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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Neither war nor nuclear weapons!

To sign the below petition, click here.

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our strongest opposition to a US attack or economic sanctions on Iran. These will have devastating consequences for the people of Iran whilst strengthening the Islamic Republic of Iran and further devastating the Middle East. We will not tolerate another Iraq.

We are also unequivocally opposed to the Islamic regime of Iran and its efforts to secure nuclear weapons technology; this will strengthen political Islam in Iran, the region and internationally. We insist upon a nuclear free world.

Rather than appease or defend either side of this conflict, we condemn both. Instead we side with the civilian population and defend the progressive opposition movement in Iran as the most effective means of resolving this crisis.

Islamists turn UN human rights body into a laughing stock

From the National Secular Society

Last week the United Nations’ Human Rights Council condemned “defamation” of religion, and called upon member states to ban literature and other materials containing “racist or xenophobic ideas” that might lead to hostility against religious groups – although Islam is the only religion mentioned in the resolution.

Islamic states joined with Mexico, the Russian Federation and China in supporting the measure which passed 24–14. There were nine abstentions. The Human Rights Council resolution expressed concern at “negative stereotyping” of religion, and excoriated “attempts to identify Islam with terrorism.”

The Council delegate from Pakistan, who also represented the Organization of the Islamic Conference, declared: “The resolution is tabled in the expectation that it will compel the international community to acknowledge and address the disturbing phenomena of the defamation of religions, especially Islam.”

News observers suggested that the resolution grew out of violent protests by Islamists over the Danish cartoons published in September 2005 depicting the prophet Mohammed. Muslims, backed by Christian, Jewish and other religious groups, condemned the drawings and called for anti-blasphemy legislation. In 1989, similar protests spread through the Arab world, Asia, Europe and even the United States over the publication of Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses.

These incidents have fuelled a debate over the status of religion in modern society, and raised calls for the return of blasphemy statutes aimed at protecting religious groups from “hurtful” or defamatory remarks of any kind. Proponents debate how far such legislation should go, however. The U.N. resolution only mentions Islam, but representatives of other faiths have called for similar protection of all religions.

Indeed, some Human Rights Council member representatives expressed disappointment that the resolution did not explicitly cover “defamation” against all religions. According to a U.N. press release, delegate Carlo Alvarado from Guatemala said that his nation “condemned defamation of religions and any practice incompatible with the preservation of fundamental rights and freedoms,” but grumbled that the draft resolution “was unbalanced and gave importance to one single religion over all others.”

Similar sentiments were voiced by Munu Mahawar of India who repeated the claim that the resolution focused only on one religion, while “all religions were facing the problem of defamation in one form or another.”

None of the representatives took a position aggressively defending the virtues of free expression and secularism. The nearest we got to this came from Birgitta Siefker-Eberle of Germany who said that an “on-going dialogue” was the best way of resolving differences, and that it was problematic to reconcile “defamation” with discrimination.

Representatives of 24 countries voted in favour of the controversial resolution: Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Gabon, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Philippines, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Tunisia.

There were 14 opposing states: Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. Abstaining from the vote were: Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Ghana, India, Peru, Uruguay and Zambia.

Roy Brown, the main spokesperson for the International Humanist and Ethical Union, in a statement to the Commission, said: “On 14 March the spokesperson for the Organisation of the Islamic Conference referred to what she described as ‘a dire need to fill the judicial vacuum of deficiency in dealing with the question of respect for religions…’ and asked for ‘effective and legally binding measures for combating defamation of all religions and incitement to racial and religious violence’.

“This however is to confuse two quite separate issues: defamation of religion, and incitement to violence. All of us, Mr President, must condemn incitement to racial and religious violence, and in this connexion we hope that the OIC will condemn the death threats made last week by Islamic extremists against the Bengali writer Taslima Nasrin.

“Mr President, no-one has a duty to respect any religion. Furthermore, lack of respect for a belief should not be confused with hatred of the believer. It is the believer that merits protection, not the belief.

“And how are we to define defamation? Are we no longer to be permitted to condemn misogyny, homophobia, or calls to kill – if they are made in the name of religion? Are we obliged to respect religious practices that we find offensive? Is lack of respect for such practices to be considered a crime? Are ideas, are religions now to be accorded human rights? Surely, when religion invades the public domain it becomes an ideology like any other, and must be open to criticism as such. To deny the claims of religion is neither defamation nor blasphemy.

“Finally, one can only express dismay at the demonising of European secularism by the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism. He clearly fails to understand that secularism – that is, state neutrality in matters of religion and belief – is not an expression of intolerance but a guarantee of religious freedom for all, a defence of the values on which our human rights are based, the very values that this Council should be seeking to protect.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Mahmood Salehi, leading labour activist, arrested

Mahmood Salehi, a leading labour activist from the city of Saghez, was re-arrested on Monday April 9 by the Islamic regime’s security forces. Salehi who was at work at the time was taken during his lunch break by armed security forces to the public prosecutor’s office regarding his bail on charges of organizing May Day strikes and demonstrations last year.

Later at the public prosecutor’s office, a revised court verdict was read to him summarily sentencing him to one year imprisonment and 3 years suspended sentence. He was immediately transferred to the city of Sanandaj prison.

Clearly this is an attempt to intimidate and attack the labour movement both in Iran and internationally. Last Year Manhood Salehi was bailed under immense international pressure from trade unions, and labour and progressive organizations internationally. In addition, this is an attempt to undermine the vibrant workers’ movement Iran which is preparing to organize for this year’s international May Day celebrations following a huge teachers’ strike in Iran in the last couple of months over pay and conditions which resulted in the arrest of 45 teachers’ activists in the city of Hamedan on Saturday 7th April 2007.

With nation-wide and daily protests such as the teachers’ strikes challenging the Islamic Republic of Iran, the regime is fearful of a powerful confrontation on May Day and is attempting to undermine the momentum of this movement by threats, intimidations and arrests of activists and labour leaders.

The Worker-communist Party of Iran condemns the arrest of Mahmood Salehi in Saghez and teachers in Hamedan and calls on all trade unions and international rights organizations and concerned individuals to join us in demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Mahmood Salehi and 45 arrested teachers in Hamedan and an end to the intimidation of labour activists.

Celebration of May Day, the day of International Labour Solidarity, is a fundamental right for all workers in the world.

International Labour Solidarity Committee of the WPI

Coordinator: Shahla Daneshfar
Public Relations: Bahram Soroush

Note to the Editors:
Mahmood Salehi has been arrested twice since May 2003 for organizing May Day during recent last years. He was freed as a result of huge international campaigns for his release on both occasions. Mahmood Salehi has been recalled to the court over and over and has been under permanent threat and pressure by the Islamic Republic of Iran since his first arrest in May Day of 2003.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

In defence of Taslima Nasreen

To defend Taslima Nasreen, sign the below petition by clicking here:

We, the undersigned, are writing to register our strongest protest at yet more death threats made against writer, humanist, secularist and human rights activist Taslima Nasreen. This time, Taqi Raza Khan the president of an Islamic group, the All-India Ibtehad Council, has offered a bounty of about £8,000 for her beheading. This and other clear threats to her life require that the Indian government bring the full force of the law to bear on him and those who threaten and incite murder and terror. Taqi Raza Khan has warned the Indian government that if she is not driven out of India within ten days ‘all hell will break loose’. In fact, it is the other way around. Taslima has every right to freely express her views on Islam and Sharia law and in favour of women’s rights and equality. The Indian government is duty bound to protect her from these threats and grant her the citizenship she requires so that she may live without fear of expulsion.