With Rigour, Against Islamism

From the blog of secular activist Maryam Namazie:

statement defending freedom of expression and the right to criticise Islam was published in today’s (28 June 2016) LIBERATION.

Below is the English translation.

A corner-stone of our democracy – the freedom of expression and its corollary, the freedom to criticise – is seriously challenged on behalf of a falsified vision of the fight against racism, which equates criticism of Islam to a form of racism qualified as ‘Islamophobia’. This ideological positioning based on a semantic scam contributes to imposing the idea that freedom of expression is subordinate to the dictates of religion in general and of Islam in particular.

On several occasions in recent years, democracies have recalled that freedom of expression is an inalienable right. Yet today, a number of thinkers, intellectuals, writers, journalists and feminist and secular militants are subjects to severe persecution and even death threats because of their determination to exercise this right. This trend takes a dramatic turn with regards to the so-called Muslim world where the separation of political, religious and judicial powers is a fundamental issue that, at the present time, is a fight between the democrats versus the Islamists and authoritarian or dictatorial regimes.

With the publication of “The Satanic Verses” by Salman Rushdie on 14 February 1989, the opposition to freedom of expression took a more terrifying turn on the European stage: Ayatollah Khomeini’s call to kill the Anglo-Indian writer accused of blasphemy. From then on, the strategy of Islamists has been to eliminate their opponents by any means. It is in this context that we must place the sentencing to death of Taslima Nasreen (1993), the murder of Theo van Gogh (2004), attempted murder of the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, as well as the killings in Charlie Hebdo on 7 January 2015.

Political Islam clearly claims legitimacy in killing free spirits. Their elimination is well organised on several levels. The legal field is one and it is not the least. Lawsuits against secular and feminist activists are now brought under false pretences. This new strategy which is akin to a “legal war” visibly takes place to muzzle anyone who uses his or her freedom of speech to criticise radical Islam and to test resistance of “targets” and institutions. In France, the Charlie Hebdo cartoons’ trial predated the terrifying scenario. The trial against the Baby Loup nursery with its countless judicial twists ended with a victory of the nursery Director Natalia Baleato but it was done at the price of a long fight.

In Quebec, Djemila Benhabib, journalist and essayist, well known for her fight against political Islam, is already facing her second trial. In 2012 she was pursued by a Muslim mother for having published on a blog the pictures of her two children taken during a Koranic recitation contest organised at the mosque al-Rawdah, a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood. However, these same photos had already been published on the site of the mosque. Djemila Benhabib won the trial without but at moral and financial cost. On 26 September, another trial will open in Montreal because of Djemila Benhabib’s opposition to an Islamic school (financed by the Ministry of Education) where the compulsory wearing of the Islamic veil is imposed from the third year of study (that is on 9 years old girls). In the United Kingdom, the feminist activist Maryam Namazie who leads the fight against Sharia courts faces lobbies organised within University campuses. Their representatives disturb her lectures and attempt to prevent her from exercising her right to speak freely in defence of women’s rights and the principle of one law for all. This unbearable harassment always involves presenting activists as racists.

Let us make no mistake on the real motives of the perpetrators of these attacks. First, it is to spread fear against any critical expression against Islam or against the misguided way in which some want to impose it on others. Then, comes a disproportionate pressure on targeted persons to exhaust them psychologically and financially; to ostracise and eliminate them from public debate. In short, it is to discourage them from speaking publicly. This is why we strongly reaffirm that democrats around the world must refuse the policy of fear and intimidation. There is no question of renouncing freedom of expression, no more than the universality of human rights and of women rights in particular, that must not suffer restrictions on behalf of religious precepts or cultural pretexts. Let’s gather our forces and act collectively. This is the first objective of the Support Committee that just has been formed.


  1. Additionally,I urge people to read the comment sections of articles that try to distort and soften the supremacist narrative of Islam, and which try to pen ISIS and Islams critics together for their violent interpretation of Koranic texts. It warms my heart and gives me hope. The main 'liked' or 'bested' comments are ones which dismantle the said articles assumptions, in beautiful and non-extremist ways. People are more clued than I had thought, and politicians will have to reflect this.

  2. Daithi

    I have not really found that or at least I don't have the same faith in how many likes a comment might get on the internet. In real life I find most people tense up when the subject of Islam/Islamism arises -and avoid commenting or being drawn on the matter -but then I have also noticed an increase of christian adds or flyers being circulated -saw Jehovah's witness the other day giving out pamphlets -the religious are moving to protect their turf I imagine.

  3. Christy,Im the same in person too, id tense up if a stranger asked my views on the Koran. If there was a camera there i would probably lie and say the usual "terrorism has no religion", people go to jail for telling the truth on the life and practices of Mohammed. And the environment we are in,women that are raped by Muslims (in Germany) are so scared of appearing racist they lie about the perpetrators identity!
    But i take heart from the comments because people can speak without fear of consequence in them, and it tells me those brave people who do tell the truth, like Maryam, are getting through. It will find a political expression in the near future, and what we have lived with uptil now will look very, very weird.

    They dont protect their turf in the UK, they are turning Chruches into living abodes or Mosques.

  4. D

    I'd say terrorism can have many religions, Islam is but one. If somebody carries out terrorist atrocities in the name of Islam then that makes them a religious terrorist -and Islam does not do excommunication if even that were sufficient to detach Islam from terrorist actions by members of its flock. Islam facilitates more than just terrorism, it is also a life long strict dietary plan; banking system; unnecessary and even forced genital surgery/mutilation; dress code; and social structures revolving around gender -part of the problem is Islam is not made to take responsibility for its barbaric and medieval practices and norms. In the current state of the world Islam and terrorism are inextricably linked so terrorism can have a religion and Islam we know has its own theologians and clerics who preach and justify acts of terrorism.