My Blog has Moved to since 1 November 2011

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Islamic Inquisition

I had a brilliant time this weekend, first debating Islamist Lauren Booth (who works at the Islamic Republic of Iran's Press TV - yuck!) at howthelightgetsin philosophy and music festival at the Hay and then the World Atheist Conference in Dublin, Ireland. A brilliant conference. Wish I had been there from the start but glad I did go even if only for the last day.

I got to see Richard Dawkins again and meet the brilliant PZ Myers too, which was a highlight for me and make tons of new friends and allies.

I am off now to stuff envelopes with volunteers of One Law for All. We are finishing up a mailing to MPs and Peers on a 28 June meeting we are organising to help highlight the need to ban Sharia law...

Anyway, here is my speech. I didn't obviously use all of it as I had mentioned faith schools and the veil and burka at the morning's panel discussion on building secular alliances. I am sure it still needs an edit but am posting since people have been asking me for it.

The Islamic Inquisition
Maryam Namazie
Keynote address at the World Atheist Conference
June 4-6 2011

In this day and age, Islam matters because of Islamism. Islam per se is fundamentally no worse than any other religion.

The tenets, dogma, and principles of all religions are equal.

I don't believe in good or bad religions; in my opinion all religion is bad for you.

Religion should come with a health warning like cigarettes: ‘religion kills.’

But even so, today - as we speak - there is a distinction to be made between religions in general and Islam in particular, but for no other reasons than that it is the ideology behind a far-Right regressive political movement that has state power in many places with Sharia law being the most implemented legal code in the world.

Islam matters to us today because we are living through an Islamic inquisition and not because it is becoming more ‘popular’ as its proponents like to argue. They call it the fastest growing religion. I’d personally like a count of how many people are leaving it, or would like to leave if they could without being killed.

Islam’s appeal has not grown amongst the general public; in fact it’s the opposite.  Its record in political power speaks volumes for itself: stonings, honour killings, amputation of limbs, child ‘marriages’, sexual apartheid, decapitations, public hangings, bombs in discotheques and on buses, the slaughter of entire generations in the Middle East and North Africa...

It is the difference between Christianity today and one during the inquisition.

A religion that has been reined in by an enlightenment is very different from one that has political power and is spearheading an inquisition. That’s why anything from downloading information on the status of women in Islam by Perwiz Kambakhsh in Afghanistan, publishing caricatures of Muhammad in a Danish newspaper, to the name to name of a teddy bear in the Sudan become matters of life and death (often with Western government complicity).

Under an inquisition, ‘Islamic feminism,’ ‘liberal and humanitarian Islam,’ ‘Islamic reformism,’ ‘Islamic democracy,’ ‘Islamic human rights,’ and moderate interpretations of Islam are impossible.

A ‘personal’ religion is impossible under an inquisition. You can’t pick and choose as you’d like.

Islamists will kill, threaten or intimidate anyone who interprets things differently, thinks freely or who transgresses their norms by living 21st century lives. 

One of the characteristics of an inquisition is a total ban on freethinking and policing of thought. Censorship is rife so that one can face the death penalty for reading a book or visiting an internet site.  Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake for heresy in 1600; today there are numerous examples of people being killed for similar reasons. Some of those killed just this year by the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has 130 offences punishable by death include by the way, include: Ali Ghorabat for apostasy and Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Haj Aghaie for enmity against god.

Under an inquisition, torture is the norm. According to their handbook at the time, inquisitors were instructed not to find any accused innocent under any circumstances. The same applies under Islamism. You are guilty. Full Stop. Guilty for laughing, guilty for listening to music, guilty for wearing jeans, for driving, for loving, for thinking and for breathing.

The purpose of the so called Sharia justice system is to elicit a confession. In Iran, for example, even its media outlets are involved. Press TV, which is based in the UK, has had a documented role in forcing tortured prisoners to ‘confess’ to their crimes on television. Most recent cases are Maziyar Bahari and Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.

Under the inquisition, you were killed even if you confessed. A confession would just mean that you would be strangled before being burnt to death rather than being burnt alive. The same applies for Islamism. It’s a killing machine.

Sharia law is designed to teach the masses the damnable nature of dissent.

Moreover, under the inquisition, once you were baptized, it could not be undone. The same is true with Islam. You are just not allowed to leave.

Of course there are distinctions in the practice of Islamism as in every phenomenon but it is a question of degrees. A little less vile is still repugnant. The misogyny and inhumanity behind a law that stones people to death in Afghanistan and Somalia are the same as one that denies women the right to divorce and child custody in a sharia court in Britain.

Have expectations been so lowered that – after all we have seen and heard – there are still those who will say that a reformist, liberal or a softer version of Islam or political Islam is possible and tolerable? These notions would have been ridiculed by the avant-gardes of the enlightenment.

It is an insult to humanity.

Religion in general and Islam in particular can only be considered liberal and reformed (at face value at least if even that is possible) when it has been pushed in a corner and out of the public space - when it has been forced to run soup kitchens rather than courts and Islamic Assemblies.

If you look at Christianity for example, it’s not that the tenets, dogma, and principles have changed; it has not become more humane since the days of the inquisition and witch burnings. What has changed is its social and political influence in today's society, in people’s lives, in its relation with the state, the law and educational system. To the degree that it has become undermined and weakened, that is the degree that people have managed to free themselves from the clutches of religion, and in having happier lives and a better society. Progressive human values have been achieved at the expense of Christianity and religion.

The same has to be done with Islam and Islamism.

And it is being done but mainly by the people living under Islamic laws or those who have fled them and sought refuge in the west.

During the anti-Christianity Enlightenment the raging debate against religion was raised by elites and intellectual giants, which eventually filtered down to popular culture. Now it’s the other way around –it is bubbling from below whilst many intellectuals and elites are either in bed with the Islamists or excuse it as ‘people’s culture.

After all whose culture are we talking about?

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s culture (educated until 5th grade) who ‘wants to live’ or that of the Islamic regime of Iran that wants to stone her to death?


Sakineh’s 22 year old transport worker son, Sajjad, who writes open letters to the people of the world despite threats and intimidations asking for help in saving his mother’s life or the regime that has already flogged his mother twice – once in front of his very eyes when he was only 17?

Given the havoc that Islamism is wreaking worldwide, concepts such as ‘Islamic reformism’ and ‘Islamic liberalism,’ and labels such as ‘Islamic societies’ or ‘Islamic communities’ deliberately or inadvertently become part of the effort to Islamicise societies and communities and hand them over lock, stock and barrel to regressive and parasitical Islamic organisations, imams and states.

After all, there are innumerable characteristics that define people and that people define themselves with but in this day and age we are increasingly being identified only by religion. This has a lot to do with the rise of Islamism and a new world order that has pushed back concepts of universalism and citizenship. Within this context, labelling people as Muslim and Muslim alone is actually part of the process of constraining them in order to feign 'representation' and limiting their rights.

Any attempt to promote ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ versions of Islam and Islamism also does the same.

If you want a ‘cuddlier’ version of Islam, then get rid of Islamism.

That does not mean that there are not many Muslims or those labelled as such who have humanist, secularist, moderate, feminist, atheist, liberal, socialist and other viewpoints but this is not one and the same with Islam in power being as such.

After all not everyone is a Muslim or an Islamist for that matter. There are innumerable political parties, civil society and social movements with various beliefs and values and classes. By boxing people into a homogeneous community of Muslims, it shrinks the space to breathe and move.

And it ignores the fact that Muslims, or those labelled as such, are the first victims of Islamism and at the frontlines of resistance. It ignores the slaughtered generations of the Middle East and North Africa buried in mass graves, hacked and stoned to death and hung from cranes in city centres and it ignores the resistance taking place day in and day out against Islamism.

Nowhere is opposition greater against Islamism than in countries under Islamic rule.

Condemning Islamism and Islam is not a question of judging all Muslims and equating them with terrorists.

There is a distinction between Islam as a belief system and Islamism as a political movement on the one hand and real live human beings on the other. Neither the far-Right nor the pro-Islamist Left seem to see this distinction.

Both are intrinsically racist. The pro-Islamist Left (and many liberals) imply that people are one and the same with the Islamic states and movement that are repressing them. The far-Right blames all immigrants and Muslims for the crimes of Islamism.

[It is important to note here that Islamism was actually brought to centre stage during the Cold War as part of US foreign policy in order to create a ‘green’ Islamic belt surrounding the Soviet Union and not concocted in some immigrant’s kitchen in London; moreover many of the Islamists in Britain are actually British-born thanks to the government’s policies of multiculturalism and appeasement.]

Both the far-Right and pro-Islamist Left purport that Islamism is people’s culture and that they actually deserve no better, imputing on innumerable people the most reactionary elements of culture and religion, which is that of the ruling class, parasitical imams and self-appointed ‘community leaders’.

Their politics ignores the distinction between the oppressed and oppressor and actually sees them as one and the same. It denies universalism, sees rights as ‘western,’ and justifies the suppression of rights, freedoms and equality for the ‘other.’

Civil rights, freedom and equality, secularism, modernism, are universal concepts that have been fought for by progressive social movements and the working class in various countries.

As a result of such politics, concepts such as rights, equality, respect and tolerance, which were initially raised vis-à-vis the individual, are now more and more applicable to culture and religion and often take precedence over real live human beings.

Moreover, the social inclusion of people into society has come to solely mean the inclusion of their beliefs, sensibilities, concerns and agendas (read Islamism’s beliefs, sensibilities, concerns and agendas) and nothing more.

The distinction between humans and their beliefs and regressive political movements is of crucial significance here.

It is the human being who is meant to be equal not his or her beliefs. It is the human being who is worthy of the highest respect and rights not his or her beliefs or those imputed on them.

It is the human being who is sacred not beliefs or religion.

The problem is that religion sees things the other way around.

And this is the main reason why religion must be relegated to being a private matter.
More importantly than the fact that it divides, excludes, denies, restricts and so on is the compelling fact that when it comes to religion, it is not the equality, rights, freedoms, welfare of the child, man or woman that is paramount but religion itself.

This is precisely what is wrong with multiculturalism. It gives precedence to cultures and religion rather than people and their rights and lives. And it says that human beings – depending on how they are pigeon-holed – are fundamentally different, and should be treated as such. The idea of difference has always been the fundamental principle of a racist agenda not the other way around.

And within this context any criticism of Islam and Islamism are deemed to be racism and Islamophobia. This is nothing but political scaremongering in order to silence criticism against Islam. The term is used to shield Islam and Islamism from criticism and so everything from opposing executions in Iran to demanding an end to Sharia courts in Britain are deemed racism by Islamic lobbyists and their supporters, including from within the Left, like the Socialist Workers' Party in the UK. It has become politically incorrect to criticise Islam. But Islamophobia does not refer to the fear of a certain people. It refers to the fear of a certain religion. And what is so wrong with that? Shouldn't we have the right to be critical of Islam - especially given its practices, its record? The term takes its cue from xenophobia and homophobia, but it an entirely different thing.

Targeting a belief, religion or Islam is actually fair play and legitimate given the world that we live in.

In the face of this onslaught, secularism, universalism and values worthy of 21st century humanity have to be defended and promoted unequivocally.

At a minimum, we must have the complete separation of religion from the state, the law and educational system. The promotion of secularism is therefore an important vehicle to protect society from religion's intervention in people's lives, especially in the face of religion’s rising access to power.

Of course nowadays, secularism is often portrayed negatively. Religious groups and many others equate secularism as the other extreme of religious fanaticism. But this is untrue.

Religion excludes whilst secularism is inclusive and ensures that a sect or group does not impose its beliefs on all. That a person's religion is a private affair.

Faith schools must be abolished. Religion in general and Islam more so because of the rise of Islamism, indoctrinates children – often violently. Religious schools by nature must teach the superiority of their belief system and the baseness of non-believers and kafirs.  Unfortunately, the debate on faith schools has for too long focused on scrutiny, monitoring, and changing admission codes and employment practices rather than that they are fundamentally bad for our children. This is because they are more concerned with the inclusion of religion – the religion of the child’s parents – than the inclusion, wellbeing and educational needs of the child. Schools and faith are antithetical to each other. Education is meant to give children access to science, reason and the advances of the 21st century. It is meant to level the playing field irrespective of and despite the family the child is born into. It is meant to allow children to think freely and critically – something that religion actually prohibits and punishes. Education can only truly be guaranteed by a secular educational system and by ending faith schools once and for all.

Religious symbols in schools and public institutions must also be prohibited. What secularism does is require that at minimum government offices and officials from judges, to clerks to teachers to doctors and nurses are not promoting their religious beliefs and are instead doing their jobs. In the same way that a teacher can’t teach creationism instead of evolution and science in the classroom; a pharmacist can’t refuse contraceptive pills to a women because of her beliefs; a male doctor can’t refuse to treat a woman patient or vice versa. We are seeing this happening more and more as religion gains influence in society.

Banning religious symbols is sometimes portrayed as restrictions on religious beliefs or freedoms and religious intolerance but again this is not so. One's religious beliefs are a private affair; public officials cannot use their positions to impose or promote their beliefs.

Moreover, when it comes to the veil, much more needs to be done than banning the burqa and neqab and the veil from public spaces. The veil is a symbol like no other of what it means to be a woman under Islam - hidden from view, bound, and gagged. It is a tool for restricting and suppressing women. Of course there are some who choose to be veiled, but you cannot say it is a matter of choice because - socially speaking - the veil is anything but. There is no ‘choice’ for most women. In countries under Islamic rule, it is compulsory. Even here, in Britain, according to a joint statement about the veil from ‘Muslim groups, scholars and leaders’, including the Muslim Council of Britain, Hizb ut Tahrir and Islamic ‘Human Rights’ Commission, it is stated that the veil ‘is not open to debate’. The statement goes so far as to ‘advise all Muslims to exercise extreme caution in this issue since denying any part of Islam may lead to disbelief.’

As I have said before, take away all the pressure and intimidation and threats and you will see how many remain veiled.

When it comes to the veiling of girls in schools, though, child veiling must not only be banned in public institutions and schools but also in private schools and everywhere.

Here the issue extends beyond the principle of secularism and goes straight to the heart of children's rights.

While adults may 'choose' veiling or a religion, children by their very nature cannot make such choices; what they do is really what their parents tell them to do.

Even if there are children who say they like or choose to be veiled (as some media have reported), child veiling must still be banned - just as a child must be protected even if she 'chooses' to stay with her abusive parents rather than in state care, even if she 'chooses' to work to support her family in violation of child labour laws or even if she 'chooses' to stop attending school.

The state is duty bound to protect children and must level the playing field for children and ensure that nothing segregates them or restricts them from accessing information, advances in society and rights, playing, swimming and in general doing things children must do.

Whatever their beliefs, parents do not have the right to impose their beliefs, including veiling on children just because they are their own children, just as they can't deny their children medical assistance or beat and neglect them or marry them off at 9 because it's part of their beliefs or religion.

Children and under 16s must be protected from all forms of manipulation by religions and religious institutions. Cultural and religious practices or ceremonies, which are violent, inhuman, or incompatible with people's rights and equality, must be banned. Any kind of financial, material or moral support by the state to religion and religious activities and institutions must be stopped. All religious establishments must be registered as private enterprises, taxed...

The same applies to Sharia courts for so-called minorities something that was successfully opposed in Canada and is now being promoted in the UK as a way to promote ‘minority rights’. Aside from the fact that Sharia law is inherently unjust, it is discriminatory and unfair to have different and separate systems, standards and norms for ‘different’ people. The concept of an Islamic court adheres to a principle of separate but equal similar to that promoted by the former Apartheid regime of South Africa. It was clear then as it is clear now that separate is not equal. In fact it is a prescription for inequality and discrimination. It makes a group of people forever minorities and never citizens equal before and under the law.

Today, also more than ever, we are in need of the de-religionisation of society, not as a private affair but against the religion industry, which is above the law, unregulated and never held accountable for its fatwas, murder and mayhem.

And we need an acknowledgement of the Islamic inquisition and real solidarity with and a strengthening of the anti-Islamic enlightenment bubbling from below that despises Islamism and Islamic morality, scorns the clergy, and rejects an ordained social hierarchy, not more of the same attempts at rescuing Islam and Islamism over the dead bodies of our beloved.

Let me end with a quote from the late Marxist, atheist and humanist Mansoor Hekmat:
I realise that the interests of some require that they rescue Islam (as much as possible) from the wrath of those who have witnessed the indescribable atrocities of or been victimised by Islamists. I also realise that the extent of these atrocities and holocausts is such that even some Islamists themselves do not want to take responsibility for them. So it is natural that the debate on ‘true Islam’ vis-à-vis ‘practical Islam’ is broached over and over again. These justifications, however, are foolish from my point of view (that of a communist and atheist) and from the points of views of those of us who have seen or been the victims of Islam’s crimes. They are foolish for those of us who are living through a colossal social, political and intellectual struggle with this beast. The doctrinal and Koranic foundations of Islam, the development of Islam’s history, and the political identity and affiliation of Islam and Islamists in the battle between reaction and freedom in our era are too obvious to allow the debate on the various interpretations of Islam and the existence or likelihood of other interpretations to be taken seriously.

“…In Islam, be it true or untrue, the individual has no rights or dignity. In Islam, the woman is a slave. In Islam, the child is on par with animals. In Islam, freethinking is a sin deserving of punishment. Music is corrupt. Sex without permission and religious certification, is the greatest of sins. This is the religion of death. In reality, all religions are such but most religions have been restrained by freethinking and freedom-loving humanity over hundreds of years. This one was never restrained or controlled. With every move, it brings abominations and misery.
“Moreover, in my opinion, defending the existence of Islam under the guise of respect for people’s beliefs is hypocritical and lacks credence. There are various beliefs amongst people. The question is not about respecting people’s beliefs but about which are worthy of respect. In any case, no matter what anyone says, everyone is choosing beliefs that are to their liking. Those who reject a criticism of Islam under the guise of respecting people’s beliefs are only expressing their own political and moral preferences, full stop. They choose Islam as a belief worthy of respect and package their own beliefs as the ‘people’s beliefs’ only in order to provide ‘populist’ legitimisation for their own choices. I will not respect any superstition or the suppression of rights, even if all the people of the world do so. Of course I know it is the right of all to believe in whatever they want. But there is a fundamental difference between respecting the freedom of opinion of individuals and respecting the opinions they hold. We are not sitting in judgement of the world; we are players and participants in it. Each of us are party to this historical, worldwide struggle, which in my opinion, from the beginning of time until now has been over the freedom and equality of human beings…”  (Mansoor Hekmat, Islam and De-Islamisation,January 1999)

Maryam Namazie is spokesperson of the One Law for All campaign and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. For more information, go to my personal website or or email maryamnamazie[@]

Here is a video clip of the speech.


Malik said...

Brilliant! Well presented and argued.

Austin said...

Thank you for that.Your point about Christianity being apparently benign due to it being sidlined is very important - I was raised a Catholic in Ireland and can assure you that when the church had more power even than it has now it was a very much more sinister organisation.Likewise we see the intolerance of ultra-orthodox Jews when they are allowed influence,fundamentalist Christians and Muslims everywhere. Thank you again
Austin McGrath

Mariam said...

Thanks for posting this online. Wanted to see attend the talk, but was unable to.

Adrian said...

It is the difference between Christianity today and one during the inquisition.

By "Christianity today" I guess you mean "Christianity in the UK today". Christianity today in Uganda does not seem too far from the Inquisition.

It is easy to think of Christianity as harmless in the countries where it has been rendered harmless, but it is still deadly in other parts of the world.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely superb.

SimonSays said...

Can you give a representative example of someone from the 'Pro-Islamist Left'?

Rebecca Watson said...

Maryam! It was lovely to meet you. I wanted to come stuff envelopes with you today but I'm afraid I've got a ton of work to get done myself, so I'll have to leave you to it til next time I'm in town. I hope we can keep in touch, though!

Konradius said...

Brilliant speech! The only standing ovation during the conference and well deserved!

Avicenna said...

That was phenomenal! I applaud your bravery.

Anonymous said...


I think it's so sad you felt the need to applaud her bravery.

Not because it wasn't brave, but because of the environment we live in that means it probably was.

Jeff said...

Inspiring! Thank you.

adult onset atheist said...

Thank you for posting this transcript so those of us who could not attend your talk in Dublin could be as moved as I was. Over the coming year, as the presidential election heats up her in the US, I will hear talks which sound similar to sections of your talk. Those who would ride the rails of religious demagoguery to the white house will find fuel in the violence perpetuated by brown skinned non-Christians half a world away. They will miss that the point that the violence is being performed to oppress other brown skinned non-Christians, and by doing so to avoid secularization. They will call for a move away from secularization, they will call for more religion in schools, they will call for more religious charter schools, they will call for more religion in public office, they will call to move religion into the center of the public stage, in short they will call for many of the things you identify as important tools Islamists use.

I would so love to hear more of your talk, not just more of selected parts of your talk (unless I was selecting the parts), coming out of lips stained with political motivation. It should be obvious that I would love to hear this talk coming out of your lips, but for different reasons. Is there a chance that a video of your talk will be posted?

Kristen said...

Thank you for posting this--PZ Myers has been shouting your praises from the rooftops for a few days now so I was hopeful that you'd share your notes with those of us who were unable to attend the conference. There are many who wish to convince ignoramuses such as myself that there is no separation between religion and culture in Islam, thus Sharia law is reasonable in Islamic societies. So it was quite refreshing to read your reminder of the distinction between the oppressors and the oppressed--it is alarming just how easily one overlooks that. As an American-born resident of London I am all too familiar with this, as I'm constantly called upon to defend myself from being profiled as an idiot fundie when my peers hear the frothings of high-profile Americans on TV. I think it speaks to the primitivism of the human mind that we must be reminded regularly that all residents of distant lands do not share the experiences of the talking heads who claim to represent them. Thanks again. Beautiful writing.

mxh said...

Thanks for writing this for those that couldn't hear it in person. Although, it's great to hear more promotion of secularism from people in Muslim countries, we are far, far away from any actual push by the people to secularism. Pretty much any instances of secularism in the Islamic world has been propped up by a brutal dictator who did not want Islamists in power. I think that the people themselves are too indoctrinated to even conceive of living in a secular environment. I hope that social networking speeds things up, but I expect it to be several generations before a move towards secularism in the Islamic world becomes realistic. In fact, my fear is that the world as a whole is moving backwards with Western countries bringing more and more religion in public life (you can't hear a political speech in the US without the world God mentioned several times).

sambricky said...

Excellent post. It lived up to its hype as P.Z. Myers has promoted it. I particularly enjoyed that last part about respecting something that is due its respect. It is true all religions try to demand respect and Islam is getting away with it because of no resistance to it. We humanists have to go worldwide.

Geoff Badenoch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rob said...

great post!

Arty (Hannah K) said...

Fantastic talk - wish I could have been at the convention.

David B Marshall said...

While I agree with some of her goals, as a scholar of religions (Jesus and the Religions of Man), I think this post displays unfortunate shallowness of thought and ignorance.

First, the shallowness:

"The tenets, dogma, and principles of all religions are equal."

That is never true of any phenomena in nature. It is certainly absurd when it comes to religion. Obviously, neither the tenets / dogma nor the moral principles of religions are ever "equal," and it is ludicrous to claim that they are.

As for the ignorance, while this is not my area of research, much of what Namazie says about the Inquisition is, I believe, simply false. Most people who were tried before the Inquisition were not, in fact, killed -- in fact execution was an unusual outcome of trials, some say even compared to secular trials, at the time.

Also, inquisitions are not limited to Christians and Muslims. One of the worst was in Japan, during the 17th Century. The very worst, perhaps, were those conducted by communist (atheist) states, many times.

On a practical level, the solution (maybe here we can agree) is pluralism: an open market of ideas, with the state setting general rules, but not favoring any one sect, theistic or atheistic.

gillt said...

"The very worst, perhaps, were those conducted by communist (atheist) states, many times."

Shouldn't a scholar know the difference between communism, atheism and totalitarianism?

David B said...

Made a link to this fine speech at

Sec Cafe enjoys friendly links with the CEMB discussion board.

mxh said...

@David Marshall "On a practical level, the solution (maybe here we can agree) is pluralism: an open market of ideas, with the state setting general rules, but not favoring any one sect, theistic or atheistic. "

Shouldn't a scholar know that atheism is not a religion (and, thus, not a sect)? An open market of ideas, not favoring any point of view, is secular (or atheistic) by definition.

David B Marshall said...

Gill: I'm not sure what your point is. Depends on what the scholar studies, of course. And of course I do know the distinction -- not that the categories are mutually exclusive.

I think I'll post two critiques of this blog. The first has to do with the sheer strangeness of such a lecture, coming especially from an avowed communist, yet without a word about communist inquisitions:

A later blog will analyze what I see as other philosophical and historical problems with such an address.

If Maryam can answer my challenges, or better yet rethink her affiliations or even views in light of them, so much the better.

Having said that, again, that doesn't mean we can't agree about some practical goals.

Interrobang said...

As a Canadian, I profoundly disagree with your assertion that it was a good thing that Sharia courts (Muslim religious arbitration, actually) were banned; it was bigotry and nothing more, pure and simple. Canada has had operating Catholic and Jewish religious arbitration "courts" for over 200 years. All of these courts are restricted in their bailiwick (they do not deal with criminal or certain civil matters), they are voluntary (all parties must agree to use the religious arbitration rather than the equivalent secular system), and, most importantly, the court's rulings cannot supercede existing Canadian law. So exactly what is fair about allowing Jewish and Catholic religious arbitration, while prohibiting Islamic arbitration? Answer: Nothing.

It's also a straw man to argue that certain people (women in particular) are more disadvantaged under Islamic arbitration than under either Catholic or Jewish, since that isn't the case -- most of the Catholics or Jews who would use either religious arbitration would be very religious and right-wing anyway (e.g. ultra-Orthodox Jews), so there is no out there. (Have you actually observed how misogynist those sects are?)

Constitutionally speaking, in Canada, one must permit alternate systems for anyone who requests them, or no one, regardless of whether you happen to like what they have to say. While the Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty did come to a decision that all religious arbitration in Ontario should cease, as far as I know, the Catholic and Jewish systems are still in place. This is state-sanctioned Islamophobia, nothing more.

I'm also extremely disappointed in that you seem to think that multiculturalism is a bad policy. Come up with an actual example of Canadian identity that isn't absolutely predicated on multiculturalism, and maybe we can talk about why it's a bad idea. In the meantime, you sound like the gestalt of the Islamists who want to make sure everyone lives according to their rules, and by their cultural norms.

I'm not a Muslim (I'm an atheist), I'm Canadian-born of European ancestry to Canadian-born parents, so I feel weird defending these things, but rights are rights, and as our former Prime Minister Paul Martin said, "We are a nation of minorities, and in a nation of minorities, it is important that you don’t cherry-pick rights."

If you mean to speak specifically about the situation in the UK, don't generalise so much, and don't drag other countries' politics in as misinformed examples.

Anonymous said...

This quote from you talk says it all "It is the human being who is meant to be equal not his or her beliefs. It is the human being who is worthy of the highest respect and rights not his or her beliefs or those imputed on them." Had to go on the FB page

Dave said...

"Can you give a representative example of someone from the 'Pro-Islamist Left'?"

She does mention the Socialist Workers' Party, which I assume is an important and influential political party in the UK.

gillt said...

David B Marshall said "not that the categories are mutually exclusive."

You're dissembling.

Now if you'll quit stalling and chart for us the course that led from atheism to the worst inquisition in human history.

crowepps said...

@interrobang -- I agree with you and think government endorsement of or enforcement of the rulings of Jewish or Catholic religious arbitrations ought to be abolished at once. What people choose to voluntarily do or agree to is entirely their own business, but the government should never be involved in enforcing religion.

David B Marshall said...

Gill: What are you talking about? Namazie didn't give the history of the European Inquisition, why are you asking for the history of communism from me? If you want a primer, start by reading Dr. David Aikman's Atheism in the Marxist Tradition. Then read chapter 3 of my Jesus and the Religions of Man, "Where did Marx Go Wrong?"

But you don't need to read either of those sources to recognize the truth of the comment I made above, which you seem to want to dispute: that likely the worst inquisitions were conducted in communist countries by atheists.

ThorGoLucky said...

I found your excellent post via PZ Myers. Thanks for sharing. Islam has yet to have its Enlightenment and it cannot come soon enough!

Anonymous said...

She does mention the Socialist Workers' Party, which I assume is an important and influential political party in the UK. - Dave

Your assumption is wrong: the SWP makes a lot of noise, and does its best to dominate any left campaign, but has only a few thousand members.


gillt said...

Instead of "communist (atheist) states" you're now saying "that likely the worst inquisitions were conducted in communist countries by atheists."

I'm not asking for the history of communism or books I should read. I'm asking how atheism has led to inquisitions, which is what you asserted.

I'm asking because it appears you are making a silly argument that relies on the triviality that people who called themselves atheists did bad things therefore atheism is just like religion, which further trivializes the issue.

AmyC said...

Wow, it looks like David Marshall got tired of bothering John Loftus...

matt said...

very kewl Maryam :-)


Another Blogger said...

Excellent article. You might want to correct PZ's name at the top.

Rahul Karamkar said...

Nice piece. Thought provoking, if not without some grey areas. I am not an atheist; I am more of an animist -- worship trees, animals, air, river, hills... and yes, my parents too. Find all mainstream religions funny and good business models (religion needs no investment, money keeps flowing in from various sources) with their Amway-like way of expanding base through downlines. You might like to go through this as an argument about god.....

DTdNav said...

@David B. Marshall. You seem to be implying that those inquisitions conducted by atheistic communists were done so because they were atheists. I think what Gillt means is that you need to prove that to be the case rather than the more likely case that those pogroms, unlike the religious inquisitions, were perpetrated to further the political agenda of communism, not the religious point of view of atheism.

Tony said...

Thank you Maryam. It's people like you who give me hope for the world. I wish you luck in abolishing religious schools, I too would like to see the end of them.

David B Marshall said...

Gill: I have no idea what you're on about. Namazie says "religion kills," because some Christian fanatics 800 years ago murdered 3000 innocent people in cruel ways. She goes on and on about that cruelty, without once mentioning the little fact that a mere two generations ago, atheist fanatics, belonging to her own political set, killed TENS OF MILLIONS of people in cruel ways.

This strikes me not only as hypocrisy of the grossest kind, but displaying a remarkable lack of historical perspective. If you intend to defend her argument, you're going to have to do better than just juggling the words "atheist" and "communist" and "totalitarian" around at random, as you have done so far. These are peoples' lives, we're talking about: I've met some of the victims of those inquisitions.

David B Marshall said...

DT: Yes, I think that's what he may have been trying to say. It's not a viable argument, though. First, the communists were in fact rabid atheists, who hated religion. Second, their motivation clearly was in large part that hatred. Third, you can probably also find political or economic motives for the Christian Inquisitors, too. Read the main account of the Goa Inquisition, for example, and the victim asks, "Why is it that the Inquisitors always go after people with lots of money?" Yeah, and then confiscated that money. The fact that people always have mixed motives for crimes, is no excuse.

gillt said...

David Marshall,

Atheism doesn't = hatred of religion. Atheism is traditionally defined as a lack of belief in gods, supported by rational thought. Can you point to a popular atheist writer and show us where he/she says "Thou shalt go forth and eradicate all religious people from the earth"?

There is no evidence that this alleged "rabid atheism" even if it did exist was the cause of the genocide. You're making assumptions about an historical event.

Beyond repeated assertion you've failed to give any evidence that atheist thought or philosophy was in any way responsible for the crimes of the greatest inquisition in human history...whatever that means. You don't appear to be well-informed on the issue.

Ritchie Annand said...

Interrobang: As far as I know, the Catholic and Jewish systems may be around, but the important thing is that their decisions no longer carry the weight of civil law. The McGuinty decision does not ban them, nor does it ban Muslims from setting up the same non-binding systems.

It was more complicated than Islamophobia. Muslim women's groups were foremost in the fight.

The weirdest reactions were by Freepers, who were simultaneously disgusted by all the leftist opponents to the "Shari'a court" on the one hand, and then twirling their moustaches with glee that they would be overrun with Muslims and would "get what was coming to them" on the other hand.

You can read Boyd's original report here.

One of the more interesting things about Marion's report is that it places blames for some of the hype on some of the statements and misconceptions that the IICJ put out itself:

The idea that the IICJ legitimately held some form of coercive power which would allow it to force Muslims in Ontario to arbitrate according to Islamic personal law instead of using the traditional court route to resolve disputes was formed as a direct result of the pronouncements of the IICJ. That this declaration appears to have been taken at face value by both the Muslim community and the broader community is particularly troublesome. Further, the IICJ’s false contention that arbitration decisions are not subject to judicial oversight was propagated by a misunderstanding of the law on the part of the community, the media, and of course, the IICJ itself. Finally, the IICJ position that “good Muslims” would avail themselves exclusively of Muslim arbitration services effectively may have silenced opposition among those who consider themselves devout.

She recommended that arbitration continue to be made available, and I can see the line of reasoning for it, but I wouldn't call opposition to it unilaterally unreasoning or hateful.

Anonymous said...

While this text is really spot on and brilliant I have a small issue with the mention of Sakineh.

I'm not sure what source you use, but at least where I'm from her portrayal as a victim is debated and the man which put this story in the light is known to have lots of connection, and an agenda ; and even if it's not willingly he's known to have been caught multiple time on blatant lies and/or errors. Not the most trustworthy source.

Although I despise any country still using the death penalty, Iran legal system does not follow the sharia and does not use stoning for quite a few years if I'm not mistaken, and as far as I know she stand accused for plotting the murder of her husband.

Mind you I might be wrong, and I certainly don't have first hand information, but on an otherwise brilliant speech this caught my attention. If you have any information I'm interested.

Eric said...

While I agree with much of what you have said I'm not sure I'm with you on banning things. To be sure there are exceptions where I am on your side such as sharia courts and child veiling. However, in regards to the other proposed bans I do take more of an issue with. As we all are probably aware of, one cannot defeat an idea or belief by mere force of arms alone, something which I believe can also equate to the notion of banning certain practices. Does not "banning" a practice merely stand to create (forgive the religious reference) forbidden fruit syndrome? Would it not instead be better to allow it in the open where we can challenge it with superior ideas and indeed defeat it so as to remove the perceived desire for it through discreditation? I'd be curious as to what your responses might be to these questions. All in all though I thoroughly enjoyed your address and look forward to more of your work in the future.

Ritchie Annand said...

Actually, if NAWL is correct (their kudos and disappointments here), the decision is more nuanced than that: religious arbitration is allowed, but it has to be conducted in accordance with provincial law and where arbitration conflicts with the Family Law act, it loses.

So, for example, Islamic law may hold that boys 9 and up and girls 13 and up automatically go to the father, "best for the child" statutes still apply and domestic violence is a deal-breaker.

Also, good god, David's in here, too with his b...b...but communists schtick? Hey, everybody, honk if you love authoritarian systems!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant talk Maryam. I particularly liked the part about the religious indoctrination of children.
@ David Marshall: you have been too long in the sun, dude.

David B Marshall said...

Anonymous: LOL. I live in Seattle, and it's been one of the worst winters in decades. Nice try, though.

hana said...

There is a distinction to be made between, on the one hand, someone doing evil in the name of religion, ie. as a result of religious edicts, scriptural justification(for example "suffer not a witch to live") or other directly religious reasons, and on the other hand someone who happens to be religious and who does something evil. In the latter case there is absolutely no reason to believe their religion 'made' them do it. For example, let's say the pope wakes up tomorrow and beats the nearest priest unconscious with a sock full of snooker balls - no-one can make a reasonable argument that just because he's a Catholic he did it in the name of Catholicism, as a result of Catholic teachings.

With the religious inquisitions however, a perfectly reasonable argument can be made that they resulted directly from scriptural commands.

If you are to make the same argument about atheism it needs to be shown that the communist inquisitions followed from the perpetrators' atheism - I don't see any evidence of that. In fact it would seem screamingly obvious that the common factor in these inquisitions was, well, communism. Unless we see examples of the same kind of inquisitions amongst atheistic yet NON-communist countries/communities the claim that there is significance in the original correlation between communist inquisitions and atheism is rendered meaningless. Even if we were to find examples of such specifically atheistic inquisitions in abundance there would still have to be a way of demonstrating that their atheism compelled the people involved to act in such a way.

The link can be made between a person reading scriptural directives and a person fulfilling those directives. The result is very often horrific. The same link existed/exists in communism. There is no such link to be found in atheism. Which is most certainly not to say that atheists cannot do awful, awful things. They plainly can. But to ascribe their actions to their inability to believe in god is as unreasonable as blaming the pope's bludgeoning of little Gino the hypothetical priest on his Catholicism.

hana said...

Apologies to any(potential) replies, am leaving the country for a week and will not have internet access so this is my last post.

Anonymous said...

Powerful, and I can now see why Maryam received such rave reviews.

Does anyone know if audio of the speech is available? I would love to listen to this.

Thank you.

ReykjavikRules said...

Whilst I usually have no interest in the dogmatic ideology of any faith based system, I can't help but notice how entirely flawed your own argument is. You seem to have employed the same vitriolic dogmatism that the religious speakers used. You appear to be lacking in tolerance and there is no logical progression to your arguments instead you spend an inordinate amount of time attacking 'Islamism' - a made up term to depersonalise what is essentially just Islam - instead of attacking religion is general. In all honesty, though it may not matter to you, I have ironically lost faith in you Maryam and shall no longer be subjecting myself to such drivel. I think I'll join a church instead.

Leila said...

It is the human being who is sacred not beliefs or religion.

I wholeheartedly agree. It's always struck me as odd even as a religiously-raised child that a person's belief was important and that the "honour" of the family was more important than the individual within it. Thank you for posting this, it's always great to read speeches and articles that are written from the Islam side of things instead of Christian. It gives me angle I can relate to more directly.

Anonymous said...

you are looking for Him I presume.

Good luck. He Has mentioned you once (complemented)

Samizdat said...

@ReykjavikRules: If you cannot distinguish between Islam and the very real threat of Islamism, you eyes are (perhaps intentionally) shut.

seth_savage said...

Thanks for standing up for free speech,human rights,and common sense.

seth_savage said...

Thanks for standing up for free speech,human rights,common sense.

Anonymous said...

Finally, someone is brave enough to speak the truth and avoid the usual cliche and formulaic leftist indoctrinated view of of brown-skinned people. We are not defined by our religion....Why are ME people are defined by their religion??? Why aren' European countries or the US called Christian societies??

In sharia the age of marriage for a girl is 9 years old. Should we even consider allowing this practice in western countries??

Laura Meszaros said...

Maryam Namazie is an outstanding and very courageous warrior for her cause. Much respect and many congratulations to her for her voice - thankfully not too much in the wilderness now.