphasis on culture lies at the heart of the problem of multiculturalism, and – I would argue – makes it an unworthy prize for progressive voices now seeking to reclaim it.

Some of those who took this stand were also secularists. That is, we were wary of what we saw as a growing tendency: the acceptance of these divisions on religious grounds.

A  key moment for those who combined this critique with a broader  secularism, had been the defence of Salman Rushdie against the Iranian ‘Fatwa’ in 1989. Reactionary religious, Muslim, demonstrations that included book burnings,  took place in the UK. As Wikipedia notes, “The City of Bradford gained international attention in January 1989 when some of its members organised a public book-burning of The Satanic Verses, evoking as the journalist Robert Winder recalled “images of medieval (not to mention Nazi) intolerance”

After 9/11 there was an explicit shift from ethnic representation towards a ‘multi-faith’ approach. In a process which closely parallels changes in France –  brilliantly analysed in La fabrique du musulman by Nedjib Sidi Moussa (2017) – religion became the obligatory badge of ‘community’.

Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters wrote in 2008,  Defending secular spaces

The current drive towards ‘cohesion’ represents the softer side of the ‘war on terror’. At its heart lies the promotion of a notion of integration based on the assumption that organising around race and ethnicity encourages segregation.

At the same time, in the quest for allies, it seeks to reach out to a male religious (largely Muslim) leadership, and it thereby encourages a ‘faith’ based approach to social relations and social issues.

This approach rejects the need for grassroots self organisation on the basis of race and gender inequality but institutionalises the undemocratic power of so called ‘moderate’ (authoritarian if not fundamentalist) religious leaders at all levels of society.

The result is a shift from a ‘multicultural’ to a ‘multi-faith’ society: one in which civil society is actively encouraged to organise around exclusive religious identities, and religious bodies are encouraged to take over spaces once occupied by progressive secular groups and, indeed, by a secular welfare state.

A similar line of criticism was  taken in 2010  in Rumy Hasan’s Multiculturalism: Some Inconvenient Truth. 

However, in the wake of the events of 11 September 2001, multiculturalism morphed into “multifaithism”, resulting in religion-based identity. This fourth phase, Hasan argues, represents multiculturalism’s failure.

Multiculturalism qua multifaithism is the source of all evils. Ironically, initiated as a way of combating racism, multiculturalism has become hostage to special interests represented by community leaders as well as politicians eager to secure votes.

It is a violation and distortion of the democratic ideal of universal rights because it accords privileges to ethnic-religious communities; it increases segregation and ghettoisation; it fans sectarian hatred within communities; it leads to social harm as it restricts or prevents intimate contact with members of the larger society, who feel alienated as a result; it triggers right-wing extremism among “whites” and “chauvinistic faith-based organisations”; it fosters resistance to “mainstream” culture as well as “psychological detachment”, a condition of being in, but not of, British society.

More important, Hasan sees multicultural policy as a successor to the old imperial divide-and-rule strategy. This means that the state remains aloof from serious social problems that occur within immigrant communities, which it shields by accepting their claim to cultural specificity.

Rumy and Southall Black Sisters’  conclusion is that the defence of secular equality is the best alternative.

Many on the British left, by contrast, have focused exclusively on ‘Islamophobia’. That is the view that prejudice against Muslims, that is people, is identical with hostility to a religion, Islam. Far from challenging multi-faithism they embraced it. The political party Respect, founded in 2004, announced that it was the Party for Muslims. While not a Muslim Party as such  A “local election flyer printed in 2004 featured the slogan “George Galloway – Fighting for Muslim Rights!

It was also ‘anti-Zionist’ “According to the party’s national council member Yvonne Ridley  speaking at London’s  Imperial College in February 2006, Respect “is a Zionist-free party… if there was any Zionism in the Respect Party they would be hunted down and kicked out.”

Following Naz Kahn’s appointment as Respect’s women’s officer in Bradford in October 2012, it emerged that Kahn had recently commented on Facebook that “history teachers in our school” were and are “the first to start brainwashing us and our children into thinking the bad guy was Hitler. What have the Jews done good in this world??” David Aaronovitch in The Jewish Chronicle wrote: “‘What have the Jews done good in this world?’ clearly means ‘The Jews do only bad’. The Jews haven’t suffered as much as they say they have, but insofar as they have suffered it’s their own fault and, in any case, they have gone on to inflict equal or more suffering on others. That’s ‘the Jews’ as a group, not ‘many Jews’, ‘some Jews’ or ‘a few Jews.'”[157] Ron McKay, Galloway’s spokesman, said Kahn’s comments had been written shortly before she joined Respect, on an “unofficial site” (the Respect Bradford Facebook page), and that she “now deeply regrets and repudiates that posting.”

Wikipedia.

Respect is an extreme example.

But many other forces on the left have had difficulty with dealing with ‘anti-Semitism’, that is hostility to Jewish people. This is  not least because many of those professing support for ‘Islam’, the galaxy of Islamist groups, and (as indicated in the present case in Bradford), some individuals from the left, not least those involved with the Respect Party, have expressed views which are hostile to Jews.

These are not just casual prejudices.

They reflect, in some cases, religious hatred, but more commonly are part of a ‘conspiracy’ outlook on the word, usually linked to the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’ which sees ‘Zionism’ are the root of the world’s problems.

It is a an utter shame that it took a right-wing weekly to print this article.

France, one out of two racist acts are anti-Semite: En France, l’antisémitisme « du quotidien » s’est ancré et se propage (le Monde. 2.11.17)

Below is an important text from the comrades of Ni Patrie Ni Frontièrs. which may help shed some light on the problems involved.

While France has a a different imperial history to Britain, and migration from its former colonies is not the same, some of the same difficulties have arisen.

The clearest distinction is that while French secularism is part of the political establishment, state, political parties, administration and culture, of the country. Some secularist supporters take an arid view, which is entangled with the same kind of  nationalist stans which in the UK is claimed for ‘British values’.

But….

There is the same shift from ethnicity to religion.

There is the same inability of sections of the left to confront Islamism and ethno-religious politics.

By contrast a  minority of the critical French left has, over the years, developed a stand with close parallels to that of the British, and Irish left (which has its own particular battles to fight) secularists outlined above.

It is to the credit of the critical sections of the French anti-racist left that they have been able to steer a course between the State Secularism of the defenders of a mythicised  Republic and the reactionary cultural turn of those who fail to tackle with the use of religion as a market for ‘identity’.

The case of Tariq Ramadan which crystallises many of these issues of religion and identity, with some crying Islamophobia, and others suspecting the hand of ‘Zionists’ behind the affair, perhaps illustrates a further difference.

In France the accusations of rape against the Oxford Professor, the best known promoter of Islam in the French speaking world, are front page news.

In the UK the extremely serious claims  barely ruffled any feathers.

Ramadan was allowed to continue teaching until the start of last week.

It is worth noting that it was Gita Sahgal who comes from the original Southall Black Sisters was the initiator a petition calling for Ramadan’s removal. A petition, which le Monde registered with the article in Oxford’s student paper, Cherwell, (“A la suite de la publication de cet article, une pétition a été lancée, suivie de la mise en congé de l’enseignant.) and has yet to be mentioned in the British media.

The Economist seems about the only UK source to have registered its full importance.

Tariq Ramadan, a star of Europe’s Muslim intelligentsia, confronts accusations of rape

The Oxford professor, who denies the allegations, has taken a leave of absence

To get a sense of the shockwave these developments have triggered, it helps to understand Mr Ramadan’s unique position in the Islamic firmament, as somebody with a high profile both in academia and on the Muslim street.

His Egyptian grandfather, Hassan al-Banna, was the founder of the global Muslim Brotherhood, yet he strongly denies that his own thinking is merely a reiteration of Brotherhood ideology. His theology is quite conservative but he insists that far from self-segregating, European Muslims should play an active role in society. He has suggested that there is a natural role for Muslims as part of a broad-left anti-capitalist coalition.

In 2004 he was unable to take up an academic post at America’s Notre Dame university because the authorities refused his application to enter and work in the United States. He fought a long legal battle to gain admission to that country, which he finally won in 2009. He has held high-profile public debates with famous atheists and secularists including Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the late Christopher Hitchens. He has condemned suicide bombing and other terrorist acts such as the murderous attack onCharlie Hebdo, the French satirical weekly. But he also calls for understanding of Muslim grievances, whether in Europe or Islam’s heartlands. He denounced Charlie Hebdo for publishing drawings which upset an already “stigmatised” Muslim community.

The discourse of Mr Ramadan is very traditional, in the sense of paying close attention to Islam’s founding texts, and very hip and modern, as befits somebody who is well attuned to the anti-establishment politics of the 21st century. For young Muslims in the West who are defensive of their identity but want to move on from their parents’ traditional culture, that is a winning combination.

That’s why the outcome of Mr Ramadan’s saga will be followed closely, from the ivory towers of Oxford to the streets of Brussels and Marseille.

Independent anti-racism.

To give a flavour of the views of the independent anti-racist  section of the French Left, Ni Parti Ni Frontièrs, whose Yves Colman is already familiar to readers of this Blog, here are some links.

The first indicates the similarities and differences between the countries’  independent left-wing secularist  anti-racist movements.

The second takes up the Ramadan case.

The most obvious symptom of this evolution is the quasi hegemony of “competitive memories”, so called “double standards”, which inspired many analyses. Since around 2005 various minorities compare their status to others, starting with the Jews’ status. In France the recognition of the specificity of the Judeocide, but also the full involvement of the French state has only emerged in the early eighties, after
immense anti-racist struggles. But less than thirty years later, these fights have disappeared from the collective memory; fascists have imposed a truncated memory in which Jews are, falsely, presented as “privileged” by state anti-racist policies since 1945. All the victories (the historical recognition of the genocide and teaching of the Judeocide in schools, for example), are transformed into “problems”, into
“symptoms” of a support for Israel, or into an attempt to mask other forms of racism.

Harvey Weinstein, Dominique Strauss-Kahn et Tariq Ramadan : un « parallèle » absurde au sous-texte antisémite

Written by Andrew Coates

November 12, 2017 at 1:44 pm

Pakistan: Christian Man Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy.

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Image result for Protests against blasphemy law Pakistan

Demonstration last Year in Pakistan. 

Pakistan Sentences Christian man to death for blasphemy.

Nadeem James was arrested in 2016 after he allegedly sent a poem ridiculing Prophet Mohammad to his friend on WhatsApp.

A Christian man has been sentenced to death on blasphemy charges by a court in eastern Pakistan after a close friend accused him of sharing anti-Islamic material, the defendant’s lawyer said.

Blasphemy is a criminal offence in Muslim-majority Pakistan, and insults against the Prophet Mohammad are punishable by death. Most cases are filed against members of minority communities.

Nadeem James, 35, was arrested in July 2016, accused by a friend of sharing material ridiculing the Prophet Mohammad on the WhatsApp messaging service.

Lawyer Riaz Anjum said his client intended to appeal against the verdict, passed on Thursday by a sessions court in the town of Gujrat.

READ MORE: In Pakistan, a shrine to murder for ‘blasphemy’

There was widespread outrage across Pakistan last April when student Mashal Khan was beaten to death at his university in Mardan following a dormitory debate about religion.

Police arrested more than 20 students and some faculty members in connection with the killing.

Since then, parliament has considered adding safeguards to the blasphemy laws, a groundbreaking move given the emotive nature of the issue.

While not a single convict has ever been executed for blasphemy in Pakistan, there are currently about 40 people are on death row or serving life sentences for the crime, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Right-wing vigilantes and mobs have taken the law into their own hands, killing at least 69 people over alleged blasphemy since 1990, according to an Al Jazeera tally.

In March, Pakistan’s ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered the immediate removal and blocking of all online content deemed to be “blasphemous” to Islam from social media – and for those responsible to be prosecuted.

Background:  Persecution of Christians in Pakistan.

Most recent story, September the 11th.

Christian Member of the National Assembly Khalil George and others paid a call to Sharron Masih’s bereaved family. 17-year-old Christian student was callously lynched by his classmate at Government MC Model High School for Boys in Burewala city of Vehari District. MNA Khalil George offered condolences to the Ilyasab Masih and family ensuring them of an all-out support and assistance.

MNA Khalil George who also holds the position of Parliamentary Secretary for Religious Affairs met with Ilyasab Masih and told him that the perpetrators will be duly punished. On this occasion, parents of Sharoon Masih detailed the incident to Khalil George; expressing grief over the fact that their son lost his life to anti-Christian sentiments of his mates. MNA Khalil George was accompanied by Bishop Abraham Daniel, Major Michael Paul, Elder Dilber, Pastor Peter Imran and Pastor Arthur Daniel.

Parents of Sharoon Masih strongly believe that their son was lynched for drinking water from a glass which was used by all the students. They said that the assaulter did not relent until Sharoon breathed his last. Afterwards, Bishop Abraham Daniel offered prayers for the bereaved family. He prayed for peace and comfort for the friends and family of Sharoon Masih.

Previously, talking to a local media stated: “His teacher, Nazeer Mohal, sent him back home because he was not wearing the proper uniform. His mother told me later that evening that Sharoon had told her that the teacher had hit him in front of the whole class and also called him a Choohra, among other curse words. She said that he was quite upset at being humiliated in front of the whole class on the very first day of school.”

Detailing the excruciatingly agonizing moments he said: “Sharoon went to school wearing his new uniform. Hardly a few hours later, a Muslim neighbor whose son studies in the same school told us that Sharoon had been killed in school.”

“I cannot express the agony I went through when I saw my son’s dead body lying motionlessly on the hospital stretcher, his new blue shirt covered in dirt and blood,” Ilyasab said as he sketched the horrific incident. Sharoon’s family was told by his classmates that Ahmad Raza engaged Sharoon in a brawl; expressing annoyance because Sharoon had drunk water from the glass used by all students,” he told the media.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 16, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Tunisia: Protests at enforcement of Religious Law as 4 get 1 month prison for eating in public during Ramadan.

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RAMADAN

“We are not forced”: Tunisian campaign against making everybody obey religious law during Ramadan. 

Tunisians get jail terms for eating during Ramadan

A court in northern Tunisia handed one-month jail terms Thursday to four men for eating in public during the Muslim dawn-to-dusk fasting month of Ramadan, a spokesman said.

The four had been “eating and smoking in a public garden, a provocative act during Ramadan”, which started last week, Chokri Lahmar, prosecution spokesman at the court in Bizerte, told AFP.

He said the four men had 10 days to appeal against their one-month sentences before the terms take effect.

Their sentencing, which followed complaints from other local residents, comes ahead of a call circulated on social media for a June 11 demonstration to protect the rights of those who decline to take part in the Ramadan fast.

Although the state has the role of “guardian of religion” under the constitution, Tunisia has no specific law banning eating in public during Ramadan, a controversy which resurfaces each year in the North African country.

Most restaurants and coffeeshops remain shut in Tunisia during daylight hours over the holy month, but some establishments open behind closed curtains to prevent customers from being seen.

More in LibérationQuatre Tunisiens condamnés à un mois de prison pour avoir mangé en public pendant le ramadan.

There is a campaign in Tunisia to respect the rights of those who refuse  to fast during Ramadan and against the (forced) closure of cafés and restaurants during the day to make people conform to religious ‘law’.

#MouchBessif: La campagne qui appelle au respect des libertés des non-jeûneurs.

A Collectif pour la défense des libertés individuelles, bringing together a number of ONGs, states that this enforcement of religious obligations on everybody is an attack on personal freedoms and  contrary to Tunisia’s constitution.

A demonstration is planned on Sunday the 11th of June.

More background in Huffpost Tunisie: Fermeture de cafés et restaurants durant ramadan: La société civile tunisienne se mobilise.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 2, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Yasmin Rehman wins secularist of the year award.

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Yasmin Rehman: Secularist of the Year.

A courageous campaigner for human rights against religious intolerance Rehman’s award should be widely welcomed.

It is fitting that she chose her acceptance speech to commend two “personal heroines” comrades Maryman Namazie and Gita Sahgal, who like herself have had to face the hostility of obscurantist bigotry, sexism and ill-judged criticism from some quarters.

It is time that all the left stands with these women.

Yasmin Rehman named Secularist of the Year 2017 (National Secular Society).

The Irwin Prize for Secularist of the Year 2017 has been awarded to Yasmin Rehman, the secular campaigner for women’s rights.

Yasmin has spent much of the past two years to get the Government to recognise the dangers faced by ex-Muslims and Ahmadi Muslims from Islamic extremists. She has used her own home as a shelter for women at risk of domestic abuse.

Accepting the prize, Yasmin Rehman thanked the Society for recognising her work and said she was “incredibly humbled” to be nominated among other figures who were “personal heroines.”

She said there were two women, Maryman Namazie and Gita Sahgal, whom she couldn’t have campaigned without, and that she was “honoured” to stand beside them.

Secularism was not opposed to faith, she said, before describing how she had been shut down as ‘Islamophobic’ and “racist” despite being a Muslim herself. There is anti-Muslim sentiment in society, she said, but ‘Islamophobia’ was being used to silence and curtail speech.

Yasmin said she didn’t know if she could ever go back to Pakistan because of her work in the UK, while in the UK it was “impossible” to get funding for secularist work. She asked where women could possibly turn if they faced religiously-justified abuse. Muslim women were left with nothing but religious, sharia arbitration, while faith healing was spreading, with ill women being controlled by male relatives and religious leaders and told to pray instead of seeking medical treatment.

FGM and honour-based violence were being dismissed as “cultural”, while in fact polygamist and temporary marriages were Islamic practises, she said. There is a slippery road from this to child marriage, and there should be “no space” in the UK for these practises.

“Great powers within the community” were holding women back, and low rates of Muslim female employment could not be attributed entirely to discrimination by employers.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “I’m particularly pleased that this afternoon we have a secularist who is also a Muslim to present our prizes. She is living proof that secularism and Muslims can co-exist if given half a chance and co-founded British Muslims for Secular Democracy in 2006.”

Mr Sanderson described how secularism protected the rights of all and said it and democracy were “interdependent”.

Dr Michael Irwin kindly sponsored the £5,000 award. The award was presented by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. She said: “The thing I find interesting and frightening at the moment is when I talk to young Muslims is how little they understand what secularism means.”

She said the Society’s most important work was in explaining what secularism meant for young people, particularly Muslims, and demonstrate that secularism was not atheism.

She warned of the growth of Muslim “exceptionalism” and that “universalism needs to be promoted.”

The Society was joined at the central London lunch event by previous winners of the prize including Maryam Namazie, who was the inaugural Secularist of the Year back in 2005. Peter Tatchell, who won the prize on 2012 also attended.

Turkish parliamentarian and 2014 Secularist of the Year Safak Pavey was unable to join the Society, but sent a message to attendees: “I wish I could be with you but we have the critical referendum approaching and we are very busy with the campaign. Each and every one of your shortlisted nominees is a very distinguished members of the secular society without borders.

“I wholeheartedly thank all of them for their courageous and precious contributions in defence and support of secularism and congratulate this year’s Secularist while looking forward to work together for our shared cause.”

Mr Sanderson praised her for working in “increasingly dangerous” circumstances to resist the Islamisation of Turkey.

Other campaigners were thanked for their work and Terry singled out Dr Steven Kettell, who was shortlisted for the prize, for his “excellent response” to the Commission on Religion and Belief in Public which had advocated expanding many religious privileges. Mr Sanderson thanked Dr Kettell for pointing out the many injustices that CORAB’s recommendations would have introduced, in his “excellent” report.

Scott Moore, the founder of Let Pupils Choose, was thanked for his campaign work. He said that, as an 18 year old, he had been campaigning for his entire adult life to separate religion and state, after religion was forced on him and taught as “absolute fact” during his childhood. He said the education system in Northern Ireland “robbed” pupils of their religious freedom. “All belief systems should be treated equally, but they are not.”

He was applauded for his hard-fought campaign work and Mr Sanderson said Moore gave him “hope for the future.”

Nominee Houzan Mahmoud spoke powerfully about the important of universal rights and freedoms.

Barry Duke, editor of the Freethinker, was given a lifetime achievement award for his commitment to free speech, LGBT rights and equality and resistance to censorship in apartheid South Africa.

The Society’s volunteer of the year was named, Sven Klinge, and thanked for the many occasions on which he has photographed NSS events.

Yasmin Rehman had been nominated, “for her advocacy of a secularist approach to tackling hate crime and promoting the human rights of women. She said, “I am incredibly honoured and humbled to be included in the list of nominees for this award particularly given the work being done across the world by so many brave and courageous people fighting against the hatred and violence being perpetrated by the religious Right of many faiths.”

Yasmin Rehman is a freelance consultant and doctoral candidate at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Her area of research is polygamy and the law. She has worked for more than 20 years predominantly on violence against women, race, faith and gender, and human rights. Yasmin has worked for Local Government, the Metropolitan Police Service as Director of Partnerships and Diversity (2004-08) during which time she also held the Deputy national lead for forced marriage and honour based violence. Yasmin has most recently been commissioned as founding CEO of a race equality charity in East London, followed by Transforming Rehabilitation bid and now reviewing police responses to domestic abuse for national charities. Yasmin is currently member of the Board of EVAW (End Violence Against Women Coalition), an Independent Adviser for City of London Police and a member of the Centre for Secular Space.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 18, 2017 at 5:15 pm