Interview of Maryam Namazie
By Francine Sporenda
Maryam Namazie is an iranian activist involved in the struggle for human rights and women’s rights, against political islam and for secularism. She is the spokeswoman for Iran Solidarity, One Law For All, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) and Fitnah, a movement for women’s liberation whose goals are freedom, equality, the defense of secularism, the elimination of religious and mysogynistic laws and traditions, compulsory veiling, sexual segregation, prostitution trafficking and violence against women.
FS : What are your thoughts on « islamophobia » ?
MN : « Islamophobia » is a political term that is used to scaremonger people into silence. It’s an attempt by the Islamists and their apologists to prevent criticism of Islam and the Islamist movement by conflating much needed criticism with real harm against Muslims.
Clearly, these are not the same. Criticism of religion and the religious-Right is not the same as attacking believers. The conflation helps protect the Islamist movement at the expense of dissenters.
FS : You say that the Western Left has two categories of progressive politics: the kind they want for themselves : same sex marriage, equal rights etc, and the kind they think is appropriate for « Muslims ». Can you elaborate on this double standard ?
MN : “Progressives” that often side with the Islamists against us dissenters are progressive when it comes to their lives and rights. They rightly want gay marriage, control over their bodies, the right to be atheists and criticise Christianity, the right to have sex outside of marriage, to dance, to love, to poke fun at the pope and Vatican but when it comes to us, we become “native informants” and “coconuts” for demanding the same. The sky has no limit for them but we are only meant to live our lives within the confines of Islam. We are seen to be extensions of our communities and religious leaders and not individuals with rights and political ideals, which are by the way not western but universal.
FS : You say that the so-called “anticolonialist view” of the Western Left is in fact the view of the authoritarian ruling class in « muslim countries ». Can you explain this statement ?
MN : When you side with identity politics and homogenised communities or societies, you end up siding with those in power. And this Left always ends up siding with the ruling class and never the dissenters. Especially because identity politics sees only homogenised culture and religion as permissible by the gatekeepers of power. It’s devoid of class politics and political and social movements.
FS : What do you think of the concept of « responsible exercice of the right of Free speech » defended by Tariq Ramadan and a number of western intellectuals after the Charlie Hebdo massacre ?
MN : Calling for “responsible” or “inoffensive” speech is an attempt to restrict it. Where Islamists rule, those criticising religion are persecuted for blasphemy or apostasy.
Here in the west, Islamists and their apologists call for “responsible” speech and condemn critics as Islamophobic and racist in order to impose de-facto blasphemy laws. Also this call implies that the victim is to blame for offending those who are then “forced” to commit murder. It puts the onus on the victims rather than the perpetrators. We might all be offended at one time or another – religion offends me – but calling for “responsible” speech in the face of violence is excusing the violence as if cartoons and blasphemy are worse than murder.
FS : Can you tell us about sharia courts’ in Great-Britain and how they systematically violate women’s rights ?
MN : Sharia courts deal with family matters here in Britain – not mundane issues as is often portrayed but central to the Islamist project to control women in the family – areas where the greatest violations of « minority women’s » rights take place.
Denial of the right to divorce, to rid oneself of violent situations, including domestic violence, forced marriages, polygamy and marital rape, denial of child custody after a preset age irrespective of the welfare of the child are important battlegrounds for women living under religious rules everywhere.
Here in Britain, though, this project to control women is often touted as a “choice” and a “right” where none really exist.
FS : « Many feminists defend the right to be veiled but never the right to be unveiled ». Do you consider that this constitutes a betrayal ?
MN: Of course it is a betrayal. For “feminists” to defend the right of Islamists to control and disappear women’s bodies as sources of shame and fitnah (chaos) is the biggest betrayal.
Rather than opposing the shaming of women’s and girls’ bodies, they sanitise the war against women by the religious-Right by reducing this imposition as a “right” and a “choice”. Of course there are some women who « choose » to be veiled, but socially speaking, on a mass scale, the veil has been imposed by brute force and violence.
If it wasn’t, there would be no need for morality police and pressure to ensure that women toe the line.
FS : You have called for a ban on the niqab. Can you explain why it should be banned ?
MN : I think adults have a “right” to wear what they want, even though this is very often a formality, but the niqab is a body bag for women; it’s a mobile prison.
It has to be resisted out of a defence of women’s rights. If someone who was black or gay were told they must be disappeared in order to maintain order in society, we would be outraged but when it comes to women, it’s excused out of “respect” for culture and religion.
FS : You say that in Great-Britain and even in « muslim countries », « ex-muslims live in fear of revenge for abandoning their faith and « many are afraid to admit they no longer believe ». Can you tell us about this « tsunami of atheism » and how these people are silenced and ostracized for giving up islam ?
MN : The Internet is doing to Islam what the printing press did in the past to Christianity. Social media has not only given countless young people access to “forbidden” ideas and allowed them a space to express themselves where none existed – but it has also helped them find each other, share their stories and see that they are not alone.
This has brought with it courage and hope for the right to live as they choose. It’s become a global resistance movement.
Atheism is ‘breaking like a tsunami’, says a worried official of the Islamic regime of Iran.
The “threat” of atheism explains why the Saudi government has equated atheism with terrorism and Egypt’s youth ministry has joined with the highest Sunni authority, Al-Azhar, to combat “extremism and atheism”.
There are literally millions of us – in every home and “Muslim” family, on every street corner, in every city, town and village across Britain and the globe.