Friday, February 16, 2007

Maryam Namazie Addresses Audience in Paris

On Saturday 9 February, I spoke at an international gathering of secularists in Paris, France, which was attended by hundreds of secularists on a panel regarding equality and political Islam. Here's my speech:

Political Islam and Islam are antithetical to women’s rights, equality between men and women, and other rights and freedoms.

You do not need to look far to see ample evidence of this.

Wherever Islam in particular and religion in general plays a role and the degree to which it has influence or access to governing, state institutions, education, the law and so on, the more detrimental it is for society; the more women and men are unequal and rights and freedoms are restricted.

In Europe, another example is that Islamic groups portray sexual apartheid and the veil as a matter of choice and belief yet where religion is in power, one can quickly see how rights and choice are empty rhetoric to justify their movement and nature, to pacify the general population and to gain access to mainstream politics in the west. However where they rule, things are brutally different. In Iran, women were forcibly veiled under threat of acid, imprisonment and flogging. Another example is Saudi Arabia where girls’ schools are locked as usual practice to ensure the segregation of the sexes. In 2002 when a fire broke out at a school in Mecca, the guards would not unlock the gates and religious police prevented girls from escaping – to the point of even beating them back into the school- because they were not properly veiled; moreover they stopped men who tried to help warning the men that it was sinful to touch the girls. 15 girls died as a result and more than fifty were wounded.

As I said, the degree to which Islamic and religious groups and institutions have access - that is the degree to which equality, rights and lives are at risk.

And I would like to stress this point.

Of course, there may be and are people with beliefs that belong in the Middle Ages and it is their right to believe in whatever they choose so long as they don’t cause harm but organised religions is a very different matter.

Let me clarify; there is a big difference between Muslims and political Islam - as a contemporary right wing political movement like many others, as well as between Muslims and Islam, which is the ideological aspect of this contemporary movement and a belief like many others.

Blurring the distinctions between the two - as Islamists and their apologists often do - and the use of rights and anti-racist language here in the west to do so are devious ways of silencing criticism and opposition – criticism which is particularly crucial given the havoc that political Islam has inflicted in the Middle East and North Africa and more recently here in the west.

As I have said before, the call of organised religious groups for restraint rapidly becomes one of threats and intimidation when they have some form of political power. In Iran, Iraq and elsewhere, they kill and maim indiscriminately, tolerate nothing and no one, hang the 'unchaste', 'kafirs' and 'apostates' from cranes in city centres, and say it is their divine right to do so.

Interestingly, freedoms and rights used by religious groups to further their stranglehold on European society were originally gained to protect people from discrimination, persecution and oppression not the other way around.

When it comes to the political Islamic movement or other religious groups, the Catholic Church, the Muslim Council of Britain, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Saudi government and so on, then it is no longer a question of freedom of conscience or belief though they often portray it as the right to discriminate against gays; the right to veil women and children; the right to segregate; the right to threaten to death or kill anyone and everyone who transgresses their religious mores…

Various freedoms and rights of conscience, belief, expression, speech, and so on were gains for the powerless vis-à-vis the powerful and often vis-à-vis religion.

How ludicrous that today powerful religious groups, lobbies and even states are now using these very concepts in an attempt to actually deny and restrict rights and freedoms of individuals and of the society at large.

These Islamic organisations, imams and ‘leaders’ are self-appointed to help keep so-called minorities in their regressive fragmented communities and run them on the cheap. Deeming religious organisations and repressive Islamic states as representative of the so-called Muslim community – which they aren’t - implies that masses of people choose to live the way they are often forced to and imputes on them the most reactionary elements of culture and religion, which is that of the ruling elite.

Even if it was the belief of a majority that women are sub-human and unequal, and that honour killing is justified, it is erroneous and dangerous to confuse the right to a belief and conscience of individuals with the right to then impose said beliefs and ‘conscience’ on society or segments of it.

Unfortunately, cultural relativism has lowered standards and redefined values to such depths that not only are all beliefs deemed equally valid, they seem to have taken on personas of their own blurring the distinction between individuals and beliefs (whether theirs or imputed).

As a result, 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.

This is why any criticism and ridiculing of or opposition to beliefs, cultures, religions, gods and prophets are being deemed racism, disrespecting, inciting hatred and even violence against those deemed believers. This is not the case.

We saw this during the organised protests by political Islam against the Mohammad caricatures.

The distinction between humans and their beliefs 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.

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 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.

Of course, true equality cannot come about without redressing class inequalities but for men and women and children to be equal in society and under and before the law, secularism is needed as a minimum standard to keep religion out of the social sphere.

The law is especially important here.

Religious groups often speak of coercion when opposing laws such as the banning of religious symbols but much of law is just that – to coerce society to do what has become established norms from preventing child abuse to domestic violence– much of it as a result of the struggles of the working class, the left and social movements.

Now I know that there are those who say that the vile political Islamic movement has nothing to do with religion. In Europe, Islam is constantly being repackaged in a thousand ways to make it more palatable for the western audience. There is now moderate Islam, Islamic reformism, Islamic human rights, Islamic feminism, Islamic democracy... These notions would have been ridiculed by the avant-gardes of 18th century enlightenment. Nonetheless, Islam is key here both as the ideology behind and banner of the political Islamic movement; in fighting the movement, one cannot excuse or appease the ideology behind it. The battle for secularists is as much a battle against religion in general and Islam in particular as it is a battle against political Islam.

As Mansoor Hekmat, the Marxist thinker has said: 'It has been proved time and time again that pushing back religiosity and religious reaction is not possible except through unequivocal defence of human values against religion. It has been proved time and time again that preventing religious barbarism does not come about through bribing it and trying to give it a human face, but through the fight against reactionary religious beliefs and practices. What price should be paid... to realise that Islam and religion do not have a progressive, supportable faction?' (Mansoor Hekmat, In Defence of the Prohibition of the Islamic Veil for Children.)

Let me end by adding that this battle has nothing to do with the clash of civilisations. In fact, the clash we are witnessing between political Islam and the US led militarism is the clash of the uncivilised. The majority of humanity, a third camp that wants nothing to do with either side, represents 21st century humanity and values. It is this front that must lead the much needed fight for secularism today
Maryam Namazie


Puppeteer said...

It is sad that Islamist Hells like Saudi Arabia (and Jordan and Egypt on the way) are portrayed as Moderates and Syria (a somewhat socialist and mostly secular country) is pointed at as the Islamist Terrorist, the only responsible of the current Mddle Eastern mayhem.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

The following issue can destroy ISLAM or ISRAEL; study it thoroughly to see if there is any truth to it.

READ THE FOLLOWING PASSAGES FROM THE BIBLE AS IT HAS IMPLICATIONS ON THE WAR AGAINST TERROR/ISLAM and the claim of Israel that god gave them the land. If the child is an infant than the Judeo-Christian version becomes null and void and we are wasting our time and resources i.e. we could save trillions of dollars and create a more peaceful world rather than fighting against Islam the religion of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all).


Please note this is not a competition between faiths but an attempt to decipher fact from fiction.

Genesis 21:14 Contemporary English version se below link;&version=46;

Early the next morning Abraham gave Hagar an animal skin full of water and some bread. Then he put the boy on her shoulder and sent them away.

And Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ish’mael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ish’mael to Abram.
Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

At Genesis 22 Abraham had only 2 sons others came later. The Quran mentions that it was Ishmael that was sacrificed hence the reference in genesis 22:2 your only son can only mean someone has substituted Ishmael names for Isaac!!

NOT ROMAN NUMERALS (I, II, III,IV,V,VI,VII,VIII,IX,X) NB no concept of zero in roman numerals.

100 years old – 86 years old = 14 ADD 3 YEARS FOR ISSAC’S WEANING


Carefully read several times the above passage and then tell me the mental picture you get between the mother child interactions what is the age of the child. If the mental picture is that of a 17 year old child being carried on the shoulder of his mother, being physically placed in the bush, crying like a baby, mother having to give him water to drink, than the Islamic viewpoint is null and void. Why is there no verbal communications between mother and (17 YEAR OLD) child?

GENESIS: 21:14 - 21
So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the (17 YEAR OLD) child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-Sheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the (17 YEAR OLD) child under one of the bushes. Then she went, and sat down over against him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Let me not look upon the death of the (17 YEAR OLD) child.” And as she sat over against him, the (17 YEAR OLD) child lifted up his voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the (17 YEAR OLD) lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not; for God has heard the voice of the (17 YEAR OLD) lad where he is. Arise, lift up the (17 YEAR OLD) lad, and hold him fast with your hand; for I will make him a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the (17 YEAR OLD) lad a drink. And God was with the (17 YEAR OLD) lad, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

The age of Ishmael at this stage is crucial to the Abrahamic faiths. If he is 17 than the JUDEO/CHRISTIAN point of view about the Abrahamic covenant is correct. This has devastating theological consequences of unimaginable proportions.

This makes the conflict between Ishmael and Isaac and there descendants a work of fiction. I would strongly suggest it is clear cut case of racial discrimination and nothing to do with god almighty. The scribes have deliberately tried to make Isaac the only son and legitimate heir to the throne of Abraham??

Please can you rationally explain this anomaly?

I have asked many persons including my nephews and nieces - unbiased minds with no religious backgrounds but with reasonable command of the English language about this passage and they all agree that the child in the passage is an infant.

For background info on the future religion of mankind see the following websites:
(MUHAMMAD IN THE BIBLE),,31200-galloway_060806,00.html

HOLY QURAN CHAPTER 37 verses 101 - 122

101. So We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear.

102. Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: "O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is thy view!" (The son) said: "O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills one practising Patience and Constancy!"

103. So when they had both submitted their wills (to Allah., and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice),

104. We called out to him "O Abraham!

105. "Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!" - thus indeed do We reward those who do right.

106. For this was obviously a trial-

107. And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice:

108. And We left (this blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times:

109. "Peace and salutation to Abraham!"

110. Thus indeed do We reward those who do right.

111. For he was one of our believing Servants.

112. And We gave him the good news of Isaac - a prophet,- one of the Righteous.

113. We blessed him and Isaac: but of their progeny are (some) that do right, and (some) that obviously do wrong, to their own souls.

114. Again (of old) We bestowed Our favour on Moses and Aaron,

115. And We delivered them and their people from (their) Great Calamity;

116. And We helped them, so they overcame (their troubles);

117. And We gave them the Book which helps to make things clear;

118. And We guided them to the Straight Way.

119. And We left (this blessing) for them among generations (to come) in later times:

120. "Peace and salutation to Moses and Aaron!"

121. Thus indeed do We reward those who do right.

122. For they were two of our believing Servants.


Therefore the claim that god gave the land to Israel is destroyed without the need of any WMD’s.


Volume 4, Book 55, Number 583:
Narrated Ibn Abbas:
The first lady to use a girdle was the mother of Ishmael. She used a girdle so that she might hide her tracks from Sarah. Abraham brought her and her son Ishmael while she was suckling him, to a place near the Ka'ba under a tree on the spot of Zam-zam, at the highest place in the mosque. During those days there was nobody in Mecca, nor was there any water So he made them sit over there and placed near them a leather bag containing some dates, and a small water-skin containing some water, and set out homeward. Ishmael's mother followed him saying, "O Abraham! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything (to enjoy)?" She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her Then she asked him, "Has Allah ordered you to do so?" He said, "Yes." She said, "Then He will not neglect us," and returned while Abraham proceeded onwards, and on reaching the Thaniya where they could not see him, he faced the Ka'ba, and raising both hands, invoked Allah saying the following prayers:
'O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Your Sacred House (Kaba at Mecca) in order, O our Lord, that they may offer prayer perfectly. So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits, so that they may give thanks.' (14.37) Ishmael's mother went on suckling Ishmael and drinking from the water (she had).
When the water in the water-skin had all been used up, she became thirsty and her child also became thirsty. She started looking at him (i.e. Ishmael) tossing in agony; She left him, for she could not endure looking at him, and found that the mountain of Safa was the nearest mountain to her on that land. She stood on it and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. Then she descended from Safa and when she reached the valley, she tucked up her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble, till she crossed the valley and reached the Marwa mountain where she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that (running between Safa and Marwa) seven times."
The Prophet said, "This is the source of the tradition of the walking of people between them (i.e. Safa and Marwa). When she reached the Marwa (for the last time) she heard a voice and she asked herself to be quiet and listened attentively. She heard the voice again and said, 'O, (whoever you may be)! You have made me hear your voice; have you got something to help me?" And behold! She saw an angel at the place of Zam-zam, digging the earth with his heel (or his wing), till water flowed from that place. She started to make something like a basin around it, using her hand in this way, and started filling her water-skin with water with her hands, and the water was flowing out after she had scooped some of it."
The Prophet added, "May Allah bestow Mercy on Ishmael's mother! Had she let the Zam-zam (flow without trying to control it) (or had she not scooped from that water) (to fill her water-skin), Zam-zam would have been a stream flowing on the surface of the earth." The Prophet further added, "Then she drank (water) and suckled her child. The angel said to her, 'Don't be afraid of being neglected, for this is the House of Allah which will be built by this boy and his father, and Allah never neglects His people.' The House (i.e. Kaba) at that time was on a high place resembling a hillock, and when torrents came, they flowed to its right and left. She lived in that way till some people from the tribe of Jurhum or a family from Jurhum passed by her and her child, as they (i.e. the Jurhum people) were coming through the way of Kada'. They landed in the lower part of Mecca where they saw a bird that had the habit of flying around water and not leaving it. They said, 'This bird must be flying around water, though we know that there is no water in this valley.' They sent one or two messengers who discovered the source of water, and returned to inform them of the water. So, they all came (towards the water)." The Prophet added, "Ishmael's mother was sitting near the water. They asked her, 'Do you allow us to stay with you?" She replied, 'Yes, but you will have no right to possess the water.' They agreed to that." The Prophet further said, "Ishmael's mother was pleased with the whole situation as she used to love to enjoy the company of the people. So, they settled there, and later on they sent for their families who came and settled with them so that some families became permanent residents there. The child (i.e. Ishmael) grew up and learnt Arabic from them and (his virtues) caused them to love and admire him as he grew up, and when he reached the age of puberty they made him marry a woman from amongst them.

Mike Ballard said...

That men and women should have EQUAL political power seems a no brainer for this communist.

SecondComingOfBast said...

Organized religion has been the biggest hindrance to mankind's advancement, and the Abrahamic monotheistic religions are by far the worse offenders. As long as they have existed, they use their ancient scribbled mythological fantasies to justify their every actions and excesses, regardless of how abhorent. I am starting to believe there is going to come a time when mankind has no choice but to totally outlaw all organized religions and execute any who set themselves up as leaders of any kind of religious movement.

That will be a sad day in a way, but they will have brought this on themselves.

In the meantime, I can only hope the author of this post is not some day charged with committing hate speech or some other crime for having the temerity to insult the proponents of one of the worlds "great" religions.

Frank Partisan said...

ahmedinajad: Welcome. That post is over my head. I'm not saying that sarcastically.

I hope his comments can be linked to Maryam's post.

Graeme said...

I second Mike B's comment

troutsky said...

Im going to suggest that revolutionaries need to understand that religion will not be ended by decree, that a spiritual tradition with ancient roots so intertwined with personal identity for billions of people deserves a sophisticated approach. This whole device of "human rights" is far from fully developed and a rush to impose standards will not put food in the belly of starving children, which is where social justice really begins.To biuld an effective politics takes more than denunciation.

Agnes said...

Trout, this is not about religion, this is about secularism. I wouldn't call them revolutionaries. Puppeteer, some politics involved here, don't you think? A bit difficult to imagine the Saudis as moderates, true that... a freaking situation. Ahmedinajad, we all love very long, unreadable posts. Please be back with something longer next time, people would surely appreciate it. Also, try to advertise clothes on the Sonia would have the same impact.

Aaron A. said...

One can't hardly argue with Maryam Namazie.

One interesting peculiarity, however, is that Islamic countries have produced seven women heads of state...which doesn't say much for the US. There are definitely valid reforms we too must encourage.

billie said...

thank you for saying that so eloquently.

? said...

I couldn't agree more with Maryam.

Agnes said...

Yet...are people living in secular (or more secular) societies able to get her message? Kibitzing to suffering is way too easy.