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Right to religion is a basic human right but it's forgotten there's corresponding right criticise religion

By Maryam Namazie*
East London mosque has filed a formal complaint regarding the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain’s presence in Pride in London and stated that our placards, including “East London mosque incites murder of LGBT” were “inciting hatred against Muslims” and that the mosque had a “track record for challenging homophobia in East London”.
In fact, though, the very reason CEMB was at Pride was to combat hate and to highlight the 13 states under Islamic rule that kill gay men (14 if we include Daesh-held territories). We included placards on the East London mosque to bring attention to the fact that there are mosques here in Britain that promote the death penalty for homosexuality and apostasy.
As ex-Muslims, we are at risk from hate preachers that speak at some mosques and universities; our gay members are at an increased risk.
The East London Mosque has a long history of hosting hate preachers who incite against blasphemers, apostates and homosexuals so we felt naming and shaming them was very apt.
In our experience, whenever incitement to hate and violence has been exposed, it is explained away as mere “theology”. Here, too, the East London Mosque spokesperson says: “Yes, there might be theological topics dealing with homosexuality in Islam, but that’s clearly very separate from promoting hatred and homophobia”.
We beg to differ.
Given the context of executions for homosexuality and apostasy in many countries and the threats, violence and shunning that ex-Muslims, including LGBT, face here in Britain, the hate preaching can be considered incitement to murder though it is ignored because it is done under the cover of the “right to religion”.
Moreover, the East London mosque is merely using double-speak. Their supposed “track record for challenging homophobia” only seems to extend to white gay men in East London and never to Muslim and ex-Muslim LGBT or LGBT persecuted outside of Britain in countries under Sharia.
This is because the mosque is part and parcel of the Islamist movement. The East London Mosque (and its affiliate, the London Muslim Centre) share the ideology of the Jamaat-e-Islami – the Salafis of South Asia so their promotion of an Islamist worldview that imposes the death penalty for homosexuality, apostasy and blasphemy is business as usual.
Why are we inciting hatred by exposing their incitement to murder?
And why is criticism of Islam off-limits?
Self-appointed “Muslim leaders” say our placards were “Islamophobic”. But in our point of view, Islam, like all religions, is homophobic. Why is it not possible to say this without accusations of Islamophobia?
The only reasons our signs are seen to be “provocative” are because criticism of Islam is deemed to be impermissible, because there is the constant threat of violence by Islamists against ex-Muslims but also dissenting Muslims and others in order to silence and censor, and because criticism of Islam and Islamism is erroneously conflated with an attack on Muslims.
Pride is full of placards saying “God is Gay”, “Jesus had two fathers”, as well as those mocking the church and priests and pope, yet CEMB members hold signs saying “Allah is Gay” – as we did – and the police converge to attempt to remove them for causing “offence”.
Offence has become the catch-phrase to impose de facto blasphemy and apostasy laws here in Britain. Yet aren’t we all offended at least some of the time? Some of us are offended by religion but we don’t ask believers to stay away from Pride or stop praying because of it. Why is it that what offends us is irrelevant? Because we do not back our offence with threats and violence?
The politics of offence is a politics that rewards bullies and blames victims.
Critics say our presence in Pride is a provocation in the weeks following the attack at Finsbury Park. But why must our criticism be linked to an attack on a mosque? Did anyone tell those holding “Jesus had two fathers” signs that it was a provocation given that a priest was murdered in Normandy and Christians killed in Egypt? There is no connection, except of course it seems when it comes to Islam.
Believers are not told to stop any expression of their beliefs because of an attack on children at a concert in Manchester but our placards apparently have some link with an attack on Muslims and a mosque. Why?
This is the Islamist narrative that equates criticism with an attack on Muslims. Its aim is not to stop bigotry but to silence dissent.
And by the way, bigotry affects us too. We were Muslims once; our loved ones are Muslims. And fascists and bigots cannot tell any of us apart anyway. We all look the same to them.
But as a minority within a minority facing serious threats to our lives, shunning, ostracisation, discrimination (and that’s only in Britain), is it fair to ask us to remain silent because of other forms of persecution or bigotry? Why can we not confront racism AND homophobia, bigotry AND hatred against apostates, women, blasphemers… To do that, we have to be able to criticise the far-Right (including our far-Right – the Islamists) and religion and regressive beliefs.
We ex-Muslims, including LGBT ex-Muslims, are fighting for our lives. We too have the right to live, think and love as we choose. And to fight for that right, we have to be able to confront apostasy and blasphemy laws as well laws that criminalise and execute apostates, LGBT, and freethinkers.
We owe it ourselves but we also owe it to those living under Islamic rules who are in prison, on death row or being murdered by vigilantes for doing just that.
The right to religion is a basic human right that must be defended but what is often forgotten is that there is a corresponding right to be free from and to criticise religion. As long as we can be killed for being ex-Muslims, LGBT, apostates and blasphemers, we have a duty to speak up – especially for those who cannot.
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As an aside, the Pride spokesperson has s aid that the East London mosque’s complaint has been referred to the community advisory board to assess whether CEMB can join Pride next year and added: “While our parade has always been a home to protest, which often means conflicting points of view, Pride must always be a movement of acceptance, diversity and unity. We will not tolerate Islamophobia.”
A note to Pride: There were for sure some Muslims who were offended by our presence and others who supported us, as there were some Christians who were offended by placards poking fun at Christianity and others who found them funny. This is what real diversity looks like. For too long, self-appointed Islamists feigning to represent the “Muslim community” have stifled dissent via threats and accusations of offence and Islamophobia. CEMB has fought for ten years now to bring real diversity into the debate, which is a matter of life and death for many of us.
Criticism of Islam or Islamism is not anti-Muslim bigotry just as criticism of Christianity or the DUP is not anti-Christian bigotry. CEMB plans to be at Pride next year and every year and hopes the community advisory board sides with dissenters and those fighting for LGBT rights and not those inciting hatred against Muslim and ex-Muslim LGBT.
---
*UK-based feminist

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