Laurie writes: ‘Great isn't it! I sign your petition and sent the link to friends, liberal freethinkers (like me, I thought) requesting they consider adding their names. I might as well have asked them to join the BNP! If it's not that then it's a stony silence and clear indication that there is to be no discussion on this matter. Having read your last email I can see this is going to be your biggest problem. I think the only way out of this is a full open debate, with the headline "ISLAM IS A RELIGION - NOT A RACE!" unless we can separate these two fundamental issues there is no hope of moving forward.’
Maryam Namazie responds: You rightly say that Islam is a religion not a race. Therefore, like any religion or belief, it has to be open to criticism and even ridicule. This becomes even more important in this day and age give that it is the ideology behind a political movement that is wreaking havoc across the world. It must be criticised and ridiculed because that is how throughout history reaction has been pushed back. Our criticism is often all we have to fight this movement.
Islamophobia - and now by the way the Church has asked that Christianity-phobia also be included in UN rights terminology –are not racism because criticisms of a religion, idea, a belief and even the practices that result from beliefs – even a phobia and hatred against beliefs have nothing to do with racism against real live human beings. Just as an attack on the belief and practice of Female Genital Mutilation is not an attack on girls who have been mutilated, just as a criticism of Judaism or the Israeli government is not an attack on Jews and just as Monty Python’s Life of Brian is not an attack on or racism against Christians.
Saying it is racism is merely part of the effort to silence criticism of religion and the political movement that holds it up as its banner.
You can see a video clip of my response to an Islamist at a public meeting in Canada in 2004 where I talk about how Sharia law is Islamic law and why criticism is not racism. This was the first public meeting of the successful International Campaign against Sharia Courts in Canada:
You can also read more on this in my 2006 speech in defence of free expression here.
Having said this, though, I must add that this in no way means that racism does not exist. Or that because the BNP, EDL, the Stop Islamisation of Europe or Geert Wilders criticise Islam, they are not pushing forward a racist agenda. They are. But I have already addressed that elsewhere.