Political Islam in the heart
of secular Europe
Secular values of 18th century enlightenment
are slowly being replaced
July 11, 2005
The following speech was given at the International
Humanist and Ethical Union Congress on July 6, 2005 in Paris, France,
at a parallel session entitled "Women's rights in religious
and secular societies".
* Sweet 16 year old Atefeh Rajabi was publicly hanged
in the city centre in Neka in Iran on 15 August 2004 for "acts incompatible
* In April this year, Amina was publicly stoned to death in Argu
district, Afghanistan after being accused of adultery by her husband.
* This month, physicians have been beaten for treating female patients
and women have been brutally attacked for not being veiled in Basra,
The list is endless.
These examples are only some
of the most visible and heinous aspects of the situation of women
and girls living in Islam-stricken societies
and under Islamic laws - burqa-clad and veiled, bound and gagged,
and without rights.
It is truly the outrage of the 21st century.
it is no longer only in places like Neka, Argu, or Basra where
political Islam and religious rule are wreaking havoc but also
in the very heart of the secular west and Europe albeit in different
and more subtle ways but outrageous nonetheless.
Here in Europe the Islamists are 'more civilised'. They demand the
'right' to veil for women and children in France when in the Middle
they impose compulsory veiling
by throwing acid in the faces of those who refuse and resist. In
Britain, they cry racism and Islamophobia against anyone who speaks
out against Islam and its political movement, whilst in Iran and
its likes they hang 'apostates' and 'Kafirs' from
trees and cranes. Here, they demand the prosecution of those who
'incite religious hatred' when everywhere it is they themselves
incite hatred and violence than can be articulated or imagined.
Here in the EU, they call for tolerance and respect
of their beliefs, when it is they who have issued fatwas and death
anyone who they deem disrespectful and intolerable. Here, they
call for 'equal' rights demanding a Sharia court for 'Muslim
minorities' in Canada and Britain whilst it is their very
Sharia courts that have legalised Islamic injustice and barbarity
in the Middle East.
Steadily, political Islam, using rights language,
and cries of racism and Islamophobia - and now incitement to religious
in order to silence any opposition and criticism - is gaining ground
and hacking away at secularism in Europe even though criticism
or even 'phobias' of ideologies, religions, cultures or political
movements are not racism.
Even in the heart of secular Europe and
the West, women who have resisted political Islam, no longer feel
fully safe. We can soon
be prosecuted and face up to seven years imprisonment in Britain
for being offensive against or going beyond the 'legitimate' criticism
We are already called racists and Islamophobes whenever
we speak for women and against Islam and its movement. It is we
who are deemed extremists by the Mayor of London when we oppose
the visit of Sheik
Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the so-called Islamic scholar
whose support for women's 'modesty' and violence against women
and his condemnation of sexual acts as 'perversions' are
no different from the Islamic laws in Iran.
And even here, women's
rights, our rights, are culturally relative and never universal.
Even here each and every one of us
are forever the 'Muslim minority' who must have Sharia
courts, faith schools, the 'right' to veil∑ Never
ever citizens equal before and under the law, but fragmented minority
communities deserving of the same rules and regulations that we
resisted and fled in the first place.
Islam and political religion
are constantly repackaged in a thousand ways to make this cultural
relativism and appeasement more palatable
for the western audience. There is now moderate Islam, Islamic
reformism, Islamic human rights, Islamic feminism and Islamic democracy
(oxymorons in my opinion).
"A hundred years ago, the avant-garde humanity
would have laughed at the proposition that human liberation could
be achieved through
priests, moderation of religion and the emergence of new interpretations
from within the church. Today, sadly, 'professional scholars'
and academics can prescribe that the Iranian woman can for now
secularism to mean the addition of a lighter shade of black to
the officially approved colours for the veil." -- Mansoor Hekmat,
Rise and Fall of Political Islam
ridiculed notions are today replacing the human values fought for
and taken for granted by modern society.
The rise of religion and
the erosion of secularism and universal norms are part and parcel
of the New World Order, which has transformed
citizenship rights into fragmented communities identified by anything
but our common humanity, and human and universal values with cultural,
religious and backward ones.
The values of the 18th century enlightenment
are slowly being replaced.
Even in France where the ban of conspicuous
religious symbols in schools and government offices were important
steps, Islamic schools
- where child veiling,
an abuse of children's rights continue unabated - were still deemed
The urgent question we must all ask ourselves is
how can we defend secularism, universalism and values worthy of
21st century humanity?
I believe it is only
via another transformative enlightenment by this century's avant-gardes.
We must give no more concessions to religion, superstition and cultural relativism;
we must no longer respect and tolerate inhuman ideals, values and practices.
uncompromising and shamelessly aggressive demand for secularism
is only a minimum, though, if we are to ensure that women's rights
and that the human being is put first and foremost.
Today, more than ever, we
are in need of the de-religionisation of society.
"Anyone can have any beliefs, express them,
publicise them and organise around them. The question is what
regulations society puts in place to protect itself.
Today society tries to protect children from the tobacco industry's advertising.
The religion industry's advertising could be treated in exactly the same
way. Smokers have all their rights and can establish any association
to advertise the benefits of tobacco and unite all smokers, but this does
not mean giving a green light to the tobacco industry
. The machinery
of Islam and
the other main religions (Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, etc.) are not
voluntary societies of believers of specific ideas; they are
enormous political and financial
institutions, which have never been properly scrutinised, have not been
subject to secular laws in society and have never accepted responsibility
conduct. No one took Mr. Khomeini to court for issuing a death
fatwa against Salman Rushdie;
notwithstanding that inciting to murder is a crime in all countries of
And this is only a small corner of a network of
murder, mutilation, intimidation,
abduction, torture, and child abuse. I think that the Medellin drug cartels
(Escobars), the Chinese triads, and Italian (and American)
are nothing in comparison
to organised religion. I am speaking of a legitimate and organised struggle
by a free and open society against these enterprises and
institutions. At the same
time, I regard believing in anything, even the most backward and inhuman
doctrines, as the undeniable right of any individual." --
Mansoor Hekmat, Rise and Fall of Political Islam
This avant-garde battle has
already begun in Iran where an unprecedented anti-Islamic backlash and the
demand for secularism are being championed by society. We
are witnessing the beginning of this era's enlightenment in a place which
has been ruled by a pillar of political Islam over the past two
to recognising this reality and the historical juncture we are at, this
Congress must pick up the challenge for uncompromising secularism
and the call for
the de-religionisation of society. This is the only way - today
- to mark the
centenary of the 1905 French law of separation of church and state.
Maryam Namazie is the host of TV
International English, is a Central Council Member of the Organisation
of Women's Liberation and Director of the International Relations
Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran >>> Features in iranian.com